Good Spirits News - The spirited world of mixology
Blair Frodelius is a professional full-time musician, an award-winning mixologist, USBG Spirits Professional, BarSmarts Live & Wired graduate and member of the Museum of the American Cocktail. Several of his original cocktails can be found in the 75th Anniversary Mr. Boston Official Bartenders Guide, and one inspired by Harry Craddock in the Mixellany publication The Deans of Drink.
Of course every day is Cocktail Day, but now there’s an official holiday!
The history of the cocktail starts over 425 years ago in 1586. At that time, people drank an incredible amount of alcohol every day, much more than we do now. They drank beer or other beverages for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Children drank it, pregnant women drank it, monks and priests drank it. It touched every part of life.
And this was especially true on board ships. Ships of the time would be at sea for months sometimes without seeing land or taking on new supplies. So rum, beer, wine and other beverages were really important to keep sailors healthy. Why not water? The reason was that water was typically unclean from lack of sanitation, but using it to create alcohol of some kind killed the germs that made people sick.
In 1586 the English privateer Sir Francis Drake was pillaging the Spanish settlements in the Caribbean. The English called him a hero, but to the Spanish he was nothing more than a pirate.
On one fateful trip to sack Havana, Drake found his men suffering from malnutrition and scurvy, so he sent a shore party to land in the southernmost tip of Florida called Matecumbe to find local natives who could show them nearby medicinals that would make his men better.
And that’s just what the locals did.
They mixed the bark from a tree called chuchuhuasi with distilled sugar cane juice, known as aguardiente, raw sugar cane juice, lime and mint. (click here for the recipe)
Do these ingredients sound familiar?
This is the precursor to the Mojito, which was supposedly invented in Havana. As it turns out, it was simply modified in Havana not invented. They just dropped the tree bark from the drink and used rum instead of aquardiente.
The concoction worked, by the way. Drake’s men got better, and they went about their business, attacking Fort Augustine not long after.
So here we have the first recorded mixed drink—what we’d consider a cocktail (strong, weak, sour, sweet and bitters).
On behalf of the international bartender network Hubertus Circle, Mast-Jägermeister SE Wolfenbüttel, Germany, invites bartenders to apply for the opportunity of a lifetime. Winners of the Jägermeister Scholarship x Berlin Edition will get to live, work and grow in Berlin.
You’ve always wanted to take a closer look at a bar in another city, maybe even another country? Then this is your chance! The Jägermeister Scholarship goes into the next round – but this time it is world-wide.
The Hubertus Circle is growing and growing, now all of 17 countries are the basis for its strong network. Time for the scholarship to grow too!
You want to spend three months working in one of the best bars in Berlin, get to know the bar scene in a vibrant metropolis together with two other scholarship holders, and share city life in a shared apartment with them?
With the Berlin Edition, Jägermeister invites bartenders from all of the Hubertus Circle countries to apply for the scholarship-also non-HC-members. Three lucky winners will receive a fully funded, three-month stay in Berlin, from July to October 2018, along with an exciting supporting program.
Masterclasses with Nils Boese, the German brand ambassador, bartender training right at the wellspring of the Jägermeister elixir in Wolfenbüttel, networking events, a huge final event at the BCB and many more surprises small and large – lots of fun!
Jägermeister makes your dream of working behind the bar in an unknown city come true. The company assists you with organizing bureaucratic affairs, questions and issues on site, it covers all costs and gives you access to a network of contacts in the city who will make getting settled in your temporary home easy.
The scholarship is supposed to widen horizons and stimulate communication. Not only will the fellows gain invaluable experiences for their personal and professional life, they will also share their experiences and adventures in the German capital with their bar colleagues back home and all interested followers by vlogging.
The past has shown that the Jägermeister Scholarship is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and opportunity. Looking back at our past fellows you will find bartenders with strong personalities, a wealth of experience, an excellent career trajectory and a strong international network.
Do you feel inspired and qualified? Then apply now for the special edition of the Jägermeister Scholarship! And who knows, you might be about to embark on a very special journey.
