Archive for the ‘New Orleans’ Category

March 7th, 2011

Drink This! With Brother Cleve at Think Tank

Hey, cats and kittens, something very cool launches TONIGHT at Think Tank in Kendall Square: Drink This! With Brother Cleve, the godfather of the Boston cocktail world. Join drinkboston, Classic Mixology and the Boston Shaker at 8:00 p.m. for Lundi Gras cocktails as we kick off “a new event series that will put me back behind the bar for the first time since 2001,” says Cleve. Here’s his write-up about the series:

“I’ll be featuring a different set of classic cocktails and new libations of my own creation every Monday, plus selecting the musical soundtrack to pair it with. We’ll be featuring appetizer specials and drink/food pairings from the kitchen, and I’ll hold a little seminar to explain the history of the drinks and assorted cocktail lore. As many of you know, I’ve been studying this stuff for a long time, and we now live in amazing times for spirits drinkers, with so many formerly “lost” liquors, bitters, syrups etc available again for the first time in decades. When Combustible Edison first hit the road in ’94, in search of the “Cocktail Nation,” you were lucky if you could get a decent Martini anywhere. Now, great cocktails are ubiquitous around the globe!

“Our launch date, March 7, coincides with Carnival — Lundi Gras is the Monday before Mardi Gras in New Orleans, so in honor of the occasion we’ll hold a pre-Lenten bash with Cleve’s Ninth Ward cocktail (a “best of show” libation at Tales Of the Cocktail in 2008, now served in select bars around the country), the Ward Eight, Boston’s best known drink and the inspiration for the Ninth Ward, as well as the Sazerac, the venerable favorite that has been designated the Official Cocktail of the City of New Orleans. There will be a soundtrack of classic New Orleans R&B, funk and jazz for your imbibing pleasure.

Cleve brings his knowledge and passion for mixology to these weekly seminars, in which he’ll share classic as well as “lost” recipes from his vast bartending library (collected over the past 25 years) along with new concoctions of his own creation. Each week will showcase a different theme or spirit, and will also feature music and videos culled from Cleve’s personal collection. Special menu items from the kitchen will also be available, and certain evenings will highlight food/cocktail pairings.”

No cover, no reservations, just show up. See you there!

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Posted in Cocktails, Events, New Orleans | 7 Comments »

August 12th, 2010

Nips – 8/12/10

A friendly reminder that this coming tax-free weekend doesn’t just apply to TVs, leather armchairs and solid-wood shellcases for your iPad. It also applies to booze. Have your eye on a bottle of green Chartreuse VEP ($130)? Strathisla 1967 Speyside scotch whisky ($175)? Remy Martin Cognac Louis XIII Grande ($1700)? Well, grab your shopping cart and boogie down the aisle of one of these fine establishments.

» Boston wins. Damned if Boston didn’t hit it out of the park during Tales of the Cocktail in July. First of all, more Boston bar industry folk represented our city at New Orleans’ annual drinks convention than ever before. Second of all, Drink won the Grand Marnier-sponsored Barroom Brawl, besting five other top-notch cocktail bars from around the U.S. and earning the title Best Bar in America. Third of all, Drink’s Misty Kalkofen won the Pisco Sour Pentathalon and will in the near future enjoy her prize: a trip to Peru to see how desert-grown grapes turn into white brandy. Congrats to all! Liza Weisstuch offers a vivid snapshot of the competition and, more generally, the Boston slant on Tales in today’s Phoenix. Good stuff.

» Remixology. Speaking of contests, there’s a new bar celeb in town: John Mayer of Cambridge’s Craigie on Main. A relatively new member of the staff there, he wowed everyone at the Appleton Estate Rum Remixology contest earlier this week with his mixing skills, sense of humor and ability to explain how a favorite song inspired a new cocktail. His presentation involved Frankie Valli’s “Sherry Baby,” a powder-blue brocade blazer, three mixing glasses spinning on a turntable, a small disco ball, a history lesson on Jamaica’s first prime minister — Alexander Bustamante — and the year 1962. He will compete in the national finals of the competition in NYC on August 30. Go, John! Here are recipes for the Bustamante and the other semi-finalists’ tasty drinks.

» Literature. Geoff “Psycho-Gourmet” Nicholson’s fantastic essay, Drink What You Know, appeared in the New York Times’ Book Review recently. He starts by comparing the advice writers dispense about drinking to the way they depict drinking in their literature, and arrives at his thesis:

“When you think about it, rules for drinking are not so different from rules for writing. Many of these are so familiar they’ve become truisms: Write what you know. Write every day. Never use a strange, fancy word when a simple one will do. Always finish the day’s writing when you could still do more. With a little adaptation these rules apply just as well for drinking. Drink what you know, drink regularly rather than in binges, avoid needlessly exotic booze, and leave the table while you can still stand.”

Read it. And then check out the response over at Jezebel: the Reader’s Drinking Game.

