Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cleaning out the closet pt. 2: Not just grape juice and kids

Dec. 2

I'd received an invitation from Jonathan Pogash about a cocktail event. A cocktail even hosted by Welch's.

"Intriguing," I thought to myself. The event was in the middle of the day, but luckily it was being held someplace within walking distance, so around 2 pm I made my way east to the World Bar at Trump World Tower.

The event was specifically catered towards the company's refrigerated juice cocktails. According to the good folks representing Welch's that I met there, based on a consumer study they had done, they were surprised to find out that many bartenders were purchasing their juice for use behind the bar. The line features flavors such as mango, guava and passion fruit, and some bartenders who wanted these flavors, but either couldn't access them readily and conveniently in fresh form or found these fruits to be out of season, were purchasing these juices for their use. Welch's wanted to acknowledge that avenue of using their juice cocktails so they decided to hold the event at the World Bar at Trump World Tower and hired Jonathan Pogash to create some cocktail recipes using the juices from the refrigerated line. The recipe cards provided at the event even included fun facts regarding cocktail history and trivia.

Leti Taft-Pearman, product marketing manager for the refrigerated line, explained that for this group of products, the number of flavors available goes through changes. About one flavor a year is introduced and slower moving flavors are retired.

The event wasn't just interesting because, "Hey, it's Welch's and remember when you were a kid and drank their grape juice all the time? Well, here's some cocktails." It was interesting because it was another company putting in their marketing dollars towards cocktails. Again its hard not to make comparisons with how the whole foodie culture is a big part of consumer advertising nowadays. Watch an ad for Swanson broth and you see chef Christopher Lee as the spokesperson letting the home cook know food can get a boost of flavor from stock. The ad even makes a point of mentioning that he's a winner of the James Beard Foundation's Rising Star Chef award. A sort of pitch that wouldn't have made all that much sense to a good chunk of the population a couple of years ago. Go on Welch's site or watch TV and you can see foodie geek favorite Alton Brown talking about polyphenol antioxidants in Concord Grapes.

While this event was geared more towards the industry, this product is available in supermarkets as well. And with the availability of recipes for these cocktails, what's to keep from home bar enthusiasts from trying their hand? You kind of already see the sort of bar expert marketing geared towards consumers in liquor ads.

Drinks from the Welch's Mixer at the World Bar (recipes courtesy of Welch's from the event):

Welch's Punch Cocktail
1 oz. light rum
1 oz. dark rum
1 1/2 oz. Welch's Berry Pineapple Passion Fruit
juice of 1/2 a lime
dash of bitters

Shake well in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain over ice into a rock glass.
Garnish: Grated nutmeg
*NOTE: this can be made in large, punch-bowl

Independence Sparkler
1 oz. Welch's Strawberry Breeze
1/2 oz. vanilla liqueur
3 oz. premium Brut Champagne

Add ingredients to mixing glass with ice and stir briefly. Strain into chilled champagne flute.
Garnish: Strawberry slice on rim of glass

Kuava Martini
1 1/2 oz. Welch's Guava Pineapple
1 oz. gin
1/2 oz. elderflower liqueur
juice of 1/4 lemon

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass.
Garnish: Edible flower

Cherry Smash
2 oz. Welch's Tropical Cherry
1 1/2 oz. bourbon
3 lemon wedges
handful of mint leaves (approx. 8-10(

Muddle the mint and lemon in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add remaining ingredients with ice and shake briefly. Pour into rocks glass.

Grapes and Pears
1 oz. Welch's Grape
1 oz. pear cognac or pear liqueur
3 oz. premium Brut Champagne

Stir ingredients briefly in a mixing glass with ice and strain into a chilled champagne flute.
Garnish: Pear slice and sliced grapes

Cleaning out the closet pt.1: Vanilla liqueur and amaro

I think it was Gore Vidal who said, "I'm sorry mama, I never meant to hurt you, I never meant to make you cry, but tonight I'm cleanin' out my closet."

...Wait, that was Eminem. And that's not exactly the sentiment I was going for.

Anyhow, I know there was sort of a chasm there for a couple of weeks to make it almost reminescent of the 400 years of silence between the Old and New Testaments. Year end things and hectic schedule in general made me very terrible about updating and I realize that there is now a small backlog of odds and ends. So, rather than let these experiences go to waste, and in the spirit of releasing all the old things of this year, I'm cranking out as many entries as I can using these odds and ends as the new year rings in. Working backwards in chronological order.

