Thursday, July 30, 2009

Manhattan Cocktail Classic

It's hard to get the best-known New York City drinks people together in one room in the city - to have a cocktail with my neighbor Dave Wondrich, I usually have to go to San Francisco or New Orleans. But thank goodness for the much-talked about Manhattan Cocktail Classic, a multi-day event celebrating the history, contemporary culture and craft of the cocktail, which will be making a not-so-dry run this fall on October 3 - 4 in preparation for the full-tilt boogie version set for next May. Part festival, part fete, part conference, part cocktail party, the event will bring together the talents of the bars, bartenders and restaurants of New York for two days of educational and celebratory activities.

The brainchild of some of my favorite bartenders, bar owners, educators, critics and all-around Champion Livers (Dale DeGroff, Simon Ford, Doug Frost, Allen Katz, Steven Olson, Paul Pacult, Sasha Petraske, Gary Regan, Julie Reiner, Audrey Saunders, Andy Seymour, Charlotte Voisey and David Wondrich), the MCC also boasts Lesley Townsend, former director of Astor Center, who will direct traffic and egos.

Tickets don't go on sale until after Labor Day, but for all current info, visit the Manhattan Cocktail Classic website.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Calling New York bartenders!

Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur has launched its first bartender competition, inviting professional and amateur NY bartenders to submit cocktails using their creativity and all-natural Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur through August 25, 2009. I'll be joining mixologist and spirits aficionado Allen Katz of Southern Wine & Spirits, Gaz Regan, director of the Worldwide Bartender Database, main man at and author of The Joy of Mixology, and barstar Julie Reiner of Clover Club and Flatiron Lounge to select the top recipes, which will move on to the final round. All finalists will be invited to a private event for media and industry on September 15th, where they will make their cocktails for the last round of judging. The grand prize winner will receive an all-expense paid trip for two to Oktoberfest 2009 in Munich, Germany. Enter here.

Drinks: The Rickey

Cocktails come and go, but the good ones keep resurfacing, it seems. The professionals who make up the DC Craft Bartender's Guild, for instance, have wholeheartedly embraced the Rickey as their own, and in fact plan on celebrating its various qualities next week. Good for them - nothing like a little bit of local historical authenticity tied to really good drink making to set a party off.

Meanwhile, I know that the original drink, named for the lobbyist Joe Rickey, called for whiskey, soda, lime and ice only, but by the time I was a kid, Rickeys were non-alcohol coolers, served in every soda fountain or corner luncheonette, usually in branded glasses like those pictured. In fact, all but the soda and ice were gone in those versions, and soda jerks whipped them up using sweetened lime syrup and highly-charged soda that fired out of the bar tap with a sizzling whoosh. My first adult Rickey, like many others, was made with gin, and I still have a taste for them made thataway, though in the batch pictured, I threw in some freshly-picked blueberries that soaked up the gin and lime, a savory treat to encounter at the end of the drink.

Gin Rickey

Squeeze one half lime into a tall glass, preferably a Rickey glass; fill with crushed ice. Add 1.5 ounces gin, top with bottled soda water and agitate drink with a long spoon until glass frosts.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

First Taste: Beefeater 24

Gin is blossoming among the cocktail cognoscenti, as bartenders turn to old favorites for drink inspiration or experiment with newly created gins crafted with a mix of botanicals previously unknown. Some I've tried are difficult to imagine in a drink; others have good qualities, but don't differ enough from the established brands to make a mark.

The standard Beefeater, I found years ago in a blind tasting, is my favorite G and T gin, its robust juniper punch and 47 abv exactly what I'm looking for at the end of a sweltering day. It's also a fine Martini gin, and for me the benchmark Negroni gin. But its prominent flavor profile may be keeping it from more drink experimentation.

Recently, Desmond Payne, Beefeater's master distiller, found inspiration in tea during an Asian trip, and has tinkered with the classic formula by adding sencha and green tea and grapefruit peel to the steeping mix for 24 hours. The result: Beefeater 24, a smooth, assertive, but rounder and less angular gin, with a slightly muted juniper quality. The tea brings in a slightly tannic pucker but with a paradoxically softer mouthfeel tied together by the zip of grapefruit. The characteristic anisey-orrisy Beefeater finish is mellowed but lengthened; in fact, this finishes longer than the original. If the mellow Payne was looking to give bartenders a new version of an old favorite, with fewer sharp edges and more adaptability - juniper, after all, dominates every conversation in which it takes part - then he has succeeded. Currently limited U.S. availability, 45% alcohol by volume. (Imported by Pernod-Ricard USA)

My score: 7