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This past October 4-6, 2012, the Boston Cocktail Summit celebrated the outstanding cocktail scene here. I’ve already posted about Manhattans with Brother Cleve but there were lots of other sessions, cocktails and tidbits that are worth sharing, almost too many. Here’s a round-up of some highlights.
Led by Jackson Cannon, the folks at Eastern Standard, Hawthorne and Island Creek shared the secrets of their delicious Rosé vermouth and taught me how to do it myself. The session started with comparative tasting: Martini & Rossi’s rosé vermouth versus ES’s version. There is no comparison—the Boston-made vermouth is rich, sweet, herbally and bitter all at the same time. It tastes like a strawberry jam full of herbs, and I totally mean that in a good way. Wow. The seminar continued with Kevin Martin demonstrating how to make this delicious vermouth (I think I might be over my fear of making caramel), while we sipped cocktails and heard more about the process and ingredient variations. I went home with their vermouth recipes and a spice packet of ES’s own blend, so I can now make my own rosé vermouth (I’ll report back on how things go when I try it out).
Of the six whiskeys I tasted at a Whiskey and the Bar seminar at Citizen, Parker’s Heritage 6th edition Bourbon was my favorite. I might even go as far as to say that it was the most delicious thing I drank over the course of 3 days at the Cocktail Summit. This is Heaven Hill Distilleries 6th edition in their Heritage Collection series. This annual series of rare, aged American Whiskeys honors 6th generation Master Distiller Parker Beam. My mouth was just giddy with the thick caramelly flavor that mingles so nicely with the bold spice of the rye. And at just under 132 proof this bourbon packs a punch.
What we “taste” isn’t always just what we taste. In Science of Taste seminar, neuroscientist Don Katz (Brandeis) explained that smell, perception, genetics and our brain greatly affect taste. The focus of the seminar was the competing tastes of sweet and bitter. Sweet = good. Bitter = bad. We have our caveman ancestors to thank for this unfair association of these two types of flavors. Biologically-speaking, bitter is the taste of poison; it’s the sign of non-healthy food. Sweet, on the other hand, is a sign that a food is ripe, fresh and full of calories. When life was all about survival, you definitely wanted the sweet foods more than the bitter ones. One very interesting bit to add to this battle of tastes, is that if you add a little sweet to your bitter, the bitter becomes more desirable, we longer biologically perceive it as bad. Our drink of choice to demonstrate this effect was the Problem-Solver which combined rye, Cheering Herring, Benedictine and a rinse of Fernet Branca.
Ladies Choice: Women Behind the Bar—The Boston and New York chapters of LUPEC united to take us on a journey through cocktail, and in turn American, history g with a focus on the female gender. One of the many interesting women I learned about was Ada Coleman. She was head bartender at the famous American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London, when American Harry Craddock arrived there in the 1920s (he was escaping Prohibition). He apprenticed under Coleman, who invented many of the classic recipes Craddock would feature in his The Savoy Cocktail Book. Amongst the many drinks Coleman created was the Hanky Panky. We sipped one made by Boston’s own Hanky Panky, aka Misty Kalkofen; that’s equal parts gin and sweet vermouth with a dash of Fernet.
To Boston’s first Cocktail Summit. Cheers!
This past October 4-6, 2012, the Boston Cocktail Summit celebrated the outstanding cocktail scene here in our city. I spent three days attending seminars, being all nerdy about booze and sipping quite a few delicious spirits and cocktails. One of the many seminars I attended was “I’ll Take Manhattan: A Social History of a Classic Cocktail” with Brother Cleve. Is there a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than sipping Manhattans while Boston cocktail legend Brother Cleve recounts the history and lasting legacy of this venerable and always delicious cocktail of cocktails?
The Manhattan. First served in NYC in the early 1870s, this cocktail never seems to go out of style. Sure, the preferred whiskey, the proportions of ingredients, the vermouth and the garnish may vary depending on decade, but each version is still one hell of a cocktail. Two early bartending books– How To Mix Drinks: The Barkeeper’s Handbook by George Winter and O.H. Byron’s The Modern Bartender’s Guide: How to Mix Fancy Drinks–both published in 1884 include a recipe for a Manhattan.
There were two major factors that lead to the creation of the Manhattan—the abundance of grains growing in the US and the arrival of vermouth from Italy. In the 18th-early 19th century, it was a lot easier to transport grain in a distilled, liquid form than in big bales of hay, so rye whiskey production was in full swing and was the brown liquor of choice for many Americans. And then in 1868 sweet Italian vermouth arrives in the US via Martini and Rossi. Someone puts together rye and vermouth, and the Manhattan is born.
