Loading...

Follow Imbibe Magazine | Cocktails Spirits on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
or

Valid

The Margarita will always be a favorite among fans of tequila cocktails, but if you’re looking for another refreshing option that shows how well citrus and agave mix together, it’s time to turn your attention towards the Paloma. An effortless combination of tequila, lime and grapefruit, the classic Paloma holds its own in the world of great tequila drinks, and its simple framework has sparked countless riffs from bars around the world. Here are a few of our favorite variations.

Mezcal Ancho Paloma
A spicy, smoky take on a classic.

Morning Star
Pisco and thyme redefine the Paloma.

Paloma Italiano
The classic gets an Italian twist.

Palomish
A split base of mezcal and tequila, plus a piquant ghost pepper tincture, make for a fiery version.

Peach and Orange Paloma Punch
Add some extra sunshine to your next brunch with paloma punch.

Red Macaw
A refreshing highball with your choice of base spirit.

Tasteful Nudes
Rosemary and tequila perk up with Aperol and grapefruit.

Did you enjoy this article? Get more of the best of liquid culture when you sign up for a print or digital subscription to Imbibe Magazine. Click here for special savings!

The post Riffs: The Paloma appeared first on Imbibe Magazine.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

A cathedral-like milk glass window sets a dramatic tone for the bar at A Rake’s Progress, one of the new restaurants in the LINE hotel in Washington, D.C. “I’ve always enjoyed old buildings, being from Baltimore, but this space has a grandness and elegance to it that inspired the direction for the bar from the beginning,” says beverage director and partner Corey Polyoka. “The large window was always at home in a church, and it was beckoning to be reimagined as a back bar. Getting service started under the ‘Golden Hour’ light in that grand space makes our approach to drinks feel important and significant in a new way.”

Housed in a 110-year-old former church in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, the LINE has three restaurants, two bars and a coffee shop in addition to guest rooms. At A Rake’s Progress, the dining room occupies the area that was formerly used as balcony seating in the main sanctuary of the church, says Sana Keefer, The LINE’s global brand director. “We attempted to incorporate as many existing design elements into the space as we could,” she adds. “Specifically, we restored existing plaster moldings, the existing milk glass windows, the stone stairs and wood handrails leading up to the restaurant and all of the pendant lighting fixtures were original to the church and restored. We also repurposed the original pipes from the church organ to create the main chandelier in the space.”

Making sure the bar and restaurant spoke to the history of Washington, D.C., was a priority. The design team worked with a number of Mid-Atlantic furniture vendors and companies to orchestrate the modern look. “Our dining and bar tables were all fabricated in Baltimore, as were the library ladders at the bar. The millwork for the bar was fabricated in Pennsylvania and all of the soapstone used throughout the restaurant was sourced from a quarry in Albarene, Virginia, outside of Charlottesville,” says Keefer.

Establishing a clear regional personality was also a goal for the bar program, and Corey Polyoka (who formerly ran the bar at James Beard Award–nominated Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore) highlights ingredients from the region throughout the recipes. “Creating the program here was unique because we could have locals, people from around the world and guests staying with us for a few days instead of a few hours,” he says. “I wanted the cocktails to have a strong sense of place, showcasing why the Mid-Atlantic is a place to explore, so our menu was written to show regional drinkways, flavors and stories for guests to discover.”

In addition to serving locally made cider and beer on tap, the cocktail menu rotates seasonally, with some drinks like the Haymaker remaining a staple. “It’s a historical regional drink that we can make entirely with local inputs: D.C. white rum, ginger vinegar from two people that used to work with us, honey from Maryland, and salt from JQ Dickinson in West Virginia,” Polyoka says. “It’s been on the menu since the first day and will stay on as long as we’re there.” Others drinks, such as the Improved Old Fashioned, use preserved fruit. “I wanted a stirred drink that brought a pick-your-own-adventure fruit flavor to it. We’ll constantly rotate the fruit syrup out through the year, and guest get to pick the base spirit. We cut our own ice and, of course, make our own bitters, too.”

To adapt to the hotel setting, Polyoka also added a classics section of the menu to offer a few familiar options for guests in addition to house specials. But the goal is about more than just making great drinks; Polyoka also wants to have an impact on the local community. “I’m seeing more restaurateurs and bar owners thinking about how our industry can affect change in this world. Can a drink, in a hotel, do that? I think it can,” he says. “We cut out middlemen, support regional agriculture, buy from small distillers, give new spirits and beverages a platform to grow, all while delivering a meal our guests hopefully enjoy.”

Did you enjoy this article? Get more of the best of liquid culture when you sign up for a print or digital subscription to Imbibe Magazine. Click here for special savings!

