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Night of Rising Spirits Halloween Party

This Halloween, or rather the Saturday before Halloween, Aidan is hosting an event at Les Deux in Hollywood and he's got bartenders coming in from all over for it.  

It's open to everybody, but there's a $10 cover and you have to RSVP here: 

Night of Rising Spirits

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 October 2010 19:16

Pictures from the October Sporting Life Meeting

Check out these images from the October Sporting Life event at the Tasting Kitchen!

  • Justin Pike
  • Noel and the guys from 320 Main
  • Justin Shaking
  • Today's Menu
  • Put 'em in a Body Bag
  • Tasting Kitchen Food
  • More Food
  • More Food
  • More Food
  • Neyah White

Videos from our August Meeting

This is from our First and Hope event, so they're a bit late, but I finally got a video working!

Ludo was a great presenter.

Please excuse the hiccups in the video. I was still learning how to use the camera and thought I could take pictures while it was recording.

Last Updated on Sunday, 10 October 2010 17:24

Cocktail of the Day: Dirt 'n Diesel

A couple of things have prompted this post, beginning with our trip to Seattle a couple of months ago. We’re very lucky to have great friends up there, several of whom are bartenders, so when in Seattle we drink really well. This trip was no exception, as our livers were given a vigorous workout and we FINALLY got to sit across the bar from Murray Stenson — a terrific guy, and a bartender’s bartender.

One of the places we hadn’t been to yet was Tavern Law, and as I’d heard and read so much about it I wanted to make it up at the top of the list along with Zig Zag. They have a spectacular cocktail menu and seriously talented bartenders, one of whom, Cale Green, took care of us that night. My memory-jogging notes from that evening are sadly somewhat liquor-sodden, so I don’t have names or proportions, but that evening Cale made us cocktails consisting of:

1) Rye whiskey, Amaro Montenegro, Punt E Mes, Angostura bitters
2) Bourbon whiskey, Amaro Ramazzotti, dry vermouth, Peychaud’s bitters
3) Laird’s bonded apple brandy, Swedish punsch, sweet vermouth, lime juice

These are EXACTLY the kinds of drinks I love, and Cale’s the kind of bartender who, after chatting with you for a bit about what you like, can come up with amazing drinks.

We had been hoping to get to the speakeasy-style bar above Tavern Law, a place called Needle and Thread, a hidden room which one enters by passing through a bank vault (gotta love existing architectural details in your building!). Cale also works up there, but alas, they were closed that evening. No worries, though — we’ll hit them next time, and that evening we had a wonderful time, had world-class drinks and made a new friend.

The other bit prompting this post was GQ magazine’s publication of its list of the The 25 Best Cocktail Bars in America (as they see it). Number One on that list is, unsurprisingly, The Zig Zag Café, where Murray works alongside Ben and Erik and Kacey the whole gang there who make it such a wonderful place.

I was happy to see some of our local L.A. bars (Tiki-Ti and Cole’s Red Car Bar, plus a mention of The Varnish), one of our New Orleans watering holes (Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, although I’d have thrown Cure and Bar UnCommon into that list, at least whenever Chris McMillian is behind the stick at the latter) plus one I frequent in Houston whenever I’m there visiting family (the wonderful Anvil) included in the list as well.

And right there at Number 25 was not Tavern Law (although I think it deserves high mention in such a list) but Needle and Thread upstairs. GQ said:

“I spend all day on a tractor. Make me a drink that reminds me of the farm. You know, of dirt and diesel.” This is how an organic farmer from Portland ordered his drink here, because that is how they encourage drinks to be ordered. Get poetic about it; you’ll wind up with something like the Dirt ‘n Diesel.

I found out from Cale later on that the aforementioned bartender was himself, and the Dirt ‘n Diesel was his creation. It’s a cousin to the Corn ‘n Oil, with inky black Black Strap rum as its molasses-heavy base, with additional bitterness from the Cynar and plenty of dirt from Fernet. This is a terrific drink, and makes up for the fact that we never get out to the farm. Stop in at either of the two aforementioned bars where Cale works, and see what he’ll come up with for you.

(by Cale Green, Tavern Law and Needle & Thread, Seattle)

2 ounces Cruzan Black Strap Rum
1/2 ounce Fernet-Branca
1/2 ounce Demerara sugar syrup
1/4 ounce Cynar
1/4 ounce lime juice

Combine ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Last Updated on Saturday, 09 October 2010 00:10

Booze Comes to Bar Keeper!

In case the magical date of October 1 crept up on you, the time has come.  After nearly a year and a half of mummification in red tape courtesy of L.A. County, Bar Keeper in Silver Lake -- our favorite boozing supply shop for everything but the booze -- now has liquor on the shelves.

Bar Keeper's liquor licence kicked in that day, and proprietor Joe Keeper (the newest member of the L.A. Cocktail Community Board, helping to put on our monthly Sporting Life gatherings) and faithful sidekick Patrick Kelly labored all day last Friday unpacking cases of bottles and stocking shelves for the first official day of booze sale last Saturday, October 2.  The shelves are gorgeous and well-stocked -- a variety of whiskies, gins, tequilas, mezcals, absinthes, liqueurs (including half-bottles of the recently more-expensive Chartreuses, which should make stocking them easier on our bank accounts), vermouths, amari, bitters and more, and this is only the beginning.  Joe's stocking both a few basics as well as examples of spirits that are harder to find, and asks for input -- if there's something you're looking for, let him know.  (My request is in for harder-to-find amari like Meletti, Nardini, Lucano, Cio Ciaro and Cora).  In time for the holidays expect gift baskets featuring all the ingredients needed for an array of specialty cocktails by local bartenders (yet to be determined), plus a larger selection. Very exciting.  Congratulations, Joe!

