Tribeca cocktails-&-super-high-class-snack-plate joint Bar Artisanal threw a cocktail contest, and a whole mess of people sent in submissions according to a few simple parameters: you needed a cocktail that was original, looked and tasted good, and went well with any of their amazing cheeses.
I was one of the five lucky people who got to try out the finalists and pass some big time on-high judgement upon them in front of the management, the audience and the universe, and while I fully resolved to be the Mary Murphy or the Tyra of the panel, honestly, it never really got to that, past a couple of off-color references to Greek supermarkets and a Sartre reference or two.
The six finalists were courtesy of Thad McArthur, Orr Shtuhl, Blair Frodelius, Linda Tam, Kevin Dea, and the winner, Alexander Doyne, whose unnamed fernet menta, sloe gin & lemon juice concoction was incredibly summery and bright even before the mint came, and afterward it was positively perfect. It was the only drink we tried that didn't need cheese to complete it, although the others (especially Dea's Corpse Canonizer -- gin, lemon juice, St. Germain, orange curacao, herbsaint & bitters --which also got high marks from the panel) were certainly worthy. Well, okay, there was one serious clunker, but every reality show needs its William Hung.
The winning drink, now called The Doyne after its creator, is available at Bar Artisanal through the summer. It's a gorgeous and smooth-tasting cocktail, regardless of the cheese plate with which you choose to have it. I recommend it highly.
Many thanks to Wendy, Alex & everyone at Bar Artisanal, and may I say, I would like to encourage the discussion of holding a competition like this every month. It's good publicity, you can't help but find good amateur mixers who should be maybe turning pro, they're a fun and cheap way to get people to come to your place for an event, and hey, the world always needs more and better cocktails.
The New York Daily News digs up the "drinks that define the five boroughs." However, I have some quibbles with this one: the drink that defines Manhattan isn't...a Manhattan? (That said, I don't have any objections whatsoever to a good Old-Fashioned, and the Emancipation sounds okay.) And no Bronx for the Bronx? I offer no comment on the Jager Bomb's suitability for Staten Island (memo to self: invent a drink called the Fresh Kills), but at least they chose a Brooklyn for Brooklyn. Also, Erik Ellestad points out that the Astoria is simply a dry Martini (using the recipe from the Savoy Cocktail Book; the Daily News's recipe sounds suspiciously like Audrey Saunder's Fitty-Fitty from the Pegu Club.) Might I engage in a small bit of self-promotion and offer my own Astoria cocktail?
It was absolutely killing me to not be able to attend Tales of the Cocktail this year. (Curse those pesky work commitments!) Even checking Twitter and looking around the various cocktail blogs was maddening, and reminded me of pressing my nose to the glass behind which all the cool kids were having fun without me.
Well, it seems we've hit a bit of a good stretch lately at Cocktailians. Some excellent reviews from Vidiot, a lovely (if occasionally wet) summer here in NYC, and now, we've been lucky enough to be asked to participate in a contest in which, honestly and without corniness in the slightest, everyone will be a winner.
Thursday, July 30, 2009, Bar Artisanal will throw what could easily be the social event of the Summer: A cocktail contest for amateur mixologists, with the winner getting their creation added to Artisanal's extremely well-regarded menu. From their notes to us:
Amateur mixologists and cheese lovers alike (who are at least 21 years) should send an original cocktail recipe that pairs well with cheese for a chance to have their cocktail featured on the Bar Artisanal cocktail menu and win $200 gift certificates for each of the Artisanal Group restaurants: Bar Bar Artisanal, Artisanal Fromagerie, Bistro and Wine Bar, and Picholine.
The judges' panel will include: Terrance Brennan, Chef-Proprietor of Artisanal and Bar Artisanal; Robert Haynes-Peterson, The NY Drinks Examiner; Jason Miller, Artisanal Group Beverage Director; Dave Arnold, Director of Culinary Technology at The French Culinary Institute; and, um, yours truly. (I can claim I'm an unbribeable judge, but please, feel free to try me.)
If you'd like to enter a cocktail in the contest, or if you'd just like more information, you can contact them through email or through their Facebook page. And of course, if you're more of a partaker than a maker of cocktails, there will be steep discounts for all the contested offerings the evening of the contest.
Regardless, it sounds like it's going to be a hell of a fun night. I hope some of you can come on out.
From time to time, I get a bottle of booze in the mail. This is definitely an unexpected perk to running a cocktail blog, and I keep meaning to write about them, but never get around to it. So here's an attempt to work through the backlog.
I recently received a bottle of Karlsson's GOLD vodka. I'll confess off the bat that I'm not a big vodka guy -- I mean, it's legally flavorless. Why bother with neutral spirit when you can infuse spirits with flavor (a la gin or infused vodkas), or age them? Or you can ask, as the Washington Post did in its review of Karlsson's Gold, "does the world need another vodka?"
You cocktail geeks who roll your eyes at the mention of vodka need to
get over yourselves. Vodka does serve a purpose in the cocktail kingdom
as a good workhorse spirit to cut stronger flavors or to just add a
kick of spirity fire to juice. (Purists, yes, I love to drink my vodka
chilled with a plate of oysters or a spot of caviar, too.)
has been a beloved spirit for hundreds of years. Stop the eye rolling
and start the chilling out. We all need to relax and love a bit more.
Can't really argue with that. So vodka is worth drinking, both neat and as an ingredient in mixed drinks. How's Karlsson's Gold? I wasn't really sure how to evaluate it, or where I should set the bar, so here are my (unfiltered, like the vodka itself) reactions: It comes in an appropriately potato-esque bottle, in a nice nod to its roots (heh) as a spirit made from seven varieties of potatoes from Cape Bjäre, Sweden. When I cracked the cap, I noted a sweet citrus-y aroma, not raw ethanol. The mouthfeel is slightly viscous, but not oily in the sense that Stoli and (to a lesser extent) Smirnoff can be...it's almost creamy. The taste is subtle if you're used to drinking gins and whiskies, but it is there. It's pleasantly vegetal, with notes of potato and herbs floating around. It's also smooth -- which must be quite a trick, distilling a spirit that doesn't burn very much while ensuring that flavor isn't lost.
I drank it neat, and I also tried it shaken with a bit of ice and then strained; the water this added helped bring out some of the flavors. (Karlsson's website calls this a "Gold Standard Vodkatini" -- no bonus points for the "glance at France or the closest bottle of dry vermouth" foofaw. If you're calling it a Martini (and yes, the "-tini" suffix qualifies), ya gotta have vermouth.)
When the Karlsson's publicists sent me the bottle for review, they also included a Karlsson's-branded pepper mill, suggesting that the vodka is best enjoyed in a "Black Gold" consisting simply of the vodka on the rocks with a few turns of freshly ground black pepper. This was a nice addition, and the pepper did complement the vodka's flavor. I'd recommend drinking this vodka straight, though; I tried it in a Kamikaze, and the flavor was totally submerged by the Cointreau and lime juice. I haven't yet tried a vodka Martini, though I'd think it'd work well with a good dry vermouth like Dolin, Vya, or the newly-available European-formula version of Noilly Prat.
Bottom line? I liked Karlsson's Gold, though I'd hesitate and think twice before mixing with it -- not because I think it'd do poorly, but because it'd be a waste. (I realize that not everyone is as much as a gin nut as I am, though.) If you're interested in a sipping vodka, this might be worthy of consideration.