Archive for the ‘Vodka’ Category

May 21st, 2009

Brunch bartender battle

burtons-grillStaying in town this weekend? Then stop by Burton’s Grill on Boylston St. Saturday between 11:00 and 3:00 for the first annual B4 (Boston’s Best Brunch Bartender) Challenge. The event, whose proceeds will go to I Hate Cancer, pits nine bartenders from nine different Boston neighborhoods against each other in a mix-off. The winner gets to showcase his or her cocktail on Drink this! a new segment on NECN’s TV Diner, whose co-host, Jennie Johnson, will emcee the B4 Challenge. The thing I like about all this, besides the good cause it’s benefiting, is that I will be one of the judges. Sweet.

You don’t need to buy tickets or make a reservation, just show up, order a drink and a plate of eggs, and enjoy the festivities. The sponsor of B4 is Absolut Mango vodka, which means that all of the competing cocktails will contain this spirit. I know what many of you are thinking. ‘Flavored vodka? Lame.’ But I like the idea of bartenders starting with any prescribed cocktail ingredient and creating something interesting and tasty with it. Here are the contestants and their bars (good luck to all):

  • Michael Ahearn, Stella
  • Jackson Cannon, Eastern Standard
  • Janessa Davis, Boston Beer Garden
  • Mike Doyle, Harvard Gardens
  • Joe Kin, Florentine
  • Chris Little, Burton’s Grill
  • Matt Stricos, Stephanie’s on Newbury
  • Katrina Turner, Red Sky
  • Paul Westerkamp, 33 Restaurant

Hope to see you there!

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Posted in Bartenders, Boston bars, Brunch, Vodka | 9 Comments »

April 28th, 2009

Felten hearts Boston bartenders

Food & Wine Cocktails ‘09Eric Felten’s last two drink columns for the Wall Street Journal have referred, directly and indirectly, to some of Boston’s best bartenders. April 18’s A Welcome Sign of Vodka’s Decline describes a development for which I have been beating the drum for some time, and it singles out Misty Kalkofen‘s mezcal-based recipe for Food & Wine’s Cocktails ’09 — the Maximilian Affair — as “an instant classic.” (Thanks to those readers who tipped me off about this article, and congrats to you, Misty.) Felten also mentions an original cocktail by Jackson Cannon, the Fernet-laced Heather in Queue, as an example of a gravitation toward bitters.

April 25’s Women Behind Bars compares the male-only saloon culture that largely kept women employees out of bars until well after WWII with the prevalence of female bartenders in today’s “culinary cocktail” scene. Felten begins by mentioning this year’s James Beard Foundation culinary gala, whose theme is Women in Food. “More than a dozen prominent female bartenders will be mixing original drinks at the May 4 dinner in New York,” he writes. Guess who will be among those “prominent female bartenders.” Yep, Misty rides again, and she’ll be accompanied by her Drink colleague Josey Packard. Have a blast, girls — can’t wait to see the pics!

Maximilian Affair

Misty Kalkofen (adapted by Eric Felten of the WSJ)

1 1/4 oz mezcal (preferably a smoky, single-village mezcal such as Del Maguey)
3/4 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
1/2 oz sweet vermouth (preferably Punt e Mes)
1/4 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Heather in Queue

Jackson Cannon (invented at Eastern Standard)

1 1/2 oz gin
3/4 oz Martini and Rossi Bianco vermouth
1/2 oz Bauchant Orange Liqueur
1/4 oz Fernet-Branca

Stir well over ice and serve straight up. Garnish with flamed lemon twist. This cocktail is named for a regular Friday-night customer who was standing "in queue" when Jackson created this drink for her as a replacement for the Hoskins, "as I was running out of the then famous 164-bottle stash of Amer Picon that I picked from a dusty corner of the Martignetti warehouse."

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Posted in Booze in the news, Cocktails, Vodka | 4 Comments »

December 17th, 2008

The weird & the wintry

Tylenoltini, anyone?Got a fever? Forget the Theraflu. Have a Baby Tylenoltini instead!

I am not kidding. This is an actual cocktail planned for the forthcoming (January 2009) winter drink menu at Tamo, the bar in the Seaport Hotel’s Aura Restaurant. I have never been to Tamo. For all I know, it’s a perfectly pleasant place to enjoy a drink in the Seaport district. But its cold-and-flu-themed cocktail menu? Bizarre. Some highlights from the press release:

“Baby Tylenoltini: Nothing stirs up nostalgia quite like the sweet tartness of Baby Tylenol — this adult reinterpretation combines Absolut pear, ginger, lemon, honey, Grenadine and pink lemonade … maybe growing up isn’t so bad after all!

“Cherry Cough Drop: Luden’s, everyone’s favorite excuse to pop cherry candy all day long, is reincarnated into liquid form with a mix of Stoli Raz, Chambord and Champagne.

“Asian Sniffle Snuffer: A gingerly mix of Canton ginger liqueur, Grey Goose vodka and soda with a splash of bitters and fresh ginger garnish — who needs Vicks Vaporub with the sinus clearing effects of bitters!”

You can’t make this stuff up. A cocktail formulated to taste like Baby Tylenol?! I can’t wait for the Gerber Banana Daiquiri on the summer menu. Let’s hope this isn’t the beginning of a disturbing new trend. The same goes for this invitation I received from the celebrated chef behind Pigalle, Marco and, more recently, Restaurant L (inside Louis Boston):

“Chef/owner/Mack Daddy Marc Orfaly and Restaurant L invites [sic] you to a night of industry debauchery you will never forget … Come dressed as a suave pimp or a slammin’ ho. 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes go to the best dressed!”

