Friday, May 16, 2008

Experiencing Jakewalk

May 15

Matt DeVriendt, owner/operator of The JakeWalk says that while they have a large selection of wines people seem to pay more attention to their cocktail list. "We were serving wine for five dollars a glass. I thought that'd be what got people's attentions."

In fact, if you go to The JakeWalk, you can order a flight of three wines or spirits for half price of the usual glass you'd order.

Not that the cocktail list is an afterthought, it's just not the sole focus or main focus. Matt just wanted people to know that the place does offer a wide variety of other beverage choices.

So though the event was featuring a new cocktail on the menu created by Dave Wondrich, the whole thing was planned out as a sort of mini tour of what you could The restaurant space was dotted with stations serving food and wine. Guests could grab a glass at table and wind their way around the place. Want to try some Jamon Iberico? Hold out your glass and have some Alvear's Fino from Montilla, Spain as well. Or how about trying several cheeses like Essex Street Comte and Stichelton blue cheese? That particular station had on hand the Commanderie de Peyrassol 2007 Cotes de Provence Rose and the Coppo, Brachetto d'Acqui "Passione" DOC, 2006.

If you were in the mood to do a bit of whiskey tasting you could mosey over to one side of the bar that had a hunk of Montgomery's Cheddar you could sample pieces off of and you could get a taste of McCarthy's Oregon Single Malt Whiskey, Springbank 10 Year Single Malt and...and a third one that I seemed to have barely scribbled down that I cannot read. Not surprising I suppose.

Dave Wondrich was behind the bar for a bit and mixed the Jakewalk punch that he'd created for the place that was equal parts fresh lime juice, St. Germain, Resposado tequila, rhum agricole and two dashes of Peychuad's bitters.

If anything, Dave Wondrich taught me a valuable lesson that sometimes solutions in drink making need not be complicated with some sort of deep rhyme or reason. I noticed the cubes of candied ginger sitting in the bottom of the glasses and had to ask why they were sitting at the bottom of the glass. Dave simply answered, "Because if they're already in the drink they won't fall in there."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

2008 Taste of the Nation New York

May 14

2008 celebrates the 20th anniversary of Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation, where more events take place around the United States and Canada to raise funds to help battle childhood hunger. It's a great opportunity to have your money go to a good cause while being able to sample the works of chefs and restaurants in a participating city near you. At the New York event you got a wide range of tasting experiences from a wide range of restaurants in the city who volunteer their time and effort. You can go from trying a dumpling at Rickshaw Dumpling Bar's table, maybe some barbecue at Blue Smoke or Hill Country's table, then find yourself trying something from Morimoto.


Maybe not everything, but I feel like I got pretty close. It is a huge food fest. At first you think you're in control of the situation. You think, "No, I won't have that cake thing because I'm gonna try all the savory stuff then come back around to that." But around the time you've shoved the fifth food item all of that goes out of the window and you find yourself going from tuna tartare, to a cup of chocolate of some form with a little bit of gold leaf, then cured salmon and...oooh! Is that beef with foie gras?

The main reason why I was stuffing my face was because I'd just managed to go down a line of tables and drink several drinks created by New York's bartenders. As much as it is an event for restaurants to show their stuff for a good cause, the New York Taste of the Nation also gave a chance for drinks to have their moment as well. And besides cocktails there were also plenty of wine and beer and even coffee. There was no way I was going to be doing all the wine and beer without the very real possibility of not being able to make it into work the next day, so I stuck with the cocktails.

Once I got my wristband, I skipped up the steps to the VIP area to try some cocktails from Tabla. They had on hand their Tabla-tini and Tamarind Margarita. The Tabla-tini is made with citrus based vodka, gin, and a housemade blend of pineapple and lemon grass. The Tamarind Margarita is made with tequila triple sec, tamarind, orange juice and lime juice.

Tabla manger Tyler Vaughan said that they were currently working on a kumquat mojito that will probably turn into a watermelon mojito in the summer. Tyler also added that during the summer the restaurant plans on offering the margarita and Tabla-tini by the pitcher and is also planning to serve an India-inspired sangria.

I made my way back downstairs to the bar station and girded myself to start making my way down. The first table I stopped at was manned by Mr. Eben Klemm, director of cocktail development at B.R. Guest, who I hadn't seen since...well, last year's Taste of the Nation.

