Archive for March, 2009

Two Days, Five bars, 50 Cocktails

Posted in Left Coast Libations on March 29, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

Part 1: Final Preparations

It’s been a while since my last posting but that’s only because so much has happened. It’s going to take a few posts to go over everything so hang in there!

About three weeks ago the LCL Drink Recipe Proofing Program (*) went into high-gear. I was making about five new drinks a night which no longer allowed me the leisure to post notes and reflections on what I had tasted. Doing this solo necessitated “sinking” many worthy drinks. Next time I mount such an effort I will create a more formal schedule and ensure plenty of “helpers” are on hand to prevent such tragedies.

(*) – that would be me making everything at least once, including all the special ingredients.

Then in the final days leading up to the 2-day photo shoot at Flora in Oakland CA I returned once again to home-made ingredient making. I had left the foams and more perishable syrups until the end so I wouldn’t need to make them twice. The downside of that strategy meant some of the drinks wouldn’t be proofed until right before they were to be photographed. (Actually, I had cheated a little bit in the previous weeks by making the drinks with foam toppings w/o the foam just to make sure the rest of the recipes made sense.)

Meantime, I need to put together a “shooting list” as requested by our very professional photographer Jenn Farrington. That meant finalizing the 50 cocktails we’d be shooting. In most cases I had already decided which of the two drinks from each bartender was most worthy of photographing. In a few cases I was less sure and consulted with Ted Munat to get his opinion. I also left a few choices open, knowing I’d have to come to the shoot ready to make either of two drinks. (And for those keeping close score, we made and shot both drinks for a couple of the bartenders bringing the actual total of cocktails made during the shoot up to 52.)

In addition to the name of the drink, contributing bartender’s name and internal catalog number, the final shooting list included the kind of glass and garnish needed for each drink. That seemed like a helpful detail to include, especially after Jenn asked if we had sketches (!) of the drinks showing how we’d like them to be setup. (I regretfully informed Jenn that no we didn’t and while it might not look like it, we were really doing this by the seats of our pants. In fact, I wasn’t even sure we had pants.)

Unfortunately, one detail I neglected to include was the color of each drink. That, it turns out, can be a pretty useful detail for the photographer who’s going to shoot the drinks in a number of different “sets” and with varying amounts of natural light – which we had in wonderful abundance at Flora. While I could recall the color of many drinks, there were many which I could not easily visualize (“sorta brownish” being the most common), even by looking at the recipe. Not a tragedy but it would have been nice. Next time for sure and I would probably also sort the list by color rather then by the name of the drink as I did for this shoot. Interesting lesson learned.

I saved the last major task until Saturday afternoon: pulling all the ingredients from the now rather sizable “bar” that my dining room had become over the past few weeks, along with all the sundry tools I would be likely to need but not necessarily find at Flora. Using all of my “magic” lists and spreadsheets, pulling all the ingredients was a pretty straightforward task and I am happy to say that we were missing nothing during the entirety of the two days of shooting. Here’s a couple of pictures showing what it all looked like (excepting the produce and syrups in the refrigerator) before it was packed up and put in my van:



Pretty impressive, eh? All I kept thinking was it would have been a hell of a time for an earthquake!

NEXT: At Flora, Behind the Bar


Keeping pace with the wind…

Posted in Left Coast Libations on March 9, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

The last five days has been crazy. (Has it only been five days since I last posted?) Our fledgling company made an epic spirits purchase at Ledger’s Liquors in Berkeley, CA. (Stop in, tell Ed I sent you.) In fact, when I look around the house, I almost feel like I’m living in bar! This “unlocked” pretty much every cocktail recipe in the book for testing – though I am still in search of one or two items that are proving very hard to find. And of course, the “day job” suddenly got very busy, taking time away from more important pursuits of the cocktail testing sort. At any rate, here’s a list of the 20 cocktails that got made, sipped and appraised since the last time I wrote. Some are pretty freakin’ amazing, though I’m abandoning including excerpts from my tasting notes for the time being.

I am also glad to report my mixing and garnishing skills are getting a work out. Good thing too, with less than two weeks before the big photo shoot @ Flora.

