Friday, December 18, 2009

Favorite Bartender

Cocktail Kingdom has fired up a popularity contest.

Get to voting.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mixoligist=Sean Combs

To all those that call themselves mixologists, here is a new brother-in-arms for you.

Yes Diddy, you are a mixologist, but you are still working with Kool-Aid.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Shrub in the News

From my in box:
Win one of 1000 limited edition bottles of The Emperor’s Shrub punch from the Courvoisier Architectural Punch Bowl

Tickets to the Courvoisier Architectural Punch Bowl by Bompas & Parr totally sold out. The public exhibition at 33 Portland Place used innovative techniques and technology to flood the building with Courvoisier punch which visitors could raft across before having a drink. There were 4,000 litres of punch in the installation enough to serve 25,000 people.

Those who didn’t get a ticket can still have a historical taster by winning one of the 1000 limited edition bottles of punch which will be given away from a central London location on Wed 16th Dec. These will be the only bottles available anywhere in the world and for your chance to win a bottle of Courvoisier Emperor’s Shrub punch, simply email with your name, date of birth, email address, mobile phone number and where you heard about the competition. Please note that you must be over 21 years of age to enter the competition. The location will be divulged on the night of 15th December.

For a 360 tour of the installation check here:

For more on Bompas & Parr visit

Courvoisier Emperor’s Shrub Cocktail Recipe by Joe McCanta- Here’s what you will be drinking …..

• 2 parts Courvoisier Exclusif, specifically blended for mixing
• 1 part berry shrub with bilberries, raspberries, blackberries and elderberries, spices and vinegar
• 2 parts cranberry juice
• 2 parts pomegranate juice
This message was sent by: Bompas and Parr, 197a Southwark Bridge Road, London, UK SE1 0ED, United Kingdom

Monday, December 07, 2009

World's Largest Cocktail

Mr. Regan alerted me to this undertaking tomorrow in London.

Good luck boys.

Architectural Punch Bowl with Bompas & Parr from Sam Bompas on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Evan Zimmerman and Banana Consomme

I was recently in Portland for a the Great American Distillers Festival where the highlight was clearly the Oregon Bartender's Guild's cocktail competition...and not just because I was judging.

This was a massive undertaking over the course of 2 days with some incredible work by all involved (with the exception of the alcohol control Nazis.) My new friend Evan Zimmerman (the winner by the way) really blew me away with a banana consomme that he brought as a homemade ingredient. I asked him to share his technique and here is what he sent back. I think you will agree, he is one cool cat.

It's actually become a pretty common technique with chefs and shit. It's called freeze filtering and it involves adding a very small amount of gelatin to a cloudy liquid, freezing it, and then thawing it slowly in a fridge so the gelatin doesn't melt but the clear flavorful liquid can drip through. If you google freeze filtering you can probably find a great article written by Harold McGee for the New York Times from a few years ago. So basically what I did was purée a half dozen bananas with about 3 cups of water. I added a tiny amount of citric acid to preserve color and pushed everything through a chinois. I ended up with a liter of liquid and added to that .5% gelatin by volume (5 grams, 2 bloomed sheets of gelatin) by heating up about a cup of the banana liquid and melting the gelatin into it then stirring that liquid back into the rest of the mixture. Then I poured the whole business into a 6 pan and froze it overnight. The next day I took it out of the pan, wrapped the block in cheesecloth and put it in a perf pan over another 6 pan to collect the consommé. Put that whole thing in the walk-in and let it thaw for a day or two and the liquid slowly dripped out as the gelatin trapped all the particulates in the cheeseloth. It takes some time and the yeild isn't great, but you end up with a hunk of gelatin banana goo up top and clear banana consommé below. Recipe was 1.5 oz. Rye, 1.5 oz. Banana consommé and 4 drops of clove tincture. I've used the technique for all sorts of stuff as it allows you to make stirred drunks that contain traditionally opaque ingredients. Lime juice was a lot of fun for stirred Gimlets and Last Words as it creates a more lush and elegant texture in drinks that are usually shaken.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Drinking and Driving

Boudreau found this Bacardi ad and I think it is great.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bols Contest

Lucas Bols is hosting another cocktail contest and I can attest that the prize is well worth the homework they ask of you.



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sherry Invasion

Yesterday was clearly Sherry Day in San Francisco with Cesar Saldana, The Consejo Regulador (aka Head Sherry Guy), Steve Olson and Crew and the Sherry Council in town. We hosted an educational seminar during the day and I helped Tablehopper out with an underground supperclub style dinner at night.

James Stolich and his crew made a fabulous meal with some great tapas to start and Sherry in every course that followed. I made a batch of Sherry Shrubs to start which was cool, but I was quite proud of the closing cocktail, Barrel to Barrel.

It is a drink I developed for a wine barrel/whisky seminar I did at the Great American Distillers Festival in Portland a few weeks ago. The idea was to draw on the traditional relationship between Jerez and Scotland and the influence Sherry has had on the flavor profile of Scotch.

I think it's just dandy.

Barrel to Barrel
1 oz. Islay Single Malt
1 oz. Oloroso Sherry
1/4 oz. Nocino
1/4 oz. PX Sherry
cinnamon bitter (or Angostura)

orange peel garnish

James took a nifty video of me finishing the drinks and I promptly lifted it from his site. Thanks dude.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Derek Brown Speaks Truth

Great piece in the Atlantic.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Funky Pot Still Jamaican Rum

By Confucius' pointy beard, I love this bottle!

