Friday, July 28, 2017

:: best of tales and nola 2017 ::

On Monday, I got back from my 6th Tales of the Cocktail conference since my first in 2009. I was not intending to go to Tales this year in order to free up my days off to visit another city and event, but I was invited in late February to fill in for a seminar speaker. After a few days of discussing how I fit into the talk, I quickly agreed and requested the time off. Several people asked before and during if I was supporting or selling my new book, Boston Cocktails: Drunk & Told; the answer was no, but feel free to support it now on Amazon or via the links in the upper right of the blog page. Just as every year is a bit different where I ended up spending my time, I did wind up in the Bywater for food, drink, and entertainment several times (as opposed to only once for a night event last year). The koi in the Tales symbol that I crafted were part of the art that is spread throughout this region, so I co-opted them for the 2017 Tales posts here. Without further ado, here are some of my best moments of the week:

Giving a seminar at Tales! While I have given talks at Portland Cocktail Week, Barbara Lynch's Stir classes, and the BCA drink series, I have never given a talk to this many people before. The worst part was the night before when I was so concerned about waking up for my 10:30am time slot on Saturday morning that I set three alarms; if I missed my flight home, there would be another flight, but if I missed the talk, that was it (I originally wrote this up as "The biggest overkill at Tales"). In the end, I didn't need any of the alarms since I slept poorly and woke up early on my own. So I got breakfast, took a walk, and got into a good mindset. I figured that my time slot would be 10-15 minutes at the end to tie Loyal Nine's bar program into Colonial cocktails of the past. However, the other speakers ended sooner leaving me with a bit of time to fill, so I ran with it and told some humorous stories along the way. I'll post my notes on it in a few days.
Best talk at Tales: Making Money while Breathing Fire by Zach Patterson, JJ Goodman, Adrian Biggs, and John Lermayer. Not flaming liquids but how to provide hospitality as well as service. Between beginning with punk rock tunes, one of the presenters drinking too much product from the energy drink sponsor, a Piña Colada toast while everyone stood and sang the Escape (The Piña Colada Song), and John Lermayer nailing complicated concepts succinctly, this was truly high energy and entertaining. I'm definitely writing up this one too.
Great talk trend: Female presenters! Yes, my talk like many was guilty of being all male; in fact 7 of my 11 (including mine) were all male. Four were not and were all 50-100% female presented/moderated: Eight Flavors, the Floor Staff, From Dunder to Wonder, and When Good Beer Goes Bad.
Best science-y talk: From Dunder to Wonder with a MIT Media Lab professor who did gas chromatography-mass spec analysis on rums and the panel utilized the room to rate the rums for funkiness; such data could get at which molecules and where in the process funk (or flavors and aromas perceived as funky) comes from.
Great bonding moment: Jews & Booze. Besides a great history, it was good to reconnect with my people even if I am not religious or practicing in anyway. Sipping on I.M. Harper Bourbon that was created by I.M. Bernheim back in the day was not bad either.
Favorite night event: Los Altos Tequila's LuchaSlam with Mexican-style wresting, Tequila Cazadores' Bartending Boxing with 4 representatives each from Houston and Los Angeles duking it out after 3 months of training, and Jägermeister's Deutsch After Dark with Mix Master Mike, Grandmaster Flash, and Kurtis Blow. All 3 of these had something to watch and were more than "here's a pretty room, some booze, and we're definitely going to blare music at you as you figure out what to do with no structure."
Favorite night time hang: Two years ago it was the Avenue Pub, and last year it was Barrel Proof; while I did make it over to the latter once, I spent a lot more time at the Black Penny. One part for its location being closer to the Monteleone where I was staying and one part because it had a low-key low-music volume industry bar hangout.
Favorite tasting room: On the small scale, it might have been Pisco with Brother Cleve DJing and bartenders like Jackson Cannon making drinks. On the large scale, the Meet the Distillers happy hour was great too with a variety of spirits and a few beers and wines. From big guns like Beefeater down to a small microbrewery that opened called Parleaux. The latter was so cool that I stopped by on Sunday to enjoy more of their beers.
Favorite new restaurant: Sneaky Pickle out in the Bywater which is a vegan place that will add meat (they prepare the meat ones in a different part of the kitchen) and makes a lot of their own ingredients. For breakfast, it remained Surrey's. And this year there was a Subway Sandwich Support Group that formed led by Camper English (I only ate there twice this year when in a hurry but it was better than not eating lunch at all).
Boston! Boston had a good showing in attendance as well as awards. Hawthorne and Misty Kalkofen got the prize at the Spirited Awards for hotel bar and brand ambassador, and Kitty Amann got inducted into the Dame Hall of Fame. There were also bartenders from Deep Ellum, Lone Star, Brass Precinct, Backbar, Brick & Mortar, Spoke, the Rising, Baldwin Bar, Russell House Tavern, Yvonne's, Area Four and A4cade, Automatic, and Cultivar. A lot of Boston was also volunteering!
Favorite spontaneous moments: As pictured above, bumping into the Backbar & friends posse on Tuesday and getting invited along to hit the highs and lows of drinking in the French Quarter ranging from the the Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel to the wonders of Bourbon Cowboy with Cane & Table (above) and dinner and Tiki drinks at Latitude 29 in between. My contribution was a round of beers at the Black Penny. Also, when I mis-remembered the date for the Bartender Boxing event, I was coming back to the Quarter and bumped into Tad Carducci in front of Compere Lapin who invited me to join their Diplomatico Rum bus bar crawl. I agreed and was whisked away to The Cure where I had wanted to go anyways (it's 3+ miles out).
Weird but awesome marketing: Two different times I got back to my room at the Monteleone and there was swag left there. Everything from Red Bull to Genever, Q Sodas to tickets for a free Martinez or bourbon drink at the Carousel bar. Not sure if housekeeping was involved or whether they had access. It was good-strange like clowns making balloon art of your favorite animals.
Favorite hangout moment: I was invited to Jake P's Sunday Salon which was in part to help him get rid of the booze and wine he brought along for the week. So many waves of interesting people came through during and after Pig & Punch.
Best way to round out Tales: My 2015 Cynar cabin counselor for Camp Runamok, Steve Yamada, organized a karaoke night at Kajun's Pub out in the Bywater. It started with the two of us and Steve's brother, and with some Facebook messaging, it grew to us taking over about half the bar.

