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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:

Napoleon House

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.

Angostura Bitters

The miniature army of Angostura bottles that came home with me

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.

Harvard Veritas

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!

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Doris Day will not be there, of course, but plenty of Boston’s finest will be at Les Zygomates Tuesday April 17 for a French-inspired evening of music, food and of course, cocktails.  The folks behind the Greater Boston Beverage Society and Opus Affair (of which I am a proud co-host) have organized a Frenchy event to support the Boston Cocktail Summit.

Imagine a French cabaret in the 1930s. Boston’s own “English Bill” Codman will be orchestrating the cocktails, featuring Nolet Gin, Ketel One, Don Julio, St Germain, and pours of Moet & Chandon.  Nibble on tasty hors d’oeuvres from Les Zygomates while the sounds of the fabulous Ben Powell Quartet in the Hot Club de France style of legendary Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt play.

April in Paris is 6:30-10pm Tuesday April 17 at Les Zygomates, 129 South Street, Boston

Tickets are $50 and include drinks, food and music. Check out the Opus Affair to get your tickets.

April in Paris. Cheers!

You may have noticed that Nightcapped has a new look!  Thanks to my friend and photographer, Ashleigh Stanczak, the site has a new header image.  Ashleigh spent a few hours one Friday evening taking tons of beautiful pictures of my bottles, glasses, and other cocktail paraphernalia.

Boston (and beyond) gets onthebarCitySip, an online drinks magazine, will soon officially launch its Boston edition. I will periodically be writing stories for this site and will be sharing them here.  My first story about the onthebar app has been posted. Check it out here.

I’m off to NYC for a museum conference this week; my agenda includes a few cocktail outings, so I’ll have lots to share.  Cheers!

Looking for a fun way to round out the month of January? After how much I’ve been working lately, I am definitely in the need of a party.  This Monday night, January 30, join me and many other Boston imbibers for a winter prom for a good cause.  LUPEC Boston has organized its first winter prom, THE SNOWBALL.  Donned in festive attire, we will dance the night away to tunes by TJ Connelly, sip delicious cocktails by guest bartenders Josh Childs and Beau Sturm, and get nostalgic by posing for photos.  And all of this fun will benefit local women’s charity On the Rise, a Cambridge-based day program for women who are homeless and living in crisis.

Check out LUPEC’s website for more information, but here are the basics:

Monday, January 30th, 7-11 p.m.
Silvertone, 69 Bromfield St, Boston, MA (617) 338-7887

Tickets: $10, first come, first served [100% of ticket proceeds will be donated to On the Rise]

Drink tickets allotted for clothing & other donation items***
Spiked punch and cocktails $5-7 each

Creative prom attire encouraged – dress to impress!

***Items acceptable for donation include:
Thermal undergarments in all sizes
Backpacks
Flashlights
Whistles for emergencies
Charlie Cards in denominations of $5
Durable winter boots and winter shoes
Multi-packs of NEW undergarments like sports socks, sports bras, and underwear in all sizes

I hope that I will see many of you Monday night.  Let’s have a little fun for a good cause! Cheers!

For the second year in a row, I traveled to NYC to celebrate all things cocktail with a few thousand others at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic.  I have so many stories and cocktail experiences to share, I’ll be writing a number of posts over the next week or so.  But let’s start at the beginning at the Gala.  The New York Public Library was once again transformed into a lavish party place, this year with a circus theme complete with trapeze artists.   Over 100 bars, as well as the cocktail world’s stars and enthusiasts, filled the hallways.  At every turn, I was faced with a different liquid concoction—where’s a girl to begin?

Sometimes the best place to start when faced with an overwhelming decision is with the familiar.  So, I stopped at Campari’s bar on the first floor for a Negroni mixed by Tony Abou-Ganim. Ahhhh, served on the rocks with an orange peel—just the way I like it.  It was a big night for the Negroni—Campari has named 2011 “The Year of the Negroni.”  Considering I had dubbed last summer “the summer of Campari” and was drinking Negronis like it was my job, I just may be one step ahead…

Brian, Jeff and I quickly made our way up to the third floor where the crowd had yet to flow.  We sipped many yummy drinks including the Imperial Coca Sour (Jeff’s favorite drink of the evening) served up by cocktail legend Brother Cleve.  Even though I am a frequent imbiber in Boston, we had never met, so chatting while he mixed up our drinks was fun!

Brother Cleve doing his thing

Imperial Coca Sour

2 oz Macchu Pisco infused with Coca tea

1 oz Combier

1 oz fresh lime juice

dash Chuncho bitters

Shake and strain into a rocks glass and top with a dash of Chuncho bitters

When the third floor started to get crowded, we headed back downstairs.  I was drawn to the Lillet bar by this bartender in sequins and bee-hive hair-do.

It wasn’t all show– this girl was mixing up a fabulously bitter cocktail—the Col du Sabion, named for the mountain pass in the Alps that connects France and Italy, the homes of Lillet and Solerno.  Bitter seemed to be a theme of the night. And this drink delivered on that theme.  This could become a summer staple.  I love the orange, the bitter and the light lemon soda.

