Tonight I stopped into the Martin Miller's Gin & Tonic competition at Beretta. The winner of the event was Jennifer Colliau of Slanted Door, who had some sort of bitters frozen into ice that slowly changed the flavor of the drink as it melted. Clever.
But the most interesting drink was designed by Joe Parrilli who works at Bacar. To make his drink, all you need to do is:
1. Make some dehydrated lime slices
2. Create spheres of tonic with gold cake decoration using molecular mixology techniques
The title I wanted for this story in July's San Francisco Magazine was "Take a Shift Where You Eat," but I can see why they didn't go with that :)
Don't quit your day job
Thanks to new amateur hours, dilettantes can give their dream careers a trial run.
By Camper English, Photograph by John Curley
Most fantasy careers (astronaut, movie star, Mrs. Clooney) are a bit out of reach for the average desk jockey. But at least there are some new ways to take dream jobs in the service industry for a test spin.
Read the rest of the story, with information about guest bartending at Elixir, the guest sommelier program at Fifth Floor, being the guest chef at Kuleto's, and guest stripping at New Century Theatre here.
"Apparently [other bar patrons] were describing the shots as 'cherry bombs,'" said Callaway, referring to a shot of liquor that is typically made by combining cherry-flavored vodka with Red Bull, a popular energy drink.
This begs the question: Are they sure it wasn't the Red Bull that killed him?
Alcademics responsibility note: Drinking contests are dumb.
I emailed with Dushan Zaric, an owner of Employees Only in New York, to ask about the rumor of a San Francisco outpost that's been going around town. The word is:
"We are currently not working on a SF Employees Only although it is in our plans to eventually open up an EO there...a lot of people have been asking but I have no idea how they got this information."
I have to admit that I'm glad to hear it. Though I have no problem with spreading a good thing around, local pride may may cause a little "We don't need New Yorkers to show us how to make drinks!" angst.
That said, the lines between New York drinks and San Francisco drinks are already starting to blur, and I think SF bartenders are practicing more professionalism and consistency, and NY bartenders are increasing the amounts and varieties of fresh juices and herbs in their cocktails. In another year, much of the regionalism may disappear from these two cities. In another year, New York may have a few dedicated tiki bars and and SF may have membership clubs.
I've been thinking about this a lot recently, getting ready for my talk at Tales of the Cocktail on Regional Trends in American Cocktails on Saturday morning. Last year at Tales, it became very clear that there were regional differences in cocktails between the coasts and that each brings something to the game. This year, we're moving beyond just SF and NY as cocktail centers, seeing amazing things in the Pacific Northwest, Southern California, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, and DC. Next year at this time, with the opposing forces of greater awareness of national cocktail culture versus the increasing amount of regional micro-distillers and focus on local ingredients, I'm not sure what will happen.
In the end I'm glad that there there isn't yet a homogenized idea of what good cocktails are, what they taste like, and in what types of bars to get them.
The last night of our too-short press trip to London with Plymouth gin, we hit the town for a second night of barhopping.
First up was Salvatore's at Fifty, a bar owned by legendary bartender and author Salvatore Calabrese. He told us stories of serving martinis to the queen, inventing the breakfast martini, and how his mother gave him his first hangover cure. The drinks were heavily vodka-based and full of citrus, unlike anywhere else we went in London, but each one had a surprising element or taste profile that really worked. I had two drinks with vinegar in them.
Next we hit the bar in the Dukes Hotel for martinis served tableside. They wheeled out a small cart, put a drop of vermouth in each frozen cocktail glass, displayed the freezer-fresh bottle of gin, then poured it directly into the glass. Then they cut off a lemon peel strip and cracked in in half over the drink before dropping it in. A great presentation, but I like my martinis with a little water in them.
Next up was Hawksmoor, a meaty restaurant with largely excellent drinks. This place and several others had a tiki section on the menu of drinks split into several categories, usually old style types like flips and sours. After a long meal that left us all uncomfortably stuffed, we took off again.
Green & Red was next. It's a tequila bar and Mexican restaurant with a DJ playing downstairs. We had a round of margaritas and a shot of Ocho tequila, then were out the door.
My final stop of the night was at Milk and Honey, a membership bar with a New York outpost we've all heard of by now. I had a scotch drink with ginger and honey, and a sherry cobbler, and of course a sip of everyone else's cocktail too. Generally quite good drinks.
Also I hadn't realized it was so big- four floors with a bar on each- and that they have reciprocal memberships with a few other bars.
Anyway, suddenly it was three in the morning and I had to get up at 7, so it was time to bid London goodbye.
Hello chums. The Plymouth gin distillery, it turns out, is just as beautiful as they say, but much smaller than I imagined. Just one big copper pot still makes all their gin, and they don't even need to run it full-time.
Beyond the distillery tour, the building holds a restaurant and a cocktail bar, so you can just pop on in and hang out with the gin. I'd probably spend a lot of time there I'd I lived here.
Alas, time is short. Today we're doing a hike to Plymouth's water source, taking the train back to London, then hitting more of the cocktail bars to ensure that I'm plenty hungover for the plane ride home on Saturday.
Last night we hit the London bars, stopping in to the Lonsdale, Trailer Happiness, Montgomery Place, then later Mahiki. I think Montgomery Place was my favorite, though I loved the Jersey Sangaree from Lonsdale. We tore up the dance floor at Mahiki late into the night, drinking out of coconuts and being jealous of the giant punch served out of a treasure chest(!).
Now I'm on a train to Plymouth to see the gin being made. Of course, I'm still sweating out last night's gin. Mmmm juniper.
Camper English is a cocktails and spirits writer for publications including Saveur (Contributing Drinks Editor), FSR Magazine (Spirits Editor), Whisky Advocate, Details.com, PopSci.com, Mixology, Drinks International, and many more. Learn about Camper and Alcademics, or read clips of his published work.