creole sazerac

1 2/3 oz Rhum Clement VSOP (Rhum Depaz)
1/3 oz Rhum Clement Creole Shrubb (Cointreau)
3 dash Peychaud's Bitters
1 bsp Simple Syrup

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass rinsed with Green Chartreuse. Garnish with orange oil from a twist.

Two Fridays ago, I rediscovered a post by Gary Regan about Sazerac variations while searching for another drink that paired rhum agricole and Green Chartreuse. The Sazerac riff that I selected from that article was the Creole Sazerac that was different from the recipe of the same name from the Death & Co. Cocktail Book. This one was created by Tim Judge while in India when he was discussing the influence of France on cocktails. Here, three French-influenced spirits play a role: rhum from Martinique, Chartreuse from France, and Peychaud's Bitters from a Creole pharmacist.
The Creole Sazerac began with orange and grassy herbal aromas that led into a rich orange sip. Next, the grassy rum began the swallow that ended with Peychaud's anise spice.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

la salle

2/3 Rye Whiskey (1 3/4 oz Old Overholt)
1/8 Sweet Vermouth (3/4 oz Cocchi)
1 dash Crème Yvette (1/4 oz)
1 dash Picon Bitters (1/4 oz Torani Amer)
1 dash Absinthe (2/3 bsp Kübler)