Jim Meehan is a bartenders’ bartender. As a former General Manager at PDT (Please Don’t Tell) in NYC, and author of The PDT Cocktail Book, those alone would qualify him a star on the Bartender Walk of Fame. He recently opened two new bars in Chicago and Hong Kong, is the long-time brand ambassador for Banks Rum, and has received recognition from the James Beard Foundation and the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards.
Jim kindly took time to answer a few questions we had after reading his latest volume Meehan’s Bartender Manual.
GSN: Like a lot of us who came into the bartending game in the 21st century, you discovered the classic bar and cocktail guides by Jerry Thomas, Harry Johnson, Harry Craddock, etc… after you’d already been bartending for a while. How did you approach these venerable recipes and the somewhat outdated service advice?
JM: Discovering these books made me feel part of a long, noble tradition I wasn’t familiar with. While the world has changed, the fundamentals of the job- serving people food and drink in an engaging environment- has not. Mixed drinks follow a fashion-like cycle with the recipes reflecting the mood and style of the time, so I don’t worry about them becoming “outdated”, as what was old will be new again in the future.
GSN: Which cocktail & bar guide books do you feel best capture a snapshot of the four ages of cocktail history from the golden age of the 1800’s up to the pre-prohibition era; from the silver age during the emigration of American bartenders to Europe during the 1920’s-30’s; to modern age post-WWII tiki and Mad Men era drinks; to the craft revival age where many of the drinks utilize house-made ingredients?
JM: This is more of a (David) Wondrich question, but if you put me on the spot, I’d recommend The Hoffman House Bartender’s Guide by Charles Mahoney, The Artistry of Mixing Drinks by Frank Meier, David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks or Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide if you want tiki too, and Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s The Bar Book.
GSN: Much of the guests’ experience is not about the drink itself, but rather the overall visual experience of the bar and the personality of the bartender. How do you see overall bar design aesthetic working with a team of bartenders who all have differing personalities and levels of commitment to the craft?
JM: Audrey Saunders once described the bar as a mouse trap to me and the staff as the cheese. Expanding upon this analogy, if you want to attract a diverse clientele, you need a variety of “bait” to entice them. Accordingly, I encourage operators to recruit and hire a diverse staff, whose personalities and interests will be reflected in the clientele. As for differing levels of commitment, everyone needs to understand the vision for the business, but they don’t all need to go about achieving the bar’s goals the same way. There are many ways to do things, so as long as you’re getting results, why not promote multiple pathways?
GSN: On that note, is there ever a place for a “star-tender” on a bar team, or do you think that they might be better suited to owning a venue, or transitioning into a brand rep?
JM: I recall a Tales of the Cocktail seminar Jacob Briars gave where he suggested great bars need two stars: not just one. His duos included Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy at Attaboy, Simone Caporale and Alex Kratena formerly of Artesian and others. You’re only as good as your staff, so I agree with Jacob on this. As long as the team understands the vision for the business and is mindful of each other’s needs, there’s room for “star-tenders” with other responsibilities to play a supporting role.
GSN: What brands of bar tools do you find yourself reaching for these days? There are so many different jiggers, shakers, bar spoons, and mixing glasses available these days, it makes sense to buy the best if you can.
GSN: What are your thoughts about the relatively new idea of cocktail flights and food pairings? Obviously, it can be a huge hassle when you’re in the weeds, but in a slower atmosphere, do you feel that these are of value to either the bartender or the guest?
JM: Absolutely. Pairings and flights- which I’ve been doing ever since I started working in restaurants in New York in 2002- reinforce the cocktail’s rightful place within the culinary arts. I’m doing a pairing dinner in Boulder, CO at Frasca on March 26th. If a guest asks for one or the chef is motivated to feature cocktails as part of their tasting menu, it provides a great opportunity for the bartender to showcase their creativity.
GSN: How do you feel about the distilling industry explosion here in the U.S.? Some would say that having too many choices leaves the consumer overwhelmed and asking for a brand or cocktail that they are already quite familiar with as opposed to experimenting with something new.
