Come out and see me sometime – classes, book parties and more

Lots of events coming up in the next few weeks! Please mark your calendar and come out to say hello.

Sunday, October 27 - “Foodie & the Beast” show on Federal News Radio, Washington DC:  I’ll be making drinks (for the entire studio!) and talking about Cocktails for a Crowd with charming host Nycci Nellis on the “Foodie and the Beast” show on Federal News Radio. (11 am-noon. If you’re in the DC area, listen live at 1500 AM; if not, find the audio online here. ) 

Monday, October 28 - Lecture on The Secret Financial Life of Food, at The World Bank, Washington DC:  Q&A with moderator Yurie Tanimichi Hoberg, Senior Economist in the Agriculture and Environmental Services Department of the World Bank. (12:30-2 pm,  at The InfoShop at The World Bank in Washington, DC. Open to the public; bring your ID.)

Tuesday, November 5 – Fresh Ideas for the Holidays cocktail party, with Erica Duecy, The Beacon Bar, NY:  Don’t settle for the same-old mulled wine at your holiday party. Join Erica Duecy, author of the newly-released book Storied Sips and me for fresh cocktail ideas to spice things up. We’ll have live jazz, passed nibbles and cocktails from both of our books, so come thirsty! (6-8 pm, Hotel Beacon NYC, 2130 Broadway at 75th St. Please RSVP: shari@bayerpublicrelations.com.)

Friday, December 6 - Cocktails for a Crowd – Holiday Entertaining class at Astor Center, NY:  A hands-on cocktail-making class! Whether you’re planning an elegant holiday soiree or a laid-back New Year’s Eve gathering with friends, learn how to make big-batch cocktails to impress your guests, without breaking a sweat. Don’t wait too long to sign up, the August class sold out quickly.  (6:30-8 pm, December 6 at Astor Center. Purchase tickets here.)

Saturday, December 14 Holiday Cocktails for a Crowd class at Mohonk Mountain House:  As part of Mohonk’s annual “How To” Holiday Weekend (Dec 13-15), learn to mix and make traditional holiday cocktails to get everyone in the spirit. (5 pm, December 14 at Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, NY. For reservations, please call 855-883-3798.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Classes and seminars, Cocktails for a Crowd, The Secret Financial Life of Food, Uncategorized

Halloween how-to: ice spheres with gummy worms, for creepy cocktails

20131013-175434.jpgIf you’re looking for a different way to serve a favorite dram (or a batched cocktail like a bottled Bobby Burns on the rocks) for Halloween, here’s an option: ice spheres with gummy worms. Here’s how to do it:

You’ll need:

1. An ice sphere mold – or multiple molds, for serving multiple guests. Buy them at Muji or specialty bar supply stores like KegWorks. Plan on making 2 ice spheres per guest, if you can.

2. Distilled water. (makes slightly clearer ice vs tap water)

3. Gummy worms. Alternatives: gummy spiders, eyeballs or other candy or trinkets. Just make sure whatever you’re freezing inside is non-toxic.

Open the mold and press the gummy worms into the mold. Loosely layer a couple of more worms on top of that, leaving enough room for water to expand when it freezes.

Pour water into the mold, close and allow to freeze sold – overnight is best.

When you’re ready to serve, release the spheres from the mold. If necessary, run the sphere briefly under running water to smooth off any rough edges – this will also bring some of the “worms” to the surface, a desirably creepy effect. Place in a glass and pour your favorite cocktail or whiskey.

Of course, you can experiment with other options too: a single worm curled within each pocket of a standard ice cube tray, for example. Or a new friend at Salt & Sundry suggested this idea: fill a rubber glove (the kind that comes without powder inside) with juice and gummy worms. Freeze and peel off the glove. Couldn’t you just imagine that one floating in the center of a punch bowl at your next Halloween party?

1 Comment

Filed under Drink recipes, How to, Uncategorized

Fall Bookshelf: 4 new cocktail & spirits books

Fall is prime time for new book launches – here’s a short list of four of the latest crop of cocktail and spirits books I’ve particularly enjoyed, which I hope you’ll consider reading now or adding to holiday gift lists later.

ImageThe book: The Art of the Shim: Low-Alcohol Cocktails to keep you level (Sanders & Gratz)

The author:  Dinah Sanders, of cocktail blog Bibulo.us. The @bibulous feed has long been one one of my favorites to follow – the enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity where cocktails are concerned make for an irresistible mix.

Why I love it:  I want to make every drink in this book. The well-curated drinks are ringers – especially since I already have a soft spot for low-octane libations. And the luscious photos have a sweetly speakeasy-ish vibe.

