Friday, July 22, 2011

TOTC: Day 2 Hijinks

Another great day at Tales, filled with lots of great conversations, drinks and good times. Here are a few highlights from day two:
  • My friend Nathan Lutchansky absolutely made my Tales by offering me a ticket to the Nonstop to Tokyo event. After a false start, we were able to sit at a tiny bar and enjoy wonderful drinks and conversation with master Hidetsugu Ueno from Japan. We tried some wonderful spirits from Japan not available here, as well. It was fantastic, and I'll write a more detailed post about it shortly. Thanks Nathan!!
  • Great company, conversation and punches at the Spirited Dinner I attended with a good friend at Bourbon House (delicious drinks and entertainment by Bridget Albert and Jeffrey Morgenthaler). I wasn't planning to go to an official dinner, but my friend graciously secured a seat for me. It was the most fun I've had at a Spirited Dinner, despite the weirdos at our table (more on that below).
  • I learned a few things from the seminars. Like, for example, that it was illegal for women to work behind the bar in Chicago until March 1970. Yes, you read that right, 1970.

And just one lowlight:
  • Some guys showed up to the spirited dinner already three sheets to the wind, and one of them was especially obnoxious. To the point where it was required to say to him "how old are you? are you 8? because you're acting like it right now." They left, but not before popping some balloons and making them whistle, and having one more go at harassing the single girls at the table. Amateur (and immature, etc.).
It's raining in NOLA today, so it's especially sticky out. Good thing I get to stay in the Monteleone most of the day!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

TOTC: The First 24 Hours

After arriving in NOLA yesterday, I hit the ground running in the parties, drinks and good time departments. Perhaps a bit more than I should have, in retrospect, given that it's early on in my TOTC tenure.

Here were some highlights from Wednesday:
  • Running into many friends from many places, many of whom I haven't seen in quite awhile. This was honestly my favorite part.
  • Sipping Lagavulin 16 at the Diageo "Behind the Distillery Doors" panel. The event started late, and wasn't quite what I expected. However, I very much enjoyed the Scotch and learned a few things about how other spirits makers handle issues, and how they search for innovations.
  • Wonderful cocktails and dinner at Sylvain with a good friend. Several writer friends recommended it, and they were absolutely correct. Go there. Now.
  • The drinks at the Old Absinthe House have improved, from the looks of it. I still had a beer, but I actually considered getting a cocktail.
And a few lowlights:
  • The Pimm's Cup at the Napoleon House was not as good as I remembered. Tasted like bad sour mix, actually. Did not even finish it, even.
  • The elevators at the Monteleone are even slower than I remembered. More people in them this time around.
All in all, a great first 24 hours. Now, off to a seminar!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Planning for Tales of the Cocktail 2011

It's a bit crazy for many folks in the spirits/cocktail/bar business, as we are preparing for our pilgrimage to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail. It will be a week of great cocktails, great food and great times with incredible people. And also, hot and humid weather, crowded elevators, and upset stomachs. What's not to like?

Here are a few things I'm really excited about, as well as a few things I'm not so sure about. I'll report back on both, once I see how they turn out.

Hopes are HighJury's Out
  • H2O Cocktails - meaning cocktails made with water. Water that you infuse with stuff. I am a bit dubious about this one, but open minded and interested to see what they're doing. Is this going to be cool, or is it going to be like the "low-cal" rum and vodka that came out awhile back, where they just lowered the alcohol content?
  • From Grain to Bottle - the detailed description sounds great, but there is no indication of who will be speaking. The moderator is a brand ambassador from a (very) large liquor company, but he's never been a distiller.
  • Spirited Dinners - some of them look fantastic (most of those are sold out), but there is one that is only vodka drinks, and one that has drinks only made with a certain whiskey flavored liqueur. My experience with them in past years has been good but not great, so this year I'm treating myself to a nice meal out with whatever I choose to eat & drink instead.
What are you excited about at Tales this year? Think I'm wrong about any of these?

We shall see...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Illinois Liquor Tax Saga - Over for Now

Since I wrote about the increase in the Illinois liquor tax a couple of years back, the challenge leveled by Wirtz Beverage was successful at the appellate court level. This week, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled against Wirtz and reinstated the liquor taxes, along with a host of other taxes and fees to pay for the rest of Governor Quinn's package of projects. Alas, no tax refunds for anyone, and video poker coming your way soon.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hello Again, and Independence Day Drinks

Well hello there! Long time no write. It's been very busy at the distillery the past few months, and this blog is one of the things I've let slip. But, I'm back now and ready to get back to blogging. And, just for fun, I changed the look of the blog, too.

Have you made your plans yet for Tales of the Cocktail? I'll be there and will be blogging about all the great drinks, seminars, events and stories. So, if you can't go, you can experience a taste of it through me. But really, why aren't you going, again?

At any rate, here are a couple of ideas for cocktails for this Fourth of July holiday. One of 'em we served at the distillery tasting room this weekend, and the other was inspired by a recommendation from my new friend J. over at Words, Words, Whisky to make some raspberry syrup.

Watermelon Fizz
Independence Day makes me think of watermelon, so this one uses fresh watermelon puree.
1-1/2 oz Vodka (North Shore)
2 oz Fresh Watermelon Puree
1/4-1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice (depending on relative sweetness of watermelon)
1/4 oz oz Simple Syrup (or Raspberry Syrup)
Fresh Mint
Club Soda
Muddle several mint leaves in a mixing glass. Add vodka, puree, lime and simple. Shake with ice. Strain into chilled coupe glass, and top with a splash of soda. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Hum Blush
This is a takeoff from the Maiden's Blush, replacing the absinthe with a liqueur called hum. In the interest of full disclosure, we actually produce the liqueur for the Hum Spirits Company at our distillery, who markets and sells it. It's a lovely liqueur, with hibiscus, cardamom, kaffir lime and ginger.
2 oz Dry Gin (used our No. 11)
1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz hum
1/2 oz Raspberry Simple Syrup
Dash of Grapefruit Bitters (Scrappy's)
Shake ingredients with ice, strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of lemon and a fresh raspberry.

Raspberry Syrup
To make the raspberry syrup, here's the recipe J. gave me:
Puree three cups of fresh raspberries. Pour into a saucepan, and add one cup sugar and one half cup of water. Bring to a simmer, then allow to cool. Double strain through a fine sieve or cheesecloth, then store in the refrigerator.

And, if you want another great drink for that raspberry syrup, try the Albermarle Fizz, a variation on a gin fizz that is delicious on a hot summer day. You can find a few more ideas for Independence Day drinking in my post from a couple of years ago on the subject.