JM: The cream will rise to the top. It’s a bit overwhelming right now, as you want to support local craft distilling, but the quality isn’t there yet for most producers. It takes time, and most small business owners don’t have the capital to compete with big brands.
GSN: For the bartender who works either for a venue where the owner will only carry a limited number of products, or if they work in a highly regulated state where distribution or availability is limited, how do you suggest they manage to create an interesting cocktail program?
JM: Beauty- or “interesting” for this question- is in the eye of the beholder. We stock a limited selection of products at Prairie School and PDT because focus matters to me. Whether your back bar and spirits selection is big or small, it should be curated and relate to the chef’s cuisine or the bar’s cocktail focus.
GSN: Have you ever found that some cocktails you’ve created and thought were sure-fire winners, just didn’t resonate with the guests despite being appealingly described on a menu? If so, what were they? Also, please share a few of your favorite cocktail recipes that you’ve created, and a few that others have made and are on your short list.’
JM: As I said above, taste is subjective; so, in some ways, my opinion of my bar’s cocktails is somewhat irrelevant. I love many of my recipes like family, but at the end of the day, the guests decide what stays on the menu and what goes. I have a little over thirty favorites in my new book, and if I had to pick, I’d highlight the Mezcal Mule, East India Negroni, Old Friend and Newark as favorites.
1.5 oz. Beefeater Gin
.75 oz. grapefruit juice
.5 oz. Campari
.25 oz. St. Germain
Shake with ice, then fine strain into a chilled coupe
Garnish with a lemon twist
East India Negroni
East India Negroni
2 oz. Banks 5-Island Rum
.75 oz. Lustau East India Solera Sherry
.75 oz. Campari
Stir with ice, then strain into a chilled rocks glass filled with one large ice cube
Garnish with an orange twist
1.5 oz. Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
1 oz. ginger wort
.75 oz. lime juice
.75 oz. Boiron Passion Fruit Purée
.5 oz. agave syrup
4 cucumber slices (reserve 1 for garnish)
Muddle the cucumber slices and agave syrup, then add the remaining ingredients
Shake with ice, then fine strain into a chilled rocks glass filled with ice
Garnish with a piece of candied ginger picked to a slice of cucumber and a pinch of ground chili
2 oz. Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
1 oz. Vya Sweet Vermouth
.25 oz. Fernet-Branca
.25 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
Stir with ice, then strain into a chilled coupe
GSN: Service is key in our industry. Do you think this is a skill that is inherent in a new employee, or is it generally a learned skill? What is the best approach that you’ve found in training new staff?
JM: I look for character- most of which is determined by a candidate’s upbringing- when I’m hiring. I can’t teach someone to care about themselves, others or their job: ideally, their parents already instilled that. On the other hand, the x’s and o’s of service are totally trainable and I’m happy to teach them because our service style is what distinguishes us from other bars.
There’s no one size fits all approach to training in my book. You do your best. There’s never enough time before you open and once you’re open, your bar becomes a work in progress constantly evolving based on the team and the guests’ interests. Instead of rounding everyone up like it’s a school, I eke out one-on-one time: typically, after a mistake has occurred and there’s a teachable moment to take advantage of.
On an annual basis, Glenmorangie invites whisky aficionados to explore its passion for innovation through an award-winning collection of rare and limited-edition single malts. Today, Glenmorangie introduces the ninth release in the Highland distillery’s Private Edition series – Glenmorangie Spios – the first single malt whisky fully matured in American ex-rye whiskey casks.
Glenmorangie Spios (Scots Gaelic for ‘spice’ and pronounced ‘spee-oss’) recalls the heyday of American rye whiskey. Dr. Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie’s acclaimed Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation & Whisky Stocks, was intrigued by the subtle spicy character of American rye whiskey when travelling to the United States in the 1990s. Inspired by the few remaining rye distilleries he visited, Dr. Lumsden determined to one day bring a hint of American rye whiskey’s elegant past to a future Private Edition.
