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November 23rd, 2010

A splendid war

As my friend Senator John aptly tweeted during the grand finale of the year-long Cocktail Wars at Woodward Tavern in the Ames Hotel, “If you dropped a bomb on the Ames Hotel, we’d be drinking light beer and screwdrivers for months.”

Arguably Boston’s three best bartenders — Jackson Cannon of Eastern Standard and John Gertsen and Misty Kalkofen of Drink — competed against each other and Miami’s finest, John Lermayer, in a showdown that capped a series of drink-mixing battles between Boston bartenders (and sometimes their colleagues from other cities). And there to cheer the competitors on was seemingly every other bartender of note who wasn’t on the stick that night. Thankfully, no bombs were dropped. Except for this one: the guy from Miami won.

That’s right, John Lermayer, who tends bar at the Florida Room and consults for hotel bars around the world, bested his Beantown colleagues fair and square. I should know, because I was one of the judges. His winning cocktail, the Misty Morning Sour (see below), hit all the criteria admirably: quality, creativity, presentation and use of surprise ingredients — persimmon and Barenjager honey liqueur. Misty Kalkofen took second place for her mezcal-based Per Simon. In the quality department, all the cocktails got high marks on my ledger — particularly considering they were each created in an astonishing 20 minutes.

Here are some pics from the bash, plus the recipes that each of the four competitors came up with. What a pleasure it was to literally drink in their talents.

Misty Morning Sour
John Lermayer

Persimmon (a couple slices)
Strawberry (one or two)
1 1/2 oz Plymouth gin
3/4 oz Aperol
3/4 oz Barenjager
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz simple syrup
2 drops orange blossom water
Egg white

Muddle persimmon and strawberry in a mixing glass. Add remaining ingredients and dry-shake. Shake all again well over ice. Strain into cocktail glass with sliced strawberry and persimmon garnish. The name: inspired by how John imagined his fellow contestant, Misty, would feel the next morning.

Per Simon
Misty Kalkofen

Half a persimmon
2 oz Del Maguey Mezcal Vida
1/2 oz Plymouth sloe gin
1/2 oz Barenjager
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz agave nectar
1/2 oz Amontillado sherry
6 drops Bittermens grapefruit bitters
Nutmeg garnish

Muddle persimmon in a mixing glass. Add all other ingredients except nutmeg and shake well over ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with fresh grated nutmeg. The name: a play on one of the surprise ingredients and on the name of one of the judges, Simon Ford, international ambassador for Plymouth gin.

Once in a Blue Persim-moon
Jackson Cannon

Persimmon (couple slices)
1 1/2 oz Barenjager
1 oz Plymouth gin
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 egg white
Dash Peychaud’s bitters
Sparkling wine

Dry-shake first four ingredients and strain through a tea strainer. Dry-shake strained ingredients with egg white. Shake all again with ice. Strain into a champagne flute, top with Peychaud’s and sparkling wine. The name: inspired by the blue moon in the sky that evening.

Wasp Bite
John Gertsen

2 oz persimmon infused* Plymouth gin
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz Barenjager
1 tsp black pepper
Barenjager soaked persimmon skin “twist”

Muddle pepper in mixing glass. Add all ingredients except twist. Add ice, shake and double strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with the twist. The name: a play on Drink’s peppery Bee Sting, which is itself a play on the classic Bee’s Knees.

*The Plymouth Gin was infused using a quick infusion technique known as nitrogen cavitation. Gertsen used a 1 liter iSi profi whip canister, added 375 ml of Plymouth Gin and the pulp from 4 medium-sized persimmons, and charged the canister twice with nitrogen.

Except for top photo, all photos by Mark Andrew Deley of Crammed Media.

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Posted in Bartenders, Cocktails, Events, Liqueur | No Comments »

July 7th, 2010

Nips – 7/7/10

freakytikiparty

On a steamy summer Friday afternoon, who doesn’t dream of heading straight from the office to a magical oasis of exotica music and tropical drinks? Well, pinch yourself, ’cause this is no dream: Beginning July 9, Brother Cleve, Boston’s oracle of tiki, will host Freaky Tiki Fridays at the new Cambridge “bistro-theque” Think Tank (1 Kendall Sq., Bldg. 300) from 5:00-9:00 p.m.

At this week’s special kickoff event, says Cleve, “our old pal Mr. Ho will be bringing the condensed version of his Orchestrotica — we can’t really fit all 22 members of the full ensemble, so we’ll take the quartet — for a set of exotic sounds in the style of ’50s Hawaiiana like Martin Denny and Les Baxter.” [NOTE: Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica unfortunately won’t be appearing, but the tiki party’s still on!) Of course, when live music isn’t on the bill, Cleve will spin his own vast collection of tunes to sway your grass skirt to. Meanwhile, Think Tank owner Vincent Conte has sprinkled his cocktail menu with a few mixtures that hark back to his days as bar manager of the South End’s departed Pho Republique, and each Freaky Tiki Friday will feature a drink or two from Beachbum Berry’s terrific books, which put tiki drinks back on the map of legit drinking. Soak up the rum with Think Tank’s 5-for-$5 pan-Asian appetizers that will make you “feel like you’ve gone to the Kowloon, but without the indigestion,” says Cleve. See you there!

