Sunday, April 10, 2011

Standards and Pours now at

First and foremost, to answer a question I’ve been asked a few times when relating this bit of news: Yes, I still work at Nation’s Restaurant News, though now my new title is Online Senior Editor.

In fact, the past year or so has seen a lot of changes at Nation’s Restaurant News. The new beverage blog is just a logical part of new developments, which can read all about at

The site is still new, and I'll probably be making more changes and improvements as I get my bearings in WordPress. You can find old posts at the new site as, though formatting may be a bit odd. So while you're more than welcome to peruse the archives here in Blogger, be sure to update your bookmarks/feeds.

Sonya Moore

Monday, August 30, 2010

Happy birthday Pegu Club

Click for larger view

On Sunday, the Pegu Club celebrated its 5th anniversary, inviting folks to come drink and talk and reminisce. Yea, I'm not sure how else you really would celebrate a bar's birthday except to drink and talk about the good times had in the place.

The true thing of beauty for the evening was the special anniversary "All-Stars" menu. It was a fantastic glimpse into the drinks, and people who made Pegu Club what it is today.

The resulting list of 20-something or so drinks served as an ethnographic document of sorts, detailing some of the names drink styles of the New York cocktail scene of the past five years. Of course I had to ask if I could keep a copy. (I'm kind of a sentimental pack rat like that. All of you guys out there who have given me menus, I most probably have them squirreled away somewhere. Maybe I'll bequeath it all to MOTAC when I die.)

Just as someone could read in the Bible that "Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judah and his brethren," one could read how in 2005 Phil Ward begat the Cornwall Negroni, in 2006 Brian Miller begat the 19th Century, while in 2007 Jim Meehan begat the Improved Norwegian Cock-Tail...and so on and so forth.

Unfortunately had a scanner malfunction before I could scan these pages. For now, this crappy picture will have to do. Will replace once I get to a working scanner again. Click to enlarge.

I overheard John Deragon comment that each item on the menu took him back to specific memories of drinking at Pegu and I even caught myself trying to piece together with Kenta Goto how we first met. Neither of us could really piece it together. All I remember is we were introduced. I'm sure if I trawled through the archives of this blog, I can figure that out, but you know what, let's just leave it nebulous. It makes for a better story. Like we're age old pals or something.

I seem to be present at the Pegu Club a lot when stuff is on fire

Explanation for the following photo and why I love it, with apologies to Phil Ward, because this photo is not flattering to him. When I asked for a group photo, Mr. Ward tried to lean his way out of it only to have Brian Miller pull him back in a second before the flash went off. Hence the disgruntled look of a cat that got wet on Phil's face.

l-r: Phil Ward, Brian Miller, Jim Kearns, Audrey Saunders with Jim Meehan front and center.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nick Jarrett's last shift in Philadelphia

or The Post with a Lot of Picture of People Drinking

I'm starting to think I should just have a tag called "last shifts" at this point. I seem to find myself at them quite a bit. But can you blame me? Who can say no to hanging out on a bartender's last shift, especially ones that promise to be epic.


When Nicholas Jarrett put out the APB on Facebook that he would be fully committing to working in New York and was cordially inviting folks to come down for his last shift at The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co., I instantly thought, " is just a bus ride away..."

Two problems. Actually, more like a one problem that manifested itself in two parts. Due to the fact that this last shift was on a Tuesday, it meant that not only did I have to leave work slightly early to make a bus ride down there in enough time to get my time and money's worth of drinking, but also I had to be at work Wednesday morning.

I asked Nick if I was insane in thinking this, figuring he'd have some level-headed insight from two years of doing this exact commute. Instead, the answer I got was, "It's a once in a lifetime thing. It's going to be... something else."

Well, damn. I had to go if he was going to put it that way.

So after a brief period of agonizing and a lot of soul (and Priceline, Bolt Bus, Hotwire...etc.) searching I informed Mr. Jarrett that I would be in attendance with a simple, "Oh, shit, bus tickets have been bought."

Drink No. 1 of the evening

Drink No. 2

What followed was quite possibly the most terrifyingly awesome 5-6 hours I have ever spent in a bar. For one thing, for anyone who's been down to the Franklin, it's not a huge space. The bar is even smaller. EVERYONE WAS STANDING IN FRONT OF IT. There was a smattering of folks sitting at the little tables, but I haven't felt that sort of crowd crush's a tie between that time I saw Gogol Bordello at Terminal Five, and I'd say every Les Savy Fav show I've been to.

Shots, the only way to celebrate. There's more coming.

