Okay, so I Lied

I said I’d continue my Molecular Mixology story this week, and time has just simply escaped me.  It’ll have to wait ’til next week.  Maybe this weekend, we’ll see.  In the meantime, I wanted to let you all know that I will be at Macy’s Culinary Studio in Chicago, IL tomorrow, Thurs, Feb. 28th.  I’ll be conducting a mixology demo alongside celebrity chef Rick Bayless (he will be demo’ing his famous Mexican delicacies).  If you live in Chi-town, feel free to come check it out.  I’ll have a full update with cocktail recipes from the event later this week (I know, you’ve heard that one before).  In the meantime, click here to attend my demo.  Belvedere Vodka is sponsoring, and it should be a rockin’ time.

Spherifi – what?

Spherification:  the process of changing the chemical compounds of a liquid to create a gel, which in turn is dropped into another liquid chemical mix that magically turns it into tiny balls (much like caviar).  What the crap are you talking about, Pogash?  Frankly, I’m not even sure what I’m talking about myself.  Allow me to elaborate:  This past Thursday I was invited to an event at the New Museum on the Bowery held by Cointreau.  We all know this liqueur as a popular ingredient in our Cosmos and Margaritas.  But do we all know that this liqueur, or for that matter any liquid, can be turned into small semi-solid balls that look like clear-colored caviar? 

 Molecular Mixology, since being introduced to our field nearly 2 years ago, borrowed it’s skills from our friends in culinary cuisine.  Messing around with the textures and composition of food has long been in existence, and now we’re doing it with booze.  Cointreau, as far as I know, is the first big brand to make this process ‘corporate.’  In a sense, trying to get some of the top places in the city who may be interested or already have a molecular mixology program in place, to use their product (in a so-called easier process than most) to come up with chemically-altered liquid/solid forms of cocktails. 

 Just to name a few of the fine folks who were in attendance at this event: Dale DeGroff, Paul Pacult, Gary Regan, Jim Meehan, Jason Kosmos, Dushan Zaric, Eben Freeman, Junior Merino, Audrey Saunders, the list goes on…

 So what did the above powerhouse of mixologists do next?  What’s the old adage? “Pictures tell a thousand words?”

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Dale, Audrey, that ‘ol bastard Gary, and Paul – what a foursome they are!

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Richard Lambert, Global Brand Ambassador for Cointreau, holding up his trusty beaker of Cointreau caviar with gold leaf.  Pretty fancy shmancy.

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What d’ya think they had us do with this stuff?  Find out later on…

Stay tuned for more photos from this event later this week…

Bar Crawl: East Village Part Deux

Okay it’s been enough time for you all to digest Part One of this series.  Now for the continuation.  Stay with me here.  It’s the same evening, and we’ve moved on from Freeman’s to another East Village joint hidden on East 6th St.  The place with the black doors reminiscent of Hell.  Yes, it’s Death & Co., one of the newest classic cocktail lounges to crop up since the rise in popularity of places like Pegu Club and Flatiron Lounge.  We arrived at the big heavy doors only to be greated by the doorman who told us he’d call us when a table opened up.  ‘There’s no standing room, not even at the bar,’ he told us.  This was a new concept.  I was under the impression that in order for a bar to make money, the place needed to be packed to the max.  Maybe I was wrong.  Anyways, we made our way in and fenagled our way to a table.  The cocktails were great – I had a cucumber mint drink (I know that combo is so 2004, but this seeemed to have a new twist on it that pleased my palate).  The bartenders were busy busy behind the stick emphatically shaking up some of the long list of classics and variations on classics. 