The post Inside Look: A Rake’s Bar at the LINE Hotel D.C. appeared first on Imbibe Magazine.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

The Studio at the Freehand in New York City is one of many bars within the hotel. | Photo by Adrian Gaut.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall the first time a hotelier raised the question, “What if guests could bar-hop right here, without ever leaving the hotel?” Lucky for travelers, this idea has started to catch on within the hotel community, prompting a new type of experience wherein guests have two, three, four or even five drinking and dining options under one roof.

Bar crawling has never been easier (or more fun) than at places like Hotel Emma in San Antonio, where Sternewirth and Supper offer a one-two punch, or in Providence, Rhode Island, where the Dean Hotel contrasts sultry basement bar The Magdalenae Room with Boombox, a karaoke lounge. In New York City, you can start the day at the new Freehand Hotel with brunch cocktails at Studio, the second-floor all-day café, then head for happy hour at the George Washington Bar before dinner and drinks at Simon & The Whale on the lobby level, then indulge in the hip tropical concoctions at the buzzing Broken Shaker at the top of the hotel.

And at the Hotel Commonwealth in Boston, Eastern Standard and the Hawthorne deliver two outstanding opportunities for in-house cocktails (and Island Creek Oyster joins the duo with fresh seafood and an excellent wine list). “Having multiple different food and beverage concepts in a hotel provides an element of choice that appeals to guests when it comes time for dinner, or perhaps just a pre-dinner drink,” says Hawthorne bar manager Jared Sadoian. “Just as you have a choice of what type of room you would like, having on-location options for food and drink encourages guests to stay on the property and will increase the stature of the hotel from simply a ‘place to stay’ into a destination in and of itself.”

Voyager’s Swizzle from Josephine Estelle at the Ace Hotel in New Orleans. | Photo by Emma Janzen.

The bars at the Hotel Commonwealth are owned and operated independently of the hotel management, which allows each concept to have more flexibility in what they offer, Sadoian adds. “For us, it’s about creating three very different environments, all attractive in their own way, that can connect in a fluid experience. Think afternoon oysters and Champagne as the sunset shines through the soaring windows at Island Creek Oyster Bar, followed by a three-course dinner paired with fine wine nestled in a plush banquette at Eastern Standard, and wrapping up with a nightcap downstairs in the dim glow of The Hawthorne. A night out on the town, all without having to get behind the wheel, call a taxi, or even venture outdoors (when the weather isn’t cooperating)!”

The Ace Hotel group first explored the idea of having multiple food and beverage experiences on-site for guests at their New York City location, which opened with The Breslin and the lobby bar on the first level. They’ve applied the same approach to their other properties around the country. At the Ace Hotel in New OrleansJosephine Estelle and a casual lobby bar offer daytime tipples, and as dusk approaches, a full menu rolls out at Three Keys, the hotel’s on-site music venue. On the roof, frozen drinks flow freely from Alto, and a few doors down the street, cozy nautical nook Seaworthy also functions under the hotel’s purview. “Having multiple outlets allows people to choose their own adventure and explore the place they’re in in new ways,” says Brad Wilson, president of Ace Hotels.

But the aim isn’t just to fill a hotel with as many venues as possible. Rather, Wilson says the Ace focuses on creating food and beverage experiences that pay homage to the history and culture of each city their hotels reside in. “New Orleans is particularly rich in history—music, culture, gastronomy and, of course, drinking. We wanted to pay tribute to these things and found organic ways to express our love for them [via each bar],” he says. And by doing so, the hotel manages to capture the attention of not just hotel guests, but the locals, too. “A unique outcome of building hotels for everyone—not just our guests—is that you welcome the whole city in. As a gathering space for travelers and locals both, it creates an environment ripe with the opportunity for making new friends, learning about each other.”

Paul McGee helms the beverage program at the Milk Room in Chicago. | Photo by Clayton Hauck.

Local culture was also a consideration at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. “Being neighbors to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park and so many others, we knew the hotel could be a cornerstone for the neighborhood which already had a huge amount of tourists. Our goal was to create concepts that would be a draw to our local Chicagoans (like me!) who would normally avoid the touristy areas,” says Michael Mason, director of restaurants, bars and programs for the hotel.

When the iconic the 1890s-era Chicago Athletic Club was renovated into the hotel in 2015, the drinking agenda set a new standard for the area. The lineup begins with slushies and shuffleboard at the aptly named Game Room, followed by aperitifs overlooking Millennium Park at rooftop bar Cindy’s. Austere classics steal the show at Cherry Circle Room, and after dinner, guests who are in-the-know seek the rare and vintage selection at The Milk Room. “We really let this one-of-a-kind building dictate at lot of the decision-making during the initial planing stages of bring the Chicago Athletic Association back to life as the hotel it is today,” says Mason.