Pictures from the August Sporting Life Meeting

Check out these images from the August Sporting Life event at First & Hope!

  • Tricia Alley
  • First and Hope's Back Room
  • First and Hope's Back Room Bar
  • Setting Cherries Down Gently
  • Adding Benedictine
  • Amazing Food from First and Hope
  • Benedictine Presentation - Check out the Video!
  • The Audience
  • Naomi and Tricia
  • Naomi the Rising Star
  • Don Lee in the House
  • Congrats Naomi
  • Focus
  • Tasting Benedictine

Last Updated on Saturday, 02 October 2010 23:04

Pictures from the September Sporting Life Meeting

Check out these images from the September Sporting Life event at Shangri-La! 

  • Fresh Fruits
  • Akvinta Smokey Martini
  • Food
  • More Food
  • Alex Strauss
  • Blackberry Something
  • The Double Strain
  • Thumbs up?
  • The Board
  • View from the Shangri-La Rooftop Lounge
  • Hanging out in the sun
  • ... I have no idea.

Last Updated on Sunday, 03 October 2010 03:14

Domaine De Canton Bar Crawl

This Tuesday, September 28th, Domaine de Canton is hosting a bar crawl and dinner.  Transportation bus is provided - meet at the Village Idiot at 6 pm. Crawl will last until 2 am but they will provide cash to get you home in a cab if needed earlier.

RSVP : This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Canton Limo Crawl

Last Updated on Sunday, 26 September 2010 17:57

St Germain Spirited Dinner at 320 Main

On Monday, September 20, 320 Main in Seal Beach is hosting a St-Germain Spirited Dinner with Jamie Boudreau at 7:00pm.  It's a 3-course dinner with cocktail pairings. To RSVP call 562-799-6246 or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

St Germain Dinner Flier

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 September 2010 04:06

The Science of Stirring

It killed me to have to miss the 2010 edition Tales of the Cocktail, especially because the quality of the seminars truly shone this year.  One of the more talked-about sessions (and one of the ones I was most annoyed to have missed) was The Science of Stirring, taught by Dave Arnold (Director of Culinary Technology at the French Culinary Institute in New York), bartender/beverage director Eben Klemm and Death & Co. bartender Thomas Waugh.

Dave has written another pair of epic posts about the seminar and the cocktail-making science explored within.  Part 1 deals with shaking, stirring, temperature and dilution, and Part 2 with temperature and dilution, texture, notes on batching drinks and an epilogue from Waugh about how all this science stuff affects a real live bartender.  Here's the brief introduction:

Cocktail shaking  is a violent activity.  If you shake for around 12-15 seconds (though shaking longer won’t hurt), and if  you aren’t too lethargic, neither the type of ice you use nor your shaking style will appreciably affect the temperature or dilution of your drink. Shaking completely chills, dilutes and aerates a drink in around 15 seconds, after which the drink stops changing radically and reaches relative equilibrium. Shaking is basically insensitive to bartender-induced variables.  See my post on the Science of Shaking.

Stirring is different. Think of stirring as inefficient shaking. It can take over 2 minutes of constant stirring to do what shaking can accomplish in 15 seconds. No one stirs a drink for 2 minutes, so the drink never reaches an equilibrium point. All the bartender-induced variables –  size of ice,  speed of stirring, duration of stirring, etc. — make a difference in stirred cocktails, so bartender skill is very important in a stirred cocktail.

Because stirring doesn’t reach equilibrium, stirred drinks are warmer and less diluted than shaken cocktails. Stirred drinks, unlike shaken ones, are not aerated. Stirring does not alter the texture of a drink –it merely chills and dilutes. A properly diluted cocktail stored at -5 degrees Celsius in a freezer is indistinguishable from a properly stirred one.

This is all fascinating stuff, and a must-read for everyone.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 September 2010 00:47

The case against 1:1 simple syrup

Chicago bartender Todd Appel puts forward a good case for why we should stop using 1:1 simple syrup.

For years I have wondered why my taste buds seemed to be at odds with many of the classic and new cocktails being offered around the country in our modern cocktail world.

I realized something important many years ago

Syrup in cocktails should be sugar heavy, period.

He reminds us of David Embury as well -- we may have thought his ratios a bit wonky, but it's easy to gloss over the ratio of syrup to water in the simple syrup he made, which was basically liquid sugar.  The key idea:

The problem here is twofold. 1-1 syrup offers more water and less sugar. This leads to more dilution and/or overly acidic drinks.

Read the whole post -- it's something to think about.  Are we over-diluting and off-balancing our drinks?  If you're a regular user of 1:1 simple syrup, I think some experimentation is called for.  For the record, it's 2:1 at our house, but after Todd's reminder of what Embury used, there'll be some experimentation for me too.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 August 2010 00:07

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