Longing for a vibe that suited the future of our late night, we headed for PDT, which cleverly stands for ‘Please Don’t Tell.’  This lounge, a twist on a speakeasy, has the best entrance to any bar I’ve ever seen in my entire life.  As we walked up to 113 St. Mark’s Place, a group of young men were congregated outside smoking butts.  We asked them how to get in, and they pointed to the hot dog joint next door.  Of course!  We had heard about the phone booth entrance, and it was only fitting that it would be next door inside the hot dog joint.  We followed that mystifying scent through the doors and made a left once inside.  There stood the phone booth, just waiting to be entered.  So I did just that, and gave a knock once inside.  Okay, so you’re supposed to pick up the phone and wait for a response, but I didn’t get that at first.  The door on the other side opened to the hostess on the other side asking me how many were in my party.  After waiting no more than 2 minutes, we were led to our table.  The taxidermy above didn’t phase us, and the stiff drinks weren’t too much of a concern at this hour of the night.  We were just happy to sit in a comfortable booth, listen to good music, sip on Jim Meehan’s (of Grammercy Tavern fame) cocktails, and nibble on hot dogs and waffle fries.  Stiff drinks + hot dogs + waffle fries + good vibe = bliss.  We were thouroughly satisfied with our late night escapade to PDT.  I will return…soon!

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Bar Crawl: East Village

First off, Happy Valentine’s Day.

Secondly, one of these nights, I’d highly recommend crawling your way through the East Village, as I did yesterday evening.  The soiree began solo at ‘The Box’ - that place that says ‘Spanjer Signs’ on the front. 

The Box

Hennessy Cognac was having an event entitled ‘Chefs and Chocs,’ in which Hennessy Cognacs and Chocolate would be highlighted together.  Now, for those of you who haven’t been to The Box, you’re surely missing out.  If you can get in, I’d very much recommend it.  The inside is reminiscent of a 1920’s Vaudeville-esque, Burlesque theater, with detailed balconies adorned with pin-up model posters streamed across them.  A large red velvet curtain hides the stage set back at the end of the room.  I grabbed my signature Hennessy Cocktail, (which was simply Hennessy VS, Gingerale, and pineapple juice – quite refreshing),  and perused the room.  Lovely ladies dressed as angels, and mischievous men dressed as devils circulated the room, mingling with the crowd.  I think they were hired by Hennessy and are not a normal occurrance at The Box.  But what apparently is a normal occurrance at The Box is the stage show.  Around 20 minutes into the event, as I made my way towards a banquette occupied by a loving couple, I was compelled to plop myself down, for the red velvet curtains parted and out came a series of 3 acts: 1) a woman dressed as a mannequin, standing next to a real mannequin in the same bustier outfit.  The real live woman, wearing a non-descript, quite creepy mask, then went on to dance and remove all of her clothes.  Geez, I thought, what else was I in for? 2) then came a magician, 3) and finally a fire-breather/eater/blower/whatever.  All I knew was that this dude was crazy!

Okay, so the sideshow was over, my drink was empty, and my tummy was not satisfied with the light finger foods being passed around, most of which were missing me altogether.  Don’t you hate that!  So I needed some substantial food.  I knew that a place called ‘Freeman’s‘ was not too far, and to my surprise, was actually right around the corner.  I discovered Freeman’s alley, right off of Rivington St. and Chrystie St.  It was as if I was transported back to the 18th Century, with the narrow streets and local businesses bustling in the evening’s winter chill.  At the end of this alley stands ‘Freeman’s,’ a non-descript, quaint restaurant specializing in meat and potatoes type of fare and classic specialty cocktails.  The wait for a table was 1 1/2 hrs., but I didn’t really want a table anyways.  A stool opened up at the bar, which is literally an extension of the open-air kitchen.  I ordered myself the ‘Freeman’s Cocktail,’ a blend of rye whiskey, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, orange bitters, and a large orange twist.  I ordered the lamb meatballs appetizer, which satisfied me to the core.  The place was bustling, and I will surely return for a full meal with friends. 

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Okay, that’s enough for the moment.  I must get ready to go to Bookmarks Lounge tonight.  I’m there behind the stick. 

This bar crawl is to be continued… 

Coming up: Death & Co., Pegu Club, and PDT (Please Don’t Tell)…

How to flame an orange twist

Ahh yes, the wonderfully flashy flamed orange twist.  This method of showmanship, while adding flavor and color to a cocktail, was popularized my none other than Dale DeGroff.  He is one of the modern-day legends in the field of mixology.  Now I will as clearly and consisely as possible, describe to you how to flame an orange twist:

1. Take a nice, colorful orange and place it on your cutting board.

2. Grab your knife, and slice a small, quarter-size piece of the orange rind, trying to get as little of the white pith as possible, and NONE of the orange ‘meat.’