"Yes, the last time you saw me, I was standing here," Eben said, then after a pause added, "And I've been here since then. For the past 364 days I've been here mixing drinks hoping they'd let me go."

I like seeing Eben because he has the nattiest suits and natty suits bring a smile to my face.

Mr. Klemm was mixing a Tequila Sunbolt made with Herradura Silver tequila, limeade and red pepper water. Red pepper water? According to Eben Klemm it's just roasted peeled peppers pressed through a sieve.

At the next table, Michael and Vito from Little Branch were making the Cock and Bull Special. It was a stiff concoction made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, Benedictine, cointreau and Cognac Claude Chatelier VSOP.

Eben Freeman from Tailor was also in attendance, but he kept things simple by bringing some of his bubblegum vodka. Not any less different in level of oddness from the Cape Codder caviar he was making at the New York Taste of the Nation two years ago, but definitely not as complex. He was practically plating that caviar whereas this was just a pour. "For an event like this I've found that it's better to do something fun and easy," he said. Can't argue with that. Especially when it generates the responses I saw when people sidled up to Eben's table, to see him there with just rows of bottles filled with "Barbie's Cadillac"-pink vodka behind him.

"So, what's this?" they'd ask apprehensively.

"Bubblegum vodka," he'd answer.

They'd all give a look that can only be described in the following conjectured monologue: "Huh, ok...wait, did he just say 'bubblegum vodka'? WEIRD. Well, I like bubblegum. I think. Does he mean it's bubble-game flavored or is this one of his insane solids? No, it's in a bottle; he's pouring it. I wonder if I can still chew this."

I sipped on my own glass of the stuff and chuckled to myself at this thought when I saw Eben pull a brown bottle from out of nowhere, pour a bit of it in a glass. I thought it was his own secret stash for himself at first, but he pushed the glass towards me and said, "It's a garam masala rum."

"Ooooooooooh!" I pretty much squealed as I picked it up.

"I think the cinnamon's a bit to strong on this one, I might do less of it," he said then went on to say it was for a "Masala Mai Tai" he was working on. In dark rum he added the usual garam masala spices such as black pepper, coriander and cloves, but added his own touch with some green curry leaves. He wanted to a tiki drink, but didn't want something too sweet and thought spices would help lend a more savory aspect to it.

I asked Eben if he was changing up the solids menu anytime soon and he said probably in the foreseeable future. He said there were some absinthe gummy bears in the works (Sam Mason's idea). I asked if there were gummy bear molds or some kind of machine available for purchasing, because I don't believe ever having seen one of those. Eben said there were no molds, just gummy bears pressed into corn starch and the impression used as a mold.

Pegu Club was representing with their Grapefruit Cooler. Kenta Goto said that they wanted to make something refreshing for the guests who would be eating a lot of food. The cooler is made with grapefruit vodka, lemon juice, honey, Peychaud's bitters and a touch of Pegu with housemade grapefruit syrup. The pale pink drink is garnished with some organic flowers.

I then visited Don, John and Jim at their PDT table. They were also bringing the spirits strong with their Woodford Witch, made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Lustau Palo Cortado Sherry, Strega, simple syrup, a dash of Fee Brother's Orange Bitters and a dash of Regan's Orange Bitters.

"You guys get extra points for printing out the recipe," I said, giving my pen hand a rest. Jim explained that they'd learned that at events of this type it was easier to have the recipe to hand out since usually the first question people asked was "What's in this?"

I swung on back over to the Clover Club (technically for Flatiron Lounge as well, I suppose, since the Clover Club is not scheduled to open until June), and chatted a bit with Julie Reiner as well as head bartender apparent for the soon-to-be opened Clover Club Giuseppe Gonzalez.

Giuseppe mixed up a Diablo, made with Herradura Silver tequila, fresh lemon juice, housemade ginger beer and sweetened with creme de casses.

I took a sip, thought for a second, took another sip and said, "Is it just me, or is there a bit of spiciness in the back of the throat?"

"That's because of the housemade ginger beer," Giuseppe said. Rather than using ginger ale, the handmade version was opted for because it provided "a little more character than something out of a bottle."

Bubblegum Vodka and the hands of its creator; Tailor.