Cocktail pick: Haberdasher, attributed to Josh Harris and Scott Baird, SF. (A great majority of the bartenders represented throughout the book are San Francisco based, really the only bone I have to pick with this book.)  It’s a delicious Negroni variation, equal parts Amontillado sherry, Gran Classico bitter, and Carpano Antica, finished with a couple of dashes of orange bitters and a lemon twist.

The Book:  Drink More Whiskey: Everything You Need to Know About Your New Favorite Drink (Chronicle Books)

The Author:  Daniel Yaffe, founder and editor-in-chief of Drink Me magazine

Why I love it: It’s right on topic, and right on time:  whiskey is clearly having a moment. And Yaffe’s done a good job of making this accessible and easy-reading, with fun bon mots like this one:  “A bartender once told me that white whiskey is like a distiller wearing only his underwear.” I just wish this book included photos, which would have added another layer of dimension.

Cocktail pick:  The cocktails sprinkled throughout the book feature whiskey, natch. And the one that got my attention was the Nail in the Coffin, a Rusty Nail variation that features Japanese whisky instead of Scotch, Licor 43 instead of Drambuie, and some added flavors (Madeira, Fernet Branca, cardamom) for complexity.

ApothecaryBook-150x150The Book:  Apothecary Cocktails: Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today (Fair Winds Press)

The Author:  Warren Bobrow, aka “The Cocktail Whisperer.” Sometimes spotted at cocktail parties in the company of Klaus the Soused Gnome.

Why I love it:  First, a disclosure – I wrote a blurb for the book cover. In my opinion, “restorative” is a perfect adjective for cocktails, and the whole herbs-and-roots-and-spices-in-cocktails trend going on these days fits right in with the “restorative” context, and gives a great platform for cocktails that might not otherwise be featured. The photos are lush and have a great New Orleans old-school apothecary feel.

Cocktail pick: The Coconut Cooler. It’s offbeat and memorable and a little nutty. Basically, it involves drilling three holes in a chilled coconut and pouring in rhum agricole. There are more polished and elegant drinks in the book, but this is the one I most want to try.

Whiskey-Women-Cover-393x590The Book: Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch and Irish Whiskey (Potomac Books)

The Author: Fred Minnick, whiskey writer

Why I love it: I learned something new on every page. This is not a light and fluffy book, and it’s not a book about whiskey cocktails. Rather, it’s deeply researched and takes an interesting angle (the role of women) as a way to talk about whiskey from a fresh perspective. I’d recommend it for someone who read and liked Dave Wondrich’s Punch and Imbibe.

Cocktail pick:  A dram of whiskey, of course.  (Whiskey Women has no cocktails, but no one’s going thirsty on my watch!)

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

How sherry came back from the dead, and why it isn’t going away anytime soon

image credit: Kara Newman

Sherry and jamon pairing at Mockingbird Hill (Washington, DC)

A few weeks back, while in Washington DC, I had the good fortune to spend an evening at Mockingbird Hill, a shiny-new, sherry-centric bar. In the company of owner, bartender and sherry-phile Derek Brown, I enjoyed jamon and jerez pairings, and we chatted about why bartenders are having a particularly torrid love affair with sherry these days. Sherry’s not exactly the new kid on the block, I noted, so why is it having a revival now?

“There’s been no good reason to know about sherry until now,” Brown admitted. But during a trip to Spain, he fell hard for the fortified wine. “I just fell in love with it,” he continued. “It’s like the song that gets stuck in your head, and you can’t forget it.”

Sherry has been very much on my mind right now, in part because I interviewed bartenders about sherry for a Wine Enthusiast article on the topic (my WE colleague Mike Schachner wrote the feature, I wrote the sidebars about cocktail usage).

But again – why the revival now? Schach makes this keen observation:

As long as I’ve been covering Sherry, the message out of Andalucía has been that Sherry is being rediscovered en masse. Or, that Sherry producers, believing that their wines are about to take off, are mounting yet another global marketing campaign. Or, simply, that Sherry is the most underappreciated, yet perfect wine to pair with food.

But according to tastemakers—i.e., the sommeliers who sell Sherry daily—there’s something different this time around, adding traction to the latest movement.

Here’s what’s different:  this time, the bartenders are firmly on board, not just the somms.

This wave of the revival has much to do with cocktails. When I talked with  Dan Greenbaum, co-owner and bar manager at The Beagle here in NY (another sherry-enthusiastic outpost), he astutely noted that “historically, Sherry has had a huge place in the evolution of cocktails.”  Indeed, sherry first entered my radar screen as a cocktail ingredient, when I had a sherry cobbler at Bellocq in New Orleans, almost two years ago.

