Categories
Ingredients Ingredients Reviews Mixology

Ingredient Review: Powell & Mahoney Mixers

With the renaissance of the craft cocktail movement, and the increased focus on making quality drinks at home, several companies have moved into the market with syrups and mixers designed for both home and bar use. One of the latest to come to my attention is Powell & Mahoney.

Powell_and_mahoneyFounded by a couple of cocktail fans, Powell & Mahoney produce a line of twelve mixers, including such popular flavors as Bloody Mary, Margarita, and Mojito. They also make a few that are more unusual, like Peach Bellini and Hot Toddy.

I was contacted by the fine folks at P&M recently to see if I'd be interested in writing about their products. I was, so they sent me some of their mixers to sample.

What first impressed me with their products was the interesting range of flavors and, even more importantly, the ingredients they contain.

P&M mixers contain no high fructose corn syrup, which goes so poorly with alcohol (and most everything else). Their mixers contain real fruit juices and purees, natural flavors, and organic cane sugar. If you're going to use a mixer instead of crafting ingredients on your own, this is the way to go.

I found the ones I tried to be tasty and true to their promised flavor, without being overly sweet or cloying. As much as I sometimes enjoy making a cocktail with five or six ingredients, there are also times when I just want to drink something easy that still tastes good. Mixers like this can come in very handy, as long as you don't rely on them too much.

Ginger My favorites were the Ginger and the Peach Bellini. The Ginger contains filtered water, organic sugar, citric acid, natural flavors, natural ginger flavor, ginger extract, fennel extract, elderflower extract, milk thistle extract, and caramel color. I whipped up a Highball with three parts whiskey (your choice — I used bourbon) and one part Powell & Mahoney Ginger. Add a little ice and you're ready to go. You can stretch it with some seltzer if you'd like, but I didn't bother.

Peach_belliniThe Peach Bellini contains filtered water, organic cane sugar, concentrated peach puree, orange juice concentrate, natural falvors, citric acid and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). I used it to make Peach Bellinis, with three parts Prosecco (use something inexpensive — I chose Cupcake) and one part Powell & Mahoney Peach Bellini. Combine in a champagne glass and you've got a delicious, quick, refreshing drink. My wife and I went through several glasses of this.

Some people turn up their noses at pre-made mixers like these, but I'm not one of them. There are many people who don't have the materials, time or inclination to make their own fresh cocktail ingredients. For them, it's important to have quality products they can use and still make good tasting drinks. Powell & Mahoney's mixers fill the bill quite well.

Categories
Awards Mixology Press Releases

Richard Gomez Named First Ever World Class U.S. Ambassador

Congrats to Ricky Gomez, a bartender at Portland's Teardrop Lounge, for being named the first-ever USBG & World Class U.S. Ambassador.

Twenty mixologists, five Cocktail Luminaries, four challenges – all to determine who will journey to Rio de Janeiro to represent the United States in the world's largest international cocktail program.  After months of scouring the country and searching for America's top talent behind the bar, the United States Bartenders' Guild has named Richard Gomez the first ever Diageo World Class U.S. Ambassador. Emerging from the nation's top cocktail talent, Ricky will travel toBrazil in July to compete at the World Class Global Final against 47 of his peers from around the globe.

"This is an unbelievable opportunity and I can't express how excited I am to be the first ever Diageo World Class U.S. Ambassador," said Gomez. "My fellow participants are an amazing illustration of American mixology talent and I am truly honored that my skills were chosen to represent the U.S. in the international finals this summer."

This announcement of the Diageo World Class U.S. winner concludes a two-month, nationwide search for the top mixologists and bartenders led by the USBG. BeginningApril 4, 2012, cocktail craftsmen from across the country applied online for the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of cocktail culture. Following the close of entries, 20 finalists were chosen to travel to one of the cocktail capitals of the United States, New York City, to prove their skills.

On June 19, 2012, the finalists competed in four challenges judged by top Cocktail Luminaries including Jim Meehan, Tony Abou-Ganim, Julie Reiner, Steve Olson and USBG National President David Nepove. After months of preparation, Gomez emerged victorious and was named the ultimate honoree during a celebration ceremony at New York's IAC Center.

"We are extremely excited to extend Ricky Gomez the opportunity to become the first ever Diageo World Class U.S. Ambassador," said Mark Schulte, Diageo's Senior Vice President of Customer Marketing. "We know that his supreme talent, cocktail knowledge and mixology skills will make the United States proud when representing our country at the international competition in Brazil. We are confident that he will personify American cocktail culture and enter the World Class league by celebrating with World Class responsibility."