Grapefruit Cooler, Pegu Club

Woodford Witch, PDT

Woodford Witch, with a view of the ginormous strainer/pitcher combo in the back

Diablo, Clover Club

Aureole's new summer cocktails

May 14

Aureole held a small gathering on the afternoon of the 14th to showcase several cocktails using Limonce limoncello and GranGala orange liqueur created by mixologist Ektoras Binikos. There was also a blind taste test for orange liqueur and the cocktails were paired with food created by Aureole's executive chef Tony Aiazzi. To say the least, the cocktail flavors were mainly citrus, and some played up the lightly sweetened aspect even more with a hit of soda. All seemed like drinks to go with food.

The food was interesting ranging from a very crispy-on-the-outside mini crab cakes, to some pretty sweet oysters. Though some guests (including myself) couldn't help but grab at some of the kumquats decorating the cocktail table.

The Amalfi
1 1/2 oz Citorn Vodka
1/2 oz Limonce Limoncello
1/2 fresh lime juice
2 sprigs lemon thyme
splash of yuzu juice

1 oz Miller's gin
1/2 oz Limonce Limoncello
5 kumquats
4 fresh mint leaves
3 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters
splash of soda

1 oz Pineau Des Charentes
1/2 oz Limonce LImoncello
1 oz fresh Meyer lemon juice
zest of a Meyer lemon
2 dashes of Regan's Orange Bitters
1 sage leaf

1 1/2 oz Marti Autentico Cuban Rum
1/2 oz Imported GranGala Triple Orange Liqueur
1 oz fresh ruby red grapefruit juice
3-4 drops of Angostura bitters
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
fresh mint

Cote d'Azure
1 1/2 oz of Millers Gin
1/2 oz Imported GranGala Triple Orange Liqueur
Dash of Creme de Cassis
1 oz fresh lemon juice
splash of soda
9 blueberries, 3 for garnish
4 fresh mint leaves

Madame Butterfly
1/2 oz Imported GranGala Triple Orange LIqueur
1/2 oz orange vodka
1/2 oz Aperol
1/2 oz Verjus
1/2 oz yuzu juice

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tales of the Cocktail announces Spirit Awards Nominees

(Note: Photos courtesy of Tales of the Cocktail)

May 12

The place was spookily calm and quiet when I arrived at the Flatiron Lounge for a Tales of the Cocktail event compared to the last time I'd been there for a Tales event.

I sipped on a Punch & Judy, the winning cocktail for the Tales of the Cocktail Official Cocktail Competition, and talked a bit with Francis Schott as well as Hanna Lee of Hanna Lee Communications Inc., whom I run into often and finds it ridiculously cute that I speak Korean. I mostly knew Mr. Schott through emails about drinks that I regularly receive from Stage Left Restaurant, and we talked about his podcast radio program, "The Restaurant Guys," which he hosts with his partner Mark Pascal.

Then all of the sudden the doors burst open and it was instant chaos. The bartenders had arrived. They were returning from a croquet tournament that started at 11 in the morning.

I said hello to Mr. Dale DeGroff and spotted Gary Regan who looked (awesome) like a weathered Texas Ranger out of a spaghetti western version of Gandalf the Grey with his long coat, hat and flowing locks. This means that so far I've seen Gary Regan in three different incarnations.

There was a lot of new people meeting. Jonathan Pogash was there. I hadn't seen him since the Grand Marnier summit in Vail, Colo. There was also Maxwell Britten, who you can find behind the bar at Jack the Horse Tavern in Brooklyn. I didn't really get to talk to him when I saw him previously at the Rhum Clement event, so I was glad to chat. I finally met the other half of the Tippling Bros., Paul Tanguay, as well as the third founding member of Contemporary Cocktails Inc. who was always mysteriously absent, Kristopher Karr (he explained that he had been out of sight because he was working with a bar out of the country for the past 14 months).

As more people pressed in I was soon buffeted about like I was inner tubing down some rapids made out of people and bar fixtures. I tried very hard to stay out of the way, but that wasn't happening anytime soon. I even found myself cornered into a pocket created entirely by people and was trapped. Several times I landed myself in spots briefly enough to talk to people, but I was starting to get claustrophobic.

Throughout all this, I noted that the interesting thing about both times that I went to a Tales of the Cocktail Event at Flatiron Lounge is it feels very different from other events I go to. You feel like the bartenders and mixologists know they can let their hair down.

