Monthly Archives: July 2009

Drinks of Summer: Simple Sangria

Duke of Manchester PunchThis post is part of Cocktail Culture’s Drinks of Summer series, in which we will feature light & refreshing warm-weather cocktails.

Summer is the season for outdoor entertaining—I can hardly keep count of all the picnics, BBQ, and backyard shin-digs I’ve been invited to this year!

If you’re playing host or hostess to a group this weekend (or any other this summer, for that matter) you’re probably wondering how to stock your bar. Sure, beer & wine are great but a cocktail would be fantastic. Trouble is, you don’t want to be standing in your kitchen all night, shaking them up one at a time. That’s why pitcher or punch bowl drinks are ideal for your next party! Here’s a delicious and simple Sangria recipe. For ice, try freezing water in a bundt cake pan, so it melts slowly and doesn’t water down the whole bowl too quickly. Cheers!

Blushing White Peach Sangria

1 bottle White Zinfandel
1 ¼ cups Hiram Walker White Peach Schnapps
1 ¼ cups fresh Pineapple Juice
1 ½ cups fresh Sour Mix
1 cup Club Soda
10 Fresh Peach slices
20 Fresh Pineapple Chunks

Combine ingredients in a Punch Bowl & stir well. Add ice (from the bundt cake pan) till the bowl is ¾ full.


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Tales of the Cocktail: That’s a Wrap!

IMG_5148It’s so hard to fit all of the excitement, events, booze, and news of Tales of the Cocktail into a few measly posts, but if I didn’t consolidate and summarize this all, I’d be writing about Tales year-round. And trust me, we don’t need that—they’ve already got a fine blog of their own: Tales blog.

So here’s the remainder of what I have to share with those of you who’ve taken an interest in my Tales travels—then, it’s a wrap!

Saturday was my last full day in New Orleans (I left Sunday morning at an ungodly hour) & I went out with a bang! The day started out with breakfast at Brennan’s—an amazing treat I’ve been looking forward to since…well, since last year when I had breakfast at Brennan’s. Amazing! Strawberries & cream, Eggs Portuguese, & their famous Bananas Foster. I probably didn’t have to eat another bite the whole day…but I sure did.

Later in the day I sat in on one of the funniest Tales sessions I’ve been to—The Three Amigos, with a panel that consisted of Wayne Collins, Jason Crowley, and Simon Ford (he was everywhere at Tales!). I heard fantastic things about their session last year and these boys didn’t disappoint.

Again, it was a case of excellent accents matched with interesting content. They covered who they consider to be the three most IMG_5261important bartenders of the 19th century—Jerry Thomas, Harry Johnson, and The Only William-William Schmidt, paying particular attention to the bartenders’ varying personalities, service styles, cocktails, and mustaches. Best of all, this session had some of my favorite freebies of the week. Two reprints from Mud Puddle Books & a new bar spoon. Nice!

The Spirit Awards, sponsored by Pernod Ricard, were later that evening at Harrah’s Casino—and it was a great way to end a week of worshipping cocktails. I was lucky enough to be seated at a great table this year (with Robert Hess and Dave Wondrich to name-drop a few) and thus got a wonderful view of the many deserved winners. Here’s the list of 2009 Tales of the Cocktail Spirit Award winners:

World’s Best Drinks Selection: Merchant Hotel, Belfast

Best American Cocktail Bar: Pegu Club, NYC

World’s Best Cocktail Bar: PDT, NYC

World’s Best New Cocktail Bar: Clover Club, Brooklyn

World’s Best Hotel Bar: Merchant Hotel, Belfast

American Bartender of the Year: Jim Meehan, PDT

International Bartender of the Year: Tony Conigliaro

Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book: The Essential Cocktail by Dale DeGroff

Best Cocktail Writing: Dave Wondrich

Best New Product: Bols Genever

IMG_5236World’s Best Cocktail Menu: Merchant Hotel, Belfast

Best American Brand Ambassador: Simon Ford, Plymouth Gin & Pernod Ricard

Helen David Lifetime Achievement Award: Peter Dorelli

Congratulations to all the winners!