About a year ago I think, the intrepid Mr. Seed pulled a couple of rum samples of his legendary black bag (seriously, anyone who knows the man respects the hell out of that bag.) They were Jamaican pot still spirits that I had never heard of, each was pretty out-there. Full of tropical fruits and odd spices and above all else, funky. I really wasn't quite sure what to make of them. A few months later, on another visit, Mr. Seed , M. Cate and myself met for dinner and a new sample came out of the black bag of myth and fables, this time it was a blend and it blew us away.

We didn't have enough to make a drink, but we both saw and smelled truth in that little bottle. Well I just got a chance to make a drink with it tonight...and wow. I simple rum sidecar with it yielded incredible tropical fruits like mango, papaya and pineapple with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. The three of us that were tending bar were stunned.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Dealing with the Angostura shortage.

How a certain whiskey bar in San Francisco is dealing with the Angostura shortage.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Angostura Bitters Shortage

set-72157594584832755.jpg I have been off the blog for way too long as a result of some travel and a tech meltdown. Rather than try to catch up all at once, I am going to ease back into it at the regular pace.

So for today, lets talk Angostura bitters. I am quite surprised there is so little chatter about the what is going on in Trinidad and how it is effecting us. The short version is that the global financial crisis forced Trinidad & Tobago to bail out CL Financial, the parent company of Angostura, and it's bank in January of this year. This is after a few years of some aggressive dealing including the investment in the company that owns Appleton in Jamaica and a defunct distillery in Kentucky. My understanding is that the company was spending money it planned on making before the economy lowed and credit dried up. Apparently the books were so bad that the company had to be pulled from the stock market and has been in limbo.

What this means to us is that the one ingredient that is present in every bar that mixes drinks, Angostura bitters, has not been in production for almost a year. This clearly a very selfish view of things and in realty, I am pretty disgusted that the worker class folk that are responsible for our beloved cocktail bitters are suffering because of greed and mismanagement. The good news is that we might be moving towards resolution. An article last week in Newsday Trinidad says things might get straightened out soon.
This is a good thing. Major distributors on both costs have been out for awhile now and bartenders have been cleaning out corner liquor stores to keep the Manhattans flowing. Cocktail Kingdom has secured a good supply and I have it on good authority that BevMo (in California at least) has a solid source for the 4 oz. size as well. I believe I have about a year's worth stashed, but am still feeling a little nervous about it so I started a huge batch of homemade just in case. Here is the recipe that I based it on.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Islay Gears up to use Local Barley

The Laddie Blog based out of Bruichladdich shared some of their strategy for the future today. I have talked before about the importance they place on keeping every stage of the production on Islay (they are the only Islay distiller that bottles on the island and will remain so until Kilchomen comes on-line.) While it is undeniably cool, it is actually an important and integral part of their mission. It is important to me because their world view as it pertains to spirit jives right along with mine as it pertains to bar. When one talks to Mark Reynier, Jim McEwan or Duncan McGillvray, the team that heads production at Bruichladdich, about their whisky, you always end up talking about Islay. Just as when I talk about drinks, I focus on the people behind the spirits. They understand that they are creating more than bottles of booze, but that they are bottling the essence of their home for the world to share. The water (most bottles are 53% water), the air (as the spirit ages it takes on elements of the atmosphere), and now the earth are in there. For those skeptics and naysayers out there, just think about wine. Could you imagine a Burgundy wine-house buying it's grapes from Greece? Sure they could make wine out of those grapes, and probably some interesting stuff at that, but it certainly wouldn't be Burgundy. Well, most of the Scotch industry rely on foreign grain for their production. I find this a little disturbing when considering how much they charge for some of their juice.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

But is it Good for The Vegans?

There was a question on Jeopardy last night about weasel processed coffee beans. My girl B did some research and came up with this.

Nope, no thank you.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Make-Your-Own-Old-Fashioned Bar

I participated again last in SFChefs.Food.Wine in Union Square where I set up an Old-Fashioned bar. Rather than committing to one spirit, I decided to call upon my favorite producers and gather as big an array of whisk(e)y as the bar could hold. In the end I had a full 30 brands.

To compliment all the spirits, I went a little over on the bitters and sugar. In addition to Angostura, Peychaud's and Regan's, I brought 8 homemade bitters and tinctures. For sugar I had traditional cubes, Muscavodo, Rapadura, Agave Nectar, Lavender Honey and beautiful Japanese sugar that was light like confectioners sugar but tasted like cane.

I had this selection out front so guests would come up, I would hand them a glass and muddle and coach them through making and old-fashioned. We talked about the options and then I would cut ice chunks while they muddled and mixed. I went over pretty well if i do say so myself.

Keep Walking...

Rowley's Whisky Forge pointed me to a extremely well done short on the history of Johnnie Walker. The style is undeniably perfect as an ad, but I think it is more than a little ironic that Robert Carlyle seems to be walking out in the middle of nowhere at the end, much like the 400 former Johnnie Walker employee who were just laid off from the historic facility in Kilmarnock where the brand began.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Martin Muthagrabbin Cate!

I found the following in my inbox this morning. I hope this tingly feeling lasts all day.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA- Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco’s forthcoming destination for rum and exotic cocktails, proudly announces Eurydice, a new rum crafted exclusively for Smuggler’s Cove. Handcrafted by the artisan distillers of St. George Spirits in consultation with Smuggler’s Cove owner Martin Cate, Eurydice (yur-id-ih-see) is a completely unique rum. Eurydice starts with the fresh-pressed cane juice of 100% California-grown sugar cane. The cane, grown in Southern California, is harvested and crushed at St George Spirits’ Alameda facility where it is fermented with two strains of wine yeast designed to accent the fruit and floral notes of the cane. Eurydice is then distilled in an alembic pot still and aged in two different barrels: a re-toasted French wine cask, followed by a used bourbon barrel to develop subtle vanilla, brown sugar, and butter notes. The final product marries these characteristics to the light, dry, floral qualities of an agricole-style rhum for a unique rum experience.

