Archive for April, 2008

April 30th, 2008

Absolut-ly horrifying

NYT tastes citrus vodkaHere’s a statistic that’ll curl your hair: “In 2007 … 7.1 million cases of flavored vodkas were sold in the United States, up from 2.9 million in 2000.” Holy crap, it must be stopped. The quote is from today’s New York Times review of a citrus vodka tasting. Eric Asimov and his panel sampled several denizens of what some bartenders call the “cosmo station.”

“While cosmopolitan-swilling consumers may favor these vodkas, for bartenders they are often a shortcut. Eben [Klemm, tasting panelist] likened them to packaged chicken stock, something that no serious chef would ever consider,” writes Asimov. He also points out that “these vodkas more than most are the products of marketing and positioning. You can get a sense of them by visiting their Web sites, which, with the exception of Hangar One and Charbay, are about everything except what’s in the glass.”

You knew that, of course, but it’s nice to be validated in the mainstream media.

Posted in Vodka | 1 Comment »

April 28th, 2008

World Cocktail Day at Green Street

Vintage glassware from the MOTAC collection

Look, a cool new event!

World Cocktail Day
Tuesday, May 13, 7:00 p.m.
Green Street restaurant, 280 Green St., Central Square, Cambridge
Tickets $35
Reservations recommended: call Green Street at 617-876-1655

This is gonna be fun. On Tuesday, May 13, drinkboston and Green Street restaurant will celebrate World Cocktail Day with a party to benefit the organization that launched the event: the Museum of the American Cocktail. World Cocktail Day is the culmination of a series of international festivities marking World Cocktail Week. We will join revelers in Aspen, Australia, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis and Singapore.

The Museum of the American Cocktail established World Cocktail Week “to celebrate the rich history of cocktails and recognize the craftsmanship and skill of the bartenders who have been mixing them for over 200 years.” Established in 2005 and forced into limbo by Hurricane Katrina, the Museum reopens on July 21 (right after Tales of the Cocktail) in its original hometown, New Orleans. It will be housed with the Southern Food & Beverage Museum at the Riverwalk Mall, just outside the French Quarter. If you want rock-solid cred within the cocktail community, become a member.

Green Street’s bar manager, Misty Kalkofen, and owner, Dylan Black, and I have invited four notable bartenders to mix and discuss a vintage cocktail of their choice, with a range of styles and eras represented.

Brother Cleve, cocktail historian and mixologist
Bijou (gin, sweet vermouth, green Chartreuse, orange bitters), a Golden Age cocktail dating back to Harry Johnson’s Bartender’s Manual  in 1882, and featured in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book of recipes served in London’s Savoy Hotel during American Prohibition.

John Gertsen, principal bartender of No. 9 Park and named one of America’s top bartenders by Playboy magazine
Nicol’s Secret Pisco Punch (pisco, pineapple syrup, lemon juice, water), created in San Francisco in the 1870s using Peru’s clear, unaged brandy.

John Myers, Portland, Maine-based bartender and cocktail historian and co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail
Remember the Maine (good rye or bourbon, sweet vermouth, cherry brandy, absinthe or Pernod), described in Charles H. Baker Jr.’s The Gentleman’s Companion, published in 1939. “Stir briskly in clock-wise fashion — this makes it sea-going, presumably!” wrote Baker.

Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli, bartender at Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks
Maiden’s Prayer (gin, white rum, lemon juice, Cointreau, orange bitters), based on a variation (circa 1930) of the original (circa 1907), which may have been inspired by a hit piano tune of the late 1800s.

To reserve tickets by credit card, call Green Street at 617-876-1655. Tickets are $35 and include four cocktails and passed appetizers. Green Street is accessible via the Central Square stop on the MBTA red line.

Thanks to the following Museum sponsors for their donations: BarSol Pisco, Cointreau liqueur, Depaz Rhum, Makers Mark, Pernod Ricard and Plymouth Gin.