Most celebrated afterward, at the Plymouth-sponsored Bartender’s Breakfast. The event, held at the remarkable LaTrobe’s on Royal, was packed with a line out the door! There were at least a dozen bars throughout the venue serving up quality cocktails to sleep-deprived cocktailians determined to stay up until their 7 AM flight. Again, it was a great party and a wonderful way to give one last toast to Tales. I had a fantastic time this year and I’m sure next year will bring more surprises, sessions, parties, friends and of course, cocktails. Cheers!

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Friday on the Fly

CIMG3633First of all, apologies for the break in writing here. I know I’ve got plenty more to cover as far as Tales of the Cocktail is concerned, but things have been a little crazy. It’s been non-stop for 11 days straight now, and for at least two weeks I haven’t gone grocery shopping, done any laundry, or even washed any dishes. My life is in temporary disarray, but have no fear—I’m back and ready to spill more Tales details!

The Cocktails that Made Gin Famous

Let me tell you what I love about working with gin brands—the accents. I’m just a sucker for a British accent. It’s smart, it’s sexy, it’s hilarious & charming! No one ever says that about “American accents.” Anyway, the accents were a huge plus in The Cocktails that Made Gin Famous session, but the content was also key. The panel featured Tal Nadori of Genever, Angus Winchester of Tanqueray, Dan Warner of Beefeater, and Simon Ford of Plymouth.

One after another, they presented the history and progression of the gin category (starting with Tal and Genever, of course) and the cocktails that made the spirit shine along the way. My personal favorite was the White Lady, presented by Dan. He mentioned there’s a “perfect” version of the cocktail that subs Peach Brandy in for Cointreau. Sounds delish!

On the Fly Competition

What a great idea for a competition! The brainchild of Jeffrey Morgenthaler,  this event pulled together great mixologists and spirits writers from across the country and challenged them to make the best cocktail they could using the ingredients from their Swag Bag! CIMG3643Ingredients included everything from Tea Forte to BBQ sauce, and the only other catch was that they had to use ½ oz. of either Grand Marnier or Navan. They had thirty minutes to do their work, which left some of the audience wishing Alton Brown was there to give us the play-by-play and show different camera angles of the bartenders in action.

I need more details on the winning cocktail, but I can say it was crafted by Giuseppe Gonzales of New York City. Other participants included:

Todd Thrasher-Washington, DC

Eric Alperin-Los Angeles (see Mohawk above)

Dave Wondrich-NYC

Neyah White-San Fran

Misty Kalkofen-Boston

Paul Clarke-Seattle

Ricky Gomez-New Orleans

CIMG3645 Caipirinha Competition

After the On The Fly competition, Steve & I headed over the Leblon Caipirinha Competition, which was really more of a party than a competition. The venue featured approx. 25 booths with USBG bartenders fixing up their “Caipirinha” submissions. I never got a clear read on who the winner was, but I think it might have me—because I love Cachaça & every cocktail I tried was fabulous.

One favorite of the night was Chris Stanley’s Ipanema Beachcomber. You’ll have to go bug him on his blog for the details, but I know it had Leblon, Herbsaint, Cinnamon Syrup, Angostura bitters, pineapple, and grapefruit. Yum!

We finished up the night with a Pimm’s Cup and a Sazerac at Napoleon House, a famous and historical watering hole that eluded us half a dozen times last year at Tales. Success!

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“If It Smells Like Ass, Pull It Back”—Audrey Saunders, How’s & Why’s of Cocktails Seminar

CIMG3611Thursday at Tales started off…interesting. Steve & I met up with Camper English early for a wonderful breakfast at Begue’s. But on our way there, walking down Bienville, we had an unfortunate and horrifying experience. A truck carrying a sewage tank passed us by, revealing a huge hole in the tank and spewing said sewage before the street in front of us. The stink hit us like a wave and we practically broke out in a sprint, our hands pinching our noses.

Making memories…making memories.

Despite this start, the breakfast was great and so was the session that followed—The How’s and Why’s of Cocktails with Audrey Saunders.

This session started out fabulously with a tasty, foamy, citrusy Ramos Gin Fizz. Audrey & Tony C. discussed how best to bring classic drinks to modern times. They called it WWJTD (What would Jerry Thomas do?) VS. WSID (What should I do?). They made the point that classic cocktail don’t necessarily have to be made “by the book.” In fact, tweaking recipes from over sixty years ago can make them better (gasp)!