Eurydice is a 100% California grown and produced artisan product. The name derives from Zerene Eurydice, the California state butterfly. Eurydice was produced in extremely limited quantities and will be available exclusively at Smuggler’s Cove when it opens to the public this fall.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

SFChefs.Food.Wine or What 4 Gallons of Shrub Looks Like

San Francisco is throwing quite a party this weekend and I am tending bar 2 or the 3 nights. I figured since I have been evangelizing the beauty of Shrub so much recently (the house the vinegar built?) that I had to bring some sweet, sweet burn.

What you are looking at is what happens when the forces of nature get busy with:
2 flats of beautiful Strawberries from Capay (I mean friggen BEAUTIFUL)
5 pounds of evaporated cane sugar
1 pound rapadura sugar (funky!)
2 gallons cider vinegar
black pepper
white pepper
Jamaican Sarsaparilla

Sunday, August 02, 2009


I have been having a little bout of fascination with an oddball bottle recently. Death's Door came to my market with their white whisky. My feeling is that this started as a lark. They were putting spirit in barrel, but wanted to see if they could sell some in the new-state (immediate gratification through immediate compensation.) I kind of like this lark though.

This bottle has caused quite a bit of confusion amongst my staff and guests which I really don't understand. When I introduce it, I say that it is whisky that has never gone into a barrel. Invariably the response I get back is, "Oh, like moonshine." For the life of me, I cannot see why unaged spirit is immediately associated with back-country contraband, but there you have it.

Here is the long story:

It is incredibly expensive to start a whiskey operation in America. Say you are really well organized and have a solid design and building team, it will take you a year to build facility. Say you are a genius and experienced at distilling and it only takes you 6 months to get consistent spirit flowing. Say now, you want to be traditional with your aging and release a very young expression at just 2 years old (which is generally not the best use of spirit). That's 3 and 1/2 years of spending money before you can even taste you stuff, let alone sell any. A tough business model by most standards. Even tougher when you consider that the US government essentially taxes the juice as it comes off the still.

So there are 2 routes the new American distiller can go to be viable. They can work out some way to speed up aging, like Tuthiltown (small barrels and sound waves) and Wasmund's (fruitwood chips.) Or they can sell unaged spirit in some form while their whisky ages. Until now this has given us just a wide selection of vodkas (yawn) and gins (yippee.) Death's Door has opened up what I think might be a new, emerging category.
Bring on the New Make Spirits! Christian Krogstad of House Spirits (one of the most knowledgeable distillers we have and an all-around nice guy) gifted me with some of his un-cut 'barley eau de vie' along with a smaller sample of some very young aged stuff a few months ago. The new-make is as grassy as it is grainy and reminds me quite a bit of Rhum Agricole. The slightly-aged is, well, pretty much the same with some color and and vanilla starting to show. Rick Wasmund has started selling his new-make Rye Spirit and even has a DIY age-at-home scheme which is pretty outstanding. There are also a few unaged corn-whiskies out there as well which tend to lean a little more towards the moonshine side of things than the eau de vie of grain side that these rest on. Sounds almost like a 'movement' doesn't it.

As I was writing this, I started to think about Scotland and the Bruichladdich X4. My week at the now-defunct Whisky Academy on Islay revolved around the somewhat dodgy quadruple distillation of this spirit and my class each went home with a flask of it (same sort of grassiness as the House Spirits flask.) I have seen that they are selling the X4 both as new make and as a very young spirit (not old enough to be called Single Malt Whisky yet) in Europe. As it turns out, their neighbors at the new distillery Kilchomen are starting to sell some new make as well. as well Glenglassaugh and Abhainn Dearg.

So now that's 4 from Scotland and 3 from the US with more definitely on the way. I am gonna go ahead and call it, the New-Make category is born.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

OBC: Other Blog's Content

This is the best Bottle Review I have read this year.

Sloshed just kills me sometimes.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Great Peruvian Pisco Ads.

The Pisco industry is poised to break bad in the US in the coming years. Here are some pretty great ads. Scroll down to the 'Not for Beginners' parts.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Expertvillage and ehow have done some stunningly bad work in reference to drinks in the past. I recently came upon a new series with a bartender named Micah. While he clearly in over his head in most of the segments (holding up a bottle of Jack Daniels while talking about Bourbon for instance) this one drives me absolutely nuts. Mostly because he is right.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I can't tell if they are going to kiss or fist-fight. Either way, this is a great video set that brings up some some important ideas.

The Master, Colin Field, makes a point at 3:35 on part 1 that makes my heart sing. Then he just plain crushes me at 2:20 on part 2.

Scoop...from Lenell Herself.

The following was forwarded to me from Mr. Ellestad... then found again in my spambox.

It's kind of like the first time I had the Hirsch 16. I am sad knowing it will end, excited to have experienced it and hopeful something like it will happen again.

Date: Wed, Jul 22, 2009 at 6:53 PM
Subject: The Scoop from LeNell

First of all, I want to apologize to any of you on my store email listwho had to read my latest news first on some blog or internet gossipsite. Without getting on a LeNell rant here, all I will say isbloggers should show some good Southern manners and use “May I?”before videotaping someone. To then post that video on their web sitewithout asking me just seems like there should be some sort of“etiquette” established. Everyone’s out for the news that gets theclicks. I’m just sayin’ shame, shame on you, Joshua Hoffman, for yoursecret video moves. I hope you show more respect next time.

