How Lucky Could One Lad Be?

Usually my luck is about as rampant as a drunk dog.  But this past month my travels have brought me to Vail, Mexico, and most recently Ireland, so I’d have to say that this old boy’s luck is fairing pretty well.  I must admit that this most recent trip across the pond was mainly for pleasure, but I was able to sneak in a few landmark visits that would make bartenders across these fine United States proud.  You’ll just have to wait until I recover from what the common folk call jet-lag to set your eyes on photos and first-rate commentary.  I can give you a hint – I drank beer in pubs and sipped Whiskey in castles.  I’ve said too much already. 

Well, just your luck -  I’ve recovered.  Kinda.  At least 2 guests at The World Bar last night told me I look tired.  Isn’t it just great when people tell ‘ya that.  Up bright and early again this morning, feeling refreshed and invigorated.  I’ve decided to share some pics from Ireland with you.  If you have the opportunity to travel to Europe anytime soon, Ireland should be way up there on your list!

 

The illustrious Flan Gleeson, Castle Manager extraordinaire at Knappogue Castle.  And wouldn’t ‘ya know, there’s a Knappogue Irish Whiskey, as well.  A fine whiskey I say.

 Our private tour of Knappogue Castle (set up by Roseann at Castle Brands – thanks Ro!) revealed perfectly manicured gardens and rooms fit for royalty.

You too can stay at Knappogue Castle.  Getting married?  They do those too!  Whiskey on your wedding night sounds perfect to me.

This fine bar was on the grounds of Bunratty Castle.  A genuine example of a small village tavern.  Too bad they weren’t serving drinks while we were there.

 

 

 

 

 

Sheesh – how many castles can Jonathan visit whilst in Ireland?  Believe it or not, we stayed in this one:

(Castle Glin)

 

These bottles were on a shelf…in our bathroom!

The bar at the Lime Tree Restaurant in Kinsale, Co. Kerry.  We enjoyed some delicious food here, and the village of Kinsale should be high on your list of stops if you go.  Look at this place:

A few sequential photos for you to enjoy.  Let me know when you get tired of them and I’ll post some more :>)

And what an experience ’twas.  Look at how pooped I was by the end.

I’m wearing my Ireland Sweatshirt.  It did me well.  And so did the Guinness and Whiskey I’m drinking.

That’s my woman!

Let’s see how many bars, restaurants, and pubs we can cram into 4 tiny windy blocks in the middle of the cosmopolitan city of Dublin, and let’s call that new neighborhood “Temple Bar!”

Here’s a cocktail for you to try.  It’s a variation from “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” Harry Craddock, 1930.  It’s a yummy one!

Whiskey Cocktail

1 1/2 oz. Knappogue Irish Whiskey

1/2 oz. simple syrup

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

2 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish: a maraschino cherry

 

Have you every tried a “Sloe-Groni”?

Simon Ford sure has a knack for throwing a party.  His all-day festivities are not for the faint of breath.  I for one, am one of those faint of breath blokes, and could only handle lunch.  Truth is, I had to work at The World Bar in the afternoon, so I couldn’t continue on with the ragamuffin group.  If I had my choice, I’d party on with Dave, Gary, Willy, Aisha (just to name a few), without a care in the world.  Oh the laments of a bartender. 

This festive time I speak of was for the launch of Plymouth Sloe Gin, a product that all of us cocktail geeks are very excited about.  It was also Wondrich’s birthday, and for that a party deserves to be had anyways.  We convened at “Cafe 202″ in Chelsea Market, a place that proudly serves Stefan Trummer signature cocktails.  Today the cocktails were crafted out of Plymouth Sloe Gin, a deliciously floral, fruity liqueur made from the Sloe Berry – easily drinkable on its own.  A “Sloe-Groni” that was drunk a bit too easily on my part was a perfect brunch drink.  And the Sloe Gin Fizz was, of course, the drink of choice for many there.  In my libating, I associated with such folk as Willy Shine and Aisha Sharp, Gary Regan, Simon and Jamie from Plymouth, Gilles from Funkin, Alan Katz, Alex from Flatiron Lounge, etc.  Oh yeah, my old pops, Jeffrey, was there hamming it up at the other end of the table.

I brought my handy digital camera to capture some early moments from that day, and I’m very curious to see the photos of, oh, say, any time between 5pm and midnight from that evening.  I can only imagine what those rascals were up to.  My guess is that by 5pm, Willy somehow was able to combine Plymouth Sloe Gin and Guinness into a deliciously balanced “bomb” drink.  Sounds yummy!