There was a strong New York contingent representing. It was kind of like a Boy Scouts jamboree, but, you know, bringing bartenders together. And I don't mean just people drinking, I mean folks behind the bar. Because, you see, apparently when Nick Jarrett works a last shift, he doesn't simply just work, he gets guest bartenders.

I waltzed blindly into the middle of this maelstrom close to 9 pm after my bus driver managed to get lost. Someone asked who the other guy at the bar was and I turned to see Brad Farran working behind the bar along with Jessica Gonzalez.

A quick sweep of the bar area and already I was spotting Frank Cisernos, Jason Littrell, Eryn Reece and Tonia Guffey, who hopped behind the bar with Damon Dyer. I was also running into people I'd met at Tales like Jonathan Armstrong as well as finally getting to introduce myself to Maksym Pazuniak.

The last thing you see before getting conscripted to dry shake

For anybody following me on Twitter, pretty much the rest of the evening was a blur. I wish I could be all professional and say "Oh, hey, guys. Here are some totally awesome drinks that I tasted. And, gee, wow, it was just so enlightening having all these bartenders in one place showing off their expertise and I was just simply honored to be there..."

Drink No. 3

This isn't one of those classy posts with edifying details.

Drink No. ??

Throughout the evening I noticed some of the bartender folks had little marks on the inside of their forearms. The ticks made by Sharpies corresponded to the number of shots taken by the individual throughout the evening. I really don't know how anybody was standing at the end of the evening.

When Nick called last call and the house lights came up it still took a good couple of minutes clearning everyone out of the place. While some people tottered off to the next portion of the evening, I had to call it a night. There was no way I was surviving a full day at the office without getting some sort of shut eyes.

As the crowd reluctantly dispersed out into the evening, a somewhat miraculously (and just barely) standing Mr. Jarrett also stumbled out.

I wasn't really seeing him off or anything since I could just see him in Brooklyn, so I wasn't sure how to say bye besides, "Sooo, yea, I guess I'll see you in Brooklyn?"

As he was about to be be folded into a taxi Nick made the effort to turn to me and declare as best he could, "I told'd be a once in a lifetime thing."

The last drink of the evening and The Aftermath

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tales of the Cocktail 2010: The science of drink

The other seminars I attended during Tales tended to be more of the geeky nature.

Umami in Cocktails (Thursday, July 22)
As usual, Darcy O'Neil's seminar was chock full of information. Information you wouldn't even think of asking about basic cocktail ingredients. I attended his seminar on sugars and sweeteners in cocktails that ended up making me feel like I was back in materials science class again, and this seminar was no exception.

- Umami isn't a strictly flavor concept. In fact, as far as flavors go, it's pretty damn subtle to notice. It's more of a response trigger. It activates a significant number of pleasure centers in the brain and it also produces a response in receptors that are present all along the GI tract. It is a flavor enhancer that produces a response of satiety in the body.

- As an amino acid, umami is usually present in foods that have been aged. For example, Parmesan cheese or aged steak are chock full of it. This is mainly because the amino acids of umami are produced in the breaking down process involved in aging.

- Possible umami sources for cocktails? Darcy served Caesars to those in attendance. Caesar, with both tomatoes and clam juice, feature umami quite a bit. Potatoes also possess umami, believe it or not. Darcy told the audience of how he tried to make potato water by boiling cubed potatoes, then taking out the potatoes and boiling the water to reduce for another 5 min. According to Darcy the resulting water started smelling like French fries. Oh, and Marmite. Lots of umami there to, which brings us to the recipe for Darcy's 5th Sense Cocktail:

1 1/4 oz. bourbon
1 oz. SerendipiTea green tea
1 barspoon of Maraschin liqueur
1 barspoon of Marmite syrup (made by simply mixing one generous tablespoon of Marmite into a cup of water)

The Hows and Whys of Cocktails: An Exploration of Techniques, Ingredients and Methodology (Friday, July 23)
So ever wonder why that gelatin foam doesn't last that long compared to the one made with egg whites? Audrey Saunders was wondering about that too when she was first coming up with the Earl Grey Marteani. The first incarnation of this drink had an Earl Grey tea foam made with gelatin that wasn't holding up too well. Wanting to know why, she posed the question on eGullet, which is how she got to know Howard McGee, author of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. The two were panelists for this seminar along with Tony Conigliaro.

McGee explained to the audience that foams are made of emulsifiers. The protein in gelatin differs from the protein in egg whites. the foam is weaker because the proteins do not bind as well as egg whites and are easily broken down by ingredients in cocktails like citrus or alcohol.