Acclaimed bartender Paul McGee joined the team early on, researching history and past menus from bars and restaurant in the former club to make sure each new bar would speak to the building’s history. It’s been a smash hit, prompting a recent expansion of the main bar, a new terrace on the rooftop, and the addition of a service bar in the lobby. To keep up with demand, the team is currently looking at three other permanent bars in different locations of the hotel. “​To me, the large number of bar options under one roof really shows that hotels have embraced what f&b can do to enhance the reputation of the hotel to the public,” says Mason, adding that they’ve also started other programming to bolster their offerings, like panels that explore art, music and film, plus Netflix screenings and the creation of the Chicago Art Book Fair.

Did you enjoy this article? Get more of the best of liquid culture when you sign up for a print or digital subscription to Imbibe Magazine. Click here for special savings!

The post How to Bar Hop Without Ever Leaving Your Hotel appeared first on Imbibe Magazine.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

California’s grape-growing regions don’t just produce notable wine—they’re increasingly a part of what’s proving to be a new age for California brandy. The latest example? Bentwing Brandy from Alameda-based Hangar 1 Distillery, which made its national debut earlier this week. Made by blending brandy distilled from Northern California grapes with French brandies made in the Chenin Blanc style, Bentwing is then finished in charred oak barrels that previously held American single malt whiskey. A distinctive convergence of New and Old World styles, Bentwing has a bright, bouncy, fruit-forward character balanced with a deeper resonance from the barrels, with flavors ranging from floral honey notes to toasty touches of nuts and caramelized sugar. Bottled at 80 proof and bearing a modest price tag, Bentwing is built for the cocktail shaker, promising a delicious Sidecar. $29.99, hangarone.com.

The post Drink of the Week: Bentwing Brandy appeared first on Imbibe Magazine.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Before Instagram, there were postcards, refrigerator magnets and snow globes. Travel souvenirs have taken many forms—the first items brought home to memorialize a trip were apparently bone fragments of saints—but let’s take a moment to consider a once-widespread travel keepsake: the matchbook.

For much of the 20th century, when you stopped at a lounge, bar, restaurant or motel, you slipped a book of matches in your pocket. You brought them home and threw them in a drawer to be perused at leisure and paraded before friends. Collections grew, as if on their own. In 1971 a newspaper profiled Margaret Randall of Ogden, Utah, who kept 2,000 matchbooks in a large fishbowl in her living room. “It’s a great conversation piece,” she said. Acquaintances would stop by to ask about her new matches.

Serious collectors would pry out the staples along the bottom, discard the flammable parts, then put the flattened covers in albums or display racks. Clem Pater of Hamilton, Ohio, amassed more than 600,000 matchbooks. “A whole room of the Pater home,” reported the Journal News in 1976, “is devoted to the collection which Pater keeps in binders and in frames on the walls.” (Pater specialized in matches from county seats and had at least one matchbook from each of the nation’s county seats, some 3,000, save two.)

“Matches fulfill two American needs,” Larry Steiner of the Universal Match Co. said in 1980. “They fulfill the desire for something free and for something beautiful.”

The matchbook’s lineage dates to 1892, when Joshua Pusey of Pennsylvania came up with the idea of producing two rows of flexible cardboard matches attached to a paper folder and sold with a striking strip dangerously positioned within the matchbook (his variation was apparently designed to be stylishly carried in one’s pocket). Shortly thereafter, Charles Bowman is credited with inventing the matchbook as we know it today. (Diamond Match ultimately acquired both patents.) Bowman later invented a “safe” match, meant to be folded up in the matchbook and to deter hungry rats, because matches were then coated with paraffin (“of which they are quite fond,” read the patent). A nibbling rat could thus ignite a match (who knew?), which could lead to unfortunate conflagrations. Bowman is inadvertently responsible for one of the most common phrases ever printed: “Close cover before striking.”

A matchbook removed from a pocket invariably served as a prelude to a minor ceremonial moment. The tapping of a cigarette pack, the miniature sulfurous fireworks, the long, portentous inhalation followed by a cumulous cloud roiling toward the ceiling. The matchbook would then be tossed on the bar, drawing the attention of companions.

Bowman thus also invented one of the most effective and omnipresent advertising platforms ever devised. Early matches were sold to customers one book at a time, but enterprising folks quickly realized that this matchbook acreage was going unsowed by marketing sharecroppers. Instead of selling the matchbooks to consumers for pennies, they could sell them in bulk to business owners for dollars. Owners could then emblazon their logo front and back and give them away. A common saying was that every matchbook contained 20 salesmen—each time a match was taken out, an impression was made.

