Tag Archives: New York

Negroni Sbagliatos for a crowd

Image courtesy Manhattan Cocktail Classic

The Manhattan Cocktail Classic has officially drawn to a close. This is one of those epic events where bartenders serve hundreds — in some cases thousands – of cocktails at a go.  There were plenty of mediocre offerings, to be sure. But there were a great many memorable drinks too. And this was perhaps the most memorable drink of them all.

Likely, I was particularly attuned to this drink because of the Cocktails for a Crowd book. No doubt I was paying closer attention than ever before to how batched drinks were presented, ranging from the punch served in painted ceramic punchbowls at Dead Rabbit to colorful pink and orange Palomas decanted into swing-top glass flasks and arrayed on silver platters during a seminar.

But Campari topped them all, offering wee cans of Negroni Sbagliato cocktails. It’s a relatively simple classic cocktail:  Campari, sweet vermouth, and dry sparkling wine, like Prosecco. I first heard of it after Frank Bruni wrote about it a couple of years ago; it started popping up on drink menus shortly thereafter, though it’s still lesser-known vs the Negroni (Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin).  The cans were handed out at the splashy MCC gala, as well as at a party thrown by the brand a couple of nights later.

Apparently, the genesis of this canned cocktail began at last year’s gala, where Negronis were pre-batched, carbonated and bottled. At the event, bartenders merely popped off the bottle caps and inserted a straw. It was on-trend — arguably, ahead-of-trend– fun to drink and speedy to serve. The canned cocktails had been floated for the 2012 gala, a PR rep told me (as we sipped Sbagliatos, natch), but tabled until 2013.

Apparently, a great deal of effort went into those canned cocktails. They had to be specially made, the cocktail had to be made in large quantities, and they had to be shipped over. The red-and-white striped plastic straws (not paper, which disintegrate quickly), were sourced from Etsy.

Everyone noticed them. From a drinker’s perspective, it was a good cocktail — truly, the most important part of this equation — and it was fun to drink, so people actually walked around and drank from the cans. It wasn’t too big and it wasn’t too boozy, so it was one of the few cocktails I actually finished at the Gala. From a marketer’s perspective, it was clearly branded — no mistaking the distinctive Campari red, and it was labeled in big letters anyway, identifying the brand and the name of the drink. It was memorable and everyone asked where to get one. It was clever and not too ostentatious. Even the straws reinforced the branding, but in a tasteful way.

Now here’s where things fall apart. Despite this marketing coup, no one can buy this product. And I heard many people say they would gladly purchase a six-pack of Sbagliatos (I was one of them). You can buy a cans of Pimm’s at convenience stores in the UK, yet in the United States, the Ready-To-Drink category is limited to pouches of awful slushy Margaritas made with fake lime flavoring. If Campari brought the canned Sbagliato product to market, I would consider it to be an outright marketing success. If not, it was just a clever flash-in-the-pan that will need to be topped again next year.

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Cocktail recipe: East River Defense

My article, Your Cocktail’s Been A-Saltedappears in the March/April 2013 issue of Arrive Magazine, which –for once!– I got to read in hard copy format as I trundled along from NY to Baltimore and back again last week on Amtrak.

Gotta love any publication that lets me get away with a pun like that in the headline!

I’ve been looking forward to showcasing the East River Defense cocktail in the photo above ever since I first went to Northern Spy, a sweet little locavore spot in the East Village about a year ago.  I was there to interview Co-owner and Beverage Director Chris Ronis for a Wine Enthusiast feature about Aperitif Cocktails, and although it wasn’t part of the article, this was the drink I walked away thinking about — it had the strangest sweet-salty-tart-refreshing combination.

Northern Spy doesn’t have a full liquor license — they can serve only wine and beer. Luckily, that includes fortified wines (like sherry) and aperitif wines, so the drinks list still is robust and interesting.  In part, it’s that way because Ronis brought in mixologist Erick Castro to create the drinks. (If Castro’s name sounds familiar, perhaps that’s because you’ve been reading about his buzz-y new bar in San Diego, Polite Provisions.)

Although Ronis told me that this is based on a classic Cobbler, I think it’s even closer to the Paloma, a tequila drink made with grapefruit soda. Either way, it’s a perfect cocktail to transition into early spring.