(Foam over time: Left, gelatin. Right, egg whites)

McGee went on to say that pasteurized egg whites you purchase from the store don't foam as well as actually egg whites taken from a raw egg.

There was a little bit of wink, wink, nudge, nudge joking considering The Pegu Club ran into a little issue with egg white use earlier in the year. Nonetheless, Audrey made certain to let the crowd know, "You cannot hop that youre eggs are good, you have to know your eggs are good."

Audrey ended up using egg whites for texture in the Earl Grey Marteani, and instead infusing gin with the tea.

Also, don't be too rough with your mint. When you start rough mint up, you get some of that plant-y flavor. McGee explained that the actual mint scent you get from mint comes from the little hairs on its fuzzy underside. You can try this out yourself by gently rubbing a mint leaf between your fingers and seeing how minty the scent is, versus actually crushing and ripping the leaf up and then smelling your fingers. Obviously, how rough you want to get with your mint can depend on what kind of drink your making.

The Science of Stirring (Friday, July 23)

Moderated by Eben Klemm, with panelists Thomas Waugh and Dave Arnold.

Eben started off by explaining stirring. he said stirring is "ineffectual shaking" if one simply takes into account chilling. However, other factors besides simply making a drink cold is why other techniques, like stirring exist.

Dave demonstrated this point with an extreme case of chilling down a drink, using liquid nitrogen.

Dave's tips for liquid nitrogen:

1. pour the liquid nitrogen into whatever you are cooling down, not the other way around.
2. Anything that's been frozen with liquid nitrogen can burn your tongue, so be sure to consume (or warn your patrons to consume) said item with caution.

The taste comparison was apparent. There was an oddly clean lack of personality to the drink frozen with liquid nitrogen, while the other had more of a something or other happening to it.

Factors that mess with stirring:

1. Speed of stirring
2. Surface area of the ice
3. Temperature of vessel
4. Temperature of the ice

Eben said through tests surface area of the ice has the biggest effect on temperature.

After some demonstrations and some talks about methodology used to measure the data, the panel called up people to the front to try out shaking, and several way of stirring, to see in real time how fast each method got liquids cooler. Shaking won out, but the audience also got the chance to come up and try out difference ice types and satisfy their own curiosity as well as ask the panel any questions they had on their minds about stirring and other stirring related items like ice (how wet? how cold? how big?).

Half the price of admission is to hear Dave Arnold speak, to be honest though. A blog entry seriously cannot do justice.

Tales of the Cocktail 2010: Go east, young man

I wasn't sure why Eben Freeman and Linden Pride's seminar on cocktails and Asia wasn't included in the professional track of seminars held on Wednesday (though I guess super early on a Thursday morning is close enough). While the topic did touch on flavors in Asia and how to use them in cocktails a bit, the two talked mainly discussed what they'd learned from the experience working the cocktail biz in Asia.

I have either heard of, read of or spoken to an decent number of folks in just the past year alone who have been to Asia either for consultant work or to work with brands and with a lot of the recent news about restaurants and chains expanding into territories like China (KFC, please come to the courtesy phone), it's not surprising that some people working in cocktails would be interested in heading out to Asia.

For example, Linden explained how in China there was a rise in service, design and cuisine.

Linden worked with Spice Temple in Sydney and had visited China to study local flavors and cuisines, as well as having worked with Mangkut Group with Eben doing beverage consultant work with numerous hotels.

Linden said that on the mainland, the market included consumers such as young, moneyed Chinese, young affluent locals who are returning from the West and foreign diners as well.

Combined with the Chinese dining culture where 'gaining face' is important through high-level spending for elaborate dinners, this means that not only is there a market for Western-food (and by extension, drink), but also for high-quality drinks crafted with both good ingredients and

These same group of consumers are also many times the same people you're going to be doing business with.

Eben said that anybody expecting to do business in Asia has to understand and respect the culture. For example, due to the way family relationships and businesses are structured, that means that many times you have a lot of young businessmen in their 20s who wield extreme power and wealth.

There are also those who have studied, lived or worked in the West and returned to their home country, and as potential business partners, they know how to both traverse traditional connections while doing business in a Western fashion.

Eben throughout some numbers that seem to point towards hotels as being the way. He also grabbed hotel numbers mainly because it's just too hard to accurately gauge the number of restaurants in such a huge and varied market as Asia. Especially when many of these restaurants are independents like mom and pop joints, hole in the wall neighborhood favorites or pop=up street stands.

Also, according to Eben, "Anyone going over for consulting is going to be with hotels."