Other topics covered included using different gins for different cocktails (a point Audrey also made at the recent Gin Symposium in NYC), approachability behind the bar, the fact that Audrey appreciates a good Pina Colada or Cosmopolitan from time to time, and how to keep your mint from smelling like ass. And of course, in the case that the quality of your mint cannot be helped, pull it back!

More to come…

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If you think it’s hot here…

CIMG3590(The title of this post was taken from a sign in front of a missionary I passed on the Streetcar this afternoon—hilarious!)

For those of you who haven’t been following my footsteps on Twitter, I arrived in New Orleans yesterday for the Tales of the Cocktail festival. My trip didn’t start so well, after listening to the lady sitting next to me on the plane verbally assault our fellow travelers about their “flight etiquette” for a half an hour straight.

But things changed dramatically for the better once I was safely within the French Quarter limits. I’m staying at the Hotel Monteleone, a New Orleans landmark with a rich history. I’m so glad to be in the middle of all the action this year (last year we stayed in a hotel just outside the French Quarter).

In the evening, Beefeater Gin put on an amazing welcome reception which featured fantastic Beefeater & Beefeater 24 cocktails (like Lambeth Lemonade & Montford Spritz). They had outrageous actors in British garb, tasty food (though I did pass on the pig—I don’t like looking my food in the eye), and some fabulous attendees. Audrey Saunders, Dan Warner, and Blair Reynolds were just a few of the many bartenders slinging delicious gin cocktails for a packed house. Mr. & Mrs. Cocktail got up to say a few words and welcome everyone to Tales, and Mr. Desmond Payne (master distiller of Beefeater and Beefeater 24) even graced us with a few fine words about the work he’s been doing on creating and promoting the new Beefeater 24. Great fun was had by all—but I’m having a hell of a time trying to upload pictures at the moment so you’ll have to wait to see the proof!

Update: I think I’ve got this photo thing figured out now-here are a few:



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Tales Time

CIMG1829Is it really that time again!? Believe it or not, tomorrow I’m headed back down to the Big Easy for Tales of the Cocktail, “the summer’s most spirited event.”

The weather has just started to not suck here in Connecticut (we’ve been hammered by serious rain, thunderstorms and yes, even a tornado for about the last month) and now I have to leave it behind for the sweltering sweaty mess that is New Orleans in July.

Ahhh, but I love it! And I’ve been training-daily two-mile runs in my snow suit followed by high-proof cocktails in a steam bath. I’ve prepared.  I’m focused. I’m ready.

As I am a complete control freak (and may possibly suffer from OCD) I’ve created quite the detailed agenda for myself while in New Orleans. I won’t put all the little details down here but I will give a few of the highlights away. Here we go:


Beefeater Welcome Reception (come see me!!)

Infusion contest judging

Possible tweet-up @ Bar Tonique (we’ll see if I last that long)


Breakfast @ Begue’s

How’s & Why’s of Cocktails Session

The CSOWG is taking ME to lunch (I feel special!)

Chemistry of Cocktails

Dinner @ Arnaud’s with the Intoxicologist herself


Using Blogs & Online Tools to Promote your Bar, Brand, or Career (Steve’s on the panel-come watch him preach Social Media Marketing and possibly embarrass me in a crowded room)

The Cocktails That Made Gin Famous (yep, Beefeater is sponsoring)

On The Fly Competition (this is going to be a fun one)

Caipirinha Competition (got to see what my friends at Leblon are up to)


Breakfast @ Brennan’s (‘nuff said)

The Three Amigos (heard it was hilarious last year)

Dinner @ NOLA with the Dood of Rum

And last but not least….The Spirit Awards (how can they possibly top last year’s host—Shooter McGavin!?)

So, if you’re a stalker and would like to know my every move in New Orleans (kidding…please don’t stalk me) or if you’re sad and alone at home and would like to live vicariously through me, check in here for daily (I’m optimistic) updates or follow me on Twitter. By the end of the week, you’ll already have your trip booked for next summer. Trust me.

Till then, Cheers!

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