The following are the four recipes that we sampled; recipes courtesy of Brother Cleve.
All cocktails are stirred with ice in a mixing glass, and strained into a chilled cocktail coupe.
This equal parts version is considered the original Manhattan, and remained popular until the second decade of the 20th century.
1 ½ oz Wild Turkey 101 bourbon
1 ½ oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
½ barspoon gum syrup (or simple syrup)
1 dash Orange Curaçao
1 dash Orange Bitters
garnish with lemon twist
Prohibition Era Manhattan
This is probably the best known version with a 2-1 ratio
2 oz Wild Turkey Rye
1 oz Cinzano Rosso vermouth
1 dash Angostura Bitters
garnish with an olive and a lemon twist
Also known as the Perfect Manhattan, this version combines sweet and dry vermouth. As Brother Cleve told us “this is how my grandmother taught me to make a Manhattan.”
2 oz Wild Turkey 81 bourbon
½ oz Martini & Rossi Dry vermouth
½ oz Martini & Rossi Sweet vermouth
garnish with a cocktail cherry
This recent variation was created at Bourbon & Branch, San Francisco, 2007, and adds an amaro.
2 oz Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit
1 oz Punt E Mes
½ oz Amaro Averna
1 dash Aromatic Bitters
garnish with Maraschino cherry
To Brother Cleve for an entertaining and informative exploration of the Manhattan, and to a classic cocktail that inspired our learning and imbibing. Cheers!
According to the calendar, summer is now officially over! I took a little summer vaca from writing, but not from imbibing. Here are a few cocktail highlights from my summer.
My favorite summer cocktail
My friends Brian and Jeff introduced me to the Intro to Aperol and I fell in love at first sip. It is the perfect combination of bitter, savory, tart and sweet—and it is amazingly drinkable!
Intro to Aperol (from Pegu Club)
2 oz Aperol
1 oz gin
¾ oz lemon juice
½ oz simple syrup
Old Man Peter
Nothing says summer like a garden full of delicious veggies. And the thought of a lush vegetable garden reminds me of the childhood tale of Peter Rabbit, the mischievous bunny who gobbles up Mr. McGregor’s crops. What would the sneaky rabbit sip on in his old age? When I heard Sam Treadway at Backbar had a Negroni variation that attempted to answer this question, I couldn’t resist. The vegetal qualities of Cold River gin was the perfect choice to combine with the carrot-infused Aperol.
Old Man Peter (created by Sam Treadway, Backbar)
1 oz Cold River gin
1 oz Cinzano Sweet vermouth
1 oz carrot infused Aperol (created with pickled carrots, blended into Aperol and fine strained out)
Shake and double strain into a chilled rocks glass, rinsed with chartreuse.
Sex on the Beach
I celebrated a friend’s 25th anniversary of his arrival in America by going back in cocktail-time. Arriving at the 80s themed party, I thought “what cocktails were people drinking in the 80s?” From an interesting list that included White Russian, Tequila Sunrise, and Alabama Slammer, I chose Sex on the Beach. I’m not going to lie, the vodka, peach schnapps, orange and cranberry juice combo was kind of delicious. Time travel can be fun.
To the memories of beautiful summer day and to the wonders of fall ahead. Cheers!
One of my favorite things about summer is popsicles. This summer I thought it would be fun to experiment with mixing up combinations of my favorite cocktail ingredients in popsicle form. Let the boozy popsicle experiment begin. First up, Orange-grapefruit Aperol; and it was quite a delicious pop, if I do say so myself. It was just the right combination of sweet and bitter.
Here’s my recipe (inspired by various bitter-sweet recipes I found online):
1 1/2 cups juice, combination of orange and grapefruit (I used mostly oranges with 1 grapefruit); squeeze and strain the juice
1/4 cup simple syrup (1:1 ration)
1/2 cup Aperol
This filled my 8-popsicle tray.
To the delicious combination of juice and booze. Let the summer of popsicles begin. Cheers!