According to his research, over 1,000 new hotels opening in China in the next 3 years.

- Starwood is opening 30 newly constructed properties in China for 2010.
- 664 new hotels will open in Asia in 2010.
- China will open 463 new hotels in 2010.
= India has highest number of pipeline projects, and 106 new hotels opening this year.

Bottle service is king and the market for Scotch whiskey is huge. Also the Asian palette is sensitive and discerning, at the same time, Eben explained that strong bold flavors in cocktails work better with the strong and bold flavors of Asian cuisine more so than delicate or overtly nuanced cocktails or wines.

For example, Eben said that Old Fashioneds have been highly popular when he's served it, because the drink has a balance of sugar and bitters (though Eben advised that people refuse from using the word "bitter" on menus or with drink descriptions). The market appreciates drinks with layers of flavor and even texture, like with egg white drinks.

"They don't like one note drinks, they're used to having a balance of many things in cuisine. Which makes them an ideal quality cocktail consumer."

Linden pointed out that in his experience, unfortunately, it's hard to utilize a lot of the flavors and fresh ingredients that are abundantly available in local markets when working with foreign-based business like hotels in Asian countries. Mainly because there maybe restrictions based on the food safety standards of a hotel that restrict the use of "unapproved" produce or ingredients.

Also the way that alcohol import works in a lot of Asian countries can be another hurdle.

But Linden advised that those who do get a chance to use local indigenous ingredients in their drinks should make sure they are using the ingredients in a "enlightened and not pandering way."

Friday, July 23, 2010

Drinking's dandy and all, but time for some food porn

or, 'What's with all the Dutch angles?' Look I was sitting at the table/bar business by the kitchen and I was trying to not bump into the people next to me, and that just makes it hard to control your angles know what, here's some pictures

Dinner at Cochon, Thursday night

Fried boudin with pickeled peppers

Hog head cheese, compliments of the kitchen. I haven't had hog head cheese in a while. My dad's from Mississipppi, so he used to love time he decided we should make some because he decided the stuff from the store was just not up to snuff. If you want your kids growing up not afraid of any protein ever, have them help you pull apart a boiled hog's head, and like go through picking out teeth and whatnot.

Spicy grilled pork ribs with watermelon pickles

Mac and cheese

Earlier (WAY earlier) in the day I had breakfast provided by the folks from Piedmont Distillers. Makers of Midnight Moon Carolina Moonshine. So when I saw The Boss Hogg on the drink menu, I had to give it a try.

The Boss Hogg - Midnight Moon Carolina Moonshine, Square One cucumber vodka, fresh watermelon juice

Tales of the Cocktail 2010: Cocktailing, serious business

For some session recaps: on Wednesday I sat in on some of the professional track seminars at Tales. The interesting thread that I noticed throughout the day was how many of the seminars were grappling with the realities of doing business in the bar and cocktail industry nowadays as cocktails are reaching sort of the Food Network high that foods have. It's hard to say whether the chicken or the egg came first, but pretty much more consumers are aware and no more about cocktails, more beverage companies are looking for mixologists to tie their products to and more restaurants and operations are looking for beverage talent to either serve or create the type of drinks that used to be limited to cocktail lounges.

In the face of this sort of saturation and knowledge in the market, it's proving that the previous path walked by restaurants and celebrity chefs can supply some answers.

I was most interested in the two seminars dealing with intellectual property and one about making deals and doing business.

When thinking strictly of recipes and whatnot, it can seem like protecting your ideas can be futile but the two seminars proved to be enlightening. While it is difficult, and there might not be a whole lot of foolproof ways to protect your ideas and techniques, that does not mean that a bartender, consultant, or mixologist has to just sit down and let there work be used any which way.

If anything, it proved that for those who want to make their career and livelihood in the beverage industry that is looking for more new ideas and innovations need to realize that they need to take smart steps to make sure they are being adequately compensated for the work that they do. It also seemed like those doing the hiring will need to start paying attention to the fact that the bartenders or consultants they hire will be looking to better guard their work. Operators could also take note with ways they can protect themselves as well. With bartenders moving in and out of locations, what's to stop a previous employee to walk out with an establishments bar menu?

Eben Freeman moderated the Intellectual Property seminar, with J. Riley Lagesen and Sheila Fox Morrison from the law firm of Davis Wright and Tremaine LLP. The thing that stood out to me the most about this seminar was how the questions from the audience spanned a variety of sources.