The World Class Global Final is a landmark week in the spirits industry that sets the trends of mixology worldwide. While in Brazil, Gomez will spend five days participating in a series of challenges judged by some of the most renowned and respected in the industry and have the opportunity to earn the title of "Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year."

For additional information about the program and Ricky Gomez's journey to becoming the Diageo World Class U.S. Ambassador, visit www.DiageoWorldClassUSA.com. Join the conversation by following @WorldClassUS on Twitter, use the hashtag #CocktailChallenge and visit https://www.facebook.com/DiageoWorldClassUS.

Ricky_gomez

Categories
Ingredients Liqueurs Mixology

Buy It or Do It Yourself – How to Decide

Along with the craft cocktail renaissance has come a booming movement for bartenders and home mixologists to make their own ingredients. Recipes abound for making syrups, liqueurs, and the like. I've linked to several of them in the past, and Serious Eats runs a regular feature on this subject.

Let's face it, though, making your own ingredients is a lot of work. It's not a step that the casual imbiber is going to take. However, there are some very good reasons why you might want to consider it, at least in special cases.

  • You can’t find the ingredient you're looking for. Many syrups, especially the ones that go in Tiki drinks, can be difficult or impossible to find in stores. They can usually be bought online, although that can up the price significantly. The same goes for liqueurs, like Amer Picon (or Torani Amer), which in many places can't be bought online. So if you really want it, you've going to have to make your own.
  • The ingredient you want isn't commercially available. Maybe you have a craving for macadamia nut orgeat or cherry-lime liqueur. You're probably not going to find it in the store. Time to experiment!
  • The ingredient is easy to make. If all you need is simple syrup, honey syrup, or grenadine (for example), you can make your own with a minimum of effort, and it's likely to be better than the stuff you can buy.
  • The quality of ingredients available to you is not good enough. Again, this is true of many syrups, like demerara syrup, grenadine, or orgeat. The commercial stuff is often junk, so you're better off making your own.
  • To learn more about the flavors, aromas, etc. of the ingredient. If you're going to be a serious mixologist, you're going to want to learn as much as you can about the nuances of taste and smell that the ingredients you use possess. What better way to explore those nuances than to make the stuff yourself?
  • The ingredient is too expensive. This would be a valid reason to DIY, although no products readily come to mind. (If they're too expensive, they're probably also too hard to make.)
  • Because you enjoy doing it! This is probably the most important reason of all. Personally, I hate cooking or doing anything in the kitchen beyond mixing a cocktail, so I only do it under duress. But some people, including my brother and spirit partner Bob, enjoy it. If you're one of those people, get to work! And send me some of the results to try.

  Orgeat

Categories
Mixology Press Releases

Charity auction: have drinks with Derek Brown at The Columbia Room

Here's a great chance to help a good cause while having a lot of fun in the process. Derek is an amazing bartender and The Columbia Room experience is truly amazing.

DerekHeadshot

Cocktail connoisseurs in the DC area know that the search for the best-quality beverage ends with Derek Brown, and his bar-within-a-bar watering hole, The Columbia Room. Those that have been itching to slide into one of those coveted seats are in luck, because Brown has partnered with Charitybuzz, the leading destination for online charity auctions, to give one aficionado the chance to take over The Columbia Room with nine friends for a drink date with Derek!

The winning bidder and nine friends will occupy all 10 seats at the swanky spot and watch (and sip) as he works his whiskey wonders on the group’s taste buds, and gives the ultimate lesson in mixology magic. With bidding at just $450 for this intimate experience, this is one drink that bidders cannot refuse! The auction closes this Wednesday, April 18 at http://www.charitybuzz.com/catalog_items/2956101

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender and owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington D.C. He has been hailed by the Wall Street Journal as a “master of mixological science” and his martini was named by GQ magazine as the best in America. In 2010 Brown was listed in Washingtonian magazine as one of the 40 Who Shaped 2010, and the D.C. City Council established his Rickey cocktail as Washington D.C.’s native cocktail. He has been featured in every major news outlet including CNN, MSNBC and FOX. 

Proceeds benefit Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation DC, dedicated to making sure no kid grows up hungry by raising the critical funds needed to end childhood hunger in Washington DC and all over the country.

Categories
Bars Cocktails Ingredients Mixology

New Year’s Resolutions: New Drinking Rules for 2012

Liquor.com offers their resolutions for the new year — some interesting advice you might want to consider. (The commentary is adapted from their piece. It's not mine. But I agree with it.)

