Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tales of the Cocktail: Indie Spirits

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

There's a new dog in town. Actually it's a pack of hungry hounds who are craving with deep desire something new and packed with flavor. No, it's not flavored vodka or the latest in creamy thick liqueurs that are more like candy than intoxicants. They want flavors that are extracted from real ingredients, not the ones that are manufactured in chemical factories with made up names espousing only the very basic intent of "small producer" and "handmade". Large market, factory produced spirits have nothing on CRAFT!

The uber-event known as Tales of the Cocktail is located in New Orleans, the city that practically invented the modern cocktail. This yearly event, held every July, is the brainchild of Ann and Paul Tuennerman. This well attended symposium of tasting rooms, "spirited" dinners and focused education attracts the best and the brightest from the distillation industry in a highly pragmatic fashion. The best part for the attendee is the ethos that stresses quality over quantity. Quality is the touchstone of this part of the industry. That's not to say that there aren't big brands showing their wares at Tales, but the focus and the attention is on the spirits that speak clearly of passion!

The Indie Spirits event was held in one of the larger ballrooms in the Sonesta Hotel. Last year the Indie Spirits event was half the size - this year it was bursting at the seams with craft producers from all over. And the most fantastic part of this event is the availability - this year is even better than last year with DrinkUpNY selling most of the Indie Spirits to a thirsty clientele.

Pür Spirits was in attendance with their intensely flavorful and concentrated liqueurs, as was Brooklyn Gin, Redemption Rye and St. George Spirits. Jack from Brooklyn showed his award-winning Sorel and Clyde Davis showed off his Chairman's Reserve Rum. De Luze Cognac was in the house with their modern-styled, very French Cognac and Death's Door is a perennial favorite. Montanya Rum from Colorado showed beautifully along with Wahaka Mezcal and Philadelphia Distilling. Few Spirits was in attendance along with Tomr's Tonic from New Jersey. This was one of the most crowded tasting rooms that I attended and for good reason. The attendees are interested in quality!

A perfect example of quality over quantity is the new brand named Avua Cachaca from Brazil. Recently introduced into the New York area and available at DrinkUpNY, this highly expressive spirit is made with quality as the forefront flavor in this new segment of the marketplace. Another craft liquor, Tuthilltown Spirits from New York State, speaks volumes to the quality of locally harvested grains over the mass produced liquors that other companies make. Some of the larger brands will produce more liquor in any given morning than Tuthilltown distills in a year. Other brands like the intensely flavored, tropically-scented Clement Rhum from Martinique sits next to Rhum JM and freshly crushed cane rhum from Guadeloupe that screams of the place. The craft component of these deeply flavorful distillates have found themselves based on history instead of sheer marketing power from a far-off advertising agency. Their craft methods of distillation have not changed in hundreds of years making them the original craft distilleries.

Up on the roof of the elegantly graceful and historic Hotel Monteleone, a pool party defines the very meaning of the word craft spirits. My own cocktail for this Bacchanalian event based on Redemption Rye, a persuasive elixir destined for cocktail infamy. I called my cocktail the Anthrusers Tricklet, named after the antagonistic doctor in Robert Louis Stevenson's historically based book named Treasure Island. This book loosely recreates the difficulty of life at sea from the perspective of the lowly sailor. Although the sailors of this era were no doubt drinking low grade rum, I adapted a classic punch to include the Redemption Rye as the base spirit. The ingredients that I chose are easily available and the Rye whiskey can be subbed for Navy-style rum if you desire.

Antrusler's Tricklet is a punch created with ingredients that you can find nearly anywhere. I have adapted the recipe to serve about 50 persons a couple ounces each of this potent elixir.

Antrusler's Tricklet

• 1 bottle Redemption Rye
• 1 Gallon Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice (non-negotiable on fresh squeezed juices)
• ½ Qt. Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
• ½ Qt. Freshly squeezed Lemon Juice (to stave off scurvy)
• 1 Qt. Monin Peach Puree
• 1 750 ml. bottle Wilks & Wilson Mint/Lime Simple Syrup (amazing stuff made from all-natural ingredients)
• 1 750 ml. bottle Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water in Pink Grapefruit Essence (non-negotiable)
• 1 Qt. Coconut Milk
• 10 or so dashes of The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
• 10 or so dashes of Peychaud's Bitters

1. To a large punch bowl add all the liquid ingredients save for the ice. The ice goes into the glasses and does not dilute the punch!
2. Mix well and serve to your appreciative guests.

As a visual clarification, the punch will appear to separate and may concern you but worry not. When it hits the ice filled glasses, the coconut milk actually attaches itself to the ice and the punch becomes clarified. 

See you next year at Indie Spirits at Tales!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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

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