Anu Apte (Vessel/Rob Roy, Seattle)

Saffron Sandalwood Sour
Anu Apte (Vessel/Rob Roy, Seattle)

Poppies in October
Brooke Arthur (Range, SF)

Spice Trade
Erik Carlson (Moshi Moshi, Seattle)

Rocky Mountain Monkberry
Ryan Fitzgerald (Beretta, SF)

Il Terzo
Ryan Fitzgerald (Beretta, SF)

Arrak Sour
Lane Ford (Heaven’s Dog/Flora, SF/Oakland)

Clear Note
Erik Haakinen (Zig Zag Cafe, Seattle)

The Sycophant
Zane Harris (Vessel/Spur, Seattle)

Burn’s Night Cap
Yanni Kehagiaras (Nopa, SF)

Laughing Buddha
Duggan McDonnell (Cantina, SF)

Gin Anthem
Tara McLaughlin (Rob Roy, Seattle)

Richmond Gimlet
Jeffrey Morgenthaler (Clyde Common, Portland)

Autumn Leaves
Jeffrey Morgenthaler (Clyde Common, Portland)

Kentucky Tuxedo
David Nelson (Spur, Seattle)

Fior di Sicily
Chris Ojeda (Edison, LA)

William Orange
Jimmy Patrick (The Lion and Compass, Sunnyvale)

Jackie Patterson (Heaven’s Dog, SF)

1st and Final
James Pierce (Andina, Portland)

Adios Mi Vida
Casey Robison (Barrio, LA)

Apricot Cardamom Flip
Jim Romdall (Vessel, Seattle)

Bobby Roux
Robert Rowland (Oliver’s Twist, Seattle)

The Revolver
Jon Santer (Heaven’s Dog, SF)

Kelley Swenson (ten01, Portland)

Tonight’s Cocktails, 3rd March

Posted in Left Coast Libations on March 4, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

Dragon Variation
Jon Santer (Heaven’s Dog, San Francisco)

[A bracing martini variant made with 10 very spicy drops of a home-made Thai chili tincture.]

Stephan’s Sour
Murray Stenson (Zig Zag Cafe, Seattle)

[The Bitter Truth Celery Bitters called for in this gin cocktail create a distinctive flavor.]

Seven Sins
John Coltharp (Seven Grand, LA)

[A tweak on the classic Jack Rose. I made this one with a recent batch of Jennifer Colliau’s Grenadine. Yum!]

Smuggler’s Notch
Eric Alperin (The Varnish, LA)

[A most tasty play on the Sazerac using dark rum. Would love to try this with different dark rums and absinthes.]

Tonight’s Cocktails, 28th February

Posted in Left Coast Libations on March 1, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

It’s Saturday night, so I went to town and made five new drinks:

Aqua Sake
Kinn Edwards (Aqua, Corvallis)

[The hibiscus-infused vodka made for this drink lent it the most amazing, practically fluorescent pink tint. The junmai ginjo grade sake from which it takes its name adds a subtle dry finish.]

The Bitter End
Yanni Kehagiaras (Nopa, San Francisco)

[Uses the Flor de Cana Aged White rum, grapefruit juice and falernum, but it’s the float of Angostura bitters on top that really made it sing.]

El Globo Rojo
Jim Romdall (Vessel, Seattle)

[Based on an incredibly thick and rich home made strawberry-infused reposado tequila. Like drinking desert. The recipe makes a small drink and I am wondering if it should be stirred longer to get some more serious dilution.]

Easy Like Sunday Morning…
Christine D’Abrosca (Malo, Los Angeles)

[A tall tequila drink made with the newly released Gran Centenario Roseangel. Aperol and a splash of Jarritos Jamaica (hibiscus) soda from Mexico provide great flavor counterpoint and color. Doesn’t hurt this is also an egg white drink with a lovely frothy head either. I have to say I might be tempted to try this with a mezcal to see what a touch of smokiness does to it.]

The General Lee
Matty Eggleston (The Hungry Cat, Los Angeles)

[A fantastic rye cocktail incorporating a home made kumquat marmalade. So good, in fact, I had to make two.]