Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Grand Boca Punch

By Warren Bobrow

My large sample bottle of Zaya 12 year Old Rum over on the shelf in the kitchen is making me very thirsty. I just juiced the biggest, fattest grapefruit I've ever seen, plus a few limes, an impossibly juicy navel orange and a candy sweet Meyer Lemon or two. Then I added the juice of a local quince!

All punches are not alike! 

Many punches carry similar ingredients, but this one is augmented by coconut water filtered through a Mavea "Inspired" Ice pitcher, then frozen along with a bit of Mavea filtered water. The Mavea makes ice cubes which are nearly crystal clear and packed full of the dark, haunting flavor that only pure coconut water can add to a cocktail. Then in a tip of the hat to the fall season, I've added the completely unexpected spike of freshly pressed Quince juice. Quince is a mostly unknown fruit that only grows late in the season. They look sort of like a giant lemon with a soft and smooth skin. Their flavor is somewhere between that of an apple and a very tart pear. I like them for the depth that they lend to a mixed drink or even an applesauce! 

In this case we have a plethora of citrus juices making up the punch. Then I weave in a couple ounces of fruit juices along with The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas' Own Decanter Bitters. Based on a recipe by Professor Jerry Thomas, one of the most important bartenders of the 19th Century, this essential cocktail ingredient is both fruit-forward and bitter. Citrus and dried fruit aromas unite with the spicy and bitter flavors of cloves, angostura bark and cinnamon.

I love the historical element of this specific cocktail bitter to this punch, simply named the Grand Boca Punch in honor of the island of Trinidad, where Zaya rum is from. I love Zaya for the whiff of the tropics when I open the cork-finished bottle. The first taste is sweet caramelized banana, white chocolate and Caribbean spices, followed up quickly by the brooding 80 Proof heat. There are vanilla, coconut and cacao nibs in every sip. I've found that my homemade rum punches taste incredible with Zaya as the predominate liquor. I then add the fruit juices into a tall glass over the rum. Finally I spoon some Sorel, made by my friend Jackie Summers in Brooklyn over the top of the fruit juices and the Zaya.

Sorel is a most unique liqueur with a pleasing combination of ingredients. It is handcrafted in small batches from Brazilian clove, Indonesian cassia, Nigerian ginger, Indonesian nutmeg, Moroccan hibiscus, pure cane sugar, and organic New York grain alcohol. All these fabulous flavors combine to make cocktails of great sophistication.

The Grand Boca Punch can be served as a very adult themed Halloween punch. The Sorel floats on top of the multi-layered drink. First the coconut water ice, then the rum, then the fruit juices - grapefruit, orange, lime, lemon and quince - finally a dollop of Sorel… Finally moistened with the Jerry Thomas Bitters. I like to add a splash or two of Perrier Sparkling Water at the very end- their Pink Grapefruit flavor is in my opinion, is most beguiling!

The Grand Boca Punch will satisfy the thirst of several of your closest friends. It's quite strong, so please prepare to batten down your hatches!

-Zaya 12 Year Old Rum from Trinidad
-Sorel Liquor (Jack from Brooklyn)
-Freshly squeezed: Orange, Grapefruit, Quince, Lemon and Lime juices
-The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters
-Coconut water ice made in a silicone ice cube tray (coconut water/and regular water filtered through your Mavea pitcher)
-Perrier Sparkling Water (pink grapefruit)

Preparation for a nice happy punch:
-To a large vessel, add 4 ounces each of all the fruit juices
-Add 8 oz. Zaya Rum and mix with a bit of ice to chill
-Add several large cubes of the coconut water ice to a tall glass
-Pour the Zaya Rum and freshly squeezed fruit juice mixture over the top of each glass and then "float" the crimson colored Sorel liquor over the top
-Add a couple shakes of the Jerry Thomas Bitters over the top of each glass
-Add a splash or two of the pink grapefruit Perrier Sparkling water to finish
-Garnish with a long strip of grapefruit zest

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bar Convent Berlin - One of The Best Bar Shows in The World

By Geoffrey Kleinman

With Tales of the Cocktail, Manhattan Cocktail Classic, SF, PDX, LAX, BOS, and AZ cocktail weeks, you'd think that Americans would hold the crown for the best bar show in the world. In truth, while many of these US-based events are fantastic, it's actually the Berlin Bar Show (or Bar Convent Berlin) that manages to come out on top.