» History. I was putting off going to Plymouth to learn about Pilgrims until my retirement years, but now I have a reason to go earlier. Pilgrim Hall Museum (“America’s museum of Pilgrim possessions”) is running an exhibition called “Plymouth History in a Glass: The Artifacts and Culture of Beverages and Drinking” until December 31. Silver tankards. Ceramic punch bowls. Glass tumblers. Ooh, I’m getting hot flashes. Not only that, there are two related lectures: one on historic Plymouth-area taverns on August 25 and one on September 29 called “The Design of Drinking: from the Jazz Age to the Space Age.” Far out.

» Name that bar. What would you call a bar frequented by venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and hardworking graduate students from all over the world who converge on the high-tech cluster that is Kendall Square, Cambridge? The people behind the in-the-works “Venture Cafe” are seeking a more clever name than the working title for their “place-based social networking” project. They have partnered with restaurateur Gary Strack from Central Kitchen and the Enormous Room and are scouting Kendall Square locations for a 2011 opening. With any luck the place will liven up the woefully nightlife-less neighborhood. Got a suggestion for what to call the place? Chime in on their Facebook page.

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Posted in Bartenders, Booze in the news, Cocktails, New Orleans, Nips, Pisco, Rum | 1 Comment »

July 21st, 2010

When everyone else is at Tales


This year, I decided to skip the enlightening, invigorating and exhausting bit of debauchery known as Tales of the Cocktail, for which everyone in the drinks industry converges on New Orleans each July. I admit that it’s bittersweet to watch most of the city’s top bar workforce board planes heading south this week. And then there are all the Facebook and Twitter updates. “There were 40 of us on the flight — so fun!” “First round of Pimm’s Cups!” “I’m at a seminar on blending whiskey!” “About to board the Beefeater party bus!” “Dancing to Kermit Ruffins at Vaughan’s!” “Doing shots of Chartreuse at the Old Absinthe House!” “Running naked down Frenchmen Street!” “Woooooo!….Zzzzzz….”

No, really, I’m cool with my decision (sniff). Actually, I’m impressed that more Boston bar industry folk are attending Tales this year than ever before. This is not only good for New Orleans — Beantowners have an affinity for the place, and Tales tends to inspire return trips — but good for Boston as well. These men and women will be surrounded by a few thousand people who are truly passionate about their profession, and they will return charged up with ideas about how to make their good establishments even better.

In the meantime, if you, like me, are hanging around town this week wondering how to approximate the fun you’d be having if you were in New Orleans, here is a list of activities common during Tales, with their rough Boston equivalents.

  • A Sazerac served by prickly old pro Paul Gustings at Tujagues = A martini served by prickly old pro Reggie St. Paul at the Blue Room.
  • Well-crafted cocktails at a tasting room in the Hotel Monteleone = Well-crafted cocktails at Craigie on Main.
  • Kermit Ruffins’ jazz band at Vaughan’s = Jazz at Wally’s or a rock show in Central Square.
  • Beignets at Cafe du Monde = Pastry at Cafe Vittoria in the North End.
  • Fried chicken and Abita at Coop’s Place = Fried chicken and High Life at Trina’s Starlite Lounge.
  • Oyster po’ boy anywhere in NOLA = Oysters on the half shell anywhere in Boston.
  • The French 75 Bar at Arnaud’s = The bar at Locke-Ober.
  • A Vieux Carre at the Carousel Bar = A Vieux Carre in a flask on the Rose Kennedy Greenway Carousel.
  • A 4:00 a.m. party in a suite at the Monteleone = A 4:00 a.m. party on your friend’s porch in Somerville.

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Posted in New Orleans | 12 Comments »

July 17th, 2009

Tales ’09 highlight reel


This year’s Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans was a bigger, more colorful swirl of people and events than ever before. More old friends, more new acquaintances, more running around the city, more parties, more bars, more New Orleans culinary delights, more tequila. It was a sweeping epic taking place over a mere five days and ending with a languid afternoon in a pool with a rum cocktail.

My first post on Tales ’09 gave you a taste. Now here’s the highlight reel.

The events
The highlight of Using Blogs and Online Tools to Promote Your Bar, Brand or Career was seeing Robert Heugel of Anvil Bar & Refuge in Houston as one of the panelists. I met Robert at my similarly themed panel at last year’s Tales, just as Anvil was getting underway. He was looking for ways to promote his classic cocktail bar in a community where the clientele for that sort of thing was seemingly nonexistent. Well, he began talking about Anvil on his blog, Drink Dogma, and began to get noticed. Today, Anvil is one of the most celebrated new cocktail bars in the country. Congrats, Robert!