Just so you know, I was composing an announcement to this email listwhen this blog silliness started. I was hurt that I didn’t even get achance to send my email to you first, but here goes now, a bitpremature, but at least from me instead of a blogger.

After searching for a new store home for quite some time, I’m officially giving up the hunt. Without boring you with details ofsituations considered, just know that I feel like I have doneeverything I could to secure a home that made good business sense.When I opened my shop, I never dreamed of it as a “flash in the pan”kind of business. I had hopes that it would become a legacy, alifetime work. I was hoping for the kind of biz that my kids wouldgrow up in and run someday should they want to. I say that to let youknow I was always shooting for hope that in a certain number of years,I would own my own space.

Several times I’ve considered just signing a lease to be in businessout of desperation. However, my goal has always been to find a homethat offered an opportunity for long term growth of the store, though.I didn’t need it to be a franchise in every state or a store that hadshopping carts with wheels. I am “mom and pop” kinda material thatneeds hope that the “family farm” ain’t walking away with the firststorm. Done a whole lot of soul searching about what I want out of allof this.

Basically I’m tired of the real estate rat race of NY, and it’s time to move on. Sometimes it takes more strength to move on than to hangon. I ain’t got nothin’ to prove to anybody any more, includingmyself. And that feels so good.

I did my duty to shut down the store not owing anybody anything. I did not close down the store with a million dollars in my bankaccount, but, my love tanks are full as I have met some of the mostcaring, gosh dang great people. And this ain’t the end of it.

I’m not giving up the booze business, of course. I’m writing articles, having a blast with the folks at AOL Slashfood, as well ascontinuing the research on the history of eggs in drinks for my book.I’m still teaching classes, hosting private events, guest bartending,and leading tastings. If I exist, I will be in this business invarious forms. I love it.

I love this City. We all know if you can make it in NYC, you can makeit anywhere. Coming home to that skyline brings a smile to manyfaces. I recently figured out that happiness can exist beyond thatskyline, though.

Yes, the rumor is true. For years friends have said to me, “Dang,LeNell. I don’t think any man will ever be able to handle you. You’refrightening.” Well, someone stepped up to the plate, and he proved hecan hang. His name is Demian. We’ve weighed options here, there, andeverywhere. Right as my last NY negotiation fell through, we found ahome for sale in Baja California Sur (that’s part of Mexico, by theway). We would like to explore possibilities of opening up a“getaway” place for folks but it’s too early to give too many detailsjust right now. I was waiting to send this email out later this weekas our first offer goes in today but the blog world has “called meout” to speak to you a bit prematurely. Dammit.

I’m still in NY working through the piles of details involved withshutting down a biz (for real) this time and an international move.Ben and I are working on setting up a new website where you can hearall the latest in greater detail. In the meantime, if you aren’talready on my “cocktail of the month” list, subscribe below for thefirst full length write-up that Demian and I worked on together thatwill go out shortly.

Over and over I've been touched by your loving emails, your sweetvoice mail messages, the hand written notes, the hugs, and all othervery real human connections we've made that makes it all worth while.Thank you for it all!

I'm excited to turn the page and start the next chapter. I hope youare somewhere in the story, too.

From the bottom of my sinful heart,LeNell

"To exist is to change; to change is to mature; to mature is to createoneself endlessly." - Henri Bergson

What the What?

I found this piece in the Village Voice today announcing that LeNell Smothers is moving her show to Mexico! Crazy news, if it is true. It does sound like something LeNell would say (if you are not familiar with her, get thee to google) but I really don't see it.

Also, LeNell did not distill her own rye as stated at the end of the article. She bought barrels at KBD and they bottled it under her label.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Johnnie Say It Ain't So

I feel like I have been bashing Diageo a lot lately and I want to assure my small, but no doubt, concerned readership that I do not, in fact, have it out for them. However, I was very disappointed to see the Scotsman report that the industry giant has decided to close the historic Kilmarnock plant. While I have not been a huge Johnnie Walker fan (I have tasted vintage bottles against the modern offerings...shameful), I am a huge fan of the Scotch Whisky industry and many people smarter than myself say moves like this are the beginning of the end.

It sames very odd to me that at a time when the are more Whisky drinkers than ever before and new markets are opening, the two biggest players, Diageo and Pernod Ricard, are consolidating.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Vintage Commercial

Someone calling himself barmanamok sent this gem to me.


Home From Tales

It felt like the last day of summer camp yesterday, well all wanted to the the party going, but were also quite ready to get back to our lives...and some more reasonable ambient temperatures. Tales of the Cocktail 2009 was every thing it should be, i.e. a complete mess. The schedules were ambitious at best, the drinks were exactly what most of us spend our days preaching against and brands reared their ugly sides repeatedly. However, going through all this with a couple of hundred of you closest friends is just plain priceless. Like last year, I will just list the highlights.

-Morgenthaler, Thrasher, Alperin (mohawked!), Wondrich, Kalkofen, Gonzalez, Clarke, Gomez and myself on stage.

-Luke, August and Chochon

-Raw tasting room (tremendous!)