Now in its fifth year, the BCB manages a perfect balance of trade show, conference, and bartender gathering. The core of Bar Convent Berlin is the spirited trade show with two full floors of spirit vendors and companies sampling their wares and making cocktails for conference attendees. One of the things that makes the BCB so enjoyable is that many of the spirit companies set up mini bars for attendees to sit and linger. This gives the show a much more relaxed feel to it and people actually stop, sit, and enjoy their cocktails.

Also, unlike most of the American bar shows, most of the cocktails at the Berlin Bar Show aren't batched. This means that the cocktails at the show are actually worth sitting and enjoying! Pernod Ricard brought out some of their big guns for Havana Club with unique cocktails that used techniques you wouldn't expect at a bar show (including smoking cocktails). The show also featured some heavy hitters including Julio Bermejo (from Tommy's SF), Mario Kappes (The Boilerman Bar, Hamburg), and Jim Meehan (PDTNY) making hand shaken daiquiris with Banks Rum.

The BCB also doesn't over-program talks. With four venues for talks and demonstrations (all of different sizes), the BCB had little filler in its programming, and many of the key sessions didn't compete against each other. Talks included Ian Burrell talking about how to lose a cocktail competition and all about rum; Philip Duff and Angus Winchester on naming cocktails (which they did this year at Tales); Jim Meehan on launching a new spirit brand; and, Julio Bermejo talking about tequila. While some of the talks and demonstrations were in German, the majority of them were in English.

These luminaries also were extremely accessible at the show, with their time less divided by competing events. Gaz Regan sat at the Jagermeister booth and signed books and talked to fans for a few hours, while Jim Meehan chatted to his German fans and signed copies of the PDT book, recently translated into German.

Instead of making a grand splash or outspending each other on massive parties, brands focused on more intimate interactions with bartenders and attendees. With all the events in one place, the show had the feel of a pop-up bartender community. With two big courtyards with food, people gathered and hung out between sessions.

BCB was also an opportunity for brands to show off the winners of their cocktail competitions. Bacardi had some of the winners from the Bacardi Legacy competition making drinks in their small pop-up speakeasy, and Cherry Heering flew out Seattle bartender Philip Thompson from The Coterie to make his award-winning Singapore Sling Variation, Sling & Fizzle.

While there were some parties during the evening, the real focus of the BCB's evening activities were a collection of featured bars. Many attendees spent their evening hopping between Berlin bars. The show hours were also spot on, with doors opening at noon each day and closing at 8pm - a perfect period of time to leisurely see everything on the floor and still have time to sit and have a few cocktails at the show.

Bar Convent Berlin may not be on the radar screen of many American bartenders and industry professionals, but it should be. BCB has cracked the code on what makes a great bar show and represents one of the world's best bar shows.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Report written by Geoffrey Kleinman, a nationally published drinks writer who has appeared in Playboy, Tasting Panel Magazine, and runs

Friday, October 12, 2012

A New "Cocktail Whisperer" French 75

By Warren Bobrow

This early time of the fall offers a plethora of local fruits from trees straining to offer one last vestige of the summer before the chill of winter sets in. There is something about late summer stone fruits that keep my taste-buds tuned in to the warmth of late-summer, yet focuses them towards the colder months up ahead.

I just spend a bucolic, yet scant few days in Paris and Burgundy. It seemed as if every menu was heavy with plums, some pureed, others sliced, and still others left in their raw, sensual shape - curved in all the right places. My taste buds call out for these dark stone fruits, muddled with the classic Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water. The combination of the crisp, sparkling water and the sweet fall fruits is making me thirsty for what is going to be a masterpiece for the harvest season. And it seemed like the distinctively shaped bottle of this "staccato on the tongue" sparkling mineral water was on every table in France. 

This would make sense because Perrier is as French as France is herself. 

My twisted sensibilities don't end with just effervescent water and tree ripened fruit. To be called a Cocktail Whisperer, one must unlock the hidden dimensions of all the other ingredients in every single sip. Sparkling water and fruit is an union of these classic applications. To become a cocktail, there must be intersect of these elements in my uniquely fashioned, mixed drinks.  

When one fully understands what zest means to a cocktail, there must be the element of surprise! 

