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May 15th, 2011

Gracias, los cócteleros!

Muchas gracias to everyone who turned up at last Sunday’s Cócteles Latinos! party at Trina’s Starlite Lounge. The drinks, the food, the music and the vibe were all tops. It’s not every day that you can sip on a Mountain Dew Fizz (made with Beija Cachaca) while nibbling on Peruvian potato salad and pulled-pork tortillas, listening to X and the Reverend Horton Heat (thanks, DJ Dave Cagle), and basking in a complete takeover of the Starlite’s main bar. Thanks to Beau and Trina Sturm for hosting this shindig with drinkboston, and to guest bartenders Ben Sandrof and Misty Kalkofen for their dream-team antics. Below, enjoy the party photos and the recipes — just in time for your summer drinking needs — that Beau, Ben and Misty dreamed up for the occasion. Salud!

Green Street bartender George Theodore Jenich and Ben Sandrof

Chinaco Punch

2 oz Chinaco Plata tequila
3/4 oz Yellow Chartreuse
1/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 1/2 oz watermelon juice
1 oz vinho verde

Combine all ingredients and serve in a rocks glass over a large ice cube or two. Scale up for a big punch bowl with a big chunk of ice in the middle.

Trina Sturm, Dave Cagle, Beau Sturm and Misty Kalkofen

Corn & Oil

1 1/2 oz. Brugal Anejo rum
3/4 oz Velvet Falernum
1/2 oz lime juice

Shake ingredients briefly over ice, then strain into glass with crushed ice. Top with several dashes Angostura bitters.

Phillip Naslund of Local 149 and friend Sarah

Magic Word

2 oz Chinaco Plata tequila
3/4 oz St Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/2 oz Aperol
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 1/2 oz hard cider

Combine all ingredients and serve in a rocks glass over a large ice cube or two. Scale up for a big punch bowl with a big chunk of ice in the middle.

Lillian Milagros Carrasquillo, Jonathan O'Toole, Kim Boutwell and Sean Frederick

Mountain Dew Fizz

2 oz Beija Cachaca
1 1/2 oz Mountain Dew
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz agave syrup
1 egg white

Dry shake all ingredients except Mountain Dew. Add ice and Mountain Dew and shake very well until egg white froths. Strain into highball glass.

Brother Cleve with Lauren Clark of drinkboston

Strawberry Rhubarb Pisco Sour

2 oz Macchu Pisco
1 egg white
1 oz fresh strawberry syrup*
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz lime juice
Rhubarb bitters

Dry shake all ingredients except rhubarb bitters. Add ice and shake very well until egg white froths. Strain into highball glass and top with rhubarb bitters. *Strawberry syrup: puree fresh strawberries and pass through a chinois. Mix liquid 1:1 with white sugar until sugar dissolves.

Los cocteleros: Noah and Elizabeth

Zocalo

2 oz Del Maguey Vida mezcal
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz canela (cinnamon) simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura orange bitters
Lemon oil garnish

Combine first four ingredients in mixing glass filled with ice and stir very well. Strain into chilled martini or rocks glass and twist lemon peel over the top.

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Posted in Cocktails, Events, Pisco, Punch, Rum, Tequila | No Comments »

April 30th, 2011

Event – Cócteles Latinos!

On May 8, drinkboston and Trina’s Starlite Lounge are throwing a party, Cócteles Latinos!, featuring cocktails (see below) made with Latin American spirits: rum, tequila, mezcal, cachaca, pisco and perhaps the odd Mayan liqueur. Salud!

Besides Mother’s Day and the beginning of World Cocktail Week, we’re celebrating drinkboston’s 5th birthday. Boston’s First Couple of bartending, Beau and Trina Sturm, will be our hosts, and special guests Ben Sandrof and Misty Kalkofen will get behind the stick. Deep Ellum’s Dave Cagle will spin party tunes, and Starlite chef Suzi Maitland and her crew will put out the Latin American treats.