There were bartenders who wanted to know about protecting trade secrets, people starting concepts who wanted to know about trademarking drink names and or menu visuals, home bartenders who blog wanting to protect their recipes and even those who dabble in distilling wanting to know about whether their methods or techinques could be protected.

Lagesen and Morrison provided information about different laws that can and cannot provide protection as well as providing examples from the food service industry as some real world examples.

The four ways available to protect intellectual property, patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyright, each had their own levels of effectiveness and effort.

Patents are pretty tough, considering you need to prove that whatever it is you're trying to patent is either a) new, b) useful c) non-obvious. And those are tough things to prove when it comes to bartending.

Copyright protect expression in a fixed tangible media, so it may apply more to things like websites and blogs or actual book-like materials.

Trade secrets are the most underutilized, according to Morrison, but for one thing, it means you have to actually really keep something a secret or possibly having people you work with or hire sign non-disclosure agreements and the like.

As an example, Freeman asked about a bar manager that might make their own tinctures or bitters. Would they need an employee or anybody that works for them that they might teach the recipe to to sign a contract?

Lagesen answered, "You need to take reasonable efforts to keep it secret, and contract is pretty reasonable."

Morrison explained it's something done in the food business. A packet of cookie might require that the ingredients be laid out, but something like spice packets or flavorings, where even if you have an small amount of it, can be kept a secret. Like the Coca Cola recipe for example.

As an option, trademarking applies mainly to anything that's an identifier, like a name.

While recipes and simple bar practices might be tough to protect, Lagesen said the world of celebrity chefs at least provide some prior examples. For example, Wolfgang Puck built his restaurants and himself as a brand, and gained leverage in making business negotiations.

Just as star chefs and their restaurants are bringing recognition and clout for chefs, Lagesen said, he believed more bars owned by star bartenders would lead towards better conditions for compensation and protecting IP for mixologists and others in the beverage industry.

"It's all about branding.”

Morrison also suggested that people be careful about who they work with. Be selective and make sure anybody that they're doing deals with. In particular with concerns involving recipes submitted to brand competitions.

Freeman pointed out that, in particular with competitions, handing in your recipes means they can be used any which way by the company. Obviously, the stated rules of the contest will determine certain things, but it's a real possibility that any profit a company will make off of that recipe, the bartender will not see.

Another seminar of the day was all about making deals in the business and worked as a continuation of the IP seminar.

Chad Solomon and Christy Pope of the cocktail catering firm Cuffss and Buttons and also consultants with beverage company Liquid Relations, said too many times bartenders work on projects on a good faith basis.

Pope pointed out that it's a good idea to have a lawyer or at least someone legal-minded to discuss business matters with or go over contracts.

Ryan Magarian, president of Liquid Relations and co-founder of Aviation Gin, said he himself definitely takes time to go over contracts with a fine-tooth comb, after losing money from details that might simply be a line in a contract.

Pope added that anyone consulting should be mindful of all the costs and work going into consulting, which isn't limited to just working on a menu. If you're offering your expertise, technique, time, etc., all of these things are things you should be compensated for. "That's part of your intellectual property, your contacts, your time...A development fee upfront is something that we all need to start driving for the community as a whole.”

One of the important things to come out of the meeting was, whatever your deal may be, if your name is attached to the project in anyway, your reputation any future business can be affected by how the operation carries things out.

Lagesen pointed out how licensing and consulting agreements used by chefs, uses the name and likeness of the chef for properties. Like restaurants opened by chefs in Las Vegas. Chefs get an upfront development fee, and posisble other profit bonuses depending on the type of deal forged, but if a restaurant is not operating properly, it can make chef look bad. So taking into account things like being able to properly train staff and guarantee or maintain good quality are important things to keep in mind. This also means being mindful of who you go into business with.

Some red flags in deals that Lagesen pointed out were:

- Undercapitalized projects. Try to get paid upfront or as much as possible before hand
- If the project asks for too much of you in relation to branding value/compensation
- Broad non-compete provisions (Lagesen said this can sometimes be included in contracts as boilerplate clauses without much thought, so be on the lookout)
- People associated with deal have no established track record or a record with notable failures
- People associated with deal are known to have burned other before (do some background homework on the people you are going to work with)
- They're not willing to sign a written agreement
- Party's primary focus is shopping you on price (According to Lagesen, a bad sign of things to come sometimes)
- Party is unwilling to agree to basic tenants that permit you to perform your craft
- Just wanting recipes no training (going back to make sure that you can guarantee quality so that you're brand and name are not affected negatively with badly executed products or poor operations)
- Project requires you to sign a way a bunch of your rights