Greenbaum praised sherry’s versatility –  a refrain I’ve now heard from many other bartenders as well. It’s not a one-sherry-fits-all situation. Rather, it seems like there’s a sherry for every mood, from the briny, delicate acidity of fino and manzanilla, to the nuttier, more oxidized notes of amontillado and oloroso, to the sweet, raisin-like richness of Pedro Ximenez. It folds into a wide range of cocktails.

But this isn’t purely a bartender story. They may have beat the drums most loudly, but sommeliers have re-discovered how well sherry pairs with a wide range of foods (as I learned at Mockingbird), from savory to sweet. It’s the confluence of both bars and restaurants, cocktail and food culture, that has reinvigorated sherry as a category, elevates it beyond mere trend, and will give sherry some staying power going forward.

Still don’t believe me? Here’s a shortlist of some of the sherry bottlings that bars and restaurants are loving right now – and there are some big guns on this list. For more about sherry, go read the Wine Enthusiast article for an informative overview and bottle recommendations (from Schach) and cocktail recipes that feature sherry (from me).

La Ina Fino: At The Beagle in New York, co-owner and bar manager Dan Greenbaum frequently mixes La Ina into cocktails – young, bone-dry and crisp, it stands up to vermouth, amaros and other spirits, he says. It’s also a fine sipper alongside light nibbles such as Marcona almonds.

La Guita Manzanilla: Spanish resto Manzanilla in New York (recently named to Wine Enthusiast’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants list) showcases the mouthwatering saline and bright apple notes of this sherry in its signature Manzanilla Martini.

Pedro Romero Amontillado:  Crowned with fruit and plenty of crushed ice, this is Bellocq’s pick for their signature sherry cobbler. Off-dry and featuring notes of hazelnut and spice, it’s a natural companion to cheeses and savory appetizers, too.

Toro Albala ‘Don PX’ Pedro Ximenez: “PX,” as Pedro Ximenez is often shorthanded, is noted as the sweeter side of the sherry spectrum. This bottling is served by the glass at  Vera, a tapas restaurant in Chicago’s West Loop area, usually as a dessert pairing – but on the savory side, keep an eye out for the PX syrup drizzled over Vera’s cocoa-dusted foie gras, too.

Lustau East India Solera: With its tawny hue and appealing mix of rich fig, raisin and cocoa, consider pairing this bottling with a traditional Spanish flan. Yountville, CA’s famous French Laundry includes this bottling on its extensive wine list.

Leave a comment

Filed under Drink trends, Uncategorized

Behind the Book – Cocktails for a Crowd

Photo credit: Teri Lyn Fisher

Photo credit: Teri Lyn Fisher

Note: This is adapted from a guest post I wrote for  Monica Bhide’s A Life of Spice blog.

If you like my new book, Cocktails for a Crowd, you can send Michael Ruhlman a thank you note.

Not that Ruhlman had a hand in writing the book. In fact, we’ve never met.

But in part, the book came about because I was inspired by his “Ratio” app, which posits that every recipe starts with a basic ratio of ingredients – like cookie dough is 1 part sugar, 2 parts fat, and 3 parts flour – and variations take off from there.

Right away, I recognized that the same is true of cocktails. Most of my favorite drinks comprise 2 parts spirit, 1 part sour and 1 part sweet. The classic Margarita is often a 3-2-1 configuration (3 parts tequila, 2 parts Cointreau, 1 part lime juice). Not to mention drinks like the Negroni – a perfect equilateral triangle, made with a ratio of 1-1-1, three ingredients in equal measure (Campari, gin and sweet vermouth), plus a splash of soda on top.

Why was I inspired by the app based on Ruhlman’s Ratio book, instead of the book itself?  Because my initial concept was for a Cocktails for a Crowd app – not a book.

I had just returned from the IACP conference in Austin (yes, that’s two years ago– still about how long it takes to shepherd a book from proposal to print at a traditional publishing house), where I’d attended a seminar on apps.

The idea for Cocktails for a Crowd crystallized during that seminar. Right away, I visualized a tool that would scale drinks from a single cocktail for one up to “cocktails for a crowd,” with the swipe of a finger. It would convert between ounces (which bartenders prefer) to cups (which home cooks prefer). It would even generate a shopping list – since further complicating what I’d come to refer to as “cocktail math,” liquor bottles are sold in 750 milliliter or 1 liter sizes, neither ounces nor cups. Only later did I realize this was a book idea too.