(l-r: Julie Reiner, Charlotte Voisey and Ann Rogers)

I finally rooted myself in a spot long enough to hear Ann Rogers, founder of Tales of the Cocktail, announce the Official Cocktail Competition winner and runners up. Charlotte Voisey, who won $1,500 for her winning Official Cocktail entry, said during her acceptance speech that she would be giving her prize money back to Tales of the Cocktail.

Nominees announced were for categories of:

Best Drink Selection
Cantina - San Francisco, USA
Death & Company - New York City, USA
Der Raum - Melbourne, Australia
Doheney - Downtown Los Angeles, USA
The Merchant Hotel - Belfast, Northern Ireland
Salvatore's Bar at Fifty - London, England
Trio Bar - Berlin, Germany
Matterhorn - Wellington, New Zealand

Best Classic Cocktail Bar
American Bar - Connaught Hotel, London, England
Bramble - Edinburgh, Scotland
Death & Co. - New York City, USA
Dukes Bar - Dukes Hotel, London, England
Experimental Cocktail Club - Paris, France
Flatiron Lounge - New York City, USA
Milk and Honey- New York City, USA
Bar Le Forum - Paris, France
The Merchant Hotel - Belfast, Northern Ireland
Montgomery Place - London, England
Widder Bar - Zurich, Switzerland

World's Best Cocktail Bar
The Flat Iron Lounge - New York City, USA
Le Lion - Hamburg, Germany
The Lonsdale - London, England
The Merchant Hotel - Belfast, Northern Ireland
Milk & Honey - New York, USA
Milk & Honey - London, England
Paparazzi - Bratislava, Slovak Republic
Salvatore at Fifty - London, England
Star Bar - Ginza, Tokyo, Japan

Best New Cocktail Bar
Bar Milano, New York City, USA
Beretta, San Francisco, USA
Death & Company, New York City, USA
Le Lion de Paris, Hamburg, Germany
02 Lounge, Ritz Carlton, Moscow
PDT (Please Don't Tell), New York City, USA
Ruby, Copenhagen, Denmark

Mixologist/Bartender of the Year
John Gerstern - No.9 Park, Boston, USA
Kenta Goto of Pegu Club - New York City, USA
Charles Joly - The Drawing Room, Chicago, USA
Duggan McDonnell - Cantina, San Francisco, USA
Erik Lorincz - Purple Bar, London, England
Jim Meehan - PDT, New York City, USA
Ago Perrone - Montgomery Place, London, England
Sam Ross - Milk & Honey New York City, USA
Nick Strangeway - Hawksmoor, London, England
Charles Vexenat - The Lonsdale, London, England
Philip Ward - Death & Company, New York City, USA

Other categories included Best Cocktail Writing, Best New Product, Best Cocktail Menu, Best Drinks Brand Representative/ Brand Ambassador. New award categories were also announced along with the nominees. There was the Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book Category and the Helen David Lifetime Achievement Award.

Here are the recipes from the Official Cocktails Competition:

Best of Show
Charlotte Voisey, mixologist, Hendrick's Gin brand champion

Punch and Judy
1 oz Martell VSOP
1/4 oz Old New Orleans Crystal Rum
1/2 oz Hendrick's Gin
1/2 oz Bols Orange Curacao
2 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lim juice
1/2 oz orange juice
1/2 oz Partida agave nectar
2 dashes Angostura bitters
4 mint leaves

Second Place
Debbi Peek, master bartender, The Drawing Room at Le Passage

Nola's Nectar
1/2 oz Martell VSOP
1 1/2 oz Old New Orleans Amber Rum
3/4 oz Partida Agave Nectar
1/2 oz fresh grated ginger
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz water

Third Place
Kristi A. Svane, bartender, Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa

Big Easy Milk Punch
3/4 oz Martell VSOP
3/4 Old New Orleans Amber Rum
3/4 brown sugar simple syrup
2 oz milk
2 dashes cinnamon
1 dahs nutmeg
1 slice orange
1/2 oz fresh squeezed orange juice (no pulp)

Honorable Mention
Erana Hardy, bartender, Cafe Giovani

Hardy Punch
100% Blood orange juice not from concentrate
1 shot Old New Orleans Amber Rum
1 shot Martell
5 oz Mereo Red Wine