Archive for the ‘’ Category

September 17th, 2009

Legal’s gets serious about cocktails

It’s a bit of poetic justice that Patrick Sullivan, who started the cocktail revival in Boston when he opened the B-Side Lounge in 1998, is now bringing his storied training skills to the bar staff at the biggest high-end chain of seafood restaurants in the country, Legal Sea Foods. Imagine: a properly made, balanced cocktail with fresh-squeezed juice alongside your plate of oysters or grilled bluefish. This is huge.

Sullivan was recently interviewed by Grub Street Boston (what gives, Patrick?) about his new gig as Legal’s cocktail program manager. (Like that Bostonian nickname for this local institution? Check out MC Slim JB’s commentary about making restaurant names possessive.) This excerpt from one of Sullivan’s comments is especially encouraging: “…in the past, there’s been some sweetness to the Legal Sea Foods cocktail menu. What I’m trying to do is make everyone aware of the fact that our cocktails need to be well-balanced and on the dryer side. You’ll see a lot of fresh lemon juice and bitters, which dry things out.” Wow. Adult cocktails for the masses. I’ll drink to that.

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Posted in Bartenders, Booze in the news, Cocktails | 7 Comments »

September 12th, 2009

Beefeater 24

beefeater24-scottmarshall

When I mention to the uninitiated imbiber that I like Beefeater gin, I get strange looks. In the world of sexy, new-style gins like Hendricks and Tanqueray 10, whose flavors are designed to appeal to the juniper-shy, Beefeater is viewed as an old-man drink. But to people who actually put vermouth in their Martinis and enjoy an honest-to-goodness Tom Collins, Beefeater is a classic. The fact that Audrey Saunders endorses it doesn’t hurt, either.

The brand recently launched a new gin, Beefeater 24, in Boston. “Distilled in the heart of England’s capital, Beefeater 24 takes its name from the unique 24-hour steeping process and the city’s 24-hour stylish and sophisticated lifestyle,” says the press release. I know, that “lifestyle” line is a doozy, but “stylish and sophisticated” perfectly describe the gin’s packaging. It’s more “swinging London,” less “British Empire.” Blessedly, though, the spirit’s flavor evokes the latter.

While Beefeater 24 adds three new botanicals (Japanese Sencha tea, Chinese green tea and Spanish grapefruit peel) to the original nine (juniper, Seville orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root, angelica seed, orris root, licorice, coriander seed and almond), it tastes quite a bit like regular Beefeater. The tea flavors are really, really understated and create a slight tannic finish; Beefeater’s traditional citrusy character gets a little more complexity from the grapefruit peel; and the 24 is softer in the mouth than the original. Otherwise, it’s as London-dry and cocktail-friendly as its parent. It’s also more expensive, of course, at $29/750 ml compared to $22 or so for the original. (The 24 cuts out more of the heads and tails, or beginning and end products of distillation, resulting in a smoother spirit.)

Beefeater master distiller and all-around nice guy Desmond Payne, who was in town for the launch, seemed pleased as punch by his new creation — the first recipe he has been called upon to devise in his 40+ years making gin, first for Plymouth, then for Beefeater. He mentioned that one of his favorite gin drinks is a Negroni, and he was excited about 24′s debut aligning with the resurgence in classic cocktails. The growth in demand for the flavors of old means that Payne could unabashedly create a new gin for the gin drinker.

Gin Old-Fashioned
Created for the Beefeater 24 launch party at Drink

2 oz Beefeater 24
1/4 oz gomme syrup (2 parts sugar, 1 part water)
1 dash bergamot bitters (house-made)
1 dash Angostura orange bitters

Build in a heavy-bottomed rocks glass and stir well over a large lump of ice.

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Posted in Booze in the news, Gin | 6 Comments »

August 28th, 2009

Nips – 8/28/09

genever-collins

Liquors launched. Bols Genever and Absolut Boston launched in Beantown recently. You will see the former at the city’s best cocktail bars. You will see the latter everywhere else.