Cocktail menu will feature both old-school and new-school libations, TBD. Thanks a million to our sponsors: Brugal rum, Chinaco tequila, Del Maguey Vida mezcal and Macchu Pisco.

  • Cócteles Latinos! Hosted by drinkboston and Trina’s Starlite Lounge (3 Beacon St., Somerville)
  • Sunday, May 8 (yes, Mother’s Day — bring mom!)
  • 7:00 p.m. until last call
  • Tickets are $40 and include three cocktails and Latin American snax.
  • Call the Starlite at 617-576-0006 to purchase your ticket in advance, as there’s a good chance we’ll sell out quickly.

Put on your best Old Havana nightclub threads and come on by. See you there!

THE COCKTAILS
(Exact recipes will be published after the event.)

Zocalo
Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
Dry vermouth
Canela simple syrup
Angostura bitters
Lemon oil

Chinaco Punch
Chinaco Plata Tequila
Yellow Chartreuse
Luxardo Maraschino
Lemon juice
Watermelon juice
Vino verde

Magic Word
Chinaco Plata Tequila
St Germain
Aperol
Lemon juice
Hard cider

Corn & Oil
Brugal Anejo Rum
Velvet Falernum
Lime juice
Angostura bitters

Strawberry Rhubarb Pisco Sour
Macchu Pisco
Egg white
Lime juice
Fresh strawberry syrup
Rhubarb bitters

Mountain Dew Fizz
Cachaca
Mountain Dew
Lime juice
Agave syrup
Egg white

PLUS: Classic Mojitos & Green Grape Caipirinhas

Posted in Cocktails, Events, Pisco, Rum, Tequila | No Comments »

February 16th, 2011

Tequila cheat sheet

When it comes to tequila, I plead ignorance. If I’m lucky to be in the hands of a knowledgeable bartender or agave enthusiast, I happily let him/her guide me toward whatever’s right for a given cocktail (be it a traditional margarita or a Jaguar) or neat nightcap with beer chaser. But when I find myself confronting, without a lifeline, that overgrown jungle of tequila bottles on the back bar of your modern-day high-end Mexican restaurant, I balk — especially when the bartender can only describe what’s in each bottle with various synonyms for “awesome.”

So I asked a few experts to break things down for me: Misty Kalkofen, Drink bartender and cocktail consultant who has studied agave spirits extensively; Andrew Deitz, sales rep with the wine and spirits wholesaler M.S. Walker; and Phil Ward, owner of the NYC tequila bar Mayahuel.

First, it’s widely agreed among spirits aficionados that 1) only rubes drink Cuervo Gold — a mass-marketed “mixto” (a mix of agave-based spirit and neutral alcohol akin to rum) masquerading as premium hooch — and 2) only poseurs drink Patron, which pioneered the premium-tequila category but is now an overpriced shadow of its former self.

Kalkofen says that the Cuervo, Patron, Sauza, Herradura and Don Julio brands make up about 90 percent of the U.S. tequila market. Patron, she adds, was a distinctive tequila when it was produced by the Siete Leguas distillery in the 1990s. But in 2002 the brand opened its own distillery, which now produces a smooth but unremarkable tequila whose price tag ($50 for añejo) is based entirely on its earlier legacy and classy corked bottle. Deitz, who recently advised the new Fort Point cantina Papagayo on its extensive tequila selection, says he would choose, for instance, the very reasonably priced Lunazul Blanco ($25) over Patron.

Sauza, of course, can be found in the well of any bar that bangs out margaritas of the frozen-strawberry or sour-mix-in-a-pint-glass variety. And if you thought Don Julio and Herradura were artisanally legit, think again — they’ve reportedly both been dumbed-down by their fairly new owners, the liquor conglomerates Diageo and Brown-Forman, respectively.

