Archive for the ‘’ Category

June 10th, 2009

Bitters breakthrough

bittermens-xocolatlIt’s the moment cocktailians have been waiting for. Bittermens bitters are finally going to be available in stores and more widely in bars. After years — yes, years — of battling various authorities to make and sell their bitters, all the while providing their products to select bars in Boston and elsewhere on a “pre-release” basis, Avery and Janet Glasser have finally and happily entered a partnership with the German bitters producer the Bitter Truth.

The first Bittermens products being released under the partnership are Grapefruit Bitters and Xocolatl (Chocolate) Mole Bitters. Hopefully the Glassers’ other artisanal flavors, like ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters, won’t be far behind. The goods won’t be available for purchase stateside for another few months; for now you have to buy them through the Bitter Truth website (and pay dearly for overseas shipping, I’m afraid). The price of an individual bottle is listed at 10.90 euros, which is about 15 bucks.

The Boston Shaker already sells several varieties of Bitter Truth bitters (Celery, Jerry Thomas’ Decanter, etc.) and hopes to begin offering Bittermens bitters as soon as they are available.

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Posted in Bitters, Booze in the news, Drinking supplies | 3 Comments »

April 28th, 2009

Felten hearts Boston bartenders

Food & Wine Cocktails ‘09Eric Felten’s last two drink columns for the Wall Street Journal have referred, directly and indirectly, to some of Boston’s best bartenders. April 18′s A Welcome Sign of Vodka’s Decline describes a development for which I have been beating the drum for some time, and it singles out Misty Kalkofen‘s mezcal-based recipe for Food & Wine’s Cocktails ’09 — the Maximilian Affair — as “an instant classic.” (Thanks to those readers who tipped me off about this article, and congrats to you, Misty.) Felten also mentions an original cocktail by Jackson Cannon, the Fernet-laced Heather in Queue, as an example of a gravitation toward bitters.

April 25′s Women Behind Bars compares the male-only saloon culture that largely kept women employees out of bars until well after WWII with the prevalence of female bartenders in today’s “culinary cocktail” scene. Felten begins by mentioning this year’s James Beard Foundation culinary gala, whose theme is Women in Food. “More than a dozen prominent female bartenders will be mixing original drinks at the May 4 dinner in New York,” he writes. Guess who will be among those “prominent female bartenders.” Yep, Misty rides again, and she’ll be accompanied by her Drink colleague Josey Packard. Have a blast, girls — can’t wait to see the pics!

Maximilian Affair

Misty Kalkofen (adapted by Eric Felten of the WSJ)

1 1/4 oz mezcal (preferably a smoky, single-village mezcal such as Del Maguey)
3/4 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
1/2 oz sweet vermouth (preferably Punt e Mes)
1/4 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

[recipe name="heather-in-queue"]

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Posted in Booze in the news, Cocktails, Vodka | 4 Comments »

March 15th, 2009

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

CC ad with vanA few nights ago at Eastern Standard, three young, svelte women dressed in figure-hugging gentlemen’s clothes and fedoras approached me and offered to shine my boots. They were part of a promotion for Canadian Club. As we know, CC’s retro, “Damn right your dad drank it” marketing campaign conjures up a bygone era when men were unapologetic scamps, drinking whiskey on the rocks, going fishing, and running around with girls wearing mini-dresses and Aquanet. Or at least getting their shoes shined in a bar by sexy androgynes.

I declined the shoe-shine offer, which, frankly, came only because the men sitting next to me were wearing sneakers. Their cheerfulness unclouded, the CC Girls handed me a tin of shoe polish with the whiskey’s logo and moved on to the next prospect.

‘Oh, the manufactured banality of liquor promotions!’ I thought. But then I had to admit that, not only was this campaign more clever than most (memories of a Captain Morgan night at a Pizzeria Uno long ago, with a band of short-skirted Morganettes accompanying a guy dressed as a pirate, are still vivid), it was for a brand of whiskey. And we weren’t in a steak house; we were in a cocktail bar. A sign of the end of vodka’s hegemony in the world of mixed drinks, perhaps?

Here’s another sign: Bushmills Irish Whiskey has tapped mixologist-bartenders in various cities to join in a St. Patrick’s Day cocktail promotion. The theme: Irish Breakfast. The criteria: drinks must use Bushmills and eggs. Seriously. A mainstream brand of whiskey is pushing egg drinks.

“Talk about ‘old school’ penetrating the mainstream market! The fact that this year a major marketer is investing in that kind of mixology shows how this thing is really spilling out to the general public. Also, it creates some interest among us bar folk. Usually the only ‘opportunities’ like this are tied to this year’s buzzberryflavorofthemoment,” said Jackson Cannon of Eastern Standard, who, along with Misty Kalkofen of Drink and Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli of Craigie on Main has created an original cocktail for this event (recipes below). And speaking of Cannon, he is the star of a new online show called Barcraft.

OK, even as we see positive developments like the above, we can always count on stupid developments in the booze world happening right alongside. Like the A-Roid cocktail at Bonfire. According to Boston.com’s Dishing blog, this drink is “a shot of El Mejor tequila, straight up, with a ‘Performance-Enhancing Boost of Spicy Tomato Juice’ (smoked tomatoes, tomato juice, lemon juice, Tabasco, and jalapenos). It comes in a syringe without a needle; you can inject it into the shot or use it as a chaser.”

