Friday, March 6, 2009

The New York Korean cocktail mafia loses one of its members

March 3

I was down over at Dumpling Man on St. Mark's and just managed to bite into pork dumpling four of six when suddenly my phone jitterbugged across the counter where I was sitting. I almost choked on the barely chewed morsel, but hurriedly got it down so I could answer the phone. Seat available at the bar? Is it OK if I get there in 5-10 minutes? Alright.

I closed the phone and proceeded to shove dumplings number five then six into my maw. I hopped off the stool and headed out to trudge over the stubbornly lingering snow and down a couple of doors to PDT.

As I previously mentioned previously here, Tuesday was Daniel Eun's last shift at PDT before he moved out to California to study law. My presence at PDT was more symbolic than necessary. All the time I'd known Daniel, I've tried drinks he's created, run into him at numerous events, but never, ever stopped by PDT during one of his shifts. It seemed a little unconscionable to send him off like this. I mean, he was probably had no problems with the current state of affairs, it just did not seem right to me is all.

I'd already wished him well and said my goodbyes on Monday when Pranna was taken over by bartenders and other well-wishers in a double feature party both for Daniel and also to celebrate Jamie Gordon's birthday. I handed Daniel a shot of reposado tequila and joked that if I'd been quicker on my feet, I would've also bought him a beer and made him a poktanju on the spot (Korean: "bomb drink," basically a boilermaker, except, you know, you "bomb" the shot glass into the beer. Come on guys, I don't need to spell it out). We both laughed heartily at that though I noted a bit of relief in Daniel's voice when he said, "Good thing you didn't think of that."

I asked him if he was fully folding his bar career. Or, you know, be like...a bartending lawyer.

"That really sounds like the plot of some kind of Japanese movie," I said.

"Yea, they'll show like a montage of me doing stuff like carving ice," Daniel added.

"Oh, and also scenes of you studying really hard for like the bar or something," I said all excited as I could practically see the trailer running through my head. [Note: I just realized what a totally delicious play on words the movie would have if you took into account someone studying for the bar, versus studying for B.A.R.]

"And I'd accidentally hit my hand while carving the ice and go, 'Ah!'," Daniel parried.

"...and you'd, like, examine and throw a series of ice balls that don't meet your standards in increasing frustration!"

I could only stick around briefly for one drink at the party, but I told Daniel I'd try to stop by for his last shift, which is how I found myself at PDT sipping on a Rustbelt (Barbancourt 8 year rum, Navan, citrus, egg white, orgeat syrup, angostura bitters) made for me by Amanda.

I liked it. Ah, my weakness for egg whites. What I liked about this cocktail was the two layers of flavor it had going with the separation between the liquid and the foaminess of the egg whites on top. The top sort of trapped all the aromatic scents and flavors, such as the bitters as well as the vanilla and almond scents, while the liquid packed the sour flavors.

I told Daniel I couldn't leave before he made me a drink. so he made me a Derby cocktail. I said that once I finished the drink I could leave in good conscience.

"What? You wanted a send off drink? You should've told me," Daniel said. "I could make you something else."

"As long as it's not poktanju," I said.

"Oooh, I wasn't going to before, but now that you say that..."

"Wait! You guys do not make that here!"

Luckily he was mostly kidding and I worked on finishing the drink I had so I could weasel out before he changed his mind, but not before seeing Richard Boccato, who'd also stopped by with Ari to see Mr. Eun.

I asked Mr. B what the haps was with Dutch Kills. I told him the buzz online about the place was pretty intense. It sounded like people were ready to pounce on the place the minute it opened.

He said they're gearing up towards opening. There were still some finishing touches being taken care of so the opening is definitely looming over the horizon.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Meeting Chesterfield Browne

March 3

Chesterfield Browne, mixologist who also works with Mount Gay Rum, was in New York so I was invited to a little press sit-down at Barolo to talk about rum and taste some products from Mount Gay, in particular, the new 1703 Old Cask Selection that's set to go on the market by May.

"There's a demand for aged products in the USA," Browne said, citing that as a reason for why the 1703, a new product from Barbados-based Mount Gay that is a blend of rums with maturity that ranges from 10 to 30 years, is slated to be released in the United States before it is available in Barbados.

Even the Mount Gay Rum Extra Old went through a packaging redesign to better reflect that it is an aged product.

He added that the trend nowadays veers more towards people drinking less in quantity, but more in quality.

Along with the 1703, we also tried the flagship Eclipse rum (maturity range of 2-7 years) and the Mount Gay Rum Extra Old (maturity range 8-15 years).

Browne said he wouldn't recommend the 1703 for mixing, but the Extra Old is versatile in the sense that it's a more aged premium blend that can be sipped alone, yet still good for mixing. The Eclipse is definitely one that works well with maknig cocktails. In a pocket-sized Mount Gay Rum "Cocktail Kit" with recipes all created by Browne, the drinks all feature tropical ingredients with the Eclipse, like the Passionate Paula made with rum, passion fruit liqueur, light cream and cream of coconut.

I asked about drinking in Barbados, whether it's mostly tropical drinks in this style or if there are also American-style classics. Browne answered that since Barbados is frequented by tourists, bartenders do try to keep on top of different styles of drinks, even the old traditional American classics.

Browne also said many of the young women of Barbados are very much into cosmopolitans and the whole "Sex and the City" style of drinking where they go out to have cocktails with their friends. However many people in Barbados, him included, are very much "rum shop people."

The rum shop could be described as Barbados' answer to the British neighborhood pub, except with bottle service...minus the astronomical bottle service prices. It's where people gather to talk and drink and enjoy each other's company.