Also: World’s Biggest Bar Crawl. Over 70 bars lovingly and wittily described by jetsetting British brand ambassadors Simon Ford and Angus Winchester. And I didn’t think I had a reason to fly to Bratislava, Slovakia (home of the bars Paparazzi and UFO). Beefeater Welcome Reception in the swank, newly remodeled Roosevelt Hotel. Strooong drinks with Beefeater’s new “24” gin (it’s got a hint of green tea), including Audrey Saunders’ lovely, frothy take on the classic White Lady. Thank god I had a pillar to lean on — John Myers, who, with Wayne Curtis, would fittingly educate me about hangovers at Sunday’s Paying the Piper: Your Hangover and You. Talking cures and hair of the dog, Myers suggested everything from Pedialyte to coconut water to Fernet Branca to “a cold beer in the shower — hot scrubbing bubbles on the outside, cool scrubbing bubbles on the inside.” And then there were Dale DeGroff’s dueling solutions for preventing hangovers: “Don’t start drinking. Don’t stop drinking.”


The parties
Steve Olsen and his wine geeks staged their customary unsanctioned (i.e. not organized by Tales) madness this year at Tommy’s Wine Bar, with a well-choreographed line of bartenders shaking up mezcal-based cocktails. Rob Cooper of St. Germain attempted to get arrested by throwing an illegal party on the steps of the Louisiana Supreme Court House with free-flowing elderflower liqueur and tequila punch (Is tequila the new rye? Are punch parties the new raves?) Finally, the annual Bartenders’ Breakfast at the swanky Latrobe House, with bartenders from Milk & Honey, PDT and the Edison Room, among others, cranking out craft cocktails amid a sea of mourners from the funeral march of the Redheaded Slut.

The bars
Bars I visited and drinks I had there: Laid-back hipster bars: Mimi’s in the Marigny (Rolling Rock), d.b.a. on Frenchman St. (a beer and a sip of someone’s cognac). Historic bars: Napoleon House (Pimm’s Cup), Tujagues (De La Louisiane), French 75 Bar (Vermouth Sour). Live-music joint: Vaughan’s (High Life). Cocktail bars: Sazerac Bar (Sazerac, Blood & Sand), Cure (Old Fashioned). The French 75 Bar at Arnaud’s, where for some strange reason I had not been until this year, is such a beautiful time machine, and when Chris Hannah is mixing drinks you have yourself a New Orleans bar experience to remember. Cure is the first contemporary craft cocktail bar in New Orleans, with a talented staff led by Kirk Estopinal, formerly of the Violet Hour in Chicago. The charmingly ornery Paul Gustings of Tujague’s harrumphed about new cocktail bars like Cure (“I heard it takes 15 minutes to get a drink there!”) while at the same time talking up the classic cocktail menu he’s developing (for the unlikely occasion when you don’t simply order a Sazerac). Hey, with Paul on board, this cocktail craze really must be getting somewhere.


Extra credit
Stayed an extra day in New Orleans, which meant I was able to enjoy a laid-back pool party with Wayne Curtis, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Misty Kalkofen, Chris Hannah, Martin Cate and various significant others and friends. While Misty’s pitcher of Hanky Pankys chilled in the freezer, Chris came up with this gem, one of the most delicious drinks I had all week:

Fernet Swizzle
by Chris Hannah, French 75 bar

3/4 oz Travellers rum
3/4 oz Havana Club anejo blanco rum
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz falernum
1 oz fresh orange juice
1/4 oz pineapple juice
1/4 oz Fernet Branca
3 cubes cantaloupe

“Shake, pour and have by the pool,” says Chris.

Until next year, then…

Posted in New Orleans | 4 Comments »

July 12th, 2009

Postcard from Tales ’09


Hello, Boston. Wish you were here in New Orleans. Having a fabulous time. Highlights:

Agave, agave, agave. So many drinks here this year with good tequila and mezcal.

Seminar on how to promote your brand or bar through blogs. Moderator Paul Clarke did a bang-up job with this one, which conveyed to PR folk that they need to get a little more sophisticated in cultivating coverage in the blogosphere.

Seminar called World’s Biggest Bar Crawl with Simon Ford and Angus Winchester, two British gin ambassadors who have traveled the world a few times over and experienced some of the world’s best bars. Wow, did I want to book an open-ended, global airline ticket after this one.

Two amazing meals at Cochon, including one with a little appetizer of pig’s head for eight.

On the Fly bartending competition: eight bartenders from around the U.S. competed mixing cocktails with a box of ingredients presented to them Iron Chef-style. Giuseppe Gonzalez (creator of the Trinidad Sour) of Dutch Kills in Queens won, and our own Misty Kalkofen of Drink took second — hooray, Misty!

Attending the Spirit Awards and cheering on John Gertsen and the other bartenders of Drink, which was nominated for World’s Best New Cocktail Bar. Alas, Clover Club of Brooklyn won, but all the Beantowners present were pleased that Boston is being recognized as a great cocktail and hospitality town.

More to come soon. In the meantime, check out my posts for the Tales collaborative blog.

Posted in New Orleans | No Comments »