The app idea drove the book idea, even the book’s name. The app was a central feature of my book proposal, and I’m fairly certain it helped sell the project to Chronicle Books.

So as soon as I’d hit the “send” button on the manuscript, my next email was to inquire about the companion app.

“What’s next?” I ventured.

There would be no app, said the disappointing reply, although my publisher agreed that an app would have been a perfect extension of this particular book concept. “The trouble is that no one (publishers or developers) are seeing the sales levels we need to justify the production expense that’s required to make these products great.”

The hard truth is:  people still expect apps to be free, or nearly free. Naturally, publishers are focusing their energies on profitable products – books, not apps.

Today, there still is no “Cocktails for a Crowd” app — and likely will never be, unless I pursue it independently.

Which brings me back to the app-tastic Ruhlman. I turned in my manuscript in January 2012. A few months later, I joyfully noticed that Ruhlman had begun “Friday Cocktail Hour” posts, starting with the classic Martini (8 parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth) and the Old-Fashioned (6 parts bourbon or rye, 1 part sugar, 1 part bitters). He hasn’t yet broken down cocktails into his “Ratio” format, but I say it’s just a matter of time. (If you’re impatient, I’d recommend picking up a copy of DIY Cocktails, which emphasizes the ratio aspect of cocktails.)

Are apps related to cookbooks dead in the water? I’m starting to think so.

Perhaps I should grease the wheels of optimism a bit and send a copy of my new book to Ruhlman. Because I see a “Ratio: Cocktails” book in his future. And possibly an app to go with that, too.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cocktails for a Crowd, Uncategorized

How much water should you add to a pre-batched cocktail?

Dave Arnold (image courtesy MOFAD)

Dave Arnold (image courtesy MOFAD)

This is a question I grappled with throughout the recipe-testing process for Cocktails for a Crowd.  It might seem like a trifling matter — but you’d be surprised how much it impacts a cocktail. The right amount of water makes a cocktail better — that’s one of the reasons we add ice to drinks.

Although I ultimately landed on adding about 25% to 30% water to simulate the effect of melting ice, as usual, Dave Arnold figured out a more precise way to figure out the right amount of water to add.

And he figured it out years before I did.

If you don’t already know Arnold, he’s the poster boy for better cooking (and drinking) through chemistry. He’s the mastermind behind Booker & Dax, a chemistry lab-turned-cocktail bar. He’s also one of the driving forces behind the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) — an enterprise I’m excited about– and hosts the longtime “Cooking Issues” podcast on Heritage Radio Network.

During a 2010 episode of Cooking Issues, Arnold tackled the topic of how much water to add to a pre-batched cocktail. Not only that, he compared how to handle drinks that are traditionally shaken vs. those that typically are stirred. “It’s hard to pre-batch a shaken cocktail,” he admits. “You really do need to shake it to get the texture right.”

Of course, his mad-scientist approach involves using liquid nitrogen to dilute the drink and still get the properly aerated texture that shaking provides. Most home bartenders, of course, aren’t about to start fiddling with liquid nitro. “If possible, choose a stirred drink to pre-batch,” Arnold concludes.  (I agree — but then again, I might be up for replicating shaken drinks for 20 people, where he would be replicating them for a “crowd” of 200 guests.) Here’s how Arnold determines how much water to add:

Make a single drink, using volume, the way you normally would, with jiggers. Weigh it on an accurate scale. Write the number down, that’s how much drink you’re starting with. Add your ice, stir it, then strain it. Now weigh how much the drink weighs now. That’s the weight of the total cocktail. Subtract the weight of the liquor you used from the total weight of the cocktail, and that’s the amount of water you should add. That’s the way to do it, instead of guessing in your head at 25%. If you just add water at room temp and taste it – When you chill it, the balance will be off.

It may seem tedious, but Arnold notes that you only need to do it once – if you get it right and write the recipe down, you don’t need to re-test it every time. And as Arnold says, “Your pre-batched drinks will thank you for it.

4 Comments

Filed under bar techniques, Cocktails for a Crowd, Uncategorized

Cocktails for a Crowd book signing – 8/11 at Salt & Sundry, Washington DC

This Sunday, I’ll be in Washington DC, signing books from 2-3:30 PM at one of the most beautiful housewares stores I’ve ever seen:  Salt & Sundry, inside Union Market. I already have my eye on some new glassware.

We’ll also be sampling cocktails from the book and bites provided by The Red Hen. Mark your calendar now!

2 Comments

August 5, 2013 · 10:58 am