Thursday night at Temple Bar I asked about the seasonal punch, and as the list of ingredients was rattled off I was intrigued—rum, cognac, rye, grenadine, etc. I enjoyed not one, but two glasses of this Twelve Mile Punch. I rarely ever get the same drink twice in a row, so that says quite a lot about my satisfaction. As Sam Gabrielli explained, this punch was inspired by the Twelve Mile Limit Cocktail (featured in Ted Haigh’s Vintage Cocktails and Forgotten Spirits), a cocktail popular in the 1930s that references the twelve nautical mile offshore-reach of the U.S.’s sovereignty, extended from the previous three mile limit. This fact was particularly relevant during prohibition. The government had no jurisdiction over what happened beyond the twelve mile limit, i.e. booze activities (i.e. the “booze cruise”) and sales beyond that point were out of reach of the feds.
Like the original cocktail recipe, the punch combines three different spirits (Appelton Jamaican Rum, Ansac VS Cognac and Overholt Rye) with homemade grenadine and lemon juice. But Sam also added a few additional yummy things, Luxardo cherry juice and green tea, and combined this all over skins of juiced lemons. The results are a rich boozy drink that is tempered by sweet and tart.
Cheers to summer and many more glasses of punch!
Once again, I joined the masses, the cocktail masses, that is, in New York City for the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. And once again, I had a fabulous weekend. There were familiar friends and new faces, the laughs seemed endless, and of course, there were more cocktails than I can (or care to) count. This year my adventures took me all over NYC from the Gala at the NY Public Library to the Lower East Side then to Queens and Brooklyn and then back to the upper West Side. Here are some moments and cocktails that stand out amongst the rest:
My MCC experience began Friday evening at Napoleon House—a penthouse suite party at the Andaz Hotel hosted by Mandarine Napoleon. With the bar manned by the fabulous San Francisco bar trio known as The Bon Vivants, the party was the perfect way to kick off the weekend. I mean, who doesn’t want to hang out on an 11th floor balcony sipping delicious cocktails? Look at the view:
Josh, Steve and Alex, The Bon Vivants, are super nice and mixed up some great drinks. Mandarine Napoleon, is new to me. Although I recently got a bottle, I haven’t experimented much with it. Well, now I know what to do. The Leroi Crusta, my first official cocktail of MCC 2012, with its combination of sweet, tart, spicy ginger, and bitter Fernet, stands out.
Leroi Crusta (created by The Bon Vivants, San Francisco)
1 ½ oz Mandarine Napoleon
½ oz Fernet Branca
1 oz lemon juice
½ oz ginger syrup
Shake and serve over crushed ice with a sugar rimmed glass.
Yes, Angostura is a classic that can be found on just about every bar, even the home bar of a cocktail neophyte, but sometimes we need a little reminding of the wonders of something right in front of our eyes. As sponsors of the “Official Bar” at the Andaz, home base for industry folks (a new feature to this year’s festivities), Angostura showcased the versatility of this venerable bar staple in both cocktails and food. I took the taste test and agreed that a gin and tonic is improved by Angostura. And it is also good in brunch classics, hello, biscuits and Hollandaise. One of my favorite drinks of the weekend was the Angostura Eye Opener, the perfect cocktail to get us going after Friday night’s gala.
Angostura Eye Opener
1 ½ oz white peach puree
½ oz Aperol
¼ oz St. Germain
2 dashes Angostura orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
Mix over ice. Strain into a flute and top with 4 oz sparkling wine.
Experimental Cocktail Club
We took a break from MCC events Saturday night and made our way down to the Lower East Side to the newly opened Experimental Cocktail Club. Inspired by its European counterparts, the vibe is comfortable, sophisticated, cool. The hospitality is fantastic—and I’m not just saying that because my friend CoCo took excellent care of us.
One of the best and most interesting things I drank all weekend was the Mancora that I had at ECC. [The entire menu looks amazing, we sampled five drinks, but I wish we had more stamina and could have tried the entire lot. Next visit to NYC, I will definitely make another visit.] The Mancora was made with Chai Roiboos-infused La Diablada Pisco, Malbec wine syrup, lime juice, Dolin Rouge sweet vermouth, and a Fernet rinse. I admit on the menu this drink looked to be a bit much—how would all those flavors work together? But CoCo suggested I get it and I was not at all disappointed. It was earthly and rich, slightly tart and herbally. Really unique. Really delicious.
Hendrick’s Gin at Dutch Kills
Our Sunday began in Queens at Dutch Kills for a Behind the Bar event. We were greeted by owner Richard Boccato, grabbed seats at the back bar and were quickly shaken a delicious Harvard Veritas, a yummy Sidecar variation with Hendrick’s (the event’s sponsor), Combier, lemon and a barspoon of Cassis. We then heard a bit about the story of how Dutch Kills came to be, an overview with tastings of the components that make up Hendrick’s gin from Jim Ryan (who I should note has been nominated for a Spirit Award at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail for Best International Spirits Rep), and quite a bit about ice from Zac Gelnaw-Rubin of Hundred Weight Ice, whose shop is next door to Dutch Kills.