Genever is an old Dutch spirit that, while it gave birth to modern-day, London dry gin, is in its own category. You could call it the whiskey drinker’s white spirit. It’s made with malted grain, same as whiskey, so it has a depth of flavor even before botanicals are added. If you want to time travel back to the days when Jerry Thomas was mixing up Improved Holland Gin Cocktails, this is your vehicle. Cocktail Virgin Slut and C. Fernsebner of the Bostonist both did fine writeups of the Bols Genever launch party at Drink.

As for Absolut Boston, what can I say? It’s from the benchmark vodka brand whose brilliant marketing made it an icon and launched the category of premium vodka into the stratosphere. It’s part of a series of special-edition flavors inspired by cities, in our case black tea (historically apt) and elderflower (currently trendy). It’ll sell like gangbusters.

bartender-raceBartenders on the move. Wow, where to begin? With the ladies — the Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails, that is. Joy Richard (aka Bourbon Belle) left her longtime gig managing Tremont 647 to manage and work the bars at both Franklin Cafes (South End and Southie). She is kicking cocktails up to a new level at these beloved neighborhood spots. Emma Hollander (aka Hot Toddy) also left Tremont 647 and will christen the shakers at Trina’s Starlite Lounge in Cambridge (where the Abbey used to be), whose soft opening should begin next week.

Now for the men. Andy “Hunter S. Thompson” McNees is moving from Green Street in Central Square to Toro in the South End. His esteemed colleague Nathan Bice (aka “just Bice”) is heading slightly northwest to Highland Kitchen in Somerville. Speaking of Highland Kitchen, I should also mention that Claudia Mastrobuono is leaving the bar there to go back to school. I’ll miss her skills and no-nonsense attitude. Meanwhile, joining Dylan Black and Emily Stanley behind the bar at Green Street are Colin Kiley, lately of Central Kitchen, and Joel Mack, lately of Deep Ellum in Allston (and Redbones before that). And to complete the circle, Patrick Sandlin just stepped behind the bar at Deep Ellum after managing Bukowski in Boston. Finally, Ben Sandrof will no longer be working behind the bar at Drink — or any bar at all for that matter (sniff). But he’ll remain a key figure in Boston’s booze world with his new career in wholesale at M.S. Walker. Whew! That was dizzying. If I’m missing anyone, let me know.

Manhattan & Montreal. If you missed Tales of the Cocktail and have a hankerin’ to schmooze and booze with fellow cocktailians from around the globe, you should get tickets to the Manhattan Cocktail Classic Fall Preview on October 3 and 4. This is a mini-conference to prep for a larger event in May, and, given the buzz I’ve heard, it could be a quick sellout. The details are still vague, but all you really need to know is that these are the organizers. Oh, I hear there are a few good cocktail bars in Manhattan, too. Tickets go on sale Labor Day weekend. Book your hotel now. Speaking of Tales and Manhattan, read On the Rocks, It’s a New Landscape in the New York Times if you haven’t already.

As for Montreal, I’m seeking news rather than reporting it. Specifically, does anyone know of any connections between the bar/restaurant scene in Montreal and the bar/restaurant scene in Boston? Like, Boston bar owners who are from Montreal, Boston bars that are using ice wine from Quebec, or dedicated barflies who divide their lives between the two cities… Anyone?

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Posted in Bartenders, Books & resources, Booze in the news, Cocktails, Gin, Nips, Vodka, Whiskey | 15 Comments »

July 28th, 2009

Lame beer session

obama_beer

President Obama, acknowledging his part in spurring the media circus around the arrest of Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. through his “stupid” remark about the case (which has by now been downgraded from Exhibit A: Racial Profiling Epidemic to Unfortunate Incident), and wanting to shut that circus down so that we can resume talking about life-and-death stuff like health care and the war in Afghanistan, is having Gates and Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley over to the White House on Thursday for a beer.

Whether or not we agree that this particular presidential summit is warranted, I think we can agree on the notion of getting together over a beer to solve problems. It should happen way more often. But hearing what kind of beer each gentleman requested disappointed me. From the Reuters blogs:

Asked what beer the president might have, [Spokesman Robert] Gibbs observed that Obama drank a Budweiser at the baseball All-Star Game a couple of weeks ago.