» Congrats to Todd Maul of Clio for being named best bartender in the Improper Bostonian’s annual Best of Boston list, out on newsstands now. Maul elevated the cocktail program to the level of the cuisine for which this restaurant is famed  — and he did it with a sense of humor, e.g. a list of tiki-inspired “drinks for two … 2 straws, 1 bowl.” While we’re on the subject of fine-dining bars, here’s a shout-out to Carrie Cole of Craigie on Main. She and her mixology crew have made the cocktail program established by Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli continue to kick ass. Check out this Public Radio Kitchen interview with her, and then go have a Bird Bath.

» If you’re fairly new to Massachusetts, you’ve probably had this rude awakening: you’re out for brunch at 11:03 a.m. on Sunday and order a Bloody Mary, only to be told you have to wait until noon. Thank god that foolishness is over. Last week, the state made it legal to buy a drink on Sunday morning. I mean, with Boston-area bars closing at 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., you’re plenty well rested to start drinking bright and early the next morning.

» There’s nothing like finding your niche. Local cocktail enthusiast and California native Devin Hahn blogs about a single cocktail — the Periodista — at the Periodista Tales. So far, his posts constitute one man’s entertaining and well-researched quest for why this rum-based drink, which means “journalist,” is something of a fixture in Boston while being unknown in virtually every other city he has visited.

» A few good reasons to stay out late on a school night this month: the Franklin Southie continues its Thursday Industry Night series on July 15 at 9:00 p.m. with a $6 cocktail menu featuring quality Luxardo spirits (e.g. Amaretto, Maraschino, Espresso, Fernet, Amaro Abano, Sambuca, Bitter, Sangue Morlacco, Triplum and Limoncello). And Emily Stanley, who traded in her bar towel for a new career as a brand ambassador for the malty Dutch gin Bols Genever, will host two events: a Bols Genever dinner at Aquitaine ($65) on July 19 featuring four cocktails by the talented Matt Coughlin, and a punch party at Highland Kitchen on the 26th starting at 10:00 and featuring $4-$6 punches and cocktails. See you there!

» Here’s something you might like: drinkboston’s Facebook fan page.

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Posted in Events, Nips | 9 Comments »

May 12th, 2010

Highball Highlights

highballs-starlite-group

Thanks to all who came out to Trina’s Starlite Lounge for the Highballs! bash and partied like it was 1965. Highlights:

Two people thanked me for having this particular party on Mother’s Day, because their moms drank highballs.

A guy told me he wanted to drink his way through Embury and blog about it.

highballs-starlite-trina-beau

The Starlite staff and most of the guests showed off their vintage party clothes — nice.

I hobnobbed with a bunch of drinkbostonians, both new and familiar.

Starlite co-owner Beau Sturm made his own gingerale, and bartenders Emma Hollander and Dan Beretsky mixed it with Buffalo Trace Bourbon (for a traditional highball) and with Old Overholt Rye and seltzer (for a Presbyterian).

highballs-starlite-dan-emma

Chef Suzi Maitland was convinced that her giant, nut-covered port wine cheese ball would outlast the evening. We proved her wrong.

Co-owner Trina Sturm poufed her hair and greeted guests with trays of pigs in a blanket, Swedish meatballs, vegetable dip on melba toast and corndog bites.

highballs-starlite-corndog

Some old friends surprised me.

Bourbon Belle, Saucy Sureau, Gin Rickey, Pinky Gonzales, Hanky Panky and Hot Toddy of LUPEC Boston were in the house.

People danced.

highballs-starlite-menu

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Posted in Events, Whiskey | 2 Comments »

April 9th, 2010

Event – Highballs!

dean-martin-highballOnce upon a time, when adults said, “Let’s get together for drinks,” they meant highballs. Guests would bring a bottle of their preferred hooch to someone’s backyard, and the hosts would provide the tall glasses, ice and mixers — tonic, ginger ale, Squirt. Lots of smoking and guffawing would ensue before everyone drove home tipsy without seat belts.

Contemporary society goes against all that. It not only sensibly condemns the smoking and drunk driving, it sadly also dismisses the most basic form of mixed drink, the highball. We have bazillions of cocktail choices now, and, unlike the highball drinkers of yore, we talk about them endlessly (damn drinks bloggers).

