Archive for July, 2007

July 27th, 2007

Tales of the Cocktail 2007

Ted Haigh & Lauren Clark

Wow. As we say in New England, that was wicked awesome. The last time I was in New Orleans, I was a dumb college kid hanging out on Bourbon St. drinking Hurricanes with the rest of the tourists. Fast-forward many years to Tales of the Cocktail 2007, where I attended seminars on vermouth and pimento dram and drank Pimm’s Cups at the honorable Napoleon House. The older, wiser me had a much better time.

Martin DoudoroffIf drinking cocktails for breakfast, lunch and dinner, then going out at night for more cocktails, is your idea of heaven, this is the event — and the town — for you. At a 10 a.m. session on applejack, we were served a Golden Dawn, a Jack Rose and a Wicked Kiss (a Widow’s Kiss with the addition of rye whiskey). Haigh (Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails), Gary Regan (The Joy of Mixology, Regan’s Orange Bitters), and Chad Solomon and Christy Pope (Cuff & Buttons) presided over the seminar with an unofficial fifth panelist: Lisa Laird of the Laird family. Yes, that Laird family, the ones who have produced Laird’s Applejack since the 1700s and who had George Washington over for dinner before the Battle of Monmouth. The cocktails were made with bonded Applejack, which is distilled with 100-percent apples (no grain neutral spirits) and aged for four years — and which, as far as I know, cannot be had in the Boston area. Too bad.

At Prohibition’s Shadow, which featured Haigh, David Wondrich, Robert Hess ( and John Hall (distiller of Forty Creek Canadian whiskey), we sipped samples of Forty Creek, a blend of rye, corn and barley whiskies, all distilled separately then blended. That stuff was righteously smooth and had flavors of an old ale, like Thomas Hardy’s. Why Canadian whiskey? Well, where do you think speakeasies got their whiskey during Prohibition? The session itself turned into a bit of a speakeasy when John Myers, bartender, cocktail historian and author of the Thirstin’ Howl, suddenly pulled a bottle of Fernet out of his bag and began dispensing shots. Perfectly appropriate at this sort of convention.

Cocktails and the Blogosphere, another 10 a.m. session (oh, my head!) involved Fancy Free and Police Gazette cocktails by way of illustrating how obscure drinks get re-discovered and popularized through blogs. Full of whiskey and bitters, these are two libations that’ll set the vintage-cocktail enthusiast’s heart aflutter. Paul Clark (Cocktail Chronicles), Chuck Taggart (Gumbo Pages), Darcy O’Neil (The Art of Drink) and Rick Stutz (Kaiser Penguin) presided. The session’s money quote (by Paul, I think): “At the 10th anniversary of Tales of the Cocktail, we’ll be talking about the recently launched 100,000th drink blog.”

Jackson Cannon & Audrey Sanders

The money quote from the session simply titled Vermouth (with Haigh and Martin Doudoroff, the geniuses behind came from Haigh just as we started: “It’s 11:30 in the morning, and you guys are at a session on vermouth? Get a life!” We sipped a Marconi Wireless (speaking of bloggers rediscovering old drinks) and a Rose and learned that it’s really hard to get information from vermouth producers (Martini & Rossi, Noilly Prat, etc.) on the spices they use to turn red or white wine into a classic cocktail ingredient. One of the panelists did manage to get hold of some info, and she recited a list of ingredients used in M&R and NP, but I was way beyond note taking at that point.

The Lost Ingredients session was a trip. I had never even heard of pimento dram or Batavia arrack, much less tasted them, before that day. The session was basically a live interpretation of “Gone but Not Forgotten,” the article Clarke wrote for the current issue of Imbibe. I urge any cocktail enthusiast to pick up that issue, because Clarke’s article includes info (and some recipes) on some of the amazing, re-emerging spirits we sampled at Lost Ingredients, including: pimento dram, a rum-based, allspice-flavored liqueur rarely found outside Jamaica — we sampled Taggart’s homemade version; Batavia arrack, a sugar cane- and fermented rice-based spirit produced in Java (formerly the Dutch colony of Batavia) and the basis of Swedish punsch; and falernum, a low-alcohol syrup flavored with limes, ginger, almonds and clove and a key ingredient in many tiki drinks. Read more about the Lost Ingredients session here.

Absinthe dripFinally, Sunday brunch: absinthe with a little sugar. I walked into that session a little late, and when I entered the room … wow, the licorice perfume enveloped me, a sensory experience I’ll never forget. Chemist and absinthe expert Ted Breaux gave a comprehensive presentation about absinthe history, myth and legal status, which is apparently still kind of fuzzy in the U.S. He devised the recipe for the new, legal-in-the-U.S. absinthe Lucid, which contains wormwood but only a barely measurable amount of wormwood’s active and feared ingredient, thujone. Anyhoo… somehow we were drinking real Swiss and French absinthe (the latter produced from a recipe of Breaux’s) in the traditional way, by very slowly letting ice water drip into the glass until the liquid became cloudy. This stuff was strong — over 130 proof! I don’t think absinthe should be banned, but I’m not sure if I recommend it as the first meal of the day.

In my next post, I’ll provide some snapshots of what happened outside of the Tales of the Cocktail sessions.

Posted in Absinthe, Applejack, Cocktails, Events, New Orleans, Vermouth, Whiskey | 6 Comments »

July 21st, 2007

Live from New Orleans

Napoleon House

Pimm’s Cups at the Napoleon House. Sazeracs at Tujaque’s. Herbsaint & waters at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Miller High Lifes at Vaughan’s. PBRs at the Circle Bar.