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Two Thursdays ago, I was in need of a nightcap after my bar shift at work. When I began flipping through the list of tagged recipes in Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933, the La Salle as a Manhattan variation called out to me. The name reminded me of the Cocktail à la Louisiane riff, the Cocktail à la Salle, that I created substituting tequila and Oloroso sherry for the rye whiskey and sweet vermouth, respectively. The La Salle that I paid tribute to their was Robert de La Salle (a/k/a René-Robert Cavelier) who was a 17th century French explorer who ventured into the Gulf of Mexico and then up the Mississippi river through what is now New Orleans. The Pioneers book did not provide any information as to whom or what this particular recipe is named after, but considering that this appears like a Manhattan riff, it could be named after the La Salle Academy in Manhattan that opened in the 1840s.
The La Salle greeted the senses with rye, dark orange, and anise aromas. Next, grape and a hint of caramel on the sip was followed by rye, berry, floral, and orange flavors on the swallow with an anise finish.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


3/4 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz Orgeat
2 oz Gin (Beefeater)
2 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Shake with crushed ice and pour into a Double Old Fashioned glass (shake with ice, strain into a DOF glass, and fill with crushed ice). Garnish with an edible orchid and cherries (mint and honeysuckles).
On a Reddit thread, I was reminded that I had not made the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a from the Smuggler's Cove book, and two Wednesdays ago, I decided to rectify that. The complex name is a tribute to the traditional name of the reef or wedge-tail trigger fish that became the state fish of Hawaii, and that name might be the longest word in the Hawaiian language. Bartender Marcovaldo Dionysos' recipe joined the Saturn and the few other gin-based Tiki drinks in the literature. Once in the glass, the aroma was mint and floral from the garnish. Next, the creamy sip shared lemon and pineapple notes, and the swallow gave forth gin, nutty, and anise flavors.

strangers with candy

1 1/2 oz Cynar 70
1/2 oz Giffard Banane du Bresil
1/2 oz Orgeat
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1 Egg

Shake once without ice and once with ice, strain into a rocks glass, and garnish with 3 drops Peychaud's Bitters.

For a post-dinner drink at Estragon, I was lured in by an egg drink called Strangers with Candy. Sahil Mehta described how this combination came across like a banana milkshake, and he named it after the television show on Comedy Central. I was unsure whether the citrus in this combination negated it being a Flip or whether designations like Royal Sour existed like they do for Fizzes. Regardless, I was definitely game to try this weird Cynar drink especially since crème de banana worked so well with that amaro in the Banana Cup #1.
The Strangers with Candy began with a banana and anise aroma that later gained more almond notes on the nose. Next, a creamy and tropical sip gave way to funky and banana flavors merging into a nutty almond on the swallow.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

poet & the peony

1 oz Fernet Branca
1 oz King's Ginger Liqueur
1/2 oz Passion Fruit Syrup
1/2 oz Lime Juice

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail coupe.

Two Tuesdays ago, Andrea and I made our way over to Estragon for dinner. For a first drink, Sahil mentioned that he had all of the ingredients this time to make a cocktail that I had previously desired called the Poet & the Peony. The drink name stems from Estragon's owner who is a published poet; despite her not being a fan of Fernet Branca, she rather enjoyed this combination. When I inquired about the peony aspect, Sahil alluded to the drink being rather aromatic and he relied on alliteration as his naming salvation.
The Poet & the Peony offered Fernet's menthol note to the nose. Next, tropical fruit and lime on the sip led into Fernet's sharp herbalness tempered by passion fruit flavors on the swallow with a ginger-menthol finish.

Monday, July 24, 2017


2 oz Punt e Mes
1/2 oz Rittenhouse Rye
1/2 oz S. Maria al Monte Amaro
1 pinch Salt

Stir with ice, strain into a rocks glass, and garnish with orange oil from a twist.

