I interviewed Patrik Gallineaux, the U.S. LGBT Brand Ambassador for Stolichnayya, about the seemingly deliberately mendacious boycott of the brand by well-meaning but misguided activists for the Huffington Post.
For the debut cocktail on offer at the Key West Literary Seminar 2013, we went with no less loaded a Graham Greene project than "The Third Man". The connection to the drink? The citrus, black tea and English gin punch was certainly emminently British which always connects with Greene, but the ostensible hero of the movie is American. And the titular character, Harry Lime, played by Orson Welles in an epic eleventh hour cameo that informs the entire film, also seems to be American, or perhaps simply post-war mid-Atlantic thespian. But the essence of the concoction, sweet, smooth, even beguiling, and irresistebly seductive, matches Harry Lime's troubling charm nicely. Also, we wanted to really go full-on with the Greene connection when we served the punch to guests and authors as they streamed out of the auditorium after the opening night keynote adress. Sometimes a name is about expediency, another aspect that certainly fits the self-serving Lime. Sean Hoard and I and our lovely assistant Lauren served from punchbowls as the crowd streamed past, handing them plastic cups to sip from on their walk to the evening's actual party, several blocks away.
When I enlisted ('conscripted' might be more apt) Sean to work on this endeavor I gave him a long reading list of Greene books as well as the requisite Greene films like The End of the Affair (which he didn't like) and The Third Man (which he dug, of course--it's an inarguably great film). Sean took his research seriously and read several books, and I think The Third Man came at the end of the whole process--an unmitigated treat and a nice cherry on top of the boozy sunday that was this massive project. In the end I think he was more well versed in the Greene ethic and aesthetic than me--he was certainly fresher to the material. And the enthusiasm and focus he brought elevated the entire project in exactly the manner I'd hoped, bringing serious cocktailing technique, a refined palate and unvarnished enthusiasm.
The day of the opening party he spent hours zesting lemons and oranges and muddling with the cane sugar in a 15 liter Cambro, returning over and over to muddle the citrus in the sugar and shake it around, sort of hyper-melding the citrus oils and zest with the sugar and creating the foundation for the oleo saccharum syrup. You could smell the infusion start to take hold as the elements were made to dance with each other repeatedly--an almost alchemical process. With the addition of Irish Breakfast Tea the syrup was complete, and then it as simple as 2 bottles of Beefeater and 1 of Absolut, a neat mediating of the london dry gin citrus & juniper profile with a nice clean vodka to soften it up. Using the same citrus to get 32 oz. of fresh juice was the next move, and after pouring into a punch bowl and garnishing with lemon & orange wheels adding a final touch of fresh ground nutmeg, a la minute, moments before we served the punch. That nutmeg was really the crowning touch, adding a nutty, fatty layer and nose to the potentially-too-sweet concoction. There's a great thing that happens when someone takes their first sip of a drink and their pupils widen a bit and a little color comes to their cheeks--perhaps it the Cocktail Blush Response. We saw it over and over that night, and it's an incredibly gratifying experience all around.
KWLS Board Member Peyton Evans & Josine Hitchcock sampling The Third Man.
THE THIRD MAN
20 lemons 4 oranges 2 lbs cane sugar
Muddle peels of citrus in sugar and let sit for at least an hour, muddling periodically.
Brew 64 oz black tea (10 tea bags) 4 min.
Pour hot tea over muddled peels, stir until sugar is dissolved.
Juice citrus and add to mixture. If needed add more juice to taste goal should be around 32 oz citrus.
Add 2 bottles of Beefeater gin and 1 bottle of Absolut vodka.
Strain peels, add 3-5 liters of soda water and serve over ice.
Garnish with fresh nutmeg, lemons wheels, and orange wheels.
I think we got everyone in a jolly mood straight off that night, which was of course the whole point.
Photog Michael Blades and KWLS President Lynn Kaufelt hugged it out.
Edmund White and Carol Munder.
The Talented Mr. Hoard at the Oldest House & Garden Museum, in an expansive mood.
Marky P. of Key West Burlesque and Momo, co-designer of the KWLS 2013 set and a noted public artist--check out an incredible collaboration with Eltono in Bacelona here.
From The Third Man, Joseph Cotten as Holly Martins and Trevor Howard as Major Calloway or as Martins refers to him, Callaghan."It's English, not Irish" he retorts, setting him up as a snob and a bad guy, but one of the endlessly facsinating aspects of The Third Man'is how right & wrong seems to continually shift around and how good guys are revealed to be bad guys--and the other way around. A smart essay on Calloway's ulitmate role as moral guidepost in this film that is all about slippery morals by Rob White for BFI here, and Greene's screenplay in full here.