East River Defense

Created by Erick Castro for Northern Spy ((New York, NY).  Nubbly “sea-salted ice” plus briny Manzanilla sherry gives the drink a refreshing salt-air tang.

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

3 ounces Manzanilla sherry

1 ounce lemon juice

1 ounce simple syrup

3 dashes Scrappy’s grapefruit bitters

Soda water

Scoop ice into a Collins glass, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. In a cocktail shaker, combine sherry, lemon juice, simple syrup and bitters. Shake well, and strain into glass over the sea-salted ice. Top with soda water. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge and serve with a straw.

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March 11, 2013 · 10:47 am

NYC friends: an All-American Whiskey and Cheese pairing event

Though I haven’t yet seen the new film about Abraham Lincoln, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what Lincoln might drink.

That’s because I have the joyful task of procuring whiskeys for an upcoming event in honor of President’s Day:  A President’s Day Toast to American Whiskey and American Cheese! This event, to be held on Monday, February 11, is produced by the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance, an organization of which I’m proud to be a member, and will be hosted at The Flatiron Room,  a new “whiskey and spirits parlor.”

Heather Greene, an outspoken advocate of women and whiskey, will be talking about the hooch; cheese expert Diana Pittet will be explaining the cheeses.

A few seats are still available — but this is a limited-seating event, and truly, they won’t last long. So if you’re interested in attending, I suggest booking sooner rather than later. (And yes, boys are allowed!)

I don’t want to spoil the surprise by telling you exactly what will be poured — but I can tell you this:  we’re doing four whiskey pours, paired with four cheeses, all of American provenance. There might be a fifth “bonus” pour (shhhh). But here’s a little hint as to what’s going in the glasses:

A delectable single barrel bourbon that retails for $400 to $500 per bottle. (if that’s not worth the price of admission, I don’t know what is!)

One of the few American-made single malts around. And this is a special one:  smoky like an Islay Scotch, and just snagged a prestigious award for best artisan whiskey! I was pleasantly surprised that the distillers were willing to part with a bottle for our event – this will soon be a tough whiskey to get.

My new favorite bottled-in-bond rye whiskey for my new favorite cocktail, the Final Ward.

A locally-made bourbon finished in sherry casks. Think caramel mixed with dried peaches and plums. It’s delicious, trust me, and there’s a great story behind the bottle too.

That’s all I’m going to say about this event. Snag a ticket while you can.

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Is this the future of cocktail menus?

Cocktails are seeing all kinds of innovation these days — but not often the menus that list those drinks.  Sometimes it seems like nothing much has changed since the invention of those always-sticky laminated menus.

But in recent weeks, I’ve noticed some innovative and compelling approaches to cocktail menu presentation. Of course, there’s the “axis approach” on Pouring Ribbons’ menu, which plots all the drink on an axis spanning from “comforting” to “adventurous,” and from “refreshing” to “spirituous.” And there are the growing ranks of iPad menus, which sometimes use technology to provide a little extra information about items, such as winemaker videos.

But the two following menus display a tremendous amount of thought about design and drink concepts, as well as high production values.  Are either of these  likely to set a new template for cocktail menus going forward?

Exhibit A:  Menu-as-Book:  Dead Rabbit

The Bar at The Merchant Hotel in Belfast made waves years ago when they started publishing cocktail menu books, and I spotted a couple of copycat menus-as-books during a trip to Dublin a few months back. But the idea hasn’t caught on here in the U.S. But now that Sean Muldoon has moved stateside to open his new Dead Rabbit outpost in NY’s Wall Street area, he’s brought his menu books — and their high production values — here as well.  A look at the menu:

DR_full monty

This is the full monty: the hard-backed drink menu book on the left, a seasonal drink update in the middle, and the soft-backed spirits list book on the right.

DR_cocktail menu

A closer look at the cocktail menu. It feels like soft leather, and is published by Drinksology.com. Can’t help wondering how the cover will hold up after a few drinks are spilled on the outside.

DR_illustrations

A look inside the book: one of the few spreads with more than a minimum of color.

drink page

A listing of punches, served in individual portions. The format here follows throughout the menu pages – illustration and quote on the left, menu on the right.

DR_TOC

It’s an extensive little book – so extensive as to require a Table of Contents to navigate.

DR_Spirits

Here’s a look inside the Spirits List. It lists not only product name and the price per pour, but also extensive tasting notes, the proof, the country of origin, and for ryes and whiskeys, the mash bill! I’ll be hanging on to this document for future reference.