Two Mondays ago, I ventured down to Eastern Standard for dinner. For a drink, I asked for the Danube that was subtitled "you spin me right round" that I interpreted as symbolic of its Inverse Manhattan variation structure. If it were served on the rocks with the pinch of salt on top of the ice, it would also fall into the Little Giuseppe family for me. What I did not realize until later is that I had drank the Danube back in 2011 with a different liqueur; instead of the Fernet-like S. Maria al Monte, Kevin Martin's original utilized Zwack after he returned from Hungary to visit the Zwack family and their distillery. The name also makes more sense with Zwack for the Danube runs through Budapest near the Zwack distillery and not near Italy.
The Danube made this way shared an orange and caramel aroma that led into a grape-driven sip. Next, grape and herbal flavors on the swallow gained rye spice as it warmed up. Given the sizable bitter dampening effect from the pinch of salt, the S. Maria al Monte was quite tame and unrecognizable in this mix, but it did contribute herbal notes to complement the Punt e Mes; the original with Zwack retained its spice notes despite the salt though.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

cable car

1 1/2 oz Captain Morgan Spiced Rum (Kraken)
3/4 oz Marie Brizard Orange Curaçao (Cointreau)
1 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass rimmed with cinnamon sugar (about 20:1 cane crystals to Vietnamese cinnamon). Garnish with an orange twist (clementine).

In thinking about Tales of the Cocktails past, I recalled many of the great bartenders that I had the privilege of making me drinks at the Diageo Happy Hour. The Happy Hour was held the first three years I went to Tales (2009-2011) in a different museum each year with 60 bartenders and writers making drinks of theirs. This included bartenders like Joaquin Simo and writers like Wayne Curtis who I had never had the chance of meeting in person before. Somewhere between then and my next Tales in 2015, that event went away and Diageo was throwing large themed parties with games and mechanical bulls instead. One drink that I recalled was one that I never wrote about called the Cable Car by Tony Abou-Ganin that he created for the Starlight Room in San Francisco back in 1993; I was able to fetch this recipe from Robert Hess' The Essential Bartender's Guide to recreate the drink that Tony served to me back in 2011. Hess' book provided the history of, "This drink's name comes from the geography of the its house of origin.... One of the city's landmark properties, the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, is located along the famous Nob Hill cable car tracks."
Essentially the drink is a Rum Side Car which was bolstered that year by attending Robert Hess' talk on Embury and the Side Car. I updated some of the ingredients for quality, but I kept the sweeter-than-preferred balance intact (especially with the sugared rim which I do not mind when the drink is on the tarter side). Once prepared, the Cable Car shared an orange and cinnamon bouquet to the nose. Next, a sweet lemon and orange sip transitioned into dark rum and spices on the swallow. Put into perspective of when this drink was created 24 years ago, it is a solid tribute to classic mixology even if it might seem less flashy than many of the drinks of today. Probably that lack of flash is why I never wrote up this drink back in 2011 given all of the other drinks I had to chose from at that Happy Hour, but it is one of the few that I can still recall to this day from that event.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

new idea

1/2 jigger Sherry (1 1/2 oz Lustau Amontillado)
1/2 Gancia Vermouth (1 oz Cocchi Sweet)
2 dash Pineapple Juice (3/4 oz)
1 dash Picon Bitters (1/2 oz Torani Amer)

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
When I got home late from working a private event at the restaurant, I desperately needed to treat myself to a nightcap; however, I also had to get up a few hours later to open the bar for brunch. Therefore, I looked to the fortified wine section of Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933 for a low-proof solution. In those pages, I was lured in by the New Idea which split the base between sherry and vermouth and accented the combination with pineapple and Amer Picon. I interpreted the sherry and vermouth calls as Amontillado and sweet vermouth and balanced the drink accordingly. Once in the glass, the New Idea proffered a nutty sherry and dark orange bouquet. Next, grape with some pineapple notes on the sip led into nutty sherry, earthy herbal, and orange flavors on the swallow.