-The mighty women of LUPEC (I say gawDAM, I love those girls)

-Beefeater & Hendrick's: Back-to-back great times

-Bee Sweet Cupcakes

-The boys from LA

-The folks from Seatle

-The fools from Portland

-The guys from Chicago

-My friends from New York

-All the people from San Francisco I have to to New Orleans in order to hang out with

-The perpetual meet-and-greet in the Monteleone lobby

-Late night at the Old Absinthe House

-all the stuff I missed but kept hearing about

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Everything is soaked with pisco.
- macmoore

Sent using only the power of my mind.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Does Diageo Think Americans are Bad Bartenders?

It seems they might. I have been very confused with some of the choices the company has made concerning the products it markets to us (do we really need multiple flavors of Rumplemintz?) However this recent decision blows me away.

Apparently, all over the planet, there has been an ongoing competition called 'We Are World Class" sponsored by Diageo's reserve portfolio (most of which I absolutely adore btw). They have a killer website, celebrity judges and a global scope to help them find what they call 'The World's Best Bartender.' Now we all know there is no such thing, but the prospect of competing in such an environment is thrilling.

There is just one problem for me.

They did not open it up to the US (at least that to my knowledge and I have been paying attention.)

So here goes my rant. The cocktail was invented here in the US. There is no way Diageo would have been able to stage a competition on the scale they did without the US market. Hell, 2 of the judges are American (or close enough in the case of Mr. Regan.) Lastly, I know it is horribly self-centered of me to ask it, but is it really a 'global search' if you do not look in the US?

What up Diageo?


I will repeat the line that is being posted on hundreds of blogs and facespace status bars this week: It's time for Tales again. I have a few Tales widows ask me to look ofter their leved ones while in New Orleans. I just want to let them and everyone know that makes absolutely no sense. I don't remember Saturday from last year...we are talking like 20 hours...gone. Pics like the one above prove I was there, but that is about as far as it goes.

Buckle up NOLA, the drinks dorks are coming home.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Aged Chartreuse.

The previous post on my old bottle of Yellow Chartreuse attracted some questions about the spirit aging in the bottle. I personally have not had the chance to sample anything vintage, but some good friends of mine have. The pics above are courtesy of David Nepove, who is basically the face of the San Francisco bar community. While I think these shots are from a trip he took awhile ago, he just went to the Chartreuse distillery in Grenoble a few months ago (that's where one of my elixir bottles came from.)

Anyway, on the question of bottling aging and vintages. There is a fairly significant amount of organic matter suspended in the spirit as evidenced by the color. Despite the high alcohol levels, this is going to undergo changes over time. Also, while it does not necessarily support the issue of aging, vintages are import to Chartreuse as the distillery has moved a few times over it's 400 year history due to things like avalanches, revolutions and world wars.

I remember talking with one of the owners of Chartreuse Diffusion, the company that exports the spirit, about vintage bottles and their attributes. I have an email into him for more info.

For now I will let Mr. Nepoves pics of the Chartreuse Cellar he was invited to drink in under a Michelin Stared restaurant in France.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Favorite Bottles: Vintage Yellow Chartreuse

Tim Stookey is a good man. Aside from incredible sense of style (the man lives the 40's, I mean LIVES them!) and his excellent taste in beverages, he is generous.

This vintage bottle of Yellow Chartreuse was a housewarming gift at our holiday party this past winter. It has a New York Tax Stamp but no date of any kind. However, being a 500ml bottle I can deduce that it was packaged between 1980 (when the US moved to the metric system) and 1989 (when 500 ml bottles were unallowed.) Since Chartreuse is one of the few spirits that do age in the bottle, I am quite curious to see what is happening in there, but I will wait for a deserving event to crack it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Favorite Bottles: Ardbeg Supernova, Advance Committee Release

Sometimes it pays to sign up for those news letters we get offered all the time. I joined the Ardbeg Committee a few years ago and have been quite entertained by the emailings that have followed. I was pretty disappointed 2 years ago when a special release was offered to European Committe Members and I, along with others, expressed our pain and were consoled with the bottle above. The Supernova is an over-peated version of Ardbeg that was laid down around the same time as Bruichladdich's Octomore. Happily they were both released around the same time as well, so no one is grumbling about who was first or anything like that.
My impression is that the Supernova is a little older as I pick up more more barrel than in the 5 year old Octomore, but there is no age statement so..who knows. Chances are that Supernova will become a regular bottling in the future, but these bottles (one to save, one for drinking) are definitely special and look awfully cool in my cabinet.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Favorite Bottles: Chief Wahoo Electric Tonic

In raised letters, the sides of the bottle read; Chief Wahoo Electric Tonic, Celebrated Remedy, Cathedral Brand, Walbridge Co., Dunsmr Cal..

So, while I know this is not really an antique (it was made in the 70's as sort of a gimmicky thing for gift shops) and that it is not even a replication of of an antique (Cathedral bottles were actual for pickles,) I still really like this Chief Wahoo Electric Tonic mini. I think just because it was the first old bitters bottle I found with the contents intact.

The tonic itself is not very bitter and pretty much just tastes of anise without much depth. I cannot find any relation to the controversial Chief Wahoo of Cleveland baseball but suspect their must have been a tie-in there somewhere.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Favorite Bottles: Rare Orange Bitters

I have seem to started a little collection of rare orange bitters and they all look pretty cool next to each other in the cabinet.

First up is Gordon's Orange Bitters. The label has no date, but the cap reads 'Made in Scotland' (the label reads Tanqueray, Gordon & Co. LTD. The Distillery, London, E.C.I. England.) I found this bottle in a gypsy market in Budapest so there really is no knowing how old it is. It is unopened and I have not gotten into it as it looks like it might no be resealable.

