Category Archives: bars

An Interview With Porto Cocktail Competition Winner Colin Bolini

It wouldn’t be the first mention of this topic on our blog, but it bears repeating. Port tends to be an overlooked or misunderstood ingredient when it comes to developing cocktails. But when you find a drink recipe (or, better yet, develop one yourself!) that calls for port, the result is a drink with a great depth of flavor that tastes simply – well – delicious.

Presented by Tales of the Cocktail and Saveur Magazine, Sandeman hosted a contest back in the spring that challenged bartenders to develop unique recipes using the brand’s Founders Reserve Porto for a chance to win a trip to Tales of the Cocktail, taking place in New Orleans later this month. Judges for the 2012 Porto Cocktail Competition included:

  • David Wondrich – Cocktail Historian
  • Jonathan Pogash – Beverage Consultant
  • Helen Rosner – Saveur Spirits Editor

Together, the group of esteemed industry professionals declared Colin Bolini, of The Rail in Bloomington, IN, the winner for his original recipe, “Sporting Chance”. I had the chance to connect with Colin online and ask him a few questions about bartending, his unique Sandeman recipe and discover just exactly what he’s looking forward to on his complimentary trip to Tales:

StephanieJerzy: How long have you been bartending and what got you most interested in this line of work?
ColinBolini: I’m a 10 year restaurant veteran who has worked every position from busyboy to GM at a variety of establishments. I was drawn to bartending because I’ve always romanticized the position and felt that its roots in being a well respected profession could be re-conjured, and I love the spontaneous nature of the craft.

SJ: How do you prep for a bar shift? Have any rituals or best practices to get “in the zone”?

Colin Bolini in his element at The Rail

CB: When I’m setting up the bar, I like to get there early, turn up the music (something with tempo!) and move quickly to ensure I can enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee prior to open. For whatever reason, I’ve been listening to a lot of the Rolling Stones album “Sticky Fingers” at set up. Another good way to get in the zone is to fool around and make an off-the-wall cocktail right at open and share it with whomever dares, it stimulates the mind!

SJ: What was the inspiration for your winning Sandeman recipe? How did those flavors come together?
CB: I have enjoyed utilizing Sandeman port in cocktails as a way to work in subtle sweetness and depth of flavor. My cocktail, “Sporting Chance,” was inspired by the depth of flavor inherent in the port, and also the brutally hot weather I knew to expect at the end of July in New Orleans! By bolstering the port with a little dark rum and cognac, lightening with muddled mint, and then bringing up the complexity with two kinds of bitters, I felt like the perfect balance was struck without disguising the port base. Served as a julep because of my fascination with the presentation style, I hope that “Sporting Chance” proves that port need not be reserved for cold winter nights only.

SJ: You’ll be at Tales of the Cocktail in July with Sandeman — Have you been before? What are you most looking forward to in New Orleans?
CB: I am attending my first TOTC, and I’m very excited! Apart from the networking opportunities and amazing New Orleans cuisine, I am most excited to learn from the industry’s best and brightest and advance my skills and knowledge surrounding my craft.

SJ: What other spirits do you most frequently like to use behind the bar?
CB: When I’m not mixing up new Sandeman cocktails, you can most often find me with a bottle of rye whiskey or mezcal, tinkering away!

You’ll be able to catch Colin mixing up his Sporting Chance recipe at a collection of Sandeman-sponsored events at this upcoming Tales of the Cocktail, including the Sandeman “Lost Art of Port” Spirited Dinner at Arnaud’s and  the Cocktail Apprentice Lunch at Tales of the Cocktail.

If you won’t be able to join us in New Orleans (or visit Colin behind the bar at The Rail), here’s the recipe so you can mix up a Sporting Chance for yourself:

Sporting Chance

  • 1 oz Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto
  • 3/4 oz El Dorado 12 Year Old Demerara Rum
  • 1/2 oz Hardy VS Cognac
  • 1/4 oz Rich Demerara Syrup (2:1)
  • 2 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • Mint leaves

Lightly muddle five or six mint leaves with demerara syrup in the bottom of a julep cup. Add the port, rum, cognac, syrup and bitters. Stir briefly to combine. Fill julep cup with crushed ice. Stir to chill until cup frosts. Form mound of crushed ice on top; pour cocktail.