Motel owners left them in guest rooms, bar owners put them in ashtrays, restaurants stacked them like cordwood near cash registers. Like bar napkins, they also proved useful for jotting notes on the inside; some bars intentionally left spaces on the covers for the purpose of recording the name and number of potential future dates. And the real estate that matchbooks occupied was immense. At the peak of matchbook production in the mid-1970s, some 35 billion matchbooks were manufactured—the square-foot equivalent of approximately 3.5 million billboards.

The Sir Edmund Hillary of matchbook collecting was a doctor named Charles J. Higgs of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. When he died in 1968, his family inherited rooms and rooms of matchbooks, more than five million covers, stashed in cheese crates and wood cabinets with custom-sized drawers. (He also collected sugar cubes and soaps from hotels; he was “what is usually referred to as an eccentric,” noted an Allentown paper).

Matchbooks no longer hold the allure they once did. Various circumstances led to their demise, from the rise of the cheap butane lighter to the decline of smoking. I mostly blame Instagram. Every aspect of our lives has been condensed into the smartphone in our pocket—flashlight, camera, mailbox—and now the phone has hijacked our innate habit of collecting. Taking a quick photo is an instantaneous way to gather and share visual souvenirs. It also eliminates the need to sit at home and wait for friends to come by to ask, “What’s the deal with the fishbowl?”

Matchbooks haven’t gone fully extinct. They’re still out there, and many businesses continue to spread their message with these pocket billboards, either through momentum or retro-chic allure.

Still, the trend is clear; even matchbook collectors are dwindling in number, like veterans of long-ago wars. The Rathkamp Matchcover Society, which was formally founded in 1941, saw membership peak in the 1980s, when it had approximately 2,000 members. A staple of every local newspaper were profiles of local collectors. (Lancaster, Ohio, 1974: “Local man collects 11,747 matchbooks.”)

Last year, the Rathkamp Society held its annual meeting at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa. A scant 125 members attended. A search of Instagram yielded no posts from the event, so the question remains: Did it actually occur?

Did you enjoy this article? Get more of the best of liquid culture when you sign up for a print or digital subscription to Imbibe Magazine. Click here for special savings!

The post Mixopedia: The Tale Told by Bar Matchbooks appeared first on Imbibe Magazine.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

The S.S. Tonga, circa 1945.

Midway through the 20th century, the hotel became to the tiki bar what the tropics are to lei-bound plumeria: a profitable place to sprout up, where proliferation occurred naturally. “In the 1960s, expensively outfitted Polynesian restaurants could be found in many hotels,” says tiki expert, author and Latitude 29 owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. “Sheraton had the Kon-Tiki restaurant franchise, Hilton had the Trader Vic’s franchise and Marriott had the Kona-Kai chain.” But the faux Polynesian bar and restaurant in the windowless basement of Fairmont San Francisco didn’t follow suit. “What’s interesting about the Tonga Room is that it was—and still is—a stand-alone restaurant in one Fairmont location, not part of a chain of Tonga Rooms in other Fairmonts across the country.”

A singular site for drinks derived from tropical flavors for the past 74 years (which, according to a vintage menu, once included the Honolulu Cocktail, made with rum, pineapple juice and ¾ ounce of something called “pinky”), the Tonga Room has held its own beneath the Fairmont’s palatial glamor and glitz, where former presidents are rumored to rest their heads while visiting the Golden City. The venue itself dates back to 1929 and begins with a swimming pool.

Nearly destroyed by fires following the city’s 1906 earthquake two weeks prior to its planned opening, the Fairmont San Francisco welcomed its inaugural guests the following year and quickly became an oasis for the rich and famous. Soon, they required somewhere to splash. An Olympic-size hole in the ground formally known as the Terrace Plunge opened, and attracted aquatic-enthusiasts of inimitable skill. But eventually the pool lost its appeal and towel rentals declined. In a stroke of forward-thinking ingenuity, in 1945, the hotel’s new owner sought to transform the lonely pool into a restaurant and bar, the type of place so over-the-top even travelers could momentarily escape their own vacations. Naturally, Hollywood was called.

Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s lead set director, Mel Melvin, was hired to execute the job. Preserving the room’s nautical ambiance, Melvin hauled the S.S. Forester, a lumber schooner that once coasted between San Francisco and the South Sea Islands, from the muck near Martinez, California to the basement of the ritzy hotel. Several weeks of construction later, the S.S. Tonga was born: the ship’s deck hosted dance numbers, Chinese food was served alongside bright and boozy drinks, and smackdab in the center was the Plunge, now an electric-blue lagoon upon which an orchestra floated nightly. (It occasionally reprised its role as swimming pool for patrons after one too many Zombies: “Well, it finally happened; a couple of spiffligated gents stripped down to their shorts in the F’mont’s Tonga Room the other night–and leaped into the swimming pool!” wrote Chronicle columnist Herb Caen in 1946.)

Several minor renovations occurred in the following decades, including the 1953 installation of lighting-bedazzled rainstorms scheduled roughly every 30 minutes. Though the Tonga Room received its most dramatic facelift in 1967 from architect Howard Hirsch, whose remodel solidified the space as a “high tiki” hallmark. Lava-rock walls, thatched-roof huts, canoes roped to the ceiling and custom-carved tikis followed the Polynesian Pop aesthetics of the time. “As much as I love it, I don’t think it was ever a trendsetter,” Berry says. “The Tonga Room jumped on the bamboo bandwagon in the 1967, well into the second decade of the Polynesian-themed restaurant boom.”

But something about the bar proved uniquely alluring, and even as tiki lost ground to Margaritaville, the Tonga Room outlasted the competition, likely due to the bon vivants from above who ventured from their rooms to the subterranean hideout to mouth-wrestle two-foot-long plastic straws poking from fishbowl-sized drinks. (The bar, slowly modernizing, is now looking to go eco-friendly with paper or washable sucking devices.)

With the genre’s revival, tiki enthusiasts have bountiful options across the country at which to raise a coconut. But San Franciscans, global travelers and tiki devotees all find themselves drawn back to the Tonga Room, the only one of its species, for a potent dose of the past. Anthony Bourdain once described it as “the greatest place in the history of the world.” An estimated 750 guests now turn up nightly, many opting for the menu’s golden child Mai Tai—alleged by some as the best in the Bay Area. It even survived a condominium-driven demolition plot in 2009 thanks to its rallied fans who claimed landmark status.

“Like an extinct exotic insect preserved in amber, it’s an intact example of a midcentury ‘Polynesian Palace’ on a grand scale, which no new restaurant could ever afford to outfit today,” says Berry, a fact that keeps the bar close to the hearts of purists. “It proves the validity of the aesthetic on an unironic level, not just as camp or kitsch. That classic, elegant, white-tablecloth Polynesian-themed boîtes haven’t gone the way of the dinosaur.”

Did you enjoy this article? Get more of the best of liquid culture when you sign up for a print or digital subscription to Imbibe Magazine. Click here for special savings!

The post San Francisco’s Tonga Room Is Still a Tiki Staple appeared first on Imbibe Magazine.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Every spring, one of the season’s showiest vegetables appears in markets once again, ready to be used for salads, pies and, of course, drinks, so we’ve rounded up some of our favorite rhubarb-forward recipes to bookmark for the season. Whether it’s via a syrup, purée or infusion, rhubarb lends a tart brightness to drinks and works beautifully with almost any base spirit. Note: A few of these recipes call for Giffard’s rhubarb liqueur, which is a lovely springtime addition to any home bar.

Fleur de Lis from Little Rituals
Cognac anchors this beautifully bright cocktail from Phoenix.

The Fool
Sparks of flavor magic fly in this pineapple and rhubarb aperitivo cocktail.

Jigger & Pony’s Singapore Sling Riff
Rhubarb purée gets put to work in this version of the Singapore Sling.

Nightcap’s Mantra Rock
A rhubarb liqueur from Giffard sets the tone for this fresh tequila cocktail.

Ramble On from Death & Co
This aged tequila cocktail perks up with a tart layer of rhubarb, raspberry and citrus.

Rhubarb Fizz
A simple rhubarb compote elevates this combo of PX sherry and gin.

Rhubarb-Ginger Planter’s Punch
The tiki classic gets a springtime twist.

Rhubarb Rye Julep
A seasonal take on the classic Mint Julep.

Rhubarb Spritz
A lovely spritz from former Chez Panisse cook Bernadette Wörndl’s book Fruit.

The Rizzo from Billy Sunday
Rhubarb syrup, fresh citrus and sparkling wine define this Negroni-inspired cocktail.

Strawberry Rhubarb Margarita
Fresh ingredients make all the difference in this seasonal margarita.

Did you enjoy this article? Get more of the best of liquid culture when you sign up for a print or digital subscription to Imbibe Magazine. Click here for special savings!