Posted in Bartenders, Cocktails, Events | 2 Comments »

April 25th, 2008

On coasters

On coastersBy Scott N. Howe

In these times of global unrest and economic anxiety, I’ll admit that my concern over what is the proper platform on which to set my $10 cocktail is frivolous at best. Still, I continue to be plagued by the fact that, in the finest bars across our fair city, my drinks are consistently placed on flimsy paper napkins that quickly become wet and stick to the bottom of my glass, creating a moist mess that deeply dampens my enthusiasm for the entire cocktail experience.

At beer joints, this problem does not exist. Those places have stacks of sturdy cardboard coasters at the ready. After you take your seat and place your order, an attentive bar guy or gal will deal out coasters like a Vegas pit boss. Shortly thereafter, your frothy mug or frosty glass is plunked atop one of these colorful, practical discs and — no muss, no fuss — the bon temps can roulez.

In a cocktail establishment, the process is, of course, more refined and more involved. A drinks list is studied, the mixologist on duty is, perhaps, consulted to offer a recommendation or clarify a question on ingredients, history or flavor profile. Then, when the decision has been rendered, the magical matters of mixing, muddling, shaking and stirring commence, resulting in a custom creation that is carefully poured in the appropriate vessel and placed ever so delicately on (wait for it) a thin white paper napkin.

Look, I understand where our city’s serious bartenders are coming from. If I just spent 10 minutes crafting a drink based on an 1890 recipe found in an obscure pamphlet I discovered at a Paris flea market — a recipe that, after much experimentation, I had altered to incorporate a drop of liqueur made by Austrian monks from tulip stems and a dash of my own secret stash of homemade bitters — I would not want to serve said drink on a cardboard coaster trumpeting the “2008 Coors Light Spring Break Ultimate Swag Giveaway.” I get it.

Still, can’t we come up with a compromise? Sturdier napkins, perhaps? Custom doilies bearing, subtly, the logo of some high-end liquor company?

Let’s work on this problem, people. Once we settle the coaster conundrum, we can take a look at this global warming thing.

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Posted in Drinking supplies | 9 Comments »

April 19th, 2008

Save the date – World Cocktail Day

World Cocktail Week logoSave the date: drinkboston and Green Street are getting ready to throw another cocktail party. On the evening of Tuesday, May 13, we’ll celebrate World Cocktail Day, the culmination of a worldwide slew of festivities marking World Cocktail Week. Proceeds from our event will support the Museum of the American Cocktail, which established World Cocktail Week “to celebrate the rich history of the cocktail and recognize the craftsmanship and skill of the bartenders who have been mixing them for over 200 years.”

Green street bar manager Misty Kalkofen, owner Dylan Black and drinkboston have invited a group of notable bartenders, including Museum co-founder John Myers, to mix and discuss a historic drink of their choice, with a range of cocktail styles and eras represented. We’ll be part of an international party, with other World Cocktail Week events happening in Aspen, Australia, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis and Singapore, to name a few.

The Museum, which is always seeking new members, will reopen this July in its original hometown, New Orleans. It’ll be housed with the Southern Food & Beverage Museum at the Riverwalk Mall, just outside the French Quarter. Museum curator Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh (author of Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails) has designed an exhibit encompassing 200 years of cocktail history that includes vintage cocktail shakers, Prohibition-era literature, music, and cocktail memorabilia from the collections of the Museum’s founders. The Museum will also offer monthly seminars.

Watch this space for more details about World Cocktail Day at Green Street in the coming week or so — and if you want to receive an invite via email, contact drinkboston at comcast dot net.

Posted in Events | No Comments »

April 15th, 2008

Muddling through Miami

Nikki Beach Miami

Scott and I went to Miami Beach for the first time recently. The weather was beautiful. The beaches were beautiful. Some of the people were beautiful; most were trying too hard to be. Miami Beach is a place where people go to inhabit their own reality show. All the city’s a catwalk for people to strut around wearing their giant Dior sunglasses. Palatable food and drink is the last thing on their minds. We had some idea of what we were getting into before we booked our flight, but we were unprepared for the volume of vanity and overpriced mediocrity — it was up to 11. Yet we found a few genuine nuggets amidst the fool’s gold. Here are some snapshots.