In celebration of World Cocktail Week (May 6-13), let’s re-embrace that simple pleasure of the booze universe. Join drinkboston and Trina’s Starlite Lounge for Bourbon & Gingers, Presbyterians, Gin & Tonics, Moscow Mules and other members of the highball family — all with quality spirits and featuring house-made mixers — and party like it’s 1965. The details:

  • Highballs! Hosted by drinkboston and Trina’s Starlite Lounge (3 Beacon St., Somerville)
  • Sunday, May 9 (yes, Mother’s Day — bring mom!)
  • 7:00 p.m. until last call
  • $35 in advance, $40 at the door
  • Highballs include bourbon & housemade gingerale, Presbyterian (rye, housemade gingerale, seltzer), gin & Q Tonic, Moscow Mule (vodka, fresh lime, housemade gingerale), Tom Collins (gin, fresh lemon, simple syrup, seltzer) and Calamansi Collins (the Starlite’s own creation with Thai basil-infused gin, calamanzi juice, simple syrup and seltzer).
  • Tickets include four highballs, such retro delights as pigs in a blanket, and DJ-spun, highball-appropriate tunes.
  • Call the Starlite at 617-576-0006 to purchase your ticket in advance, as there’s a good chance we’ll sell out.
  • Wear whatever you like, but anyone who shows up dressed as stylin’ as Dean Martin (or his date) will get extra credit.

Where does the term “highball” come from? Several sources trace it to the Irish expression “ball of malt,” which became Americanized in the late 1800s to “ball of whiskey” — both terms meaning a measure of whiskey. If a saloon patron wanted a longer drink with carbonated water, he asked for a “highball.” Then there’s the “highball” of railroad lingo — a signal, originally a ball hung above the tracks, indicating full speed ahead — that provides a fun double meaning.

nyt-oct-22-1927Did the scotch highball originate in Boston? This amazing article from the October 22, 1927 edition of the New York Times indicates as much. (Note the characteristic snark toward Boston.) Here’s some intel on William T. Adams, who wrote books for boys under the pen name Oliver Optic, and the Adams House hotel. It seems the NYT was lax in its fact-checking here — the Adams House was established by William T.’s father, not his son.

But wait, this DrinkBoy forum thread appears to contain a quote from a letter to the editor in the October 27, 1927 NYT by famed bartender Patrick Gavin Duffy, who makes a case for having first introduced the scotch highball in New York.

Whatever. All I know is that I’m craving a scotch and soda with a fried oyster on a toothpick. See you on May 9!

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Posted in Events, Whiskey | 7 Comments »

March 17th, 2010

They rose, we drank

bartenders-rise-prep

As we witnessed Sunday night, all that Boston imbibers need to lure them out of the house when it’s raining sideways is the promise of a well-made cocktail and a good party. I applaud our hardiness — not to mention the emerging bar talent that made the evening possible.

Green Street, the venue and co-host for Boston Bartenders on the Rise, made the savvy decision of removing all the tables and chairs from the dining room to accommodate the sell-out crowd. We were warmly welcomed with a beer cocktail by Green Street proprietor Dylan Black called De Stella Nova: Pretty Things Jack D’Or Belgian-style farmhouse ale, 2 dashes of orange bitters and a candied citrus star flavored with coriander.

bartenders-rise-stanley

We then moved on to the four original cocktails created for the occasion by our featured talent (recipes and creators listed below in serving order). I circled the place again and again to say hello to everyone while sneaking the occasional fried oyster, chicken rillette, grilled shrimp on a skewer, or juicy slider (thank you for the lovely apps, chef Greg Reeves!).

Many, many thanks to those who traveled both near and far to join in on some drinkboston-style fun. Thanks also to Sean Frederick for the photos and the entire smooth-operating Green Street staff. Let’s do it again soon!

bartenders-rise-mccoy

Loose Translation
Carrie Cole, Craigie on Main

1 1/4 oz Scorpion mezcal
3/4 oz Aperol
1/2 oz Mathilde XO orange cognac
1/2 oz pineapple syrup
1/2 oz lime juice
Pinch kosher salt
Dash Allspice Dram

Quick shake over ice, pour entire contents into a highball glass, and top with a splash of ginger ale. Drinkboston: We need something fruity on the menu. Carrie: I’m thinking of using mezcal. Result: a loose, tiki-inspired translation.

Peralta
Evan Harrison, Deep Ellum

1 1/2 oz Old Overholt rye
1/2 oz Cynar
1/2 oz green Chartreuse
1/2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
Dash grapefruit bitters, Deep Ellum orange bitters

Shake over ice and serve straight up with grapefruit peel garnish. Inspired by skateboarding legend Stacy Peralta.

Saving Daylight
Bob McCoy, Eastern Standard

2 oz Plymouth gin
1 oz McCoy’s homemade golden vermouth
1/4 oz St. Germain
1/8 oz Cointreau
Dash McCoy’s aromatic bitters

Stir over ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with orange peel. Sip as winter turns to spring.

William of Orange
Emily Stanley, Green Street

1 1/2 oz Bols genever
1/2 oz Benedictine
1/2 oz Punt E Mes
1/2 oz Aperol
Dash orange bitters

Stir over ice and serve down (i.e. strain into a rocks glass). Named for the English king who ushered in the era when Dutch genever became English gin.

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Posted in Bartenders, Beer, Boston bars, Cocktails, Events, Gin, Whiskey | 4 Comments »

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