The birthday boy himself.

Gary very much enjoyed Aisha’s Negroni that day.

Here’s what all the fuss was about.  And rightly so!

 

The Astor Family would be proud

I myself was amazed, during the 2-hour class that I taught at the Astor Center this past Saturday afternoon, that so many great cocktails were created in this short amount of time.  Who knew that the students that participated that fine, balmy spring day, would become my direct competition.  I’m happy, truthfully, that I was able to share some skills and, really, just have people to rant to, about my passion that is Mixology.  The experiment that was “Elements of Mixology” at the Astor Center in the East Village of Manhattan, I’m glad to say, is no longer an experiment.  I think that it’s come into its own.  Perhaps I speak too soon.  Don’t wanna jinx myself, after all.

Good news – the kind folks at the Astor Center have added some more classes.  Perhaps you at home or behind the stick would be interested in attending.  The next class is Sat., May 31st.  I’ll let you in on a little secret: click HERE for more info and to buy tickets, and when you see the section that allows you to type in a discount code, type: industry08.  This is a special 1/2 price deal for you members of the food and beverage industry.  Hope to see ‘ya there!

Here are some fun pix from the first class:

The kitchen, the students, the available ingredients…

The creative juices were flowing.

Look at that form!

TEQUILA!

The recovery involved from a 4-day trip to the state of Jalisco in Mexico for a Tequila trip was not as bad as I thought.  It’s only been 3 days since I’ve returned, and I’m ready to blog about it.  My good friend Andrew, who is forever indebted to me for this, by the way, attended this experience with me.  We arrived in Guadalajara, a mid-sized city of around 1.5 million (or was it 3 million, or 4?  we received many different accounts) on Friday evening.  A tour of the city revealed it’s magnificent cathedrals and central squares.  Poverty abounds in this middle of Mexico metropolitan, and small children, no older than 2 years old, would scurry up to us, placing small heart-shaped stickers on our shirts saying “Me Haces Falta” (I need you) in return for small change.

Herradura Tequila, the best-selling tequila in Mexico, took care of us, to say the least.  The Quinta Real hotel was luxurious.  A good combination of resort-like atmosphere and European boutique, the Quinta Real held comfy beds and attentive staff.  Tamirind margaritas made with Herradura Blanco and snifters full of Herradura Seleccion Suprema (an extra anejo tequila, a category of Tequilas Herradura originated, by the way) were the drinks of choice.  Hangovers and headaches were kept to a minimum, due to the quality of this tequila.

We visited Casa Herradura, a vast expanse of land that included a glitzy Hacienda and fields of agave plants as far as the eye can see.  The “Tequila Express” train that Casa Herradura runs journeyed us on the 1.5 hour ride from Guadalajara.  More drinks on the train, of course!  Sangritas and Polomas were flowing and the mariachi band tooting (to say the least) their horns, making the journey seem shorter than it really was. 

You’d think that by the end of this trip we’d all be tequila’d out, right?  Well, in short, yes.  So Miguel from Brown-Forman had the bright idea to take us all to a bar in downtown Guadalajara that specialized in…wait  for it…Jack Daniels!  The place was called “Rock Town.”  And boy did it rock!  Bottles of Jack Daniels at practically every table, an awesome cover band crooning Pearl Jam and Guns ‘N Roses, and young attractive Mexicans who seemed pretty Americanized, made us feel right at home.  After polishing  off 3 bottles of Jack and a bottle of Finlandia Vodka, we sauntered home, unwilling to go back to the states the next morning.  At least I didn’t have to leave at 5am the next morning to catch an 8am flight, like many of the members of the group did.  I felt for ‘ya!

Miguel and Jackie – you rock!  Mexico rocks!  Tequila rocks!  Herradura rocks!  Here are some photos and a recipe that rock! 

(sorry for yelling…)

A beautiful church in Guadalajara.  Don\'t mind the bloke in the foreground.

A beautiful church in Guadalajara.  Don’t mind the dude in the foreground.

Never seen 4 politicians forever immortalized in stained glass, but what the hey, right?

The Government Palace.  Would never have expected to see what we saw inside…

Look closely…creepy, right?  It’s one of Jose Clemente Orozco’s best works depicting world politics in the 1930′s.

This good ‘ol cantina, Las Fuentes, made us feel right at home. 

Can you make out the menu?  Ahh…Squirt…my favorite.