Browne enjoys the atmosphere of the rum shop, the conversations that take place.

"The people are real," he said.

In rum shops, customers can order rum of varying sizes and a mixer of their choice (Browne's a fan of Barbados-made ginger beer or ginger ale) with a bowl of ice.

Browne said that if you say rum, you will be served Mount Gay, but the rum shops also serve other rum brands and other spirits. Those need to be asked for by name.

The largest amount of rum one can get at the rum shop is a 750 mL serving. Buying the larger size is probably more economical, but as Browne explained, since people like to buy each other rounds, ordering the largest size doesn't necessarily work. Because then the next person feels the need to also purchase a large size, and so on and so forth. So it's more common for groups to order a flask (or 200 mL) or a 375 mL bottle, and share that.

Browne told one story of a lady from a church who told people that everyone could learn from the people drinking at rum shops.

"She said, 'They know love. I saw six men sharing a flask!'," Browne said with a hearty laugh.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Beginning a month of brunches and hanging out with Jay Hepburn

or My plans to drink more Bloody Marys this month than I probably have my entire life

March 1

My grand plan to make March a month of brunches got off to a sad start. My faithful camera finally gave up the ghost so I couldn't grab any photos. I also attempted to catch the brunch over at Macao, but ended up crossing the threshold just minutes after brunch time ended and the magical limited brunch hours of 3pm-5pm began.

Thankfully, it wasn't all a wash, since Jovi behind the bar still served me a Bloody Marta. You can still get drinks of the brunch menu during limited brunch, but for food you have a choice between a small handful of items like chicken dumpling, congee two ways or the mushroom croquettes that I had. If your looking for heartier fare, though, be sure to stop by during brunch hours so you can have some of the grill herb-marinated steak or the linguica with piquillo and potato hash and poached eggs.

The Bloody Marta's made with Luksusowa vodka and a home-made spicy sangrita with ingredients like tomato juice, lemon juice and even orange juice. It even had toothsome bits of real cracked black peppercorns. Very food friendly. I kind of wanted to dip my croquettes into it.

The brunch cocktail menu also features other cocktails like the Portonic and Blood Peach Bellini, which are both available on the regular menu. However, rather than paying $11 or $14, respectively, for the two drinks like you would during regular hours, all drinks on the brunch menu cost $9.

I told Jovi that I'd stop by again next time to make it in for real brunch, but it was probably a good thing that I didn't arrive early enough to get a good running start on the day's drinking.

The thing is I'd spent Friday with friends at Pegu Club, bothering Kenta Goto with questions about this and that since I'd been out of it lately. I downed a Red Pepper, Red Pepper, then an Earl Grey Marteani (always good), a small Good Night Irene that Kenta rustled up for me, and ended everything with an Applejack Cobbler.

So I was trying to pace myself on Sunday because I was meeting with Jay Hepburn of Oh Gosh! at Tailor. Jay's been in New York before, but he hadn't visited Tailor, so we figured we'd start our evening out there. I put my life in bartender Ludo's hands and told him that I'd already started off my day with a Bloody Mary type drink, so if he'd be so kind as to suggest what else I should be drinking so that I won't be hurting, I'd be much obliged.

The first drink I got was a Pine Needle Margarita. Ludo explained that the pine needles and tequila were vacuum sealed then tossed in boiling water to speed up the process. And since I'd had a Bloody Mary, he then suggested that I try out the Agua Verde. A Kermit-hued take on the Bloody Mary thanks to green ingredients like tomatillo, habanero and cilantro.

Ludo also served me and Jay two different "shots". I particularly liked the Cucumber Collins shot with a little cucumber sliver in it.

Jay and I decided to move venues at that point. A light sprinkling of snow fell on us as we twined our way through Soho, Chinatown and the Lower East Side trying to figure out where to go next. We joked about the Snow That Ate London, and ran into a speedbump or two. Neither of us had been to Apotheke before, so we figured why not go try and check it out. Only we discovered that...Apotheke's closed on Sundays? Really? I mean, maybe it was just pretending to be closed and as soon as we rounded a corner it'd jump out yelling, "Boogedy boogedy boo!!!" then say, "Nah, I'm just messin', come right this way." It easily could've been a case of me missing out on the joke, but I'm going to put on my best Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford and say, it ain't my first time at the rodeo. I've seen plenty of interesting ways to enter a bar, but crawling under a shutter at half-mast doesn't seem all that appealing, so I'm going to go ahead and believe the closed on Sundays theory. If that's true, anybody out there got details on how recent this development is? Because that's interesting...

Either way, we ended up at Clover Club, talking about our favorite shows like The Mighty Boosh, Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge ("Ah-HAAAA") and how incestuous British comedy world seems to be. The conversation grew exceedingly difficult, because for some unfathomable reason, we were both having a hard time remembering names and had to resort to clever descriptors like, "You know, Noel Fielding's brother? He played the shaman in The Mighty Boosh...argh, why can't I remember his name??" I really can't imagine what could've affected our memories.

Brad, our bartender at Clover Club, made us drinks and saved puppies at the same time. OK, well, maybe not the latter, but I told him I'd write that he saved puppies or something like that because of the great service and good drinks.

I had a Rope and Rose (strawberry and pineapple infused Peruvian pisco, lime and elderflower liqueur), which tasted and smelled absolutely lovely, and a Sour Cherry Fizz (Speyside scotch, housemade sour cherry preserve, lemon, soda).

Be sure to say your good-byes to Daniel

Tuesday night is Daniel Eun's last shift at PDT before he heads back to whence he hails from, the West Coast. Stop by and wish him luck on his future ventures.