Archive for the ‘’ Category
January 6th, 2011
Don’t get the wrong idea from this vintage photo in the Boston Public Library’s print & photograph collection: women are well represented behind Beantown bars, and they and their male counterparts are getting organized.
First, our city’s own chapter of the U.S. Bartenders Guild will soon be official. Corey Bunnewith of Citizen Pub, Kirsten Amman of LUPEC Boston, Alex Homans of Russell House Tavern and Rob Hoover of Upstairs on the Square are helming this effort, which right now involves finding at least 40 members with $100 for annual dues to sign on. Meanwhile, April Wachtel, bar manager of the solid new South End restaurant & bar The Gallows, has started a less formal, local (and, for now, free) concern called the Boston Bartenders Collaborative.
I never knew the USBG existed before the craft cocktail movement got going. It was founded way back in 1948, and it’s affiliated with the 50-country International Bartenders Association, itself established in 1951. USBG sponsors seem to include every spirits conglomerate known to man — Pernod Ricard, Bacardi Ltd., William Grant, etc. — as Jonathan “Cocktail Guru” Pogash indicates in his summary of a recent field trip to Boston to help spark the USBG chapter here. Bunnewith says that although these companies obviously aim to promote their brands by sponsoring Guild events, they impose no restrictions on the use of spirits from lesser-known producers.
The four USBG-Boston officers mentioned above hosted a Pernod Ricard-sponsored meet & greet just before Christmas at Russell House Tavern to drum up interest, and several bartenders and others related to the industry (including this blogger) turned out. Lucky for me and a few others around town: we get our first year’s dues waived for having successfully completed the BarSmarts program. (The USBG has different membership categories, one of which is for people who aren’t actually bartenders.)
Why should you join? One reason is career advancement. “As the Guild gains a reputation in Boston, employers will recognize that members are knowledgable and passionate about alcoholic beverages and the operations of a bar,” says Bunnewith. The USBG also has an accreditation program that is recognized worldwide, in case you decide to pack your bar tools and move to Bratislava. Other perks include product-education classes, events, the occasional field trip and invitations to participate in cocktail competitions (i.e. create cocktails for liquor companies for free as you vie to win a cool trip). In earnest, the chance to network, taste product, and go to fun events with others who take the profession seriously seem to me like excellent reasons to get involved.
Those are the same reasons people in the local biz should take a look at the Boston Bartenders Collaborative. Wachtel envisions a symbiotic relationship between USBG-Boston and her grass-roots enterprise, which is focused on education and so far has about 15 volunteer participants. Most meetings take place in one of the members’ bars during a weekday. The next one, at Craigie on Main January 10, will feature John Mayer of Craigie and Tyler Wang of Drink talking about ice and dilution in cocktails. Other topics in the works include an interactive roundtable about cocktail formulas and discussions on speed and volume, guest relations and managing inventory. (See info about participating below.)
“There’s a good part of our community that wants to learn in ways beyond just informal visits to other bars. This is a chance to build something that has never existed in Boston,” says Wachtel, adding that the Collaborative aims to “have fun and not take ourselves too seriously.”
Sure, some people might chuckle at the notion of bartenders getting together to talk about ice and inventory, but think about it: Boston barkeeps are elevating their profession and trying to create a solid talent pool in this town. I, for one, am wicked psyched about that.
For information about joining USBG-Boston, go to the group’s Facebook page or email USBGBoston@gmail.com.