The post Rhubarb Cocktails appeared first on Imbibe Magazine.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Freddie Johnson is holding court in front of Warehouse C at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. “This building goes back to 1860,” he tells a group of some 30 tourists, “but the original material—the wood structures holding all the weight—goes back to 1797. It holds 24,000 barrels of whiskey. A full barrel of whiskey is 550 pounds. So that is over 6,000 tons of whiskey on timbers that go back to the 1700s! And this warehouse still produces some of the highest rated whiskey in the world.”

Johnson is a celebrity tour guide. This isn’t a title one can apply for—it’s earned. In Johnson’s case, he earned it over 16 years of leading groups. (During my visit, a white-haired gentleman walked past, saw Johnson, and excitedly announced to all: “Oh! He’s a great guide! We had him when we were here eight years ago!”) Johnson’s renown was enshrined last September when he was inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame, the highest honor conferred upon those working in Kentucky’s distilled spirits industry.

Johnson, still in front of Warehouse C, is now talking about the people who built it. “Their passion was making whiskey, but they were actually architects,” he says. “They were structural engineers, they were chemists, they were biochemists, they were arborists, they understood the rotation of the earth and the density of materials.” Bourbon makers, he says by way of wrapping up his soliloquy, had to be talented in a whole slew of fields.

Much the same might be said of the best tour guides. They know facts and data, they know history, they know how to tell a story, and they know how to wrap it all up with a neat bow. But most of all, they know how to leave visitors not just crammed with information, but with a deep emotional connection to the place. They also have to do this while walking backward.

Johnson brings an extra dimension to the mix: authenticity—he’s the third generation of his family to work at Buffalo Trace (formerly Ancient Age). His grandfather started here in 1912, and Johnson says he was the first African-American warehouse manager of a major distillery. Johnson’s father also had a 42-year career here doing just about everything that needed doing, from managing warehouses to filleting fish at company cookouts. Johnson has fond memories of visiting the distillery with his granddad and dad when he was young. He recalls fishing in the river that runs along the property, then scrambling up ladders to peer through holes when he got bored. (“I looked like a little groundhog,” he says.) He wasn’t allowed in any buildings until he was five (“barrel danger”), and then was captivated by everything he saw. “That was when I really got excited about all the things that went into making whiskey,” he says.

He assumed he’d follow the family into the business when he came of age. But when he graduated high school in 1963, the bourbon market was vectoring into a slump, and the distillery was laying off rather than hiring. Meanwhile, he’d shown an aptitude for “electricity” in school (“They didn’t call it electronics back then,” he says), and he went on to win a 4-H competition for a circuit breaker–like device he’d devised, which led to a visit to Washington, D.C., which in turn opened his eyes to career possibilities in a new and growing field. “That trip made me realize the world is bigger than Frankfort, Kentucky,” he says. He went on to study electronics, followed by a 31-year career with AT&T’s Bell Labs in New Jersey and elsewhere, helping the telecom giant develop successive generations of technology.

Around 1999, he got a call from his father with bad news: He was terminally ill with cancer. Fulfilling a long-ago promise to care for him if he was needed, Johnson took early retirement and returned home to Kentucky to be with his dad. While there, Johnson looked to get involved in various business ventures and community activities, so his dad suggested he ask the distillery about becoming a guide. He was hired, but he’d begun preparing for his tours even before formal employment, in part by exploring the grounds with his dad while listening to his stories and those of his co-workers. “He’d say, ‘remember this’ and ‘don’t forget that,’ and ‘tell this on your tour,’ ” Johnson says. “And I realized then what he was actually doing was handing off the baton. It was him being so proud of being here, and he didn’t want that to end when he passed away.”

Johnson is a natural entertainer. He often leans in to the group to share tales and facts, as if he’s revealing a terrific secret. “The top floors of the warehouse produce the bottom-shelf bourbons in the store,” he says at one point. “Your more economical brands—you know, plastic bottles, screw caps, Friday nights when we didn’t have much money—those are the ones that burn your nose. Those are the tannins!”

Johnson’s voice has a bright timbre and often skews higher, which allows the information to float over the persistent din of various machinery and venting steam. And that seems to arise from some scarcely contained enthusiasm, about sharing one more story with his new friends. “Heads up!” he says ebulliently more than once. Not as a warning for low beams, but to encourage people to gather in, as he’s about to share another insider’s tip.

He also displays a knack for connecting personally with people on the tour—he learned one visitor in our group was named April, and so he often singled her out in his patter, as in, “Let’s pretend April wants a drink. What is she going to order?” And he seamlessly telescopes from abstract ideas to well-told tales only to return to a broader, birds-eye view. “There are subtle things and obvious things,” he says, beginning one excursion into how flavors form in the barrel. Everyone leans in.