  • Have nightcaps and aperitifs
    • At least once this year, try this classic style of imbibing.
  • Visit a new bar
    • Not that long ago, it took some work to find a good cocktail. Now, it seems that another dozen craft-cocktail bars open across the country every few days.
  • Start grating
    • We hope you’re already using fresh fruit juices in your tipples. But you should also be grating whole spices.
  • Embrace technology
    • Bars and distillers are experimenting with new technologies, like cocktails on tap. No doubt the trend will become more common; we suggest giving these high-tech concoctions a chance

Good suggestions! Check out the whole piece for the commentary.

Categories
Bars Cocktails Mixology

Year in Review: Chicago’s Year in Cocktails

Over on Chicagoist, Roger Kamholz presents the "Year in Cocktails," a fast summary of what happened on the craft cocktail scene last year in Chicago. In short:

"It's been an incredible year for cocktails in Chicago. From the openings of several exciting new bars, to the creativity on display at the city's most established watering holes, Chicago has hit an impressive stride when it comes to the cocktail."

According to Kamholz, the best drink he had all year was the Gunshop Fizz, a cocktail mixed up at New Orleans' Cure using Peychaud's Bitters as the primary ingredient. (Sounds kinda gross to me, but maybe it works.)

Probably the most exciting cocktailian happening in Chicago last year was the opening of Aviary, one of the country's most innovative bars.

Kamholz concludes by saying he looks "forward to seeing what Chicago's remarkable group of bartenders and mixologists have in store for us in 2012."

Cheers to that!

Categories
Bars Cocktails Mixology

Year in Review: Top 5 Cocktail Experiences of 2011

Derek Brown, owner of DC's The Passenger and one of the cocktail world's brightest luminaries, took to the pages of The Atlantic to share his Top 5 Cocktail Experiences of 2011.

Over the course of the year, Derek visited some of the country's (and the world's) best bars in order to sample the cutting edge of mixology. It's a difficult job, but Derek took the hit for us.

Among his favorite drinks he encountered: the Martinez Sour, as prepared by Justin Pike at The Tasting Kitchen in L.A., a Rob Roy, as mixed by Arash Hanjianpour at Candelaria in Paris, and the Cold Hot Chocolate from Craig Schoettler at Aviary in Chicago.

Derek opines that the trend for high-end cocktails shows no signs of abating; if anything, it's now become part of the mainstream. Good news for those of us who love fine spirits. (Even if it makes our livers a little sad.)

Categories
Brandy Mixology Rum Whiskey

Spiking the Egg Nog

My sister wrote to me yesterday to ask about adding liquor to store-bought egg nog. While I highly recommend making your own egg nog — it just tastes so much better than the stuff from the store — I realize a lot of people don't want to put in the time to do this.

In that case, you definitely want to add some spirits to your nog. Otherwise, the stuff is just nasty, with no redeeming alcoholic kick. But what kind to add?

Bourbon is the traditional accompaniment to egg nog, and it works well. Don't bother putting anything too expensive in it — the subtleties of the taste will just get lost. So use something like Evan Williams Black Label and you'll be off and running. If you want to go a little more upscale, you could always use Buffalo Trace.

There are some people, however, who are put off by the flavor of bourbon. For them, I would recommend using brandy as the spirit in your egg nog. You could go with a VS Cognac, although probably even that is overkill. Buy a bottle of good, cheap French brandy — Raynal VSOP is excellent and under $15 — and your nog will be more than worth drinking.

Your third option is rum. I love rum, and I do sometimes have it in my egg nog, but I don't think it works as well as brandy. It makes a nice change of pace, but it wouldn't be my go-to selection. If you do want to use rum, I would recommend a gold/dark Jamaican variety. Appleton VX would be great, but Coruba or Myers would work in a pinch.

The other question is: how much to use? This really depends on you. I would recommend something around 2 ounces of spirit per cup of egg nog to start. (Basically, one shot per mug.) You can always add more if you like it a little stronger.

Merry Christmas!

Categories
Mixology

Does the Mixology Movement Have a Shelf Life?

Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, the great archaeologist of Tiki drinks and cocktail commentator, posted a short essay wondering about the state of mixology today:

We love mock speakeasies. We love bartenders who wear bowler hats, Jerry Thomas facial hair, and sleeve garters. Even more than the theatricality, we love the ceremony of watching a vintage cocktail being scrupulously and lovingly brought back to life before our eyes…But we have seen the future, and it’s not mock speakeasies. It’s mocking speakeasies.

Berry relates how he was recently watching a show on FX called The League when one of the characters (Andre) announces that he's become a mixologist. Andre converts his loft into a speakeasy for a party and starts making custom ice and showing off his muddling technique. His friends, naturally, mock his pretentions, and the guys all end up drinking shots of vodka instead.