 

Exhibit B:  Menu-as-Newspaper:  The Vault at Pfaff’s

Another interesting use of medium – instead of the super-permanent book, The Vault at Pfaff’s has opted to go with the super-disposable newspaper format. The top lists cocktails, and wines are listed inside, spirits on the back. It’s a clever nod to the fact that The Saturday Press was published in the same space that now houses the bar — 157 issues of the literary weekly were published from the 1850s through the 1860s, with a hiatus for the Civil War. (An aside: thanks to Lehigh University, you can browse copies of The Saturday Post online.)

Although it’s an eye-catching and tactile experience to hold newsprint, a nice nod back to the historic space, it has failed in one way, beverage manager Frank Caiafa confided:  “We thought people would want to take them home, as a keepsake,” he said. “But people seem to think they’re too nice to take!” Luckily, I had no such compunctions, and here are a few snaps of my menu:

VP- menu

The front of the newspaper-style menu. Insane scrawlings and circles are mine – not part of the design!

VP_inside

A look inside the newspaper. I’m not sure how this works on nights when the bar is crowded – I have trouble finding space to open a newspaper on a subway, let alone a crowded bar.

VP_ad

A closer look at one of the “ads” on the inside — they’re not advertisements at all, and no one has paid to be featured in the menu, Caiafa says. Some are antique scraps of text, others provide information about a specific brand (here, Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin) that Caiafa thought guests would want to learn more about.

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Pictorial: Four Whiskeys, Old and Rare

A couple of weeks back, I attended an auction preview event at Bonhams. I knew that auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s often sell off old and rare wines, but this was the first time I’d seen spirits up for auction. While the main event was a bottle of 50-plus-year-old Bowmore Scotch (estimated to fetch between $160,000 and $190,000 – a real bargain, don’t you think?) a number of other old and rare whiskeys on display caught my eye, particularly the following four.

Maryland Rye Whiskey (priced at $200-$300). It’s not just the half-gallon milk jug or the wooden carry-handle. It’s that Maryland was once known as a rye-producing state, famed for its sweet, light style of rye (vs. the intense, spicy rye we know today), and it’s not something you see much of anymore. This was a bottle I’d be curious to try, if I ever had the opportunity.image

American Medicinal Spirits Co. – Special Old Reserve (priced at $500-$700). Seven one-pint bottles of “Prohibition bourbon” (distilled in 1916, bottled in 1933) were on offer, all labeled “For Medicinal Purposes Only.” Mmm-hmmm. If you say so.

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John Hancock Whisky (no price listed). Oddly, this bottle wasn’t listed in the auction catalogue, so I have no benchmark on pricing. The best part is the label note:  “Pure and without drugs or poison.” Yikes! Although it’s hard to tell from the label alone, based on that telling little line, I’m guessing that this bottle is either Prohibition era, or even earlier, since the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was intended to combat such adulteration.

image

Hanyu Distillery (priced at $400-600 for two bottles). This limited release bottling of 18-year-old Single Nippon Malt Whisky was a limited release bottling, and the distillery is now closed. Released in 2006, this is by no means an old whiskey, but apparently it sold out with lightning speed and the “shameless but classic” label is iconic in Japanese whisky circles.
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Come to my seminar at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic!

Is there a book idea on your cocktail menu? If you’re a bartender or cocktail enthusiast considering writing a book, come hear an all-star panel of authors and publishers share their secrets about the book biz, and how they got their cocktail books written and published.

I’m really excited about this panel – as an author, this is a subject close to my heart. Hope to see you there!

Where: The Manhattan Cocktail Classic - Industry Invitational. At the Andaz Hotel (485 Fifth Ave., Second Floor, Liquor.com room – Studio 1BC).

When: Saturday, May 12, from 4:30 to 5:30 pm.

Who:  I’ll be moderating the panel, which includes Jim Meehan, managing partner of PDT and author of The PDT Cocktail Book; Lori Narlock,  publisher, Hang Time Press; Brad Thomas Parsons, author, Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All; and Maks Pazuniak & Kirk Estopinal, co-authors/publishers of Beta Cocktails.

What: The cocktail book landscape is changing – fast! Will this be YOUR year to publish a cocktail book and kick your career up to the next level?