Johnson is a virtuoso—he embodies the philosophy of Sazerac CEO Mark Brown (which owns Buffalo Trace), who often reminds people that the liquor business is actually part of the entertainment industry, competing for dollars against movies and television.

“Ready? Come here!” he says, as he leads the group into a dim and redolent barrel warehouse. (Johnson seems incapable of speaking a sentence unpunctuated with an exclamation mark.) “I want you to just take your hand and rub over these barrels as you head down through here, and you’ll notice something. They all feel different.”

Johnson talks about how white oak might vary by location and age, and also how the pressure and the whiskey moving in and out can cause the cask heads to warp. “Check this out!” he says as he demonstrates the proper fingertip grazing technique to feel the wood grain, then leads the way out the door to the next destination.

Johnson is 73 years old but has the bristling energy of someone much younger. He says he still loves giving tours, which can take him from the 1873 O.F.C. distillery (the so-called “Bourbon Pompeii,” with its unearthed fermentation tanks), to describing the next generation technology—a new GPS-enabled distribution center, which curbs paperwork and allows shippers to get in and out in 15 minutes, far quicker than before. “We’re in the middle of something old and something new, so I’m like a conduit, helping people understand where we’ve been and where we’re going,” he says. “I’m just as excited about bourbon now—even more so—as I was when I was younger.

“When people come in, it’s not a distillery,” he adds later, drawing out the word distillery. “We give them a chance to feel emotionally connected by letting them see, touch and feel the very things that make that product what it is.”

Today’s tour is starting to wind down, and we’re headed out of the bottling plant on to what’s next. “Cool beans!” he says, another of the verbal tics he uses to let visitors know one segment of the tour is ending, and he’s about to start another. He sets off at a good trot down a pathway. “If you’ve got your camera, I’m going to show you a cool spot!”

Did you enjoy this article? Get more of the best of liquid culture when you sign up for a print or digital subscription to Imbibe Magazine. Click here for special savings!

The post Freddie Johnson Has a Story to Tell appeared first on Imbibe Magazine.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

When planning the musical mood for the Pastry War in Houston, owner Bobby Heugel wanted to create a playlist that would reflect Mexican culture and history in a way that matches the bar’s drink offerings. “It’s one thing to serve traditional Mexican spirits, but we wanted our bar to share art, materials, and music from Mexico as well,” he says. “Together, I think we’ve created a bar that in all senses reflects Mexico, and music is a huge part of that.”

For inspiration, Heugel turned to the soundtrack of Guadalajara mezcaleria Pare de Sufrir and the backstory behind The Pastry War’s name. “When we opened the bar, about 5% of the playlist was French music—a nod to The Pastry War fought between Mexico and France that began in 1838, he says. “Nobody really got the concept, so I took all the French music off. Sometimes, you just overthink things—don’t do that with the music in your bar.”

To create a mix that would work well during both quiet and busy hours, Heugel made two playlists based on tempo and vibe with every song carefully chosen to pay tribute to Mexico. “We get a ton of Mexican tourists in Houston, and the biggest compliment is when they tell us how much they love the playlists and then ask if the person who made the playlist is from Mexico. Nope—just a Gringo from Texas,” he says. “But, that means so much to me. It means that we didn’t just pick and choose elements from their culture to build a bar around in Houston. It means in a lot of ways they approve of our attempts to build a bar that is a tribute to Mexico.”

Below is an abbreviated version of Huegel’s slow Pastry War playlist, which works especially well during happy hour when you’re winding down from a busy day (perhaps alongside a Bala de Canon or Cane & Clove cocktail). For the more upbeat list, head to his Spotify profile, where you can also find playlists for Anvil Bar & Refuge, Better Luck Tomorrow and Tongue Cut Sparrow.

Did you enjoy this article? Get more of the best of liquid culture when you sign up for a print or digital subscription to Imbibe Magazine. Click here for special savings!

The post The Pastry War Playlist Is A Tribute to Mexico appeared first on Imbibe Magazine.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

A good hotel bar can be a perfect oasis in a traveler’s life, a place to kick back on vacation or unwind at the end of a busy day. In the March/April 2019 issue, we highlight more than 50 hotel bars around the world worth checking into, and here we’re sharing an abbreviated version of our flight path. For more great hotel bars to visit, pick up a copy of the magazine.

The American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London
Hotel bars have long been integral to London’s cocktail pedigree. The Savoy hotel has a cocktail history stretching back more than a century, and the American Bar at The Savoy (now headed by Philippa Guy, the first female senior bartender at the hotel since Ada Coleman took that role in 1903) continues to earn accolades as among the world’s best. White-jacketed bartenders dip into The Savoy’s cocktail history while also serving adventurous originals, such as the Life and Times, a combination of rum, umeshu, white port, rosemary honey water and tonic.