Long before the rye whiskey resurgence of today, Dr. Lumsden sourced the finest first-fill casks from American rye whiskey’s heartland of Kentucky and arranged for these hand-selected oak casks to be shipped across the Atlantic, to the Glenmorangie Distillery, deep in the Scottish Highlands. There, over the years, they began to impart their flavors to the pure and smooth spirit that emerges from Glenmorangie’s signature copper stills – the tallest stills in Scotland. The result is a full-bodied single malt whisky that invites rye’s subtleties to shine through.
“I have always loved American rye whiskey’s spicy character and believed our distillery’s smooth house style would perfectly complement the nuances of ex-rye casks,” says Dr. Bill Lumsden. “Glenmorangie Spios is a full-bodied, savory single malt whisky, that recalls American rye whiskey’s golden age, which fittingly is beginning to regain its former popularity. I hope connoisseurs and collectors will enjoy this latest innovative release in our Private Edition series – a single malt whisky that is unmistakably Glenmorangie, yet exquisitely different.”
Glenmorangie Spios will be available in specialist whisky shops worldwide and at The Glenmorangie Distillery Visitor Center. The packaging is inspired by ceiling tiles that decorated America’s most prestigious saloons during American rye whiskey’s heyday and contains elements from Glenmorangie’s icon, the Signet.
Glenmorangie Spios (92 proof) Visual: Medium gold. Nose: Slightly smokey, but quite bright and malty with a keening high note of rye spice. Elegant and masterful. Taste: Honeyed, malty, rich, with a medium rye kick. The spice lends a pop to the ultra smooth malt base. Full-bodied and self-assured. Finish: Long with more of the honeyed sweetness lingering on. Think of light rye toast with honey butter. Overall: Another winner from Glenmorangie. Well worth seeking out. GSN Rating: A
Destilería Serrallés Inc., the producers of Don Q rum, recently announced the release of a Double Aged Vermouth Cask Finish Rum.
“Blending innovation, art and science has always been characteristic in the way we have been crafting exceptional spirits for the last 153 years. This new expression has allowed us to collaborate with other high-quality artisans in the industry,” says Roberto Serrallés, Sixth-generation rum maker and Business Development Vice President. “We’ve been excited with the idea of creating unique spirits from unexpected pairings through barrel-aging in recent years, and felt it was the perfect time to enter the category. Our team had been planning this expression for several years, and are grateful to our friends at Mancino Vermouth for helping us bring this dream to fruition with their barrels”, he added.
From the environmentally conscious distillery in Ponce (most recently, winner of a “Green Award” from The Drinks Business, which recognizes leaders in environmental, ethical and sustainable practices within the beverage industry), Master Blender, Jaiker Soto blends rums aged for 5 to 8 years in American white oak casks before resting the spirit for 4 to 6 weeks in Mancino Vermouth Vecchio barrels. Crafted from Italian white oak, these casks carry the distinct aromatics of the fortified wine they once carried, as well as the botanical flavors synonymous with vermouth.
Don Q Double Aged Vermouth Cask Finish Rum (80 proof) Visual: Light orange-gold. Nose: Medium aged rum base notes laden with a tight sheen of brief herbality. A lighter and more intriguing nose than any rum we’ve reviewed. Taste: Beautifully smooth and instantly remarkable. The sweetness of the rum is toned down and a wash of dry herb, almost a grassiness cuts into the spirit. So good, you want to take successive tastes just to experience it again. Finish: Surprisingly long and thoughtful. The vermouth character keeps things tending toward a slight bitter edge which adds a depth not usually found in a Puerto Rican rum. Overall: All I can say is that this is amazing. Don Q has pushed the boundaries of rum time and time again, and this latest expression is absolutely lovely. Highly recommended! GSN Rating: A+
Lucas Bols recently announced that for the first time, its original-recipe, 100% Malt Spirit expression will be available in select U.S. markets. Just 200 cases of 750ml bottles of Bols 100% Malt Spirit will ship to New York, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Texas.