Two of 2011’s strongest sellers were Bitters (which went into its second publishing run just one month after it came out) and PDT’s acclaimed new cocktail book. But in addition to conventional publishing, new paths are available for the bartender (or cocktail enthusiast) with something to say. Consider the cult success of Rogue Cocktails/Beta Cocktails, which was self-published, or the even newer e-publishing options for iPads, Kindles and other devices. One new publisher (Hang Time Press) is even publishing e-books containing 10 drinks apiece.

* Learn about the changing book publishing landscape for cocktail books.
* Get the details on self-publishing and e-publishing a cocktail book.
* Hear from the experts how they sold their book projects.
* Gather ideas for developing and selling your own cocktail book.

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IACP Checklist: 16 essential NY eating & drinking experiences

Have you already booked your ticket to New York for the IACP annual conference?  Excellent. 

Now lean in and listen close, because this longtime New Yorker is going to tell you everything you need to know while you’re in town. Shhh…don’t tell the locals I told you any of this.

First, a few ground rules for blending in. Walk fast – pretend you’re late for a meeting and you’ll fit right in. No meandering, rubbernecking at the buildings or blocking the sidewalk by walking four abreast. When in doubt, wear black – a bonus: it hides food stains! Buy a Metrocard and use public transportation. For God’s sake, don’t call NY “The Big Apple” or “New York City.”  It’s New York. Period. We like to pretend that nothing exists outside of the city. Tip well. Doubling the tax on your bill is an easy shortcut. Tip bartenders at least one dollar per drink; two is better.  Get the hell out of Times Square. Yes, yes, it’s our home base for the conference. It’s also a tourist trap and a culinary wasteland. Photograph the lights and the crowds… then affect the proper disdain and go elsewhere to seek even a shred of New York authenticity.

Where to go? Here are a few suggestions, specifically for IACP visitors:

1. Any indie coffee shop. I have nothing against Starbucks, but face it, you could have it anywhere. My favorite coffee shops are 71 Irving and Stumptown in the Ace Hotel. A final note – if you spot an Internet access terminal in a coffee shop — RUN. It’s like an early warning signal that the coffee will suck.

2. Anywhere in Brooklyn and/or Queens. Jackson Heights. Red Hook. Williamsburg. IACP has some good optional tours – sign up. If you’re an independent adventurer, go have pizza at Roberta’s and eavesdrop on Heritage Radio Network, which tapes in the back.

 3. Arthur Avenue. Skip Little Italy, and head to the Bronx.

4. Astor Wines & Spirits. Pack a box full of hard-to-get potables and ship it home.

5. Bemelman’s Bar at the Carlyle Hotel, or another great hotel bar steeped in New York history and featuring an excellent cocktail list.

6. Chelsea Market. The Food Network is located here, along with lots of food-happy shopping outposts.

7. Eataly. Batali, Bastianich, Barolo, bagna cauda, birreria…..

8. Kalustyans. This Indian market recently expanded its space, and will blow the minds of spice-lovers. It’s also good for hard-to-find cocktail ingredients like bitters and syrups. And it provides a convenient excuse for snacking your way through Curry Hill’s other Indian eateries.

9. Kitchen Arts & Letters. A great indie cookbook store. Ask about any book, from any place or any time. These guys are amazing.

10. Momofuku. Anything in the Momofuku family will do, whether it’s Crack Pie at one of the Milk Bars, a quick bite at the Ssam Bar (and a drink at new, uber-hot Booker & Dax), or a full-on wine dinner at Ma Peche.

11. New Amsterdam Market. Weekends only; check the calendar. In addition to all the artisan food vendors, take in the cobblestones and the East River, and imagine you’ve travelled back in time.

12. Pegu Club, or another great cocktail bar:  Lani Kai, Employees Only (west side) Death & Co., Cienfuegos, Amor y Amargo (east side) all are excellent options for of-the-moment cocktails. So is Clover Club in Brooklyn. Although there are a bazillon other wonderful (and newer, hotter) bars in NY, I’m deliberately suggesting these because you’re assured of A) a great drink and B) name recognition bragging rights when you go home.

13. Russ & Daughters – Bagels, lox, appetizing, and loads of history.

14. Second Avenue Deli, for a true kosher pastrami sandwich. (Hint:  it’s relocated and it’s no longer on Second Avenue. Pretend you already knew that bit of NY trivia.) Katz’s is an acceptable second choice, though it’s not kosher. Carnegie Deli is for tourists; avoid it.