Thanks Colin for answering our questions and we all look forward to seeing you in New Orleans in just a few short weeks!


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The Big Apple’s Best Commuter Bars

Grand Central Station's main concourse (photo from

James Mulcahy is a mind reader.

For reals. New York’s all-around barfly wrote a piece special to Metromix earlier this month about some of the top commuter bars to crawl into while in the vicinity of the city’s many transit hubs: Grand Central Station, Penn Station and, yes, even Port Authority.

My locale in CT is just far enough that I still have to plan pretty ‘on-point’ to get into the city by a certain time but close enough that I can be under Manhattan’s big lights on any given day. As a somewhat frequent Metro-North commuter, I’ve come to learn the ins-and-outs of shuffling through Grand Central Station, but a light bulb clicked on when I read James’ story – I really haven’t explored the drinking scene near the stations! This clearly must be changed.

I’ll be doing a bunch of traveling in and out of New York over the next several weeks (both for work – more to come there! – and for pleasure) so I’m going to start a running list on this blog entry of the different bars I come across in my adventures.

In the interim of not having begun my commuter bar crawl, be sure to give James’ story a read. There are definitely a slew of options on there to lead me in the right direction along my imbibing adventure.



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The Dancing Scotsman

In preparation for my Rosh Hashanah festivities last week, I asked you readers to provide me with your recipe suggestions that accounted for our not-so ‘secret’ ingredient, honey.

Fred Yarm of Cocktail Slut came to my rescue with this recipe from Eastern Standard in Boston.  This cocktail, at the present time, is not on their cocktail menu online, but here is the honey recipe as Fred shares it:

The Dancing Scotsman:

  • 1 oz Blended Scotch (Fred notes that ES used Dewar’s)
  • 1 oz Lemon Juice
  • 1 oz Honey Syrup (I made mine at 2:1 water to honey)

Shake with ice and strain into a coupe. Fill with sparkling wine and garnish with a flamed lemon twist dropped in.

As you can tell from the photo, the barware I was using at my friend’s home wasn’t quite up to par to make this drink as beautiful as I’m sure it can be. If there is a lesson to be learned with this drink it is to double strain, as a result of some, let’s call it “pithy”, lemon juice. Whoops.  Technique aside, my friends all enjoyed this drink; even more so, I think we can call the cocktail a success at this particular celebration when I managed to get some of my gal pals to ask for seconds (ok, even thirds!) of a drink that they would never otherwise order off a menu. Why? Because it had scotch.

Impressed? So was I. Definitely give this one a try at your next celebration. Or, better yet, if you’re in the Boston area, pay a visit to Eastern Standard in the neighborhood of Fenway Park (ask for Jackson Cannon, of ES fame) and have the staff make you one of these for your night out.


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Praise for the Kentucky Buck

Building on the apropos Summer State of Mind recipe featured yesterday,  I wanted to share a recipe that fittingly shares the same foundation for a crisp and refreshing summer drink. Fredo Ceraso of the blog Loungerati shares with us what he coins as “your last drink of summer” –  The Kentucky Buck.

The Kentucky Buck is the brainchild of Pernod Ricard brand ambassador and San Franciscan barman Erick Castro. I love that this drink builds on many of the components of the SSOM cocktail: there’s the base spirit, ripe seasonal fruit, acidity, and refreshing fizz. But Castro’s recipe calls for neither rum nor soda, but rather it provides a seamless transition to fall with both bourbon and ginger beer taking center stage.

The Kentucky Buck (By Erick Castro)

  • 2 oz Bulleit Bourbon
  • 3/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 3/4 oz Simple Syrup
  • 1 medium-sized ripe Strawberry
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Ginger Beer

Place juice and strawberry into tin and muddle thoroughly. Add remaining ingredients into tin along with ice and shake vigorously. Strain over ice into a Collins glass and top with ginger beer. Garnish with finely-sliced strawberry and lemon wheel.