Poppa Bear Rowan, not in any way directly connected to the Seminar other than the fact that two of his sons work for the thing, was at most every party, a high grade party crasher with not moral qualms about it. Also one of our most appreciative customers. J.R.
Event photos by Nick Doll.
Coming next: Airstream Cocktails, The Power and The Glory & The Loud American.
Some pals and I stopped by Williamsburg's new eastern seaboard cuisine and cocktail joint Extra Fancy (302 Metropolitan Avenue) from partners Mark Rancourt, David Brilliant & Rob Krueger. Between my mates and I I'm prety sure we sampled the entire cocktail list, and we shared, and were impressed across the board, as well as rather merry, by the end of our visit.
Krueger behind the wheel.
Wound up writing up a couple of the drinks from that evening for Men's Journal but only one, the delicate riff on a French 75 dubbed the "Fancy 75," made it into the story. My personal favorite, with one of the better cocktail names (with an equally good story behind the name) in recent memory, did not. Here's what I'd written about "Baby You're Driving", more or less:
When Krueger and his partners moved into their new space they discovered a backyard herb garden left over from the previous tenants, a Japanese restaurant. lemon balm, spearmint, peppermint, sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme, chervil & parsley grew in abundance in what is now Extra Fancy's outdoor dining area, and they pull these heirloom herbs for both dishes and drinks. Sprigs of Lemon Balm garnish the “Baby You're Driving”, along with a star-shaped orange zest, painstaikingly made using cookie cutter forms. The basis of the drink is the bison-grass infused Zubrowka Vodka with its vanilla and sweet spice finish, anchored by Dubonnet Bland, and given a delicate citrus spin with Combier's Pamplemousse (grapefruit) Liqueur. A little lime juice make it a perfect easy summer sipper, but it's perhaps a bit decpetively soft on the palate. In fact, the name of the drink came about during the testing period for the bar menu, when managing partner Mark Rancourt's girlfriend Charlie turned to him after polishing one off and declared, “Baby, you're driving.”
BABY YOU'RE DRIVING
1 oz Zubrowka Vodka
1 oz Dubonnet Blanc
1 oz Combier Pamplemousse (Grapefruit) Rosé Liqueur
1 oz Fresh lime juice
Shake, double strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with Lemon Balm Sprig & Orange Peel Star.
The cookie cutter in question.
"The idea for the cookie cutters was pursued after a suggestion by Mark that I get a "punch" to cut fancy spirals," Rob texted me later."Then I found the lobsters [for the Squibnocket] and stars at our restaurant supply store. [Ed. note: found some nice aspic cutters that would do the trick at Whisk." Then they went out and got a 1 ton arbor press from Harbor Freight, as one does. Thus was constructed a rig that enables cutting multiple zests at once, stacked atop one another.
I finished up shooting for the Men's Journal story and Rob and I were chatting as barback Jimmy Palumbo pressed the stacks of zest. Rob regarded the elaborate production and said a bit ruefully, "As if it's not enough work squeezing fresh juice every day, and making these kinds of cocktails....". I'd already seen Jimmy power squeezing limes earlier, for what seemed like a very long time--one of those occasions when you realize just how labor intensive putting out any volume of craft cocktails in a bar actually is. Adding extra fancy garnishes only adds to that workload.But sometimes a good idea and a great presentation is too compelling to avoid, as in this case. The first night I tried it I took the impromptu photo below in extremely dim lighting--you can't take a bad photo of this one.
The schedule for the final day of the Seminar, including Bloody Mary time. Fun to be on the same line-up as Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Lethem and Billy Collins.
In the midst of the marathon of parties for the this year's KWLS Media Director Arlo Haskell reminded me of a tradition where the Seminar's volunteers all have Bloody Marys on the final afternoon of the session. I had no recollection of this from years prior, and I'm still not convinced it wasn't something he just made and somehow manipulated me into helping out--which I respect, if so. And while you can get a damn fine Bloody Mary at the Green Parrot a block away from the San Carlos Institute where the Seminar is held, Arlo pretty much insisted I take care of this last round of the week. After 3 nights of making cocktails for hundreds of guests I was a bit weary and not very inspired to create something amazing--but I had plenty of fixins, to say the least. With Bloody Marys I'm always taking a cue from Alberta Straub's 4-part video series on how to make her elaborate and delicious version, and while I didn't have time to do all the infusing and witchcraft she busts out I did have a lot of elements that she favors, which I knew would be a good foundation. So I threw a bunch of ingredients into a box, including several bottles of leftover citrus-infused Kettel One, and from the Neurogibson the pickled green onions and the pickling juice. In addition I pulled a big piece of ginger, some sliced and lightly pickled serrano peppers, white pepper, Tabasco, Worcestershire, good horseradish, and an assortment of bitters, both the indespensible Bitter Truth Travelers Set & Brooklyn Hemispherical Sriracha Bitters. Somehow I managed to get all this balanced on a bike and safely delivered to volunteer HQ.