1 ½ oz Hendrick’s gin
1 oz Combier
½ oz lemon
Barspoon of Cassis
Shake over ice. Strain into coupe.
These highlights just scratch the surface of the many delicious cocktails and good times had—wait, I just remembered our cab ride up the West Side Highway singing “And She Was” by Talking Heads. Best cab driver ever! Until next year MCC, Cheers!
It is clear from the moment you meet Will and Dave Willis that they are passionate about what they do. What they do is make handcrafted, small batch spirits that draw on local distilling tradition while also experimenting with flavor profiles and technique. “We are trying to push the boundaries of what the spirits can do.” This adventuresome spirit Dave expresses is what led these two brothers to turn a decade-long hobby of stove-top distilling into a commercial venture with the launch of Bully Boy Distillers in June 2011.
Their passion for spirits and local production is rooted in their family heritage. They grew on a 4th-generation working farm in Sherborn, Massachusetts. In the basement of the farm house there is a bank vault with pre-prohibition era bottles of liquor (I’m hoping for a field trip some day). Even the name of their company has a family connection. “Bully” was a term popularized by Teddy Roosevelt, meaning superb or excellent; their great-grandfather was roommates with Roosevelt at Harvard and later named a beloved family horse Bully Boy after his friend. In their warehouse space in Boston, Will and Dave carry on a tradition of excellence by using local and organic ingredients whenever possible and lovingly caring for each step of the production from developing a unique mash bill for their whiskey to hand-sealing bottles. The end result is high quality products that are tasty to sip on their own, but also versatile for use in cocktails.
It is important to Will and Dave to be in Boston and have the support of the local cocktail community. One of the things they pride themselves on is being an urban distillery. Will explains, “We really wanted to be a brand that was associated with where we live. Each bottle is marked ‘handmade in Boston.’” Their white whiskey, white rum and vodka are indeed quickly becoming quite popular with the city’s bartenders who appreciate the availability of quality local products. To that point, Beau Sturm of Trina’s Starlite Lounge says, “Bully Boy is a great local product made by fantastic people who pour their heart into it.” His First Full of Dollars (recipe below) combines the white whiskey with the mildly bitter Amaro Montenegro resulting in a stiff, yet light cocktail. Over at Eastern Standard and Island Creek Oyster Bar you can also find a few cocktails featuring Bully Boy. Bob McCoy particularly likes their rum, “I think the rum is a standout. It’s both unique and assertive while still being accessible. It has the kind of flavor impact that can stand in for traditional dark rum-based cocktails but is also killer in a white rum classic like the Daiquiri.” And he does just that in his daiquiri variation, The Republic (recipe below).
So what’s next for Bully Boy? When I visited with Will and Dave I spied barrels filled with whiskey and rum that are their soon-to-be released new products—Boston Rum and an aged whiskey. I can’t wait. To local boys making delicious booze—Cheers!
First Full of Dollars (created by Beau Sturm, Trina’s Starlite Lounge)
1 oz Amaro Montenegro
2 oz Bully Boy White Whiskey
2 dashes orange bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled rocks glass with no ice or garnish
The Republic (created by Bob McCoy, Eastern Standard)
1½ oz. Bully Boy White Rum
¾ oz. spiced ginger syrup*
¾ oz. fresh lime juice
Mount in a mixing glass, add ice, and shake. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
*Spiced Ginger Syrup
1½ cups demerara sugar
1 cup water
6 oz. fresh peeled and chopped ginger
½ tsp. each allspice, cardamom, and coriander
Toast the spices in a pan over medium-high heat until very aromatic, tossing frequently so not to burn. Add the water, sugar, and ginger. Bring to just under a boil, stirring frequently, then reduce and let simmer for 12-15 minutes. Take off the heat and let cool. Pour contents into a container, cover and store in the refrigerator overnight to infuse. Finely strain into a container, cover, and store in the refrigerator.