It sounds like a funny gag, although I'm not sure who the intended audience for the humor would be. (Bartenders and cocktail bloggers?) But this points out a real challenge that those of us who appreciate fine spirits and craft cocktails face.

Is the mixology movement nothing more than a fad? Will we end up back in the bad old days, where all cocktails were made with canned sour mix shot out of a sticky gun? Will rye whiskey and Creme de Violette disappear back into the mists of time?

I don't think that's going to happen. I think enough people have come to appreciate how fun and and satisfying it is to enjoy a well-made cocktail. (Or to make one themselves at home.) I do, however, think that the more precious aspects of mixology — some of them the very things Berry leads off this post expressing his love for — will fall by the wayside.

The allure of drinking in a mock speakeasy is the kind of thing that is likely to last only in certain environments with a certain audience. (Manhattan, for example.) Bartenders with unusual facial hair — I never got that one in the first place. Homemade tinctures, carbonated cocktails — the jury's still out. Molecular mixology — well, even El Bulli closed.

But the emphasis on fresh, quality ingredients, expert mixing, authentic recipes — in other words, all the things that truly make modern mixology great? I think they're here to stay.

Categories
Book Reviews Drink Recipes Mixology

Book Review: “The PDT Cocktail Book” by Jim Meehan

A lot of cocktail books are published every year, some of them containing thousands of recipes, some of them focusing on only a few dozen. Many of these books aren't especially useful, presenting recipes chosen with little care or attention to detail. With books like that, it's caveat emptor and bibitor.

Not so with Jim Meehan's PDT Cocktail Book, an essential volume from one of the cocktail world's brightest stars. Meehan is the manager of PDT, one of New York's most celebrated cocktail bars. Prior to that he worked under Audrey Sanders at Pegu Club. His credentials are impeccable.

As soon as you pick it up, you know this is a quality book; substantial and well bound, with thick glossy paper. The illustrations (by Chris Gall) are bright, colorful, whimsical and eye-catching.

The PDT Cocktail Book shares Meehan's advice on designing a bar, stocking spirits and choosing the right ingredients and glassware, along with his tips and techniques for properly mixing drinks. A novice mixologist can pick up this book and gain a solid introduction to the subject, even if they have little or no knowledge to begin with. But the experienced bartender will also find much to learn from here.

The heart of The PDT Cocktail Book is, of course, the drinks. It contains over 300 recipes: about half of them original drinks served at PDT, along with many classic cocktails, plus some new suggestions from friends and colleagues. This isn't a hodgepodge of random recipes either. These are hand-picked and tested; the real drinks as served in a world-class bar.

I've tried several already. Here is one that I recently enjoyed — a crisp, refreshing, lemony drink that Meehan created in the Fall of 2008. The apple flavor makes it ideal for this season.

 

Johnny Apple Collins

1.5 oz Maker's Mark Bourbon
.75 oz Schönauer Apple Schnapps
.75 oz Lemon Juice
 2 dashes The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled Collins glass filled with ice.

Top with 2 oz. Fever Tree Bitter Lemon Soda

Garnish with a lemon twist.

 

The ingredients and instructions for each drink are clearly spelled out. But Meehan goes one step further, including (where possible) the provenance of the drink, giving credit to the person who invented it. As such, The PDT Cocktail Book represents a valuable volume of cocktail history, helping those who are interested to trace the origins of various cocktails. (Along those lines, it also contains an excellent bibliography.)

Another interesting thing Meehan does is recommend specific brands of spirits for all the recipes. Thus we see that he makes his gin and tonics with Tanqueray, his Martinis with Plymouth, and his Aviations with Beefeater. These aren't hard and fast rules; they're simply guidelines, telling us how they make the drinks at PDT. They represent a starting point for building the flavor profile of the drink. You can (and should) try combinations of your own.

(For example, when making the drink above, I lacked both Schönauer Apple Schnapps and Fever Tree Bitter Lemon Soda. I substituted Berentzen Apfel Liqueur and 7-Up, respectively. My version tastes different, but it's still very good.)

Meehan's book will appeal most to those who already have an interest in and facility with mixology. Any bartender would be strongly urged to buy this right away. But even the amateur will enjoy this beautiful book.

If you have any interest in drinking well, you will appreciate thumbing through it. There are so many interesting ideas for ways of combining flavors here. It also teaches a lot about spirits and how to use them. If you don't have the ingredients to make the drinks at home, copy the recipes down and take them to your favorite bartender and let him/her mix them for you.

The PDT Cocktail Book joins Gary Regan's The Joy of Mixology and Dale Degroff's The Craft of the Cocktail as the indispensable monographs on modern cocktails and spirits. It belongs on every cocktail lover's shelf.