Second is Du Bouchett Orange Bitters made by Many, Blanc & Co. in Chicago Ill. I got this guy about half full so I wasn't afraid to open it for a's horrible. Again, no date of any sort, but it does have a Wisconsin Tax Stamp.

The little red guy is a Wheaton Horse Shoe mini called pure orange. Ingredients are listed as alcohol, water and oil of orange. I still tastes like orange oil too, but is pretty much gone at this point.

Finally, the blue dropper with the hand-written label is Jeff Morgenthaler's Madeira Cask-Aged Orange Bitters. I slipped this one into my pocket last year at Tales it makes for a great Manhattan.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Favorite Bottles: Elixir Vegetal de las Grande Chartreuse

This little guy packs quite wallop at 71% abv with incredibly intense aromatics. Serving suggestions include a few drops on a sugar cube and mixed with lots of water. I think it shows best when dashed into a glass of champagne.

It is unavailable in the U.S. and I have not seen in any European liquor shops either. This bottle, like every other I have seen, came from the distillery.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Favorite Bottles: Mt Gay Pop-Top

One of the managers at my place of employ recently returned from the Caribbean with a fun gift for me. It is plain old Mt. Gay, just in a rather serious little bottle. The combo of the slightly funnel shaped neck (ala Miller High Life) and the crown cap makes this opening this rum kind of a commitment. A big part of me wants to pop it, jam in a lime wedge and go sit on my roof for a the afternoon.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Nic Fix

There were many little things to get used to when I changed Coasts and moved to California 10 years ago. Perhaps the easiest of these was not cleaning ashtrays at work. The OSHA smoking ban was already a few years old when I moved here and had not come even close to D.C. yet. Guests smoking at the bar had never really bothered me much, but the cleaning ashtrays and the subsequently taring of my index finger was pretty gross. When smoking bans started spreading, I was very curious as to how it was going to go over in the more addicted markets. New York and Paris sprang to mind.

Well it seems some Brits are taking a mechanical approach to bringing back the old times. E-Lites are electronic nicotine delivery devices shaped to look like old-fashioned cancer-sticks.

Pretty damn silly....they will probably make millions.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009


There has been quite a bit of talk about non-traditional and mobile dining here in San Francisco recently. From temporary set-ups like Mission Street Food, grafEats and the Ghetto Gourmet to mobile food like the much revered Tamale Lady (Happy Birthday darling!) and Spencer on the Go.

Müvbox just plain blows me away however. A fully functioning restaurant in a shipping container. I love the look of the thing and am checking out what it would take to do a bar version.

Wally's Shopping Spree

What's one more flyer in your inbox?

Imbibe clued me in to a cool drawing for $1000 shoppping spree at Wally's Wine and Spirits. While I know I am ruining my chances of winning by helpingpublicize the drawing, I think it is very cool of them to offer it so I am supporting them.

p.s. The pic's have nothing to do with the contest. That is me garnishing a drink with bloomed basil seeds at a cocktail party hosted by Chandon at their winery in Napa. I just think it's cool.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Gods of Tiki Smile on San Francisco

I was sent the coolest press release I have seen in quite awhile today.




SAN FRANCISCO, CA- This fall, San Francisco will become home to Smuggler's Cove, a new bar designed to celebrate the incredible diversity and versatility of the world's most exciting spirit: Rum. Smuggler's Cove offers a whole new approach to rum by featuring a vast array of traditional Caribbean drinks, classic libations of Prohibition-Era Havana, and famous exotic cocktails from legendary tiki bars- all under one roof. In addition, Smuggler's Cove will offer an unparalleled selection of rare and premium rums from around the world carefully selected for enjoying on their own or skillfully blended into cocktails. For over a decade, owner and creator Martin Cate has been passionate about rum & tropical cocktails. He was the co-creator, designer and chief mixologist for Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge in Alameda, CA. He has judged in international rum competitions, met with over a dozen rum distillers in five countries, and lectured at Bourbon and Branch's Beverage Academy, Tales of the Cocktail, and Tiki Oasis. "I am very excited to help showcase this wonderfully varied spirit both on its own and in delicious cocktails. A great rum drink can be simple and elegant, or complex and dynamic, but it must always be balanced, approachable, and just a pleasure to drink," says Martin Cate. "Too often, people associate rum with syrupy and artificial drinks and we're here to change that." Martin has traveled the world to learn the rich history and explore the traditional spices and regional ingredients of the world's rum producing countries in order to feature them in the cocktails of Smuggler's Cove. As an award-winning mixologist and member of the United States Bartenders Guild for the last four years, Martin is committed to using only the best quality spirits, fresh-squeezed juices, and housemade ingredients. But while Martin is serious about the drinks, he knows that people are looking for a memorable and fun experience as well. "Smuggler's Cove will be more than just a tiki bar, but it will feature the kind of dramatic, mysterious, and escapist atmosphere that makes a tiki bar so special- and makes rum taste better!" Smuggler's Cove will include waterfalls, vintage nautical décor and rum memorabilia, and relics from some of San Francisco's most famous historic watering holes. Smuggler's Cove will open November 2009 in San Francisco, CA.

For more information, please visit and sign up on our mailing list to get all the latest news.

Blind Punching

Jacob Briars and Naren Young have teamed up with Leblon Cachaco again for a second pilot for their Happy Hour TV show concept. Jacob ends up making a punch blind-folded (for no apparent reason other than that it is funny.) I think it is pretty funny.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ringling was Rye Man

The Wall Street Journal ran a cool piece on the personal rail cars of two prominent Floridians, Henry Morrison Flagler (railroad guy) and John Ringling (circus guy.) I liked the following bit.