Actually, it’s helpful when bars offer such clear signs about the clientele they aim to attract. Another brazen example: opening a new bar during a recession that charges $17 for cocktails. Sensing, the restaurant in the exclusive new Fairmont Hotel at Battery Wharf, uses premium spirits and fresh juices and herbs in its drinks. So do a number of other bars around Boston that charge a lot less for their cocktails. I know that high prices are designed to send a message — “Riffraff, keep out” — but in times like these, that sort of message is as insulting as big bonuses for executives of failed banks.

Which, finally, brings me to a strange phenomenon. We’re in the worst economic downturn since the Depression, right? The Dow is where it was in 1966, right? Everyone knows someone who has been laid off recently, right? And yet, business at the bars that drinkboston.com frequents appears to be booming. I know people turn to alcohol when times get tough, but the places I’m talking about — while they’re way cheaper than Sensing — aren’t exactly dive bars with $4 pitcher specials. It warms my heart (and my liver) that good bars are doing good business. But I can’t help but wonder sometimes: Is this the Manic Party Hour before last call?

Ah, never mind. Have a whiskey-and-egg drink.

Bushmills in the Afternoon
Jackson Cannon, Eastern Standard

1 half slice of artisan wheat bread
1 whole egg
1 1/2 oz. Bushmills Irish Whiskey
1/2 oz honey syrup (1 to 1 clover honey and water)
1/2 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
Dash of house bitters

Muddle the bread with 2 oz. whiskey for 1 minute, and pass through tea strainer. It will yield 1 1/2 oz. of wheat bread-infused Bushmills Irish Whiskey. Add the rest of the ingredients and dry shake for 1 minute. Add ice and shake for two more minutes. Strain into coup glass and garnish with fresh grated cinnamon.

Boyd’s Midday Fizz
Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli, Craigie on Main

1 1/4 oz. Bushmills Irish Whiskey
1/8 oz. allspice liqueur
3/4 oz. beet juice reduced and infused with clove, allspice, coriander
1/4 oz. agave syrup
Pinch of salt
Dash of Angostura bitters
Dash of orange bitters
White of one egg

Shake hard and strain into a chilled Collins glass without ice. Top with 4 ounces of Belgian-style ale.

Irish Coffee Fizz
Misty Kalkofen, Drink

3/4 oz. Bushmills Irish Whiskey
1/2 oz. dark rum
1/4 oz. Navan Vanilla Liqueur
1/2 oz. simple syrup
8 coffee beans
1 oz. egg white
1/2 oz. cream
1 oz. soda water

Shake spirits, muddled coffee, egg white, and simple syrup in a shaker with no ice. Add cream and ice and shake vigorously. Strain into chilled single rocks glass which contains one ounce of simple syrup.

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Posted in Booze in the news, Tequila, Whiskey | 8 Comments »

March 6th, 2009

Wanted: your vote

Boston Phoenix 2009 Best issueHey, imbibers, guess what? Drinkboston’s been nominated for the Boston Phoenix’s 2009 “best” issue, and your vote is crucial!

The category: Boston’s Best Blog/Podcast. The stakes: high. The payback: a giant bowl of punch on Boston Common? A keg party at Redbones? A group hug at Eastern Standard? Oh, I’ll think of something.

While you’re at it, check out (and place your vote for) some of our old friends in the Best Bartender and Best Bar categories.

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Posted in Bartenders, Booze in the news, Boston bars, drinkboston in the news | No Comments »

February 4th, 2009

Nips – 2/4/09

I’m finally getting my ass in gear over what to do with those little items that are worth mentioning but don’t warrant an entire post: I’m filing them in series of posts called Nips, after those little bottles of booze you get on airplanes, in hotel minibars or at liquor-store checkout counters. (Fun fact: Until 2005, South Carolina liquor laws dictated that bartenders make drinks with nips instead of free-pouring or measuring into a jigger. Holy idiocracy.)

1. Do you remember those ads for Miller High Life in the late ’90s and early ’00s? They were understated little vignettes capturing the modern alterna-male’s winking appropriation of bygone “guy-ness,” from an era when men had bowling trophies and dedication to a particular brand of beer. The ads were unlike anything else you saw on TV. That’s because they were directed by Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, Standard Operating Procedure). Since documentary filmmaking — even Oscar-winning documentary filmmaking — doesn’t pay the bills, Morris, who lives in Cambridge, has done lots of ad work. I’d like to thank A Continuous Lean, Michael Williams’ terrific blog on American design, for reminding me of the Miller ads. You can watch all the spots here.

2. Here’s another homework assignment. Read these two recent articles on Slate:

Change We Can Taste: Bush’s White House served terrible wine. Obama should do better.
Obama Raises the Bar: In politics, as in life, a little alcohol can go a long way.

3. How about the recession-induced proposal to put a 5% tax on liquor purchased at package stores? If it’s approved, will it make you drive to NH to buy booze?

4. More recession news. A little while ago, the Globe published what I thought was a detailed and fair article on Locke-Ober’s historic decision to close for lunch and what that signified for anyone who thought the old-fashioned business lunch (you know, the one with Martinis) was still alive. Well, that story sparked a rumble in the comments section between those who hold Locke-Ober dear as a Boston institution even though its food and service have been eclipsed many times over by competing high-end restaurants, and those who are seriously bitter over their financial and employment circumstances and want to mow down anything in their path that smacks of aristocracy, including Locke-Ober. Yikes. Personally, I love the place despite its silly prices, because it is a Boston institution. But resting on your laurels is not a business strategy. I wish, at the very least, that Locke-Ober would hire a team of bartenders who could bring cocktail hour at L-O back to the glory of the Gilded Age.

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Posted in Beer, Booze in the news, Boston bars, Nips | 16 Comments »

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