While I have yet to try this drink for myself at home (it’s been a crazy couple of days in SJ’s world), I do expect to give this cocktail a try before the holiday weekend rolls in. And I do anticipate it being a winner among my friends. Better yet, if you plan to be in the San Francisco area in the near future, you can grab this drink at Castro’s work establishment, Rickhouse: 246 Kearny Street, San Francisco, CA 94108.

Cheers! And thanks again to Fredo for sharing the recipe!

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Absinthe Boston Bar Crawl

At Stoddard's Fine Food & Ale, Pernod Absinthe is served for guests in its traditional form: the fountain. Photos courtesy of Frederic Yarm.

Absinthe was center stage in Boston two weeks ago as Pernod Absinthe hosted Bean Town’s finest cocktail and food writers for an evening of immaculate food and drink pairings.

For the Absinthe Boston Bar Crawl, attendees were chauffeured in 1930s era limousines to three cocktail destinations around the city: Stoddard’s, Russell House Tavern, and Drink. Absinthe’s role was notably defined in each of the drinks, ranging from the classic (Sazerac, Corpse Reviver) to the inventive (see the La Montagne d’Or below). Alas, I was not in attendance at said Absinthe Boston Bar Crawl. Good thing Boston’s own Cocktail Slut, Frederic Yarm, was present and can better retell the evening’s adventures.

When Fred and I chatted about his Absinthe adventure this recipe prepared by Russell House Tavern’s Aaron Butler particularly caught my eye; the color of the drink was stunning and, upon looking at the ingredients, I was confident I could attempt to recreate this treat at home. La Montagne d’Or was further explained to me as being a variation of the rhum agricole-based Dr. Funk. Here’s the recipe:

La Montagne d’Or

Aaron Butler of Russell House Tavern pours La Montagne d'Or for guests of the Absinthe Boston Bar Crawl.

2 1/2 oz Montanya Oro Rum
1 oz Lemon juice
1/2 oz Grenadine
1/2 oz Pernod Absinthe
1 Dash Peychaud Bitters

Definitely check back on Cocktail Slut to see all the musings and Pernod drink recipes from the Absinthe Boston Bar Crawl. Many thanks go out to Jamie Walsh at Stoddard’s Fine Food & Ale, Aaron Butler (with some assistance from Corey Bunnewith) at Russell House Tavern, and Cali Gold and John Gertsen at Drink.



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Drink Like a Billionaire

Who doesn’t want to be a billionaire? For most of us…never gonna happen. But you can grab yourself a Billionaire Cocktail from Employees Only in NYC, or recreate it at home. Check out the recipe, which was featured in a recent Serious Eats post:

The Billionaire Cocktail

2 ounces Baker’s 107˚ bourbon
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce EO Grenadine
1/4 ounce Pernod Absinthe
1 lemon wheel, for garnish

Put all ingredients into a mixing glass. Add ice and shake vigorously for 8-10
seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon wheel.

You might be asking yourself, “How am I supposed to recreate this cocktail at home when it calls for EO Grandine?” Fear not, home bartender! If you’re in the NYC area, stop by Employees Only, where their brand new, all-natural Grandine and Lime Cordial (gimlets anyone?) are now available for sale. Soon, they’ll also be available through Fresh Direct so keep an eye out for that! There’s no doubt that homemade ingredients improve the quality of craft cocktails, but if someone offers to save me the time and home-make my ingredients for me, all the better!




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Welcome back. How ’bout a drink?

pernod ad 1That’s right, folks. I’m officially back in the saddle and ready for another tasty tipple. This one calls for a new client of mine—Pernod Absinthe. I discovered it while perusing the internet & found it comes from mixologist Stephen Cole of the Violet Hour in Chicago. I’ve heard such great things about the Violet Hour—it’s definitely a can’t-miss bar in Chi-town. I haven’t had a chance to try this one yet but I’m truly intrigued.

Rimbaud’s Left Hand by Stephen Cole of The Violet Hour

1 part Pernod Absinthe
1 part Benedictine
1 part Aperol
1 part lemon juice
1 part pineapple juice
1 egg white
Rose water

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass, shake first without ice. Shake with ice and strain into a coupe glass with sidecar. Garnish with drops of rose water in the center.


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