There I did the best you can do when inspiration fails you--delegate. Mike Cook is a writer & bartender who's been on staff at the Seminar a couple times, and when I showed up with my kit I told him, "you're in charge" and left him to his own mixing devices.
A month or so later I entreated Mike to recall the recipe, below are his notes.
Let's see if I can remember what I did for the Bloodies. I started with the V8 juice, then added that smashed garlic. Next I added a lot of horseradish. Three or four tablespoons for the pitcher. Worchestershire sauce and hot sauce next. There was something else as well.... ah yes, white pepper. I put probably a table spoon of that in. I think that was it.
As various weary volunteers wandered through the room I watched them revive almost instantly upon sipping a Volunteer Marys. I encouraged everyone to play with bitters in theirs--Sriracha sort of writes itself, but the Bitter Truth Celery Bitters really made Jolly Benson's Bloody Mary stand out. You get that tradeamark celery salt vegetal bite without that sodium. With all the ingredients left out folks could tinker and adjust their own according to their inclinations. I think we got everyon back on track for that final afternoon.
KWLS Stage Manager (and Embury Little Brother) Ian Rowan with Arlo Haskell.
Lighting Director Julian "Jolly" Benson.
The Seminar couldn't exist without a massive volunteer effort, from the folks who work the door adn clean up the auditorium between sessions, to the social networking and blogging team, to the board members who put time in year round. I couldn't have presented as well-coordinated a cocktail front without some indespensible volunteers, myself, so many thanks to Erin Kelly, Aimee McNally, Che Bastien, Richard Congdon, and board member Nancy Klingener whose kitchen was annexed for the duration with my experimentations and preparations, and who chaffeured Team Embury to events and made sure to get us home in one piece. Eventually.
And finally, as we sat in the volunteers' lounge my fatigued eyes drifted across the titles of the books on the wall--and lit upon one called Bloody Mary, which in our collective punch-drunk state we took as some sort of pleasingly ominous sign or affirmation.
For a champagne reception on the grounds of the Audubon House in Key West, I recruited my pal Che Bastien (above) to help with bartending duties. I put him in charge of making The City Of Tomorrow, named after a poem of KWLS returning champion, Billy Collins. The man has a voice like a fine scotch followed by a shot of warm honey, and he seems like the scotch type but I happen to know he favors vodka and so I felt correct in dubbing this one in his honor. I'd taken some Kettel One and infused it with lemons and oranges--like seeing a red door and wanting to paint it black, I've rarely met a vodka I didn't want to infuse, at least for cocktailing.
Then I went out and got an assortment of fruit, including the most perfectly ripe pineapples I've ever tasted. My somewhat grandiose vision for the drink and the link to the title was that this future city would embrace all different peoples from all parts of the globe, thus the assortment of fruit, bringing different flavors together from different regions. Perhaps a conceptual stretch, but the resulting fresh fruit cocktail was simply delicious, and simple to make-if a bit sticky. Cutting, muddling and shaking fruit and citrus can be a messy job, and we both were living in a world of stick for a couple hours. Worth it, though.
THE CITY OF TOMORROW
1 1/2 oz citrus infused Kettel One Vodka
1/4 oz lime juice
1/4 oz demarara simple syrup
Fruit. Lots and lots of fruit.
In a mixing glass muddle a small handful of fruit (we used pineapple, raspberries, blackberries, apples, strawberries and honeydew melon, mixing freely, and taking requests). Top with the rest of the ingredients and ice, shake rigorously, pour into a tall rocks glass, mint sprig garnish.
It's really just fruit and good vodka and just a touch of raw sugar to pull it all together. It's a much better version of the sickly sweet spring break girl drinks that cause so many problems. So perhaps in this city of the future we shall drink fresher, and drink better. Jason Rowan
Photo: Michael Blades
Above: The Key West Of Tommorrow, Enjoying Cocktails Today: L-R, Marky Pierson, ringleader of Key West Burlesque Theatre, public artist Momo, who collaborated on the KWLS set, Photographer Nick Doll (who shot the images up top and below), Lighting director and Cicero reader Jolly Benson, Cayman Smith-Martin who designed the set and Shane Benowitz who worked on social media during the Seminar.
On a recent trip to London I spent quite a bit of time in Will Foster's Casita Bar (all previous Will posts here), and was pleased to find it as convivial and chill as when I first discovered it in 2007.
An extensive collection of minis.
A Mexican wrestling mask atop the Jagermeister machine that keeps the stuff icy cold and makes it hard to say no to, particularly when Will dispenses rounds. The origins of many bad decisions may be traced to this machine.
"Gazebo'd" is my new favorite term for serious drinking. And speaking of drinks, here are a couple corkers from Will.
50 ml Santa Teresa Gran Reserva
15 ml lime juice
15 ml agave
40 ml mango juice
Pinch ground cumin
Technique: Shaken, served on the rocks with a coriander sprig garnish.
4 large strawberries
6 basil leaves
15 ml creme de fraise
15ml lemon juice
25ml cranberry juice
Technique: Muddle, shake, strain on the rocks. Garnish with black pepper and a basil leaf.
There are two speeds at Casita, quiet and lively. There's Will's on the right, casually hosting.
Both speeds are great. Invariably one winds up chatting with a stranger at Casita. It's just got that comfortable feeling that's sort of impossible to create, it just has to happen. A lot of it of course comes from Will and the tone he's set, but there's some Factor X that's hard to put your finger on that gives the place such an intimate feeling. Its tiny size certainly helps. And lots of the crowd are either off-duty bartenders or people in the booze game so that creates its own latticework of connection. On my last night in town I was chatting with someone who turned out to be Dan Priseman of Bitters & Twisted, which was a pleasant surprise. And I got to sample him on the last of my stash of Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters,
In the English Summer the skylights let light pour in to the bar well past 10.00 p.m, and one drink flows into the next without any sense of time passing, a pleasant sort of twilight zone cocktail hour that just goes on and on.
5 Ravey Street isn't easy to find, but that's part of what makes Casita special--one has to seek it out.
And if you stick it out til it's very late you might get treated to Will and Lee singing along to some Erasure.
The name of this summery drink comes from Mariah Balanciega, a contestant on last season's Ru Paul's Drag Race. Balanciega is a veteran of the Southern drag balls, where shade and facial expressions achieve an operatic complexity and importance. "Stone Cold Carter" refers to a look of almost aggressively disinterestedness, yet while still giving serious face. It's the blank stare of a queen who's stuck listening to you but who is not in any way actually paying you the slightest mind. My roommate Jason Schell and I immediately added "Stone Cold Carter" to our ever-growing list of Great Names For A Cocktail, and when he came up with this drink, an ostensibly sweet but in the end quite tart and spicy number, I thought it seemed a suitable match. Schell's handwritten recipe is below, but in short the drink is simply good square ice with a layer of homemade spiced cranberry syrup drizzled over it, then topped with fresh squeezed orange juice and a good deal of vodka. The spiced cranberry syrup is a creation of author and chef Will Burgess, and the Allspice and Cloves in there certainly give it a certain shady quality that fits the drink's drag inspired name. Because of the ample pectin in cranberries and how they combine with the sugar and the citrus the syrup becomes very think, allowing it to rest on the bottom of the glass, so that the cocktail gradually becomes more tart and more dense as you drink it. While this wouldn't make a great punch because of the separation, one could easily line up 6 of these and bang them out at a party or barbecue, and fast. All while only pretending to listen to your guests. J.R.
SPICED CRANBERRY SYRUP
1 Lb. Fresh Cranberries
1 Lb. Sugar (white)
2 Lbs. Water (a.k.a. 1 quart)
4 pods Black Cardomom
Small handful Allspice.
Combine ingredients in a large saucepan, achieve a steady boil for five minutes, strain and allow to cool.
A friend and I stepped into line outside the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theater in Chelsea recently and found ourselves standing next to the two fellows above who were drinking out of plain white paper cups with the requisite adult sippy lips, the kind one gets on a Starbuck's coffee. Instinct told me it wasn't coffee in these cups however, and as we chatted with our neighbors the conversation further aroused my suspicion. The gentlemen were waiting to see bracingly dark comic Anthony Jeselnik, whose jokes run to the extremely black: "Someone asked if I would watch their houseplant while they were out of town and I'm like, I can't even keep a baby alive". While Joren Hodel (L) engaged in some sort of lively text exchange Jason Lewis (R) ran more of Jeselnick's jokes for us. The gentlemen were friendly, witty and charming, and a bit irreverent and cool and even ribald, all without laying it on too thick. That's one of the most optimum states that drinking can escort you to, and if they were aided in their journey by something a little Irished up in those cups, it was working.
Lewis would later provide the recipe for the impressively well R & D'ed cocktail that they, in fact, were drinking. The "FIDI Iced Tea" turned out to be swell but what was most interesting at that moment were these stealth cocktail containers. Hodel pulled himself away from what I'm pretty sure was lively sexting session and declaimed his master strategy with the cups. He'd ordered them in bulk from Whole Latte Love, 1,000 Commercial Solo Single Poly Paper Hot Cups at a cost of $56 cups and Commercial Travel Lids to match at about $50. For their swinging ventures out at night Hodel had learned to double up the cups to avoid seepage or condensation, and added an ingenious touch to thwart giveaway moisture--a layer of paper towel between to two cups. True commitment to the bit.
Well done. And later, in response to a query as to what exactly was in those cups Lewis texted back: FIDI Punch. Our drink (which we christened as the FIDI Iced Tea and took a month to perfect) is a combination of 3 shots vodka (after trying 20+ vodkas the only that work are Svedka, Grey Goose, Wodka, and the little known dirt cheap Ruskova) canada dry (do not go with Schweppes) lemon lime club soda, and a few squirts of lime juice from the plastic limes in the produce section (Grateful Harvest is best if you can find it). Is not this sort or erudition and strategizing to make life more elegant and harmonious the very definition of being a true modern gentleman? So keep drinking on the streets: just keep it discrete.
For the punch competition at the Cocktail World Cup Team Scotland ( L-R, Aaron Jones, Ben McFarlane and Nick Reed) may not have won (Team U.S.A. took it home that night) but they did come up with a winner. A delicious milk-style punch, with soy milk taking the place of milk milk, some homemade chai, Appleton's 8 Year Old Rum and the 42Below Manuka Honey. When explaining their thinking behind the drink to the judges (including "Punch: The Delights (And Dangers) Of The Holiday Bowl" author David Wondrich, which made it a bit nerve-wracking, to be certain) the team talked about the fast pace of modern life and the popularity of coffee drinks on the go--to that end the punch was served warm, and in paper coffee cups, with sippy lids.
The use of soy was ingenious, keeping the mix from becoming too fatty, too savory--and it was one of the best uses of the hard-to-define Manuka in a cocktail that I've ever experienced. It was perfect for a cool fall night--as it was when we were in New Zealand, and as it's--hopefully--the last few wet, cold weeks of spring here in the North there's still a chance to enjoy this liquid antidote to the chill.
THE WANDERING CHAI
800ml Soy milk 600ml 42 Below Manuka Honey 300ml Appletons 8yo Rum. 300ml Homemade chai syrup (made by boiling down chai tea and 1:1 sugar to water.) A large knob of butter
Add all ingredients to a saucepan and heat (not boil) until butter is melted and milk warm. Serve in a take away coffee cup with a piece of home made almond and manuka honey praline.
Here at Embury our affection for Sydney's Eau de Vie is well documented, both here and in The New York Times. (The really smashing Sydney-centric cocktail blog Everyday Drinking confirms our high opinion of the team's mad skills in a series of posts here.) On the eve of the stellar bar's one-year anniversary soon-to-be lead barman Philip Gandevia sent along "several experimentations" that employ our Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters. We were inpired to finally bottle the bitters to share with Team Eau de Vie, and their very name alludes to a trans-hempispherical bitters exchange with this bar on the other side of the world. So we're incredly pleased to see them put to such high level use by Gandevia.
SMOKEY 'Ol SEOUL LOVE
50ml Reposado (Ocho works well, DJ just fine) 12.5 Grenadine (the good stuff... Pomegranate juice and all 15 kills it in sweetness, but 10ml is not quite enough) 3 dashes Peychauds (the drink's gotta be pink) Liberal with Brooklyn Hemispherical Sriracha Bitters 10ml (or so - barspoons a bit shy, but dont let it dominate) smokey single malt goodness (or something illegal...)
Stir with love. Garnish with a lemon twist - but discard and donate to some lacklusture gin drink. Add a cherry if you feel it needs it, but the drinks pretty enough as is.
50ml Tanqueray (or solid London Dry) 3 Fresh strawberries 20ml Lemon 20ml Apple juice (go cloudy if possible) 2 Chunks mandarin Srig of rosemarry (no stem just leaves) Dash egg white 15ml honey water (organic) Tspn corriander seed
Crush then shakey shakey (Can infuse strawberrys in gin ala tequila por mi amante) and Brooklyn Hempispherical Strawberry Bitters to top.