Most Boston Bartenders Collaborative seminars are members-only, but select seminars will be open to the general public. To receive notifications about seminars, or for more information, email April Wachtel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: Alex Homans, April Wachtel, Boston Bartenders Collaborative, Corey Bunnewith, education, guild, Kirsten Amman, Rob Hoover, USBG
Posted in Bartenders, Books & resources | 2 Comments »
December 25th, 2010
Imbibers, I hope you got that rare rye whiskey, vintage ice shaver or custom-sculpted muddler you wanted for Christmas. I got the recipe for Silent Night Punch from my friend Pink Lady of LUPEC Boston and warmed the cheeks of my loved ones in New Hampshire with it. Fa la la la la. La la la la. If you find yourself reaching deep into the toe of your Christmas stocking for that one last knick-knack you may have missed, Bad Santa has got you covered. May the following virtual goodies souse up your Christmas night:
Drinkboston mobile. Got an iPhone, Android, Blackberry or some other kind of smart phone? You can now use it to check out drinkboston without having to wait for the full site to load, ’cause I got a sweet new mobile version! You can save an icon on your homescreen, and sharing posts via Facebook, Twitter, etc is a breeze. Bars, bartenders and imbibing in Beantown just got a whole lot more excellent.
Vermouth 101. “The intent of these pages is to demystify vermouth, primarily for the American audience.” From Martin Doudoroff, one half of the team that made every cocktailero’s life easier with CocktailDB, comes a much-needed primer on this misunderstood cocktail staple. (Supporting roles played by Eric Seed, Romée de Gorianoff and Alexandre Vingtier.) Thank you, gentlemen, from the bottom of our livers.
Tiki+ app. The CocktailDB team also presents, in partnership with Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, the newly updated Tiki+ app. One hundred and fifty top-notch, vintage and contemporary tiki recipes, plus pretty pictures, for $3.99. Don’t be a suffering bastard — download yours today!
2010 Devil’s Dining Awards. MC Slim JB distills the best, worst and otherwise most memorable items from the year in dining (and drinking) into this wickedly smart, funny list. In my book, Slim is the best food writer in Boston.
Now… what are you doing New Year’s Eve?
Tags: apps, Martin Doudoroff, MC Slim JB, tiki
Posted in Books & resources, Nips, Vermouth | 5 Comments »
December 3rd, 2010
I think the sign says it all. What with the holiday season upon us, I’ve been hoarding a recycled shopping bag full of nips for you, so let’s get cracking.
» Repeal Day Ball. Well, it seems I have truly arrived. I am part of a Boston contingent being whisked down to Washington D.C. this Saturday for the third annual Repeal Day Ball at the Maison Biltmore, courtesy of the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild and Macchu Pisco. This shindig started amid the hoopla over the 75th anniversary of Repeal in 2008 (which Eastern Standard celebrated in great style right here in Boston) and quickly became one of the Capitol’s great parties. Jeffrey Morgenthaler (aka the Morgenblogger) of Portland, Oregon, MCs the affair, which features themed rooms manned by renowned innkeepers from the D.C. area and elsewhere. Sure, there’ll be punch and Prohibition-era cocktails, but, frankly, I’m making a beeline for the 1980s room starring Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff. Line up the Woo Woos, baby!
» Book of punch. Speaking of punch, David Wondrich was in town last month to promote his new book, Punch: The Delights and Dangers of the Flowing Bowl, at Drink. Delights and dangers were both in abundance, with nary a cocktail shaker in sight — just the gentle ladling of spirits, citrus, spice and sugar into little cups, over and over again. Oh my, that was fun. Read C. Fernsebner’s and B.C. Burroughs’ terrific interview with Wondrich in the Bostonist, with a longer version available on their blog, Dudekicker.
» High West. Also in town recently was David Perkins of the High West Distillery in Park City, Utah. A former biochemist who is part laconic scientist, part droll cowboy, Perkins hosted a tasting of his exotic whiskies at Trina’s Starlite Lounge in late October. We tasted his Silver Western Oat Whiskey, an unaged whiskey made with 85 percent oats and 15 percent barley malt; Rendezvous Rye, a blend of straight rye whiskies (including a 16-year-old Fleischmann’s — paging Man Men!); and Bourye, “the world’s only bourbon and rye marriage.” These whiskies are popping up in a few Boston bars — they’re very much boutique offerings, with the price tag to match, but well worth a sip when you find them.