Bols 100% Malt Spirit is made using the original recipe that the brand’s distillers bottled more than 350 years ago as a medicinal product rather than a recreational one. Distilled from long fermented corn, rye, and wheat with juniper berries, the spirit is bottled in gold-crested clay jugs at the Lucas Bols distillery in the heart of Amsterdam.
“As a Dutchman and master distiller for over 30 years, few would be surprised to learn that I’m a bit of a purist,” said Lucas Bols Master Distiller, Piet van Leijenhorst. “Bols 100% Malt Spirit is one of my favorite expressions. I love it for its remarkable complexity and richness. For collectors and purists like me who like to taste real genever the way the first distillers of the spirit intended, this special edition tells the story of genever from the very beginning. After trying it straight, we encourage people to experiment with Bols 100% Malt Spirit in cocktails.”
Lucas Bols CEO, Huub van Doorne, added, “Pioneering is at the heart of Bols and dates back to the creation of Bols Genever in 1664. By launching the most original of genevers, we take genever back to before the birth of cocktails giving bartenders and consumers an original taste of this exciting spirit.”
Bols 100% Malt Spirit (94 proof) Visual: Clear. Nose: Intensely malty with a surprising and vivacious citrus top note. Fresh, clean, bright. These are all perfect adjectives to describe this new spirit. Taste: Medium-bodied with a smooth and easy malt grain flavor. Peppery and somewhat akin to rye spirits, but softer and with a goodly dose of high notes. Finish: Medium long with a lot of malt character coming out on the back of the palate as the fade hits. Overall: We enjoy genever, and this is one that we instantly fell in love with. The higher proof makes it eminently mixable in classic cocktails, while at the same time, the flavor is pushed forward if sipped neat. If you can snag a bottle, do so. Let’s hope that Bols makes this a spirit available to all! GSN Rating: A+
Who would have guessed that there would ever be a National Absinthe Day? Since it was banned in the United States in 1912, and prohibition nailing the coffin shut in 1919, it is really a miracle that absinthe is back on the market. 2015 marks the ninth anniversary of this new holiday devoted to the Green Fairy.
In celebration of this event, here is the traditional way to enjoy a glass. And no, you don’t light it on fire!
Pour a measure of absinthe in an absinthe glass
Place a sugar cube on a flat perforated spoon on top of the glass
Drip ice-cold water on the sugar cube to slowly dissolve it
Add three to six parts water to the glass
Take your time, sip. The slower, the better
If you’re looking for a cocktail that calls for absinthe, try this one from the classic Savoy Cocktail Book published in 1930.
Corpse Reviver No. 2 Cocktail
.75 oz Plymouth Gin
.75 oz Cointreau
.75 oz Lillet Blanc
.75 oz Lemon juice
Rinse a chilled cocktail glass with absinthe and set aside. Add the remaining ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into the prepared glass. Be revived!
With all of the alcoholic sodas out there these days, it was only a matter of time before soda flavored spirits made their way onto the shelves of your local liquor store. One of the first we’ve come across is Root Out Root Beer Flavored Whisky. The product is a blend of root beer flavoring with four-year old Canadian blended whisky aged in ex-bourbon American Oak barrels.
Root Out (70 proof) Visual: Medium brown. Nose: Root beer. Not a hint of whisky. Taste: Alcoholic root beer. Very much a syrup flavor as opposed to a natural blend of traditional root herbs and spices. Not bad in any way, just very soda-like. I don’t detect any whisky character. Finish: Long, with the root beer character hanging on for several minutes. Overall: I could see this being a popular shot, along the lines of cinnamon flavored whiskies. I’d have to be in the mood though. A curiosity. GSN Rating: B-
Let’s revisit a brief history of “the other” Mexican spirit, Kahlua.
1930: The Alvarez brothers harvest Arabica coffee beans from the fields of Coatepe, Veracruz, Mexico. They work with Señor Blanco, a local entrepreneur, to use their beans in a spirits recipe he was financially backing.
1936: Chemist Montalvo Lara uses the Alvarez brother’s coffee beans in a spirits base made from sugar cane to produce both syrup and rum. The final product is named Kahlúa, meaning “House of the Acolhua people” in the Veracruz Nahuatl language.