Taylor Gordon, Mr. Ringling's valet and steward on the Wisconsin (he later became a singer and part of the Harlem Renaissance), recalled his days aboard the car in his memoir, "Born to Be." "[Ringling] gave me orders to get the car in shape . . . and stock up heavy with special things like Pilsner beer, Poland Water and White Rock; special foods like Virginia Hams and Summer Brothers' products that could not be brought on the road -- also liquors." (From a bill of lading for the Wisconsin's inaugural journey, we know that Ringling preferred rye whiskey.)

Me too folks, me too.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Simon is Classy Again.

Mr. Simon Difford had a big 4th quarter this past year. The UK drinks writer launched his iPhone app and was able to buy back control of CLASS magazine. Well his relaunch is in full swing and I encourage all American drinkies to subscribe to the digital version while we await an avenue for subscriptions on our side of the pond.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009

SF Cocktail Week

San Francisco Cocktail Week upon is...adjust yours lives accordingly.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Great Odin's Ravins! How Much is that Savoy?

The Savoy.

Many barmen refer to Harry Craddock's book this way which may seem diminutive when written, but is clearly reverential when one hears a practitioner utter it. It was first published in 1930 London, as American prohibition was coming to an end so it was positioned perfectly to be an authority when all hell broke loose 3 years later (presumably, I actually have no idea how quickly real cocktails got going again.) Bay Area cocktailian Erik Ellestad has made such a name for himself just by drinking his way through the book, that he has been referenced in the NY Times.
I found my 1st edition at a street sale in Richmond, Virginia about 10 years ago. I don't remember how much I paid for it, but it wouldn't have been more than $10. I have since bought a few more later printings so that I could read them without fear of degrading my original. Still, I like to look around the web every now and again to see what copies are going for.

This one popped up today.

$984.49! The worst part is that someone is actually going to pay for it.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Mexican Standoff and Hellfire Bitters

One of my coworkers, Matty Conway, came up with a tremendous (and does not lead to the other unfortunately) cocktail called the Mexican Standoff.

2oz. Chichicapa Mescal
1/2 oz. Averna
1/2 oz. Creme de Cacao
Hellfire Bitters

This is one of those lusty drinks composed of the bold flavors that stomp their feet more than they dance around the glass. I think it is well-named in that there is an inherent tension between two of the modifiers, Creme de Cacao and Hellfire bitters. A 'sweet chocolate staring down hot chilies across a smoky field,' kind of thing.

Anyhoo, the Hellfire Bitters used here have been a pretty hot topic of conversation recently (pun totally intended.) I first heard the name Hellfire in Baltimore at an ancient Fell's Point saloon called the Seafarer which closed a few years ago. The barman at the time was a huge white-haired, white-bearded slinger who had purportedly started working at the bar when he was a teenager, and never left (he was clearly in his 60's.) I was asking him about the trough down where the rail usually is on the patron side of the bar as I was freshly legal and had not seen such a thing before. Like any self-respecting young American male when faced with a vintage fire pole, car or pissoir, I asked if it still worked and that got us to talking. Or him to teaching really.

One of the few but incredible topics covered was a drinking tradition that was dying out when he was young. It involved men betting about how many hits of 'Hellfire' or 'Hot-Drops' they could handle in their beer. I had always assumed he meant some sort of pepper vinegar or hot sauce until I read Eric Ellestad of Underhill Lounge talk about Charles Baker's Hellfire Bitters. As I have never been, nor ever will be, good at following recipes, I started working on my own Hellfire three years ago.

The gist of the formula is coffee and jalapeno. I do add a couple of other things for depth, but will leave those up to your imagination. It usually takes a solid month for full extraction, but the Chronicle wanted a version that could be made at home in time for Cinco de Mayo as that was the reason behind the whole piece. After some experimentation both on my part and by Jon Bonné, a quick method has been discovered. I pronounce it...pretty good.

1 medium jalapeno pepper
2 ounces white rum
1 ounce (by volume) ground espresso or other coffee
1 ounce water
Instructions: Muddle the entire pepper, including flesh, seeds and pith, in a small saucepan. Add rum and continue to muddle until pulpy. Add ground espresso and water. Heat, covered, over very low heat for 10 minutes, minimizing the evaporation of the rum. Remove from heat, cover tightly and cool. Transfer the mixture to a small glass jar and cover tightly. Let sit at room temperature for at least six hours, preferably a day or longer. The longer it sits, the more intense the flavors will be. When ready, strain the mixture through a double-folded cheesecloth or coffee filter and pour into a small bottle.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

A Real Barman

I am a little bit of a news junkie and like to have CNN on while I go over my news bookmarks online. Today CNN flashed a brief piece on Doc Hendley, a barman in North Carolina who is appears to me, to be quite a guy.

His organization, Wine to Water, is righteous and I love the connection he is making. I encourage you to take a serious look at his program and consider supporting it.

Friday, May 01, 2009


This are the last ads I will post for awhile I promise.

I saw this and was kind of surprized the boys could get away with having Absolut's name on them. Then I read that the brand actually paid for it.

Very, very odd.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Another Vintage Ad

The hits just keep on coming.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Great Gin Ad

I was messing about on youtube and happened upon this Red Skelton bit. It just plain kills me.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What the What?

I don't see no disitillery, do you?

I was a little shocked to read of a new Islay Malt, Port Askaig recently. I was fortunate enough to tour the little town briefly (chauffeured by Jim Mcewan no less!) a few years ago and I certainly didn't see any distilleries. Plenty of sheep, no whisky.