» Nolet’s gin. I was introduced to Nolet’s Silver gin recently at a cocktail dinner at Eastern Standard. Intriguing. This is one of those newfangled gins, albeit produced by the very old Nolet’s distillery in Schiedam, Holland — best known in the U.S. for Ketel One vodka — where generations of the same family have been producing spirits since 1691. Its primary botanicals are Turkish rose, white peach and raspberry. If that trio makes you envision a cross between Hendrick’s and Stoli Raz, stop yourself right there. The stuff is quite dry, as brightly aromatic and balanced as a really expensive perfume, and verrrrry smoooooth. In fact, one of our cocktails was simply Nolet’s Silver in a heavy rocks glass over one very large ice cube. Quite nice, especially considering the stuff is 95.2 proof. This is an exclusive spirit, launching in only six states and costing $50 per bottle. We were also treated to a dram of the even rarer Nolet’s Reserve, a lightly aged gin whose pale straw color comes from saffron (or should I spell that $affron?) and which is also flavored with verbena. It was ethereal — which it would need to be at $800 per bottle. Allemachtig!
» Banged-up bartenders. What a coincidence. The night before Robert Simonson’s NYT article on the injuries related to craft bartending came out, I was at a gathering of female bartenders who launched into a conversation about their job-induced aches and pains. (Coincidence #2: one of those women is quoted in the article.) One woman wakes up with pain in her wrist, another is plagued by a sore shoulder. One’s husband has to pry apart her clenched “shaker hands” as she sleeps. Another had the rest of us hold her wrist as she rotated it to reveal what felt like loose ball bearings. The main culprit was the constant, vigorous use of shakers, often with larger, denser ice than the norm, that is pretty much mandatory in craft cocktail mixing. Other culprits were similar to those mentioned in the article:
“Bartending has never been an easy job. But in the past, tired feet, an aching back and possibly a bent ear or two were the standard complaints. Today’s nonstop bar-side ballets have caused the pains to creep northward to the wrist, elbow and shoulder.
“Most professionals deal in some repetitive motion or other; bartenders contend with several. They tilt heavy bottles into a shaker each night; they smack ice with the bowl of a bar spoon to get the size and shape just right; they unleash the suction of a shaker with the palm of their hand, jolting their wrist again and again.”
Sheesh. Does anybody predict that punch is about to get a whole lot more popular?
Tags: bartending injury, David Wondrich, High West whiskey, Nolet's gin, Repeal Day
Posted in Books & resources, D.C., Gin, Nips, Punch, Whiskey | No Comments »
September 16th, 2010
Ted Munat blogged this recently: “I love the cocktail industry. It is brimming with creativity and with beautiful and amazing people. The affection people have for what they do, and for the others that do it, is unmatched in any other community on earth I have ever encountered.”
You might view that as mushy hyperbole from a happy drunk if Ted didn’t just publish a book, Left Coast Libations, that makes a solid case for the above statement over 160 pages of bartender profiles, city descriptions and recipes/photos of the splendid mixology that’s happening on the other side of the country. Left Coast Libations is an intelligent, cheeky, utterly heartfelt love letter to “the art of West Coast bartending.”
The book grew out of a pamphlet that Ted and his brother Charles put together and introduced, as I remember it anyway, at Tales of the Cocktail in 2008. “One copy fell into the hands of Scott Bodarky, a Bay Area book publisher,” writes Ted on the LCL website, and soon thereafter work on a “real life big boy book” began in partnership with recipe guru Michael Lazar and photographer Jenn Farrington. Here’s a brief excerpt and recipe from the Portland, Oregon section’s writeup of Evan Zimmerman of Laurelhurst Market (which I highly recommend):
“Evan’s a tornado behind the bar. And creative, wild, borderline insane shit flies in every direction from where he stands. For the love of God, the man’s drink in this book calls for smoked ice. Do you have any idea how far gone from reality a person has to be to conceive of smoking ice? I was a teenager once, and I tried smoking just about everything… but never ice.”
1 1/2 oz Tennessee whiskey
1 oz manzanilla sherry
3/4 oz Pecan Syrup
1/2 lemon juice
1 dash The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter bitters
Combine all the ingredients except smoked ice in a shaker with (not smoked) ice. Shake hard. Double-strain over a 2″ by 2″ block of the smoked ice in an Old Fashioned glass.