3. Take the orange ‘twist’ in your hand, with the skin side out, and hold it over your cocktail.

4. Light a match, or a lighter, and gently warm the skin side of your twist.

5. Now your twist is ripe and ready to be flamed: Gently squeeze your twist in the direction of the flame, and over your drink, so that the oils from the rind fall directly into the drink.

6. Now rub the skin-side of your twist along the rim of your glass, and drop into the cocktail, with the pith side down.

7. Flaming an orange twist caramelizes the oils that occur naturally on the skins of citrus fruits, and add a nice flavor to a drink.

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Me ol’ pal James

James Moreland is a dear old friend.  I worked with him at Town Restaurant in the hay-day of the early 2000’s.  He is a great bar-man, and taught me a lot during my ‘green’ phase as a bartender.  Well, last night, as I was dashing back and forth behind the bar at Bookmarks Lounge (we were quite packed), I saw a figure on the other side of the bar that seemed familiar to me.  Mr. Moreland had come to my bar to visit.  Now, this is very rare.  James is a jetsetter, a man about town, a dude who travels to gosh knows where and rarely can be located.  Man, was he a sight for sore eyes.  I immediately made a drink for my old friend: “Something strong, ya’ know – none of that sweet crap,” he always tells me, in his Ausssie drawl.  James is a brand ambassador for Bombay Sapphire Gin, a terrificly balanced, flavorful spirit that is well-known across the world to consumers and bartenders alike.  Being pretty proud of the cocktail I had just made up, I enthusiastically placed it in front of him, eager to see his reaction.  He snatched the drink, took one look at how busy I was, and didn’t bother me for the rest of his visit.  Like he would be a bother.  Good man, James.  I wouldn’t have been able to chat anyways.  Here’s  the recipe for the drink I came up with for James last night.  Try it yourself and let me know:

Juniper Cherry

1 1/2 oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin

1/4 oz. Dry Vermouth

1/4 oz. Sweet Vermouth

splash fresh lemon juice

2 dashes Agostura Bitters

3-5 pitted dark cherries

Directions:  Muddle the cherries in the lemon juice and bitters.  Add remaining ingredients and stir for 30 seconds.  Strain into a chilled Martini Glass.

Garnish: 1 black cherry dropped into the glass

Bombay Sapphire Bottle

Bartender person, what’s your favorite drink to drink?

That is the question that I get asked time and time again as a bartender.  I always answer confidently and emphatically: Margaritas.  The classic cocktail consisting of Tequila, Triple Sec, Lime Juice, and the always debated simple syrup.  Some don’t believe in adding simple syrup, since the Triple Sec acts as the cocktail’s sweetener.  I disagree.  The fresh squeezed lime juice necessary to create a terrific Margarita needs to be balanced by a simple syrup consisting of equal parts sugar to water. 

Speaking of the Madam of cocktails, I was passing through the Upper West Side this evening when my friend and I came upon a mirage in the middle of Amsterdam Avenue: 2 for 1 Margaritas 4-7pm.  I glanced at my cell phone: 6:50.  My friend had to finish his cigarette, which took a long 43 seconds.  We sauntered inside Cafe con Leche and ordered our Margaritas – Strawberry and Mango.  We both chose frozen, which is rare for me.  At least asking for salt around the rim could restore our dignity.  We slurped our slurpees, and that’s really what they tasted like, and paid $8.95 for two Margaritas.  Not too shabby.  Although extremely low in alcohol (I noticed the bartender put just short of 1/2 oz. each of tequila and triple sec into our drinks, me being the observant bartender that I am), it did the trick.  Will I make it a habit of ordering frozen Mango Margaritas?  Absolutely not.  I prefer a recipe like the one below, which I created for all the Hospitality Holdings locations.

Shanghai Margarita, or Tequila Mockingbird

1 1/2 oz. Partida Anejo Tequila

1/2 oz. Agave Nectar

3/4 oz. Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice

1/4 tsp. minced ginger*

Directions:  Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a chilled, salt-rimmed martini glass.  