15. Union Square Greenmarket. Especially early on a Wednesday, when the chefs shop (keep an eye out for restaurant kitchen jackets).

16. Zabar’s – the one on the Upper West Side, for both food and local color. The one on the East Side is for sissies.

If you have a suggestion, please feel free to add a comment before March 29, when the IACP conference begins!

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Scenes from the Manhattan Cocktail Classic – Sunday

At this point, I’ve been asked a few times how I make it through booze-soaked events like the MCC without becoming utterly sozzled. My response is a simple one:  Receive a drink. Take 3 sips. PUT THE DRINK DOWN, and move away. If I continue to hold the drink, I’ll continue to sip it while I’m chatting with someone.

This was a valuable strategy yesterday, since I believe I went through easily 2 dozen cocktails and spirits pours in this manner. Rather than list every drink, here are a few highlights.

The cocktail I most wanted to finish (but didn’t): Brompton Cocktail (Tito’s Vodka, Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters, Licor 43, Lillet Rouge, lemon twist)

Most intriguing and maddening spirit:  At a tasting held at Amor y Amargo, I sampled the intriguing Sir Walt’s, an oddly savory liqueur with caraway and anise notes, and a gin-like finish. Maddening because the rep insisted it had ginger notes, and I didn’t detect any. Maddening because I want some and it’s not sold in the U.S. (although another rep suggested I could purchase it online from the UK’s Whiskey Exchange).

Best marketing attention-getter:  Patron effortlessly coaxed me over to their flavored tequila corner of the world with whoopie pies infused with their coffee tequila and orange tequila. The enormous branded cell phone charging station also brought lots of people over….who stayed to babysit their precious devices while sipping drinks like the  “Ultimat Breakfast” (Patron XO Cafe, Ultimat vodka, Hershey’s chocolate syrup, heavy cream, dusting of cayenne pepper).

Wildest bartender technique:  Chad Solomon used a Cryovac to infuse an orange slice with curry spices, which he used to garnish a drink at last night’s Campari event. I foolishly did not capture a photo of the drink, but here’s a shot of another curried Campari drink. This photo shows suave Italian bartender Francesco LaFranconi finishing a Campari drink (dosed with a teaspoon of curry powder) with coconut foam.

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Scenes from the Manhattan Cocktail Classic – Friday/Saturday

It’s been a crazy couple of days here at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, so I’ll let the photos do the talking:
 

Friday Night  – Gala

I couldn’t fit a camera in my teeny vintage purse. The following 3 photos are courtesy of belathee.com.

MCC  signage inside the New York Public Library 

 

This shot-sized drink was made with gin, chamomile tea, and raspberries, and was garnished with a rose petal.

 
 

  Adam Seger, looking fab as usual.  

Saturday: MCC Seminars

For me, the big highlight of the day was my “Whiskey Is The New Black” seminar. I was pretty much consumed with making sure all went well behind the scenes, so I didn’t take many photos. (I’ll save my tales about panic over the whiskey that almost didn’t show, transporting 15 pounds of cheese for whiskey/cheese pairings, and the supreme awesomeness of my panelists – Michter’s distiller Willie Pratt and mixologist Jason Asher – for another day). The couple of snaps I managed were taken “backstage” in the kitchen area, and were taken hastily with my cellphone. I’m a little embarrassed to have them on the same page as professional-quality photos, but they do more or less reflect the hurried quality of my day.

Oranges roasting on the stovetop – I think these were intended for the Italian Aperitivi seminar, as Negroni garnishes.
 
 The amazing sideboard of ingredients for the volunteer mixologists to use in batching the hundreds (thousands?) of drinks being served in seminars.

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Vote Now! Seminars for the Manhattan Cocktail Classic

This year, the Manhattan Cocktail Classic is encouraging us to exercise our right to vote – all seminars will be based on the public’s interest and choices. SO…I am asking each and every one of you (and anyone else you can convince) to click on the link below and vote for my seminars:

#42So You Want to Write A Cocktail Book?  (with Dushan Zaric and Jason Kosmas, co-authors of  Speakeasy)
#43Whiskey is the New Black (featuring an all-star line-up of stylish whiskies!)
Thanks!  I appreciate your support.

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