2014: Kahlúa is made in Mexico City at a Pernod Ricard owned factory. The beans are medium roasted and then cold brewed. When bottled, natural vanilla flavoring and only a touch of caramel coloring is added to insure the same rich dark brown liquid goes into every bottle.
The two most iconic cocktails using Kahlua are the Black Russian and the White Russian. I’d suggest making one of each and comparing while celebrating National Kahlua Day.
Interestingly enough, the first printed recipe for the Margarita shows up in the December 1953 issue of Esquire magazine (pictured at left). Here’s what they had to say about it: Drink of the Month – “She’s from Mexico, Senores, and her name is the Margarita Cocktail–and she is lovely to look at, exciting and provocative.”
1 ounce tequila
Dash of Triple Sec
Juice of 1/2 lime or lemon
Pour over crushed ice, stir. Rub the rim of a stem glass with rind of lemon or lime, spin in salt–pour, and sip.
Anyone today would certainly recognize that recipe, albeit in a more definitive form (more Triple Sec, no lemon, and no crushed ice).
But, the origins of the Margarita go back much further, probably about 25 years earlier. No one knows for sure who created the drink, but my favorite theory about the name is that it was originally called a Tequila Daisy. The Spanish word for daisy is Margarita, and a Tequila Daisy was basically a Margarita (tequila, orange liqueur, sour mix). In any case, it has become one of the top 10 cocktails of all time.
Here are some modern versions crafted just in time for your celebration:
The Gilded Hare (Courtesy of Matt Grippo at Blackbird in San Francisco)
1.5oz Suerte Blanco Tequila
.5oz Gonzales Byass Amontillado Sherry
.5oz Cinnamon Syrup
5 Drops of Bittermens Hellfire Shrub
This winter influenced margarita is a tad complex. Suerte Blanco tequila, amontillado sherry, lime, grapefruit, cinnamon and habanero. Big bright tequila flavors up front and a warm lingering finish of spice and wood with just enough kick to warm your mouth without the burn.
Lemon Basil Margarita (Courtesy of Cointreau)
1 1/2 oz. Blanco Tequila
1 oz. Cointreau
1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
1/2 oz. Lime Juice
3 basil Leaves
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and add ice. Shake and strain over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with basil and lemon wheel.
CRUZ Citrus Margarita (Courtesy of CRUZ Tequila)
2 parts CRUZ Silver Tequila
¾ parts agave nectar
1 lime squeezed
½ lemon squeezed
½ orange squeezed
1-2 parts filtered water
A couple sprigs of mint
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.
Cucumber Lavender Margarita (Courtesy Tortilla Republic, West Hollywood)
2 oz. Casa Noble Organic Tequila (or other 100% agave silver tequila)
2-3 ½ Inch Cucumber Slices, muddled
1.5 oz. Fresh Squeeze Lime Juice
0.75 oz. Lavender-Infused Simple Syrup
(soak 4-5 sprigs of lavender in simple syrup for 2-3 days, or purchased at Farmers’ markets and specialty grocers). Shake. Pour into a 12.5 oz. glass on rocks. Garnish with cucumber and fresh lavender blossoms.
The Milagro Blood Orange Margarita (Courtesy of Milagro Tequila)
1 ½ parts Milagro Silver Tequila
¾ part Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur
1 part Fresh Lime Juice
¾ part agave nectar
Pour all ingredients in a Boston Shaker with ice. Shake and strain over fresh ice in a salt-rimmed rocks glass. Garnish with orange and lime wheels.
StrawBeerita (Courtesy of Licor 43)
3 oz. chilled beer, lighter-style lager
1 oz. Licor 43
1 oz. tequila
1/2 oz. lime juice
Directions: Cut strawberries and a few lime slices and muddle in a shaker. Add tequila, Licor 43, lime juice and ice and shake. Pour mixture into a margarita glass and top with beer. Garnish with a strawberry slice and lime wedge.
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