The Whisky Exchange (happy birthday by-the-way) explained it on the their blog..kind of. The bottle looks very Ardbegy, but the descriptions paint the picture of Bunnahabhain. I always get a signature cinnamon/citrus hit with the Bunnahabhain that is absent in the rest of Islay and makes it pretty easy to peg.

Port Askaig is pretty exciting as the distillery bottlings are all chill-filtered (i.e. neutered) and do not compare the few independent bottlings that make to California. Here's hoping that some of these bottlings make it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Yuzu Juice!

I have been more than a little bummed about the short Yuzu season this year. I got less than half than my allotment from last year and it was a little more pricey. The fruit was great and my Yuzucello is aging well, but I will not have much of it.

Today I received a nice little sample pack from VegeWorks with some interesting ingredients from Yakami Orchards, a Japanese citrus grower and processor. In addition to juices pictured above, the was a small jar of Yuzu Marmalade and it is fantastic. I have always been more impressed by Yuzu zest than the juice and this stuff highlights those qualities, playfully bouncing between lemon and tangerine with just enough mustiness to tantalize. I shook up a nice scoop with some gin and topped it with soda for a banging collins-type drink.
Conclusion: Yuzu Marmalade is a great move for those in need of an exotic citrus fix.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Knot

I just revisted a great ad campaign that came out a few years ago but never had any real traction. To be honest, the juice itself doesn't have anything in common with the style of these ads, but I still find them hilarious.

Monday, April 20, 2009


I don't know about this.

Friday, April 17, 2009

For Articles This Time.

While the production value isn't quite what it has been in the past (yes, you just took a picture for Playboy Justin!), Playboy's top 10 Bartenders for 2009 are some mighty fine picks. I congratulate my friends Joel, Jeffrey, Joaquin, Jamie and Toby and I like forward to knowing the rest of this A List soon.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bitters Blending Day!

Barguy to Sous Chef: "Hey Cory, do you know what today is?"

Sous to Barguy: "No man, what's today?"

"It's Orange Bitters Blending Day!"

"I don't know what that means, but it sounds awesome!"
Yes my friend, yes. It is awesome.
Three years ago I started making orange bitters with the peels of the Navels and Valencias were were using for OJ. It was a simple affair of rum and orange zest, nothing else. It was good, but not better than a nice healthy orange zest over a drink.
In 2007, wanting more depth, I started with a plan and began infusing peels of different orange varieties as they came into season. The process went from November to December and it provided for a much more layered bitters that we have been quite happy with. I labeled it as an 07/08 vintage and it has served us well. It has also come to an end.
As the last bottles dwindled this week, I have been growing nervous about this season's infusions. Again, I started in November but broadened the range of fruit and kept shaving peels right into February. I just kept layering new varieties of orange peels on top of the old in the infusion jars. I varied the spirit, using rum and neutral grain and to keep things extra lively, I also added coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, white pepper and some rangpur zest. Was it ready? Well, it had to be, we were almost out of the previous vintage.
I keep a cache of tinctures for when I blend big batches like this in case any one element needs bolstering (clove, cinnamon, sarsaparilla, etc.) I am happy to say that I only needed to add a few ounces of quassia tincture to get the 08/09 vintage up to par.
I collected the making tape I used for labels on the infusion jars and here is the record of peels;
Clementine, Page Mandarine, Moro Blood, Maltese Blood, Bream Tarroco Blood, Navel, Cara Cara, Tangelo, Tangerine, Calamandini, Kumquat, Seville, Bergamot and Valencia.
The yield was a little over 17 .750 bottles and I couldn't be more pleased.

Hercules Found!

If you have not been following the intrepid Mr. Ellestad in his survey of the Savoy, I highly suggest you amend your ways. Aside from the obvious coolness of his steady path through the book, he has come up with some great observations concerning lost ingredients.

This recent post sheds some fine light on Hercules, a bottle I have been wondering about for years now.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Vegetarianism and Stuff

Camper is ...well...Camper just is sometimes.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Tonga in the Times

Sweet Fancy Moses! How do we get Martin Cate to head up a revamp of the Tonga Room.

Back in March, the SF Chronicle broke the news (to me anyway) the Tonga Room was doomed.

My main man Nate Dumas from PDT and The Clover Club in NYC was visiting and we went up for one last Scorpion Bowl (beautifully horrendous.)

Today, the Times revisited the subject...with pictures even.

Am I the only one that sees the recently barless Martin Cate as our last, best hope for the Tonga Room.

I am starting a damn Facespace group!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Two New Cocktail Mag's Launch

Apparently spring is a good season to launch your beverage mag. I was alerted to two different launch parties this month for adult beverage based periodicals.

I met Daniel Jaffe in New Orleans last year in front of the Old Absinthe House at around 4:00 in the morning and vaguely remember calling him nuts for getting into the printing business in the Internet age. Nonetheless, his Drink Me has launched...and I pronounce it cool.

I met one of the guys from Mutineer Magazine in L.A. at the American Food and Wine Festival on the back lot at Universal Studios. Again, both publisher and barman were a little into our respective cups and I vaguely remember him asking me to write for him. Somehow he has been able to launch without me.

I think these guys are great. Other than Imbibe (which is 1 or 2 years old I think) drinks coverage has been coming in the form of Newspaper columns and piggy-backed into food and lifestyle magazines. This new breed of drinks publishing is pretty to look at, more than a little irreverent and just plain fun to read.