“Sgt. Crowley mentioned when the president offered this on the phone Friday that he likes Blue Moon,” said Gibbs. Blue Moon is a Belgian-style white beer brewed by Molson Coors.

Gates told the Boston Globe he was a fan of Red Stripe, a Jamaican lager, and Beck’s, a German lager.

Oh, god. Bud, Blue Moon and Beck’s? Really, gentlemen? Is the meeting at a Ruby Tuesday’s or something? Not to mention the fact that every one of these brews is made by a global conglomerate. Can I interest you in something still well-known (i.e. not “elitist”) but American-made — Sam Adams, maybe? Fitting that it originates from the city across the river from the incident. Or maybe the Cambridge guys could bring a local brew from their city, while Obama brings a D.C.-made beer to the table. I suggest, given Crowley’s taste for unfiltered wheat ales, that he grab a growler of hefe-weizen from the Cambridge Brewing Co. Mr. President, you bring some Capitol City Kolsch for yourself and Mr. Gates. That way you get symbolism and flavor.

You’re welcome. Let me know if I can be of any further help.

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Posted in Beer, Booze in the news | 13 Comments »

June 20th, 2009

Nips – 6/20/09

doctordrinking» As I prepare to make my third annual trip to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail, two New York Times articles this week combined in my head to form a timely and contradictory message: “Booze is bad for you. New Orleans is good for you.” The first article, Alcohol’s Good for You? Some Scientists Doubt It, looks skeptically at studies that show health benefits from moderate drinking. The takeaway is this: “It may be that moderate drinking is just something healthy people tend to do, not something that makes people healthy.” If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you figured that out a long time ago. I’m guessing that, even if you are a moderate drinker (one drink per day for women, two for men), you aren’t drinking for your health, but because it’s fun. Imagine — doing something that confers no benefit other than fun!

» Which segues perfectly into the second article, The Way of the Bayou, about New Orleanians being completely out of step with “progress” and not fretting about it one bit. “While the rest of us Americans scurry about with a Blackberry in one hand and a to-go cup of coffee in the other in a feverish attempt to pack more achievement into every minute, it’s the New Orleans way to build one’s days around friends, family, music, cooking, processions, and art. For more than two centuries New Orleanians have been guardians of tradition and masters of living in the moment — a lost art.” This is a rosy view of the city, but there’s truth in it. It’s something you pick up on pretty quickly when you’re down there, especially during an event as joyously frivolous — and bad for your health — as Tales of the Cocktail.

» Speaking of Tales, the event culminates in the annual Spirit Awards, which recognize the best bars, bartenders, writers, brand ambassadors, products, etc. in the cocktail world. This year, Drink has been nominated for Best New Cocktail Bar. Cross your fingers and hope for the best, ’cause Gertsen and co. deserve to win.

» Some Boston bar proprietors received a strange promotional item this week: a tasteful looking box with the words “Thanks for nothing” on the outside and an empty bottle of Knob Creek bourbon on the inside. An accompanying letter explains that consumer demand has literally drained the barrels dry, and it thanks the recipient for “helping make it happen.” As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. The letter continues, “We ask for your patience and your continued support. We plan to capitalize on this temporary shortage by creating customer communications and conducting outreach that underscore Knob Creek’s commitment to quality. Working together, I’m sure we’ll all be even more popular and profitable once supply is restored.”

Ooooh. Commitment to quality. Working together. Popular and profitable. The boutique bourbon market is wielding some fancy PR! The letter should’ve just said, “If you’re paying $10 more a bottle than you used to for our bourbon, bless your soul. By the time supplies are replenished, your customers will be used to paying the higher price. Genius!”

» And good gawd, y’all, MC Slim JB (food/drink critic and occasional contributor in this space) just posted There’s a riot going on in the cocktail world, an eloquent tribute to and smart summation of the rise of the craft cocktail scene in Boston. If you’re a regular here, a lot of the nuts and bolts of what he’s saying will already sound familiar, but his thoughtful take on things is well worth checking out. As he explains, his food-oriented audience and writing peers are often surprisingly ignorant of what’s been going on for the past several years, drink-wise. It’s time they knew.

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Posted in Booze in the news, Boston bars, New Orleans, Nips | 6 Comments »

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