The French 75 is such a cocktail. Named for the 75mm cannon in World War I, it packed quite a punch. A French 75 is a bit of sweet to a bit of fizz to a bit of fire. I've taken some of the elements of the French 75 and twisted it up quite a bit. The application of grilled (or seared) then muddled fruit gives the basis for this drink.  The addition the salubrious Averell Damson Gin Liqueur and the unmistakably compelling Tenneyson Absinthe (as a champagne glass wash) makes my version of the French 75, a pure and luscious yet crisp, stone fruit forward concoction. 

A New "Cocktail Whisperer" French 75

-Averell Damson Gin Liqueur
-Tenneyson Absinthe
-Campari Bitter Liqueur
-Seared or grilled fall plums (take your plums, slice in half and sear or grill lightly)
-Perrier Natural Sparkling Mineral Water
-Lemon Zest Twirl

-Fill a champagne flute with ½ oz. iced water and Tenneyson Absinthe (set to chill for a few minutes)
-Meanwhile in a Boston Shaker, muddle some lightly seared or grilled fall plums with ½ oz. Campari and 2 oz. Averell Damson Gin Liqueur (Bitter and Sweet)
-Pour out the Tenneyson wash from your champagne flute (I usually pour it into my mouth!)
-Take a bar spoon and add two bar spoonfuls of the muddled plum, Averell and Campari mixture into your flute
-Strain the remaining liquid from your Boston Shaker over the muddled plum mixture to about ½ way up the flute
-Top with Perrier Natural Sparkling Mineral Water for a crisp, lift to this luscious, yet deceptively strong cocktail
-Garnish with a lemon zest twirl from top to bottom adding spark!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Behind the Scenes of the Port Ellen Distillery

By Geoffrey Kleinman

Located on the site of the historic Port Ellen Distillery in Islay, Port Ellen Maltings converts a massive amount of Scottish barley into malt used by many of the island's whisky producers. Port Ellen Maltings provides all the malt for Caol Ila (who uses a whopping 338 tons a week of malt) as well as Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Bunnahabhain, and Kilchoman. Malt for each distillery is custom malted and peated to the specific distillery's requirements. Port Ellen Maltings works with a number of varieties of barley, mostly coming from the east coast of Scotland.

Malting is very much the same thing as sprouting a grain. Barley is added to large soaking tanks where water is added, mixed, and drained. The water that the barley is soaked in comes from a loch which is close to the maltings and is brown in color from the peat in the ground that surrounds the loch. It's a common misconception that the peat in the water somehow impacts the peat flavor in this whisky, but this is not true. I've tasted the peated water and aside from the fact that it's brown, it just tastes like water.

In the soaking tanks, the barley is soaked, aerated, and drained several times to trick the grain into thinking that it's spring time and therefore time to sprout. This process takes the better part of two days. At this point the barley has begin to shoot out tiny roots and stalks. The barley is moved from the soaking vats into huge 50 ton drums. Here cool air is blown into the drums to regulate the temperature and keep the environment ideal for controlled and consistent sprouting. The drums are also turned to help dissipate the heat and keep the roots of the barley from growing together and becoming matted. After 4 days in the drums, the barley has completed its process of 'modification' and is now green malt. Barley has a disproportionate amount of starch in the grain, but it's well locked in by the husk, cell walls, and starch granules. The process of malting uses the grain's natural process of breaking down these elements to use that starch to create a new barley plant. To make malt for whisky, this process is arrested and that starch is converted into fermentable sugar.

To stop the green malt from becoming a plant, it is dried. It's during this drying process that the malt accepts peat reek from peak smoke fires that carries over to the final whisky. Malt only accepts peat reek when it's wet and so it's through the first part of the drying process where the malt is peated. The second half of the process ensures the malt is free of moisture so it can be stored properly and used by distilleries.

How much peat smoke a malt is exposed to greatly determines the final character of the malt, but it's not the only element. Both Caol Ila and Lagavulin use the same malt peated at the same level to produce two very different whiskies.

Ultimately the term "malt" really just refers to barley that has been sprouted and dried. It also sounds much more delicious than drinking a single sprouted barley whisky.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Report written by Geoffrey Kleinman, a nationally published drinks writer who has appeared in Playboy, Tasting Panel Magazine, and runs