How’d the bartender guess we wanted tequila shots? 

Me Amigo.

Cabell, Brian, and Andy hamming it up at lunch.

What do you get when you cross a couple of Mexican dancers, a Cuban, and a goofy American bartender?  Nirvana.

The Casa Herradura Distillery:

 

The ovens that cook the agave.  We were fortunate enough to chew on a few pieces of freshly baked agave.  Mmm mmm good!

The “Jimador” (El Jimador just happens to be the name of another brand of tequila that Herradura produces) is the bloke who chops off the arms of the agave plant to get to the core, called the “Pina.”

Us bartenders sure like to stick together.  And show off our guns.  Next time you see me, ask me about the agave pina war wound I sustained.

After being cooked, the juice from the agave plant turns into sugars, is fermented, distilled, then bottled.  An arduous task, but boy is it worth it!

Here’s a nice recipe for my favorite margarita I had while in Mexico.  I’ve modified it a bit so you can make it at home:

Herradura Tamarind Margarita

1 oz. Herradura Anejo Tequila

1/2 oz. Triple Sec

3/4 oz. Fresh squeezed lime juice

1 tsp. agave nectar

1/2 tsp. Tamarind Concentrate

Shake all ingredients very well in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Strain into a chilled, chili-pepper salt*-rimmed martini glass.

Garnish: lime wheel

*to make chili pepper salt, combine 1 tsp. each of kosher salt, ground cumin, ground chili pepper, ground cayenne pepper, ground cinnamon, and ground garlic. 

The Trail always leads to Vail

100 of the top mixologists in the U.S. + fresh powder snow + shots of Grand Marnier being handed out by Steve Olsen = insert witty answer here.

 We’ll just say it’s the 2008 Grand Marnier/Navan Mixology Summit held annually in Vail, Colorado.  I blame a combination of the altitude and Steve’s shot-doling eagerness on the headaches that plagued me here, yet I must say that this experience was as Grand (pun MUCH intended) as any other event I can even think of attending.  The gods were with us these few days, with twenty inches of fresh powdered snow falling atop the hills they call the Rockies.  I tried my hand at the Ski Race, barely getting through it the first time, and cocky as I felt afterwards, fell on my ass the second.  At least I didn’t have to take my skiis off after falling down the second time, shimmy to the side of the course, and proceed to walk down the rest of the course because it was too steep to put the skiis back on again…right…please don’t tell.

Steve Olsen and his team of mixologists included none other than PDT’s (speaking of Please Don’t Tell…and I mean it, okay?) Jim Meehan and Don Lee, Contemporary Cocktail’s Aisha Sharpe and Willy Shine, Death & Co’s Phil Ward, Tippling Bros’ Tad Carducci, the great Leo DeGroff, and Jacques Bezduinhout (and guess what – I learned how to say his name this trip, too!)  Man, did these guys work their asses off.  Hats off to you all!

Wanna see some pics from the trip?  Of course ‘ya do: **if you can’t view some of these, just click on them and you should see them.**

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I took a picture of a postcard, you say?  NOPE – this is the view from the balcony of my room!

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Bring it on!

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Don’t I look snazzy in my new Grand Marnier ski jacket?  Aisha seems to think so.

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It’s a Cocktails in the Country reunion!  Nicole, Yvan, Jackie, and Me.  Thanks Gary, for bringing us all together…

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Jim and H. looking mighty friendly.

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Don and Phil are all work…

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Even the big-wigs had the chance to play a bit.  Alexandra Marnier-Lapostolle giving me the pleasure of a photo-op.  She’s sipping Grand Marnier 150th Anniversary no less.

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‘Nuff said.

Thanks GM/Navan for an incredible experience!  Check out an original Navan recipe below…

Now pour their brands, click on their logos, and go to their websites, will ‘ya?

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I just so happen to be pouring Navan in a signature cocktail of mine at Bookmarks Lounge, the rooftop lounge of the Library Hotel, 299 Madison Avenue at 41st St., NYC:

Strawberry-Vanilla Infused Champagne Cocktail

1 large, ripe strawberry, chopped

1/2 oz. Navan Vanilla Cognac

splash each of Fresh Lemon juice and simple syrup

3 oz. Champagne

Directions:  Muddle the strawberry in the Navan, lemon and simple.  Add ice to mixing glass and 2 oz. of Champagne.   Stir gently and strain into chilled champagne flute.  Top off w/ extra 1 oz. of Champagne.
Garnish: Strawberry slice

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