At this time of year, I crave rich, spicy, warm flavors in my cocktails. And so begins my love affair with the Sangre de Cristo, featured in Imbibe magazine’s recent piece on spiced cocktails for the holiday season. The cocktail draws inspiration from the flavor profile of a traditional mulled wine and is a gorgeous deep red color (hence the name, “blood of Christ”). Featuring sweet vermouth infused with ginger and cinnamon, combined with red wine and honey syrup, this drink meets all my criteria for a holiday cocktail—lusciously spiced, rich and complex flavor, yet also light (holiday parties can be a marathon, no need to be wearing a lampshade as a hat after a couple drinks). I served this as a punch at my holiday party (huge hit!), have been sipping the infused sweet vermouth on its own, and enjoyed this cocktail as I finished my holiday wrapping.
Infusing the sweet vermouth is super simple. Combine 1 liter of sweet vermouth (I used Martini and Rossi) with 1 ounce of peeled and diced ginger (about the size of your thumb) and two cinnamon sticks broken into pieces. Steep in an airtight container overnight (I did 2 nights actually). Fine strain and store in refrigerator. And this infused vermouth is absolutely delicious on its own over a couple rocks.
Sangre de Cristo (by Alon Munzer, Heather Mojer and Ned Greene, Hungry Mother)
2 oz ginger & cinnamon-infused sweet vermouth
1 oz Grenache
½ oz honey syrup (equal parts honey and water)
2 dashes orange bitters
Stir together in a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with cinnamon stick.
Happy Holidays to you and yours! Cheers!
Old school tunes like Rob Bass and DJ E-Z Rock’s Joy and Pain were playing. The crowd was cheering while sipping almost ten different punches and nibbling on food from Toro, Coppa, Myers+Chang, Citizen Public House, Trina’s Starlite Lounge and Eastern Standard. Sounds like a fun event, right? And I didn’t even mention that there were eight of Boston’s fabulous female bartenders shaking and stirring up a storm.
This was the scene last Monday as a whole bunch of us cocktail enthusiasts and industry folk came together to cheer on Boston’s best female bartenders and to raise money for breast cancer research. Speed Rack, founded by LUPEC New York’s Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero, is a speed-bartending competition with an eye toward precise cocktails. Each round four judges choose a cocktail for a pair of competitors to make. Time is only one factor. Upon tasting the drinks, a judge can add or subtract to a bartender’s time based on their judgement of the quality and accuracy of the cocktail. So, these ladies need speed and precision.
Round after round the competition thinned from eight to two. It finally came down to Kelly Unda (Harvest) and Sabrina Kershaw (Citizen/Noir). It was close, but in the end Sabrina was victorious. She’ll have a chance to compete against winners of other city’s events (look out Portland, LA, DC, Vegas, San Francisco, Houston, Denver and Chicago) for the title Miss Speed Rack.
Thanks to the ladies of LUPEC Boston and LUPEC NY for creating a great event to raise money for a very good cause that has touched the lives of way too many of us. To making strides towards a cure– Cheers!
I have found a new favorite place in Boston—the comfy, cozy leather bench-seat at the end of the bar at The Citizen. Just a 10 minute walk from my office, for two weeks in a row I have retreated to The Citizen with friends to relax from the stress of work. And that fabulous seat at the end of the bar has awaited and welcomed me with open arms—is it possible to fall in love with a chair? As a short woman who has issues with bar stools, this is a perfect perch for me—no chance of falling off this thing (yes, I did fall off a bar stool once and no, I was not drunk when it happened), it is pretty comfortable, and I get a great view of the entire bar from this end.
But a bar is of course about more than seating. John satisfied my request for something bitter and rich (it was quite a damp day here in Boston today, so I wanted something with intense flavors) with a cocktail called Johan goes to Mexico (a creation by Drink bartender Josey Packard). Paying homage to Dr. Johan Siegert, the 19th century doctor who created Angostura bitters, this drink includes a half ounce of Angostura (yum!) alongside Mezcal Vida (hello, Mexico!), lemon juice and demerara syrup. Wow, what a fabulous drink!
And then I took the leap and joined The Citizen’s Whiskey Club. The concept is simple: explore the wonders and variety of whiskey by trying about 100 options on the bar’s list. And when you’ve made your way through the list, you get a special single barrel Four Roses bourbon and an engraved glass to use on each visit. Its important to have goals, right? I started off with Black Maple Hill. Made in Bardston, Kentucky, this small batch bourbon is aged for an average of 8 years in oak casks. The result is a butterscotchy sweetnesss which makes this go down pretty easy.
If in the months to come you are looking for me, check the leather bench-seat at The Citizen and most likely I’ll have a whiskey in hand–I do have about 90 more to try. Cheers!