If you want to know how to make smoked ice and pecan syrup — and you like fun cocktail writing and tasty recipes — you have to buy the book. (Don’t worry, not every recipe in LCL calls for such complicated ingredients).
I don’t know if there will ever be an East Coast Cocktails-or-something-or-other to rival LCL, but, Ted & Co., you have officially fired the first shot. Cheers and congrats to you all.
Tags: California, Left Coast Libations, Oregon, Ted Munat, Washington, West Coast
Posted in Books & resources, Cocktails | 6 Comments »
September 7th, 2010
“I’m thinking of becoming a bartender. Where do I start?” is a question I get asked regularly. It generally comes from people fired up about the rise of craft mixology, the notion of bartending as a “real” career, and the infectious passion and knowledge displayed by many of today’s serious bartenders. People fed up with their day jobs, or just out of college and considering career choices, dream of hoisting a Boston shaker and making the world happy with good drinks and banter like Ted Lange on the Love Boat.
These are all fine reasons to want the job. Oh, the money can be good, too. But unless you own the bar or are very close to the person who does, you’re probably not going to find yourself behind the slab if you don’t have experience. OK, so how do you get there? Here’s some advice that comes from conversations I’ve had with career bartenders. By the way, this isn’t a step-by-step process; it’s a multi-pronged strategy.
You don’t need a license or a bartending-school diploma. There’s no such thing as a bartending license. (However, many bartenders must take the TIPS course on avoiding overserving or serving to minors.) Most bartenders don’t recommend bartending school; very few of the professionals I know have attended one. They say that while it won’t hurt your chances of getting a job, it doesn’t really prepare you for working in a real bar, and that your money and time are better spent on some of the following.
Learn all you can on your own. Get some basic bar equipment, some recommended books (Gary Regan’s Joy of Mixology and Dale DeGroff’s Craft of the Cocktail are good places to start) and some booze, watch a few videos by bar/mixology experts, and start mixing drinks at home. (Also, consider taking a short, basic mixology class at the Boston Shaker in Somerville.) This will give you a certain comfort level with pouring, measuring and shaking/stirring. Your friends and neighbors will serve as your first customers.
Take a lot of field trips. Again, this is where your bartending-school money is probably better spent — at actual bars. Go to a top-notch cocktail bar, park yourself on a stool and observe, observe, observe. Watch the bartenders’ drink-making technique, see how they multi-task and interact with guests, notice the types of spirits they use, witness them card or shut off a customer (hopefully not you).
Talk to your bartender. It should go without saying that you only do this during lulls in service. And don’t ask, “How do I do what you do?” Rather, think of specific questions like, “Why do you shake some drinks and stir others?” or “Could you tell me about the bitters you used in my drink?” or “What do you do to prep the bar for a shift?” or “How did you start tending bar?” Note: being a good-tipping regular will greatly facilitate these interactions. See: How to treat a bartender.
Get experience any way, anywhere you can. Even it it’s unpaid at first. Got an acquaintance who works for a catering company or does events where drinks are served? Offer to go along and cut limes, fetch ice, etc. Find a bar that has sleepy daytime shifts and offer to work other positions that need filling in exchange for getting a shot at a bar shift. Put feelers out to all those bartenders you’ve been getting to know as a customer. See if a bar is willing to try you out for a couple of uncompensated bar-back shifts.
Be realistic. The bartenders who are truly adept at what they do have usually been at it for several years. They have the personalities, talent and toughness it takes to stick with a job that demands long hours without a break, is physically and psychically stressful, generally offers no benefits of any kind, and involves the various hazards of late-night shenanigans. You will probably know very quickly whether you are cut out for this. That said, I don’t mean to discourage you. Give it a try. A good bartender is always in demand.
Tags: bartender training, bartending career, bartending school
Posted in Bartenders, Books & resources | 4 Comments »