Col du Sabion

1 oz Lillet Blanc

1 oz Lillet Rouge

½ oz Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur

¼ oz Gran Classico

3 oz Fever Tree Bitter Lemon soda

Build over ice and shake.  Serve on the rocks in a highball glass. Top with soda and garnish with a thick twist of orange peel.

To sip our Col du Sabion, we found spot right next to Zwack, that Hungarian liqueur made with over 40 herbs.  The drink was good, but perhaps more memorable from the stop was the birth of the phrase “I’d Zwack that” (no interpretation necessary, you know what it means) which would be heard many times over the weekend.

The night continued on and on.  Many more cocktails were sampled and consumed.  The official word is that Gala attendees consumed over 40,000 (yes, you read that correctly) cocktails!

Brian and Jeff sipping a few cocktails amongst the "stacks"

As the night continued, things got a bit fuzzy (I can’t imagine why), like this picture of Brian and I, so I will end my recap of the Gala highlights here.  It was one fun party.  Cheers!

Now that’s one way to approach life. Not really sure I need to or can add anything else. Cheers!

I feel like the month of March flew by.  And even though Boston seems to be resisting letting go of winter, I am hopeful for the arrival of warm weather, spring blooms, and afternoons on outdoor patios.  But in the meantime, here’s a bit of what I was up to the last few weeks:

Barbara Lynch Rocks One Friday afternoon, I joined my co-worker Pete Crowley on a “research” trip to Sportello for lunch.  After nibbling on amazingly delicious things like braised kale, gnocchi with porcini & peas, and baccala, Pete’s old friend from the restaurant biz, Barbara Lynch herself, took us on a tour of her dominion on Congress Street.  Through the dining room of Menton to the vast kitchens complete with fish & meat fridges and prep rooms to Drink’s booze storage room, that is one amazing place!

Tap Wars at Post 390 The first week of each month, Post 390 hosts a Tap Wars—three beers in the same style compete for a tap spot.  For a very reasonable $8, you get a flight of three 6 oz beers and then vote for your favorite.  March’s battle was Abbey-Dubbel Style Ales (that’s Belgian Doubles for us beer neophytes).  The battle was between Ommengang Abbey Ale (Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY), Allagash Dubbel Ale (Allagash Brewing Co., Portland, ME) and Chimay Red (Chimay, Belgium).  My vote went to Ommengang!

Metamorphosis To begin my birthday celebration, Brian, Jeff and I lunched at Eastern Standard and my first birthday cocktail was a Metamorphosis. Featuring the herbally bitter amazingly delicious aperitif Becherovka from the Czech Republic, this is one delicious drink.  The menu describes the drink as “transformative,” and I was reminded of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, an ancient text about the relationships between humans and gods.  His poem begins: I want to speak about bodies changed into new forms. You, gods, since you are the ones who alter these, and all other things, inspire my attempt”.  I couldn’t think of a better way to start my 36th year.

Metamorphosis (created by Jackson Cannon)

2 oz Becherovka

1 oz lemon juice

1 oz honey syrup

My birthday celebration continued throughout the weekend with a visit to the Bauhaus style Gropius House in Lincoln, cocktails at Temple Bar (the Aged Negroni is really good!), dinner and drinks at Russell House (and a shot of Fernet with Aaron), and brunch at The Buttery.  It was a fantastic birthday weekend that reminded me how fortunate I am to have such wonderful friends.

Cheers!

Last week I was in Seattle for the National Art Education Association Conference.  By day I was all kinds of museum education nerdy—I presented on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and its application to museum education, talked with colleagues about creating a “culture of critical thinking,” and other fun stuff.  By night I took advantage of the fabulous cocktail scene.  Here are the highlights.

My first stop was at the Zig Zag Café.

Part of the charm with this place is getting there—I walked along a cobbled street that smelled of fish and followed a wall of gum.  I was so excited when I walked through the door and saw the venerable Murry Stenson behind the bar.  The vibe in the place is cool (Although the acoustics are not so good which made it hard for Michelle and I to catch up with two of our West Coast colleagues.), the food is delicious (hello, bacon and duck sausage!) and the drinks are superb.  My favorite was Albertini’s Night which featured bourbon, that delicious fennel-y Strega and orange bitters.

Night two took me, Theresa and Emily (two friends and very fun gals from the Getty) to Tavern Law—a small place with a dark wood bar, and books covering the wall shelves.  It’s like a personal library meets home bar.  We were lucky to secure three seats at the bar and quickly fell under the charm of our bartender Nathan Weber.  As a native Bostonian, perhaps one of the most noticeable things about Seattle was how friendly, open and genuinely nice people are, even to strangers.  My favorite off-menu cocktail Nathan mixed up for me was rich and bitter and herbally.  While it didn’t have a name, it did have rye, Gran Classico, Montenegro, Cardamaro, grapefruit juice, rosemary bitters and cardamom bitters. Wow! As Nathan said, “Rosemary and grapefruit love each other.”