The hot growth in demand for 100-percent-agave tequila has attracted large producers and their often corner-cutting ways, and a lot of trusted brands are changing. “Good tequila is a dying breed,” laments Ward, who points to Herradura as a case in point. “Herradura is the saddest story in the world,” he says. The once-family-owned distillery produced a sizable quantity of reasonably priced, quality spirit. But Brown-Forman replaced the traditional method of extracting agave sugars — slowly roasting whole agave hearts, or piñas, in a large oven — with diffusers, in which the piñas are shredded raw before being “basically microwaved,” says Ward.

In a good tequila, Kalkofen says she is “looking for roasted agave flavor. With a diffuser, the flavor gets watered down.” Of course, that “watered down” flavor is exactly what many new labels hoping to cash in on the premium-tequila market are going for. A bland spirit in a nice bottle is intended to win over the brand-conscious vodka drinker.

Connoisseurs tend to judge a brand of tequila by its unaged version, e.g. blanco, silver or plata. Reposados (aged 2-11 months) and añejos (aged 1-3 years) “are only as good as the juice being put in the barrel,” says Kalkofen. Deitz agrees that wood-aging, while important, is not as big a deal as either the production process or the terroir — whether the agave comes from the highlands or lowlands, or from the primary tequila producing region of Jalisco vs. the lesser-known Tamaulipas. As for the extra-añejo classification (aged more than 3 years), Deitz says, “It can be a bullshit category, as many of the uber-expensive bottlings are actually artificially flavored.”

So, what brands do these connoisseurs recommend to people who are looking for good-quality, flavorful tequilas? Here’s your cheat sheet, amigos, with prices for each brand’s blanco and some helpful tasting and terroir notes thrown in by Deitz:

  • Chinaco ($50) – from Tamaulipas. Briny, citrusy.
  • Don Roberto ($47) – masculine, powerhouse style.
  • El Tesoro ($49) – highland tequila, known for high acidity and aromatic, herbal components.
  • Lunazul ($25)
  • Milagro ($25)
  • Ocho ($55-$70) – producer of unusual single-vintage tequilas.
  • Partida ($41) – lowland tequila, known for round, rich fruit character.
  • Pueblo Viejo ($28)
  • Siembre Azul ($35)
  • Siete Leguas ($36) – highland tequila, known for high acidity and aromatic, herbal components. Highly regarded in Mexico.

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Posted in Tequila | 21 Comments »

September 18th, 2009

Drinks for the lovesick

sinatra-no-one-cares

Ever have one of those times in your life when it seems half the people you know are falling in love, getting married and having babies, and the other half are breaking up? Yeah, I thought so. This is for all imbibers facing the latter predicament. Among the many questions you’re grappling with — What went wrong? What will I do now? What is the point of existence? — is one that deserves special consideration: What am I drinking?

OK, here’s what you’re not drinking: Champagne. Cognac. Port. Anything pink. Anything juicy. And if you’re trying to drown your sorrows in something like Pinot Grigio or Michelob Ultra, you’ve got bigger issues than heartbreak.

So what’s left? Gin. Whiskey. Tequila. Maybe even vodka. These should be consumed in something close to their pure form, with nothing more than one or two other ingredients, preferably bitters and vermouth. After all, it’s time to strip away that psychic baggage, to get elemental. You’re dealing with an adult situation — have an adult beverage. What says “I am training for the emotional equivalent of the Iron Man Triathalon” more than a Pink Gin, an Old Fashioned, a Mexican Eagle or a vodka on the rocks? A case can be made for beer, as long as it’s not fancy and accompanies a shot, and, for those with a keen sense of sarcasm, a Zombie. It’s a tiki drink, sure, but it’s got four ounces of rum.

Order one of these at a barely lit bar, stare into your glass with your trenchcoat still on like Frank here, and let the lyrics of another master of heartbreak songs, George Jones, run through your head: “With the blood from my body / I could start my own still / And if drinking don’t kill me / Her memory will.”

And for god’s sake read the Modern Drunkard’s Boozing Through a Breakup.

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Posted in Beer, Bitters, Gin, Rum, Tequila, Vermouth, Vodka, Whiskey | 11 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 »

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