Garnish: Lime wheel 

*this minced ginger I discovered at my local ‘Amish Market.’  It is made my a company called The Ginger People, and is one of the best pre-made ingredients for cocktails that I’ve  ever found.

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Super Fat Tuesday

It’s Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, and what better place to spend it than New Orleans.  But, alas, we’ll have to wait until Tales of the Cocktail this July to get our bums over there.  We can only imagine what those crazy folks will be up to, or probably already are up to, down in the big easy.  It’s also Super Tuesday, and I’d like to ask all of you to get out and vote at your local polling place.  Wait until after going to your local polling place to start partying, k?  A pretty sweet place to partake in Mardi Gras activities in my hood is Two Boots of Brooklyn, a Cajun-Italian family kind of place, that specializes the cuisine of NOLA.  They’ll have live music at 9pm, costumes, Hurricane cocktails, and of course their delicious food. 

This cocktail, the classic New Orleans cocktail, is dedicated to Antoine Peychaud, the pharmacist and inventor of this, America’s first cocktail.  We give thanks to you, Monsier Peychaud, on this very holy day.  Without you, I wouldn’t be sitting here blogging.  Enjoy:

The Sazarac Cocktail

(adapted from the Old Mr. Boston Official Bar-Tenders Guide, 1935)

1 1/2 oz. Sazerac Kentucky Rye Whiskey

1 dash Peychaud’s bitters

1 dash Absinthe

1 tsp. simple syrup

Directions:  Shake well with cracked ice, and strain into Old Fashioned cocktail glass (rocks glass). 

Garnish: Sprig of fresh mint (or try a lemon twist)

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The Zen of Chocolate

It was a bit hard to get out of bed this morning, probably because my tummy was filled with delicousness from a dinner that I was invited to last night.  Godiva Liqueur had a tasting session and dinner at NYC’s Tao Restaurant - yup, the place that was converted into a restaurant from a movie theatre, decked out with a giant golden Buddha and all.  Elayne Duke, brand ambassador for Reserve Brands at Diageo/US Concepts was leading the session of hotel managers, mixologists, distributors, salespeeps, etc.  We tasted all of the Godiva flavors – 5 in all!  Had no idea about that, but was pleased to find out.   We were given nicely balanced Godiva cocktails to try, and some of Tao’s specialty gastronomic items.  The sushi was terrific, the striped bass skewers were succulent, and the spring rolls were crisped to perfection.  Our long table up in the ‘skybox’ section was packed with plates of Asian yumminess.  After trying all of the silky Godiva flavors, I came to the conclusion that, although very tasty as they are, I’m still a Godiva “original” kinda guy.  Thanks, Godiva Liqueur, for a terrific dinner!

Try this silky Godiva recipe on your own:

Godiva Tuxedo

1 oz. Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur

1 oz. Godiva Liqueur

Directions: Combine over ice in a rocks glass.

Garnish: Try a flamed orange twist *

*how to flame an orange twist, coming up this week.

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DA GIANTS WIN!

Holy Cow!  As a perpetually proud New Yorker, I am even prouder (? more proud?) to be a New Yorker this fine morning.  What a spectacle last night’s superbowl was.  New England lost their undefeated streak in the grandest of ways.  And our favorite pouter Eli played his little heart out.  So Giselle, so sorry you’re dating a non-winner.  We feel so sorry for the two of you.  I enjoyed the game at my pal’s place right across the stream in Weehawken, NJ on a big Hi-def screen, with wings, pizza, beer, the whole nine yards.  I was asked, well, pestered, actually, by some of those in attendance, to whip up a nice cocktail.  All I could offer them was an equal parts beer to coca-cola mixture, which didn’t sound too great to the masses.  So this time I didn’t come up with a “Giants Win” cocktail, but here’s one that would work equally as well:

BIG BLUE!

1 light beer of your choice

1 oz. Pama Pomegranate Liqueur

1/2 oz. Blue Curacao

Directions: Try layering the Blue Curacao first, atop a poured beer, and then the Pama, and sip or chug!

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