Our evening ended upstairs at the tiny speakeasy Needle and Thread where I enjoyed a 4th Regiment, a cocktail whose recipe is recorded in Charles Baker’s 1939 The Gentleman’s Companion: Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and FlaskThis could become a new favorite:

4th Regiment

1 oz rye whiskey

1 oz sweet vermouth

dash orange bitters

dash Peychaud’s bitters

dash celery bitters (Scrappy’s; Miles Thomas himself was tending bar that night!)

I spent my final night in Seattle with my good friend Lori exploring Ballard, a fabulous neighborhood.  The high point was Sambar and bartender Jay Kuehner.  The bar is tiny, seriously, it’s like the size of my living room. But size does not restrict Jay—he packs his space with tons and tons of fabulous stuff, and he knows how to use it.  My first drink had bourbon, Cocchi Americano, pineapple water, dash of Campari, orange and Peychaud’s bitters topped with Champagne.  While we enjoyed an absolutely scrumptious parsnip soufflé, Jay indulged Lori’s question about why you use eggs in cocktails by shaking up a delicious example.  Get ready for the list of ingredients—egg white, tequila, hibiscus tea syrup, chili tincture, lime juice, lemon juice, dash of Tabasco, celery bitters, with a mezcal float on top!  It was deliciously smoky, tart, spicy and savory.  Jay not only makes fabulous drinks, he is a gracious host.  I loved the Sambar!

My week is Seattle was fantastic.  Both my mind and palate were stretched and expanded.  I heart Seattle. Cheers!


March 8th is International Women’s Day and I think it is only right to celebrate the day with cocktails named after women.  Last year, I enjoyed a Mamie Taylor and a Barbara West.  This year I mixed up a Mary Pickford for myself—a delicious blend of light rum, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, pineapple juice, and grenadine.  As the story goes, the drink was created by legendary Havana bartender Eddie Woelke in the 1920s to honor film star Mary Pickford.

Mary Pickford

2 oz light (or gold) rum

1 ½ oz pineapple juice

¼ oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

1 barspoon grenadine

Shake and strain.

The cocktail’s namesake was a monumental figure in Hollywood’s early days.  The pretty petite blonde star of silent movies was known as ‘Little Mary’ because she often played the roles of little girls and boys well into her 30’s.   The first “America’s sweetheart” joined forces with D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks in 1919 to form the independent film production company United Artists.  Her films were blockbusters, some grossing $1million (in 1920!); she won an Academy Award for best actress in Coquette in 1928.  She would eventually cut off her signature curls and opt for the popular bob much to the dismay of fans.   In addition to making over 100 films, she helped struggling actors during the Depression.  For this philanthropic work and her extensive acting and producing career, Mary Pickford was given an Honorary Oscar in 1976.

To all the amazing women in my life— Cheers!

From their medicinal past, bitters have come a long way.  Sure, Angostura and Peychaud’s are still the tried and true go-to, and rightfully so.  Not only have they stood the test of time—they successfully survived America’s “noble experiment”—but they also do what they should do which is add spice while offsetting or accentuating flavors to produce a well-balanced cocktail.  But nowadays, a bartender’s spice cabinet is overflowing with bitters made with ingredients like cranberry, celery, cardamom, chili and so much more.  The possibilities seem endless, and may seem a bit baffling—I’ve been wondering what do with those Mole Chocolate bitters I recently bought.


To explore bitters in a more organized fashion than my typical experimentation at home (which is not a bad option, but sometimes professional help can be beneficial), I chose to turn to a more knowledgeable source.  Adam Lantheaume’s class on bitters at The Boston Shaker was just the thing I needed to expand my knowledge (and taste).  As a teacher, I have high expectations for learning experiences; Adam’s extensive knowledge and laid back, fun approach to the subject made this a fabulous class.  We focused on 4 bitters (Regan’s Orange, Sweet Grass Blueberry, Angostura, and Peychaud’s) tasting each straight, then each with soda and finally we tried a dry gin martini with each of these bitters.  It was neat to see how a few dashes of these different bitters affected the drink—some, like the Regan’s Orange, brought the flavors of the gin and dry vermouth together to produce a well-balanced, smooth drink, while others, like the Sweet Grass Blueberry, simply sat on top of the other flavors bringing little to the table.


So, next time you’re making a cocktail think about reaching beyond Angostura (although if you only have one bottle of bitters that’s the best one to have) to explore the amazingly rich options out there.  If you’re in the Boston area, visit The Boston Shaker– they carry quite an extensive array of bitters.  I’m excited about experimenting with the Scrappy’s bitters sampler pack I just picked up at The Boston Shaker  (Orange, Cardamom, Chocolate, and grapefruit).  And consider a class with Adam. It’s a great option for a beginner or more experienced cocktail enthusiast; you’re never too old to go back to school, especially when its for something as interesting and delicious as spices for your cocktails. Cheers!


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