Sunday, August 5, 2007

Tales of the Cocktail - Day Two

My day began with an entertaining seminar on the role of women in spirits and cocktails as presnted and performed by two of my favorite women in the business today: Charlotte Voisey and LeNell Smothers. They were dressed in 19th Century period garb and told stories of some of the most influential women in the industry. It was a nice way to start the day, but I had to run off as Ed Hamilton and his Rum Competition called. I was to be a judge in the 3rd Round: Premium Rums. (That's me and Ed with the tray of 22 rums that I tasted). It was two hours of focused tasting that left me a nice bounce in my step as I headed over to Cafe Giovanni to start prepping for our dinner. My results? #3 -Vizcaya VXOP 21 Year from Dominican Republic (scored 87); #2 - El Dorado 12 year from Guyana (scored 89) and #1 - Pyrat Cask 1623 from Anguilla (scored 92). For the total round up, see Ed's Ministry of Rum Site (see Drinks with my Friends below). After the rum contest, I headed over to Cafe Giovanni to meet with my co-workers for the evening: Francesco Lafranconi and Allen Katz, two of Southern Wine and Spirits' Directors of Mixology. Francesco and I had gone back and forth about the menu in the months prior to the event, but I basically took his lead as we pulled together a menu of 5 cocktails to be paired with Chef Duke's meal. It was actually as fun an afternoon of prepping cocktails as I've had getting to know these two great bartenders. Francesco pulled all of the stops and incuded such entertaining elements as flying in small crabs from Japan to be deep fried and "glued" to the base of a glass as a garnish. That's me, Francesco, Duke and Allen in the kitchen after revealing the box of live crabs to Duke. I think Duke thought Francesco was nuts at that point. By the end of the evening, he knew we were all nuts, and that we fit right in. Check out that shot of Allen with the crab on the glass. Hilarious. Anyway, 4 hours of prep for 5 rounds of 60 drinks and we were ready to serve. Our friends, new and old, arrived and we began slinging drinks. The food flowed, the people laughed and finally, we were done and ready to roll out into the night. This was a great night of fun for us and, I hope, for our guests. I look forward to doing a dinner like this again next year. I don't know if we can out do those crabs though...Here's one recipe (we were asked to use a new, limited edition product: Absolut New Orleans, a mango and black pepper vodka whose procedes will go to Gulf Hurricane Relief projects):

New Orleans Wine Cup
.5oz Absolut New Orleans
.5oz Barsol Pisco Quebranta
.5oz Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry
3oz Trinchero Sauvignon Blanc
.25 rock candy syrup
a dash Herbsaint to coat glass
Pour all ingredients ina white wine glass coated with the Herbsaint and garnish with a sprig of thyme wrapped in a lace of orange zest.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Tales of the Cocktail - Day One

Day One at Tales of the Cocktail was not much of "day" for me since I didn't get into the Hotel Monteleon until about 7pm and we went right over to Harrah's for the Opening Cocktail Party. As soon as I entered, I recognized many of my friends and acquaintences from around the country. I knew right away that this was going to be one heck of an event from the talent in that room. But the reunion I was most excited about was seeing my first mentor in the industry, Chef Duke Lociciero. Chef Duke and I met in the summer of 1986 when I was a 16 year old beach bum on Long Beach Island, NJ. Duke had just finished his degree in Hyde Park and was a New Orleans fish out of water dropped in the center of "the Shore". To this day he can't believe how many breakfasts we'd do at Ott's Sea Ketch on a daily basis. The place was insane, and Duke taught me how to handle "insane". Chef Duke taught me how to use every tool in the kitchen, how to prep and how to pair. He put me through the fire and taught me every position on the line. When I left that summer, I had a whole new perspective on what work was and what food was. The work ethic, the palate and the passion are the take aways that have stayed with me ever since, and I owe it all to Duke. So when we re-connected after all of these years, I was thrilled to be a guest in his home town, where he is no small fish in a big food pond. He introduced me to his lovely wife Kelly and invited me and Jeff Hollinger back to Cafe Giovanni to see the restaurant and have my first Sazerac of the trip. This photo is at the bar. If you ever make it to New Orleans, stop by and see Duke and Kelly, and tell them H sent you!

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Check out all of the Day One Photos here:
Tales of the Cocktail Day One

Thursday, July 5, 2007

An Invitation: Tales of the Cocktail

I'd like to invite anyone who reads this and enjoys cocktails to what is sure to be the event of the year in the cocktail world: Tales of the Cocktail. It is a 5 day extravaganza of some of the best and the brightest bartenders, mixologists, chefs, distillers, writers and booze geeks of all levels. I'll be:

So check it all out online, make your travel plans and BE THERE! You won't regret it!

My Tales of the Cocktail profile:

Monday, June 25, 2007

Pedregal Margaritas

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Pedregal Margarita anyone?

Ok, here's my second attempt at a blog. I didn't like MySpace, so I'm trying Blogger. I'm also going to try a different approach. A bit more casual and less wordy. I'm simply too busy to write a lot, but it is the things that keep me busy that I want to write about. The old Catch 22 (not a bad cocktail name...hmm....)

So I was in Cabo San Lucas a couple of weeks ago for my buddy Heming's bachelor party. Man was that fun. We rented a couple of houses up in Pedregal, and ours had an infinity pool with an amazing view of the private beach. And what's more is it had a bar behind that pool with the same view! So, what did I do? I went to the local market and bought a ton of fresh fruit, some great tequila and went to work.

When I travel with friends they always ask me to make drinks. And if they don't I force them to drink them anyway. So in this case, I was with 20 guys in Mexico and they're all drinking beer. I said, "tough shit, your drinking good tequila cocktails while I'm here."

Now, I was not traveling with my full bar kit, just a limited set of tools. But the idea here is that when you go on vacation, you don't need much. A good spirit, some fresh fruit, orange liqueur, a sweetener, and maybe some herbs, like mint or basil. I spent $100 at the market and served 20 for 3 hours. (OK, so the tequila shots shortened my ability to make cocktails).

Point of the story: Don't settle for less when you go on vacation. Although we were in Mexico (or Southern Southern California, as I prefer to call Cabo - they charge you in dollars and speak to you in English) I had some of the worst margaritas of my life. The place is so commercialized that THEY barely know what fresh lime tastes like. All you need is what I said above:

fresh fruit
a quality spirit
a modifying spirit
a sweetener

and, voila: you have fresh cocktails to go with your beautiful views, good friends, and peaceful sunsets.

Pedregal Margarita

2-3 big spoonfuls of watermelon
3 strawberries
juice of 1/2 lime
2 teaspoons of powdered sugar OR 1/2oz simple syrup OR 1/4oz agave nectar
(they had powdered sugar in the cabinet at our rental)
1.5 -2 oz 100% Blue Agave Tequila (I prefer blanco or reposado, depending on the brand - in this case I used one of my favorites: Corralejo Reposado )
1/2 oz Cointreau

Muddle the fruit with whatever is available (wooden spoon, back of the handle of another kitchen tool, bottom of a tall glass). Add the other ingredients and top with ice. Shake hard for good dilution. Strain over fresh ice or serve "country style" with all of the chunks in it.

Damn that's good.