Wow, I’ve been invited to a party by one of Boston’s best chefs, but only if I come dressed as a sex worker. I know, I know, “pimp” and “ho” are just terms of endearment these days — they’re probably what first-graders call their teachers. But I’m going to have to go ahead and RSVP “Are you f-ing kidding me?”

Luckily, another recent communiqué has provided me a glimpse of civilization: two recipes for drinks using Dubonnet Rouge, which I grew up viewing as an old-lady drink and now know as an essential quinquina in classic cocktails like the Blackthorn. I’m going to admit I have not yet tried these cocktails, which were created by Jim Meehan of PDT in New York City. But they sound fantastic.

Royal Pomme Punch
Makes 12 servings

3/4 bottle Dubonnet Rouge
12 oz apple brandy (such as Laird’s bonded or calvados)
24 dashes of Angostura bitters (or 3 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram)
3 oz fresh-squeezed orange juice
12 oz champagne

Add Dubonnet, apple brandy, orange juice and bitters to a pitcher filled with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled punch bowl.  Garnish with a block of ice (use a small Tupperware container as the mold; pull the block out of the freezer 15 minutes before use to allow it to thaw sufficiently to remove it from the mold). Top with champagne and serve.

Single Malt Sangaree

1 oz Dubonnet Rouge
2 oz Paumanok Cabernet Franc
1 oz Oban 14-Year-Old (Highland malt or blended scotch can be substituted)
3/4 oz Grand Marnier
1 barspoon of demerara syrup (or teaspoon of sugar in the raw)
1 6-inch cinnamon stick

Add everything to a crock pot and heat until almost boiling. Pour into a heat-proof mug and twist an orange peel over the surface before serving. Garnish with a fresh cinnamon stick. Better as a cold remedy than a Baby Tylenoltini and more stimulating than a waitress dressed up as a slammin’ ho.

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Posted in Cocktails, Vodka | 17 Comments »

September 21st, 2008

Five lessons from a Slow Spirits workshop

Slow Spirits 2008 workshop

By Jacqueline Church

Jacqueline Church, a freelance food writer who pens the Leather District Gourmet blog, recently attended one of Slow Food Nation‘s first Slow Spirits workshops. Jacqueline explains, “The essence of the Slow Food movement is to re-connect us with our food producers. The ‘Slowies’ want us to savor regional, sustainable food, to build fair food systems, and to talk, eat, drink and share — over food and wine. But what about cocktails?”

I attended the Slow Food Nation Come to the Table event over Labor Day weekend in San Francisco. I enjoyed some sips and learned quite a bit.

1.  You can spot a “meeting” anywhere. You know what kind of “meeting” I mean.

All the “respecting anonymity” stuff aside, I could spot these guys a mile away. Several cheery hellos! and then, finally, a guy said to me, “Are you one of Us?”

Then I knew I was right. It was an AA meeting. After successfully dodging conscription, I made it to my meeting. How ironic that the Slow Spirits workshop was scheduled in the same building, at the same time, as an AA meeting. Of all the gin joints…

2.  Spirits just graduated from the Slow Food kiddie table.

Slow Food Nation needed persuading that spirits should be allowed to Come to the Table, literally. Imagine, they had to defend their right to be there. (More about rights in a moment.) As much as wine (which Slow Food invited to the table from the beginning), spirits are a product with direct consequences for the environment, the workers that produce it, and the people that consume it.

Allen Katz, Slow Spirits 2008 workshop

Allen Katz, board chair of Slow Food USA, and Gregory Lindgren, owner of Rye Bar in San Francisco, note that leading bars began furthering the art of the cocktail by using fresh, seasonal fruit. If that doesn’t exactly make them Slow Food Royalty, it does elevate the cocktail from an Archie Bunker brew to a quality culinary experience. Our Prairie Mary, for example, was made with organic, local Early Girl tomato juice, ancho chilies, rosemary and Prairie Organic Vodka (distilled in Minnesota with local, organic grain).

3.  The Godfather of the American Cocktail was Jeremiah P. Thomas.

“The Alice Waters of his time,” according to Katz. He was, by all accounts, quite the entertaining and industrious barman. He wrote one of the first bartenders’ guides, called The Bon-Vivant’s Companion (1862), and invented cocktails (and claimed to have invented even more). He is credited with elevating the bartending occupation to where it has recently returned.

4.  There is something called a “Universal Right of Pleasure.”

Maybe that was covered in the poli-sci class I never took. A universal right? Really?

That was actually part of the workshop title: Slow Spirits — Food, Justice and the Universal Right of Pleasure. The “Food, Justice” part was more palatable for me than the so-called “Universal Right” part. It’s a nice idea, but I’d hate to look a starving child in the face and tell him about my universal right to have a cocktail. Then again, if I had to look a starving child in the face, I’d need a cocktail. Probably several. Mother Theresa, I’m not.

5.  Demonstrating the validity of slow spirits’ right to be, we learned about parallel aspects of food and spirits’ production.

Just as some farmers are farming organically without paying for the certification process to acquire the official label, so it is with liquor producers. Safe to say many workshop participants were surprised to learn that the second of our tasting samples was Maker’s Mark — not a brand that touts its green cred by selling its story with a green spin.

Maker’s Mark uses locally grown grains (corn, wheat, barley). Their distillery sits on a state-certified nature preserve, and they return water to their spring cleaner than when it was extracted. They re-use or recycle the spent grain (keeping local pigs and cows happy) and harness the energy of anaerobic digestion to power their stills. Kudos to Maker’s Mark for not bludgeoning us with how green they are. But they are!

This was a well-rounded evening. Like any good night at the watering hole, I walked away happier and with insights I didn’t have before the evening began.

Jacqueline provides more details on the spirits featured in the workshop here.

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Posted in Cocktails, San Francisco, Vodka, Whiskey | 1 Comment »

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 »