Ocean Drive, South Beach: Silly us, we imagined this neighborhood was a bit too posh to attract the spring break herds. Wrong! This was ground zero for collegiate bacchanals. Girls in tight shorts that were unzipped to reveal their bikini bottoms, packs of guys doing the one-fingered cellphone hold, wearing wife-beaters or novelty t-shirts with sayings like ‘I love boobs’ and ‘Money makes me high.’ After we paid our $95 tab for a couple of appetizers and four drinks at some faceless spot on Ocean Drive, I overheard two spring breakers in the bathroom getting psyched up for their night out. One of them worried that she was spending too much money. Her friend’s response was, basically, Suck it up, this is Miami Beach. Magical.

Biltmore Hotel MiamiThe obligatory bar at a grand old hotel: Like a lot of bars in old hotels, the Corkscrew Bar at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables (pictured right) is dark, oak-accented and plush. Our bartender was an Irishman who’d come to Miami from Boston about 16 years ago. He mixed us a Manhattan and a Negroni (our grand old hotel stand-bys) and asked if the Big Dig was finished. Pretty much, we said. He didn’t display much of an urge to head back north and admire the results.

Nikki Beach (top photo): This is an indoor-outdoor restaurant, lounge and nightclub that, according to its website, “always lives up to it’s reputation as a party playground for jet-setters, celebrities, VIP’s…” and anyone else who doesn’t mind unnecessary apostrophes. The servers here wear, over their white linen clothing, a special wide leather belt that holds corkscrews, bottle stoppers and other implements of the exclusive bottle service trade. You can park yourself on one of the cushy outdoor couches or lounge beds nestled among the sand and palm trees, and spend and preen in very high style. This is a beautiful club in a beautiful spot, and the mojitos (made with 10 Cane Rum) were perfectly fine. Mind you, we didn’t visit the place at night, when the club-goers take over. I imagine it’s intimidating as hell.

Abbey bar MiamiAbbey Brewing Co. (pictured left): After a few days of wallet-emptying bar tabs, we were fortunate to find this brewpub only a few blocks from our condo. No bottle service or Dior sunglasses in this dark, tiny, smoky (yeah, you can still smoke in bars here) place — just a few cheap snacks (sliders!) and a decent mix of house-brewed and imported Belgian beers. If you find yourself in Miami Beach and are trying to keep it real, go here. Or to the place below.

The Purdy Lounge: On the west, or bay, side of South Beach, away from the hoi polloi, is this laid-back hipster lounge with kitschy living-room decor, a pool table and a nice, long bar. One of Purdy’s claims to fame, apparently, is “strong drinks.” Our Manhattans were as strong as … well, Manhattans. And they were served nice and cold. You’re not going to find any obscure old-school drinks here, but you’ll find a welcome respite from the crass South Beach reality show.

Joe Allen Restaurant: This American-style bistro is one of four, with additional locations in London, New York and Paris. Like its neighbor the Purdy Lounge, Joe Allen-Miami Beach is somewhat hidden away in a non-picturesque, non-touristy part of town. The lively crowd in the minimalist, “tropical-deco” dining room was there for good conversation over non-fussy, reasonably priced, fine food. No one was standing around doing cell-phone poses. We sat at the bar (duh), which was cheerily decorated with carousels of colored, hard-boiled Easter eggs. A perfectly chilled, perfectly balanced Beefeater Martini and a fat cheeseburger, served by a bartender who genuinely seemed to care about our well-being, made me extremely happy.

Eden Roc & Fontainebleau HotelsThe Fontainebleau and Eden Roc hotels: We tried to go to these “MiMo” (Miami Modern) icons to soak up a little Rat Pack history, but it was too late. They were both being gutted and turned into jet-setter-approved resorts with VIP-pleasing spas. So we headed to the Bass Museum, where we saw interior photos of these once-swingin’ hotels. The pictures were part of an exhibit called “Promises of Paradise: Staging Mid-Century Miami.” Through architecture and the decorative arts, the exhibit tells the story of the very deliberate way in which Miami became a mythical, modernist paradise starting in the 1950s. It explained a lot. It also, in light of the above, seemed quaint.

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Posted in Miami | 1 Comment »