Well, that just about covers my past 48 hours in New Orleans. I’m down here for Tales of the Cocktail (my first year, the conference’s fifth), visiting NOLA’s best bars and attending seminars on applejack, vermouth, lost ingredients, cocktail blogs, etc. The locals seem pleased that the event has drawn a pack of tourists to town during the slow season, and I keep running into fellow Bostonians in bars — that never happens back home!

I’ve been tickled to meet many of the people whom I previously knew only in print through their books and blogs: Esteemed author-mixologists Dale DeGroff, Ted Haigh, Paul Harrington and Wayne Curtis; NYC cocktail celebs Audrey Sanders, Chad Solomon and Christy Pope; and influential fellow bloggers Paul Clarke (Cocktail Chronicles), Chuck Taggart (Gumbo Pages), Darcy O’Neil (The Art of Drink) and Rick Stutz (Kaiser Penguin). What fun!

More on Tales to come. In the meantime, we Bostonians down here are plotting to infiltrate a few of next year’s panels.

Posted in Cocktails, New Orleans | 4 Comments »

July 19th, 2007

Four takes on the Manhattan

ManhattanMax Toste, bartender and co-partner of the Allston beer and cocktail bar Deep Ellum, is quite pleased when he tells me that he sells more sweet vermouth than Absolut, and more rye whiskey than Jack Daniels, as if all is going according to plan. Well, it is. When you put four different Manhattans on your cocktail menu, you’re going to go through some rye and vermouth. Here are the historically correct options under Deep Ellum’s “Manhattan 4 Ways”:

All of the below are 2 parts whiskey to 1 part sweet vermouth, except for the New School.

1930s – Rye (my fave)
Sugar cube muddled with 2 dashes Peychaud’s, 1 dash Angostura; twist
Stirred, straight-up

1950s – Bourbon (Deep Ellum uses W.L. Weller)
Angostura, bourbon-and-vermouth-soaked cherry
Stirred, straight-up

1970s – Canadian Club (Max’s grandfather’s recipe)
Angostura, twist
On the rocks

New School – Maker’s Mark
2 1/2 oz Maker’s Mark, 1/2 oz sweet vermouth; Angostura, cherry
Stirred, straight-up

And congrats to Max! He recently welcomed a baby daughter into the world.

Posted in Boston bars, Cocktails, Vermouth, Whiskey | 6 Comments »

July 12th, 2007

It’s all about the bottom line, dude

If there were a thesaurus for blogs instead of words, you could look up and find this video under “antonyms.” Called “Conventional Wisdom,” it’s a short documentary of vendors pushing their wares at a recent bar industry convention. Flavored sugars for rimming cocktail glasses, toilet seats that self-sanitize, a shiny Limousine Bus (a.k.a. “rolling party”) complete with dance floor and stripper pole … it’s all there. And it all enhances “your bottom line.” Sure it does.

Posted in Video | 3 Comments »

July 10th, 2007

Martha Washington Punch & Champagne Juleps

Martha WashingtonI was lucky enough to be present at a July 4 roofdeck party where Misty Kalkofen appropriately brought along a batch of Martha Washington Rum Punch. The stuff was to be admired on principle alone; picture our first First Lady serving the mixture to dignitaries at Mt. Vernon, probably using rum from the estate’s own distillery(!). Give it up for Martha and that badass husband of hers. But the punch didn’t just get by on its historic coolness. It was actually delicious. Misty writes about Martha and her punch, as well as re-creates the recipe, on the LUPEC-Boston blog. (For convenience’s sake, I’ve copied the recipe below. Frankly, I would call the grated cinnamon and nutmeg on the finished drink optional.) When I heard “nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves,” I thought, ‘Uh-oh, this is going to taste weirdly wintry.’ But the flavors of the spices, juices and rum were perfectly melded together to create an almost tea-like iced drink that was a thing unto itself — a dangerous thing unto itself, since it didn’t taste anywhere near boozy as it is.

Martha Washington’s Rum Punch

4 oz lemon juice
4 oz orange juice
4 oz simple syrup
3 lemons quartered
1 orange quartered
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
3 cinnamon sticks broken
6 cloves
12 oz boiling water

In a container mash the lemons, orange, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks and cloves. Add syrup, lemon and orange juice. Pour the boiling water over the mixture. Let it cool. Strain out the solids. Heat the juice mixture to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Let it cool and refrigerate over night.

In a punch bowl combine:

3 parts juice mixture
1 part light rum
1 part dark rum
1/2 part orange curacao

Serve the punch over ice. Top with grated nutmeg and cinnamon.

Champagne Juleps were simply something I discovered on I happened to have a bottle of pretty good champagne on hand, plus a tall, vintage glass pitcher, and I wanted to serve a crowd-pleasing, summery cocktail to some dinner guests. Champagne Juleps were the answer. These are essentially Mojitos made with brandy and sparkling wine instead of rum and soda water, and served over crushed ice. I saw one of my guests the following night, and — mind you this guy rarely veers out of Guinness-and-Jameson territory — he said, “I can’t stop thinking about Champagne Juleps.” They were quite tasty if may say so myself. Here’s the recipe, followed by my modifications.

Champagne Julep

Build, fill glass 1/2 with crushed ice
1 1/2 oz brandy
1 tsp sugar, muddle with several mint sprigs in a splash of water (4 dashes)
Fill with Champagne
Add mint sprigs
Serve in a double rocks glass (12.0 oz)

I used superfine sugar, and a little more than half of the amount called for, which made the drink plenty sweet. I also only used about 2 mint leaves per serving. Since I was using a pitcher, I muddled the sugar, water and mint right in there, then added the brandy and stirred. The 40-lb bag of crushed ice I bought at Acme Ice was overkill, but I stuffed the rest of it in the freezer for future summer libations.

Posted in Brandy, Champagne, Cocktails, Rum | 5 Comments »