Cadier Bar at the Grand Hôtel in Stockholm
The Grand Hôtel has been a facet of central Stockholm since 1874, even hosting the first Nobel Prize banquet. The ornate Cadier Bar—named in honor of the hotel’s founder, French chef Régis Cadier—takes a modern approach to cocktails (incorporating traditional Nordic ingredients like sour cloudberries), making this historic hotel comfortably at home in the 21st century.

Clyde Common at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon
For more than a decade, travelers and locals have been flocking to Clyde Common in Portland’s downtown Ace Hotel. Opened in 2007 and helmed by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the award-winning bar offered barrel-aged and bottled cocktails before the storm, and it continues to weather trends with original creations like the Bourbon Renewal and The Long Goodbye. Downstairs at the subterranean Pépé Le Moko, Morgenthaler highlights kitchy classics like the Blue Hawaii and Grasshopper.

Cocktail Bar at The Merchant Hotel in Belfast
Savvy guests know to make a beeline for the simply titled Cocktail Bar upon arrival at The Merchant Hotel in Belfast. An opulent atmosphere and impressive selection of rare booze and vintage bubbly sets the program apart, and with alumni like Dead Rabbit owners Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, it’s easy to see why the bar continues to hold a place among the world’s best.

Death & Co at the Ramble Hotel in Denver
This new outpost of the acclaimed New York cocktail bar is the stylistic opposite of the original. Spanning the main lobby of the boutique Ramble Hotel and outfitted with elegant furnishings bathed in natural light, Death & Co Denver opened in summer of 2018 serving memorable cocktails like the Wipeout and Highwayman. In addition to the main bar, the team orchestrates café DC/AM, The Garden and Suite 6A in the hotel, keeping the excellence level high from morning coffee to the evening’s final nightcap.

Fifty Mils at the Four Seasons Hotel in Mexico City
Bartenders aim for the stars at Fifty Mils in Mexico City, where guests can expect the unexpected in cocktails like the Ant Man, which blends magic and whimsy via a mix of mezcal, avocado-ant mix, egg white, bitters, lemongrass and soda water, delivered in a glass prism. It’s not all smoke and mirrors, though—others keep it simpler while still tapping into local ingredients as a nod to the region.

The Lounge at Aman Tokyo in Tokyo
Occupying the top six floors of the Otemachi Tower in Tokyo’s financial district, Aman Tokyo offers a calming, natural light–filled sanctuary. Detached from the 98-foot-ceiling lobby, The Lounge serves signature drinks influenced by regional flavors. The space offers an exceptional afternoon tea service, pairing small bites like a kumquat and yuzu tart with a tea collection from The Ronnefeldt Company and views stretching to the summit of Mount Fuji.

Pool Bar at the Hotel San Cristóbal in Baja California Sur, Mexico
If the region’s growing wine scene wasn’t reason enough to get to Baja California Peninsula, here’s another—the stunning Pacific-rimmed boutique Hotel San Cristóbal, where both natural and man-made beauty abounds and the bar slants toward laid-back poolside drinking. A small menu of cocktails hits all the proper notes, from mezcal and cilantro to hibiscus-infused gin, while beers from Mexican craft brewers like Los Cuentos are served alongside cooling bottles of Pacifico.

Pultizer’s Bar at the Hotel Pulitzer in Amsterdam
Located within the hotel’s 25 interconnected historic row houses that line the canal, Pulitzer’s Bar embodies classic glamour and modern sensibility. The current Hemingway-inspired menu offers contemporary twists on classics, like the Cuba Libre Fizz (a velvety interpretation served up) and the Expat Sazerac (pistachio-infused scotch, cachaça, salted caramel syrup and absinthe).

Sable Kitchen & Bar at the Kimpton Palomar in Chicago
One of the cornerstones of Chicago’s cocktail scene since opening in 2010, Sable remains a timeless hotel bar, and alumni like Mike Ryan (now director of bars for Kimpton Hotels) have gone on to run notable bar programs around the United States. Explore the geography of the bar’s extensive whiskey selection or order a seasonal cocktail (like the Bo & Luke, Lucky Negroni or Strawberries and Old Tom G&T) to get a taste of the true mettle the Windy City’s best and brightest have to offer.

Did you enjoy this article? Get more of the best of liquid culture when you sign up for a print or digital subscription to Imbibe Magazine. Click here for special savings!

The post Flight Path: Hotel Bars to Bookmark for Your Upcoming Travels appeared first on Imbibe Magazine.

Read Full Article

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
close
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview