Cocktail and spirits writer Michael Dietsch has been doing a wonderful series for the Serious Eats website to introduce their readers to serious drinking. Along with learning about new and classic cocktails they might not have tried yet, the SE readers are also getting some basic spirits education.
Are you a rum fan? (Well, Caña regulars are, natch.) What do you know about this delectable spirit? Surely more than that idiot in the instructional video that said, "rum is a liquor that comes in many different colors." Learn something new or brush up on what you already know in Mike Dietsch's primer on rum, its history, manufacture and styles.
Now, have a Ti Punch, a Daiquiri, an El Presidente or a Zombie! (By the way, a while back John Coltharp made us a Scarlet Ibis Daiquiri with two barspoons of Averna. This is a super, super good thing. We make them at home all the time. You should too.)
Simon Difford's always-superb magazine CLASS (now finally available online!) returns to L.A. for a lovely profile of our own Eric Alperin of The Varnish.
I never looked down my nose at the LA bar scene though I knew that there wasn't much of a cocktail culture here. There wasn't really a programme anywhere but there was a lot of "this bartender's good, that bartender's good". That's how I met Marcos Tello - I went to Seven Grand, asked for egg white in my whisky sour and he came over to ask why I asked. A month later, Damian Windsor, Cedd Moses, Marcos and I and a bunch of others went on a roadtrip to San Francisco. I like to joke that that trip changed LA cocktail culture.
DineLA has done a lovely little feature on a terrific little venue that I'm sure has become a favorite of many of you (as it is mine) Bar | Kitchen at the O Hotel in Downtown LA. Great food, great drinks and great people -- visit soon and see for yourself if you haven't already!
Here's a slideshow of photos from August's Sporting Life meeting at Picca Restaurant, with cocktails by Julian Cox and crew, sponsored by Macchu Pisco. Tatsu usually does the crowd shots but he was away on Costa Rica, poor thing, so my little point-and-shoot had to suffice. He's better at these than I am, but you get the idea ... a spendid time was had by all!
Last year I had the best Ramos Gin Fizz I’d ever had in my life.
As a New Orleanian I’ve had a lot of ‘em, good and bad. (The nadir was the one at an unnamed restaurant which should have known better; it had so much orange flower water in it that it tasted like hand soap.) I’m thrilled to see the drink being made very well around the country thanks to the craft cocktail renaissance, but my favorite place to get them is in New Orleans. It’s part of what makes the city feel like home.
This particularly stunning Fizz was made at Bar UnCommon in the Père Marquette Hotel, and was made by Chris McMillian, unsurprisingly. Chris is a consummate bartender — methodical and deliberate, making perfect drinks, and entertaining you with tales and history as he does it. This one, though, this one …
Chris had been trying some new things out on me, and we’d had some classics, and even though it was late at night and I do tend to enjoy this particular drink earlier in the day, I was just in the mood. “Could you make me a Ramos?” I asked.
“Coming right up!”
I continued chatting with my friends, not really watching what the bartender was doing, oddly enough, as bartender-watching is something I frequently do. I noticed that he wasn’t shaking the egg white for nearly as long as I’ve seen other bartenders do it, though, and I began to try to pay more attention. The conversation also demanded my attention, so I wasn’t able to closely follow what Chris was doing, but I recall there being a bit of soda already in the glass as he strained the drink, agitating it gently with a barspoon as the glass filled.
He placed the drink in front of me, and I took a sip of what was the most spectacular Ramos Gin Fizz I had ever tasted.
It was perfect. Not only the balance of flavor, but the texture … holy hell, the texture was magnificent. Silky and smooth and completely emulsified, almost like very soft peak meringue, but not just on top. This emulsified texture remained consistent all the way to the bottom of the drink, with no separation at all, until I slurped the very last drops of it through the straw. Even the best Ramos Fizzes I’ve had separated after a bit. Not this one.
I had to gush. “Chris, this is amazing! I caught a few glimpses of you making it — how’d you get it like this?”
Chris replied that after all these years making them in the usual way, he had recently completely changed his technique after reading Darcy O’Neil’s book, Fix the Pumps. “Read it if you haven’t,” he said with a twinkle in his eye, “and you’ll see how I did it.”
Darcy is a bartender and trained chemist from Ontario, Canada whose aforementioned self-published book is a history of the American soda fountain, its rise and fall, and the myriad secrets of the sodajerk — many of which were nearly lost to history (when’s the last time you saw a full-fledged, old-fashioned soda fountain?) and nearly all of which are incredibly useful to the modern bartender.
Along with the esteemed David Wondrich Darcy will be presenting a seminar called “Sodatender or Barjerk?” in which they’ll review this history, techniques of the sodajerk that the bartender can use (see above), and how the techniques of the bartender — many of whom were out of work 90 years ago due to Prohibition — came into play at the soda fountain.
Want to learn some fascinating history and some great techniques to make your drinks even more amazing? If so, this seminar is not to be missed. Saturday, July 23 at 12:30pm, La Nouvelle Orleans Ballroom, Hotel Monteleone. Be there.
- Tales of the Cocktail Sneak Preview: Consider the Negroni … the perfect cocktail?
- Tales of the Cocktail Sneak Preview: David Embury and the Fine Art of Mixing Drinks
- Tales of the Cocktail: Spirited Dinner at Feast, with mixologist Jackson Cannon
- Simon Difford's CLASS Magazine now online
- Pictures from June's Sporting Life Meeting
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