Vanilla liqueur and Amaro, or Two out of three ain't bad
Dec. 15

My first stop of the evening was at Pranna, where Navan was hosting a cocktail pairing dinner. The thing I find kind of interesting about Navan's events are they're rarely just a "Hey, here's our product, try some of it," type of thing. The events always try to bring in different elements that seem to make it more like an overall atmospheric lifestyle marketing in a way. With heavy emphasis on vanilla or the whole exotic angle of where vanilla comes from.

For example, at a previous Navan event I went to, besides cocktails, but there was also food, a little vanilla educational area, as well as a sort of booth/set up from a New York flower shop that specializes in rare and exotic flowers and arrangements.

The dinner at Pranna, one of several that Navan holds, wasn't an exception. Scarves and Panama hats were set out as party favors.

Aisha Sharpe of Contemporary Cocktails, the outfit that created Pranna's beverage program, and Pranna bar managers Elba Giron and Justin Noel created the drinks served for the evening.

Before the dinner itself, two seperate cocktails were served with hors d'oeuvre. The Jayakarta was made with kaffir lime leaves, yuzu juice, guava puree, freshly extracted giner juice, Navan, and Aperol. The drink was then topped with brut sparkling wine and grated kaffir lime leaves. The Winter Punch was made with Sialor Jerry spiced rum, Navan, fresh pressed apple juice, fresh lemon juice freshly extracted ginger juice and angostura bitters. The drink was then garnished with pomegranate seeds and freshly grated nutmeg.

The dinner's first course of Penang Chicken Spring Rolls, Spinach Potato Curry Puffs and Crispy Paneer Lollipops was paired with a first course flight of cocktails were served amuse-bouche style in small shot glasses. The three different drinks reflected sweet, spicy and sour flavors. The Berry Twist for Thailand reflected sweet and was made with strawberries, Thai basil, fresh lemons and Navan, garnished with a strawberry heart and Thai basil sprig.

El Diablo, the Spicy Spice of the trio, got its heat from Thai Bird chile-infused Navan. Additional ingredients were Navan, El Tesoro blanco, fresh pressed pineapple juice, fresh lemon juice and Calamansi honey. Then a sprinkl of dried chile powder and sea salt for garnish.

The third drink, the Luzon Sour, was made with Granny Smith apples, fresh yuzu juice, fresh lemon juice, Tio Pepe Fino Sherry and Navan.

For the second course, we were served with several dishes family-style. There was Pandan Warpped Halibut with Navan Red Curry Sauce, Ancho Airline Chicken with a Navan Lemongrass sauce as well as Cumin-crusted Hanger Steak with a red wine peppercorn sauce.

The cocktail paired with this course was the Pandan Smash. Pandan Leaves, lemongrass syrup, fresh lemons and Navan was topped with sparkling water and garnished with a lemon wheel and Pandan strips.

I couldn't stick around for the third course that featured the rich-sounding dessert trio of Chocolate Fudge Cake with a Navan Chile Zabaglione, Navan Caramel Ice Cream and Banana Ginger Cake with a Chocolate Navan Cream and Vanilla Caramel. The drink for this course was called Winter Island. And the menu told me that this particular cocktail was to be made with Cruzan Single Barrel Rum, Navan, ripe bananas, green cardamom, Moscovado syrup, and angostura bitters.

Though I was curious, sadly, I had to leave that final drink untasted because I was scheduled to make an appearance at the Averna Appreciation Party and the dinner was running a little later than expected. The party was at Louis 649 all the way down on 9th street between avenues B and C.

I managed to pop in just as Bret Thorn was making his escape.

"Do you guys work in shifts or something?" Tad Carducci asked me as he saw me pop up at the bar with Bret heading out the door.

Tad and Damon Dyer were working the bar that evening. Don Lee was supposed to make an appearance since the party was supposed to congratulate him on his winning cocktail, La Cola Nostra, from the Averna competition a while back. Unfortunately, continued medical care for the arm he broke right before the aforementioned competition kept him from the event.

Damon was making toddies the good old-fashioned way that grandma used to make them when you had a cold, or maybe you couldn't fall asleep (or extra strong for those nights when she really needed you to sleep now), Blue Blazer style. Come on, everybody loves fire. I know I do.

I tried Don's La Cola Nostra Punch (Amaro Averna, Fantinel Prosecco, Zapaca Centenario rum, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, lime juice, simple syrup and lime wedges as garnishes), as well as two different toddies. I chatted a bit with Thanh-Nam Vo Duy (Hennessy) and J.C. Iglesias (Grand Marnier), talking about various fun topics, like having the three-tier system broken down for me.

There was another cocktail/bartender industry event planned at Pranna later in the evening, but I called it a night after the Averna Appreciation Party. It was drizzly and my shoes were killing me.