Monthly Archives: January 2010

Bacardi ad: The Hummingbird

Back in mid-November, I linked out to the first in a series of “mini-movies” showcasing bartenders and Bacardi rum. “The Samurai” featured a Japanese bartender making a daiquiri cocktail for a mysterious gentleman. I mentioned that two more such videos had been produced and promised to link out to them when they were available.

The second video, the Hummingbird, is now up on YouTube, and it’s worth watching.

[As before, click through to YouTube to watch it in large HD.]

Again, I don’t think it’s practical to crack open a coconut in a busy nightclub, but it sure looks cool, doesn’t it?

I can’t tell for certain, but it sounds like the voice actor might have been recast. The actor who plays the bartender (who, if I may, is dead-sexy) was trained by Bacardi Global Ambassador David Cordoba. Her technique is great to watch, and I covet her barspoon.

MxMo XLV Tea!

mxmologoXLV, XLV, hm. How does this work again? Subtract 32, divide by 9, multiply by … uh, wait, that’s not right. Oh, oh, I see. It’s 45. 45?! Geez, whodathunk. The theme this month, chosen by the boffins at Cocktail Virgin, is tea (tisanes included). Pip pip!

With a month or so to go before Cook & Brown opens, I’ve been thinking a lot about the cocktail menu. So when I’m mixing drinks at home, I often have an eye out for drinks that might play well on the menu, both immediately upon opening and also months down the road. To reiterate, the remit at Cook & Brown will be to source our ingredients locally when possible and to cook (and mix) with a seasonal focus. So if I’m going to play with tea, it should be local tea. That in mind, I returned to a farmers market vendor I’ve mentioned here before, Farmacy Herbs. A couple of their teas had promise, but for my purposes I chose the Unwind Your Mind blend, of chamomile, catnip, and lemon balm. One purpose of a good cocktail is to relieve stress and banish the worries of the day, and I thought a relaxing tea might help.

Relax and float downstream

I figured I’d add a little local honey and because they’re available right now, Meyer lemons. I shook it and topped it off with a little Q Tonic to make a refreshing twist on the ol’ Gin and Tonic. Not seasonal to dead of winter, sure, but should be lovely in the hotter months. Gotta think ahead, y’know. For the actual C&B menu, I’ll probably use the tonic from a local soda brand, Yacht Club, instead of Q. And eventually, I’d like to play with a house-made tonic.

Blackstone G & T

  • 2 oz tea-infused gin
  • 3/4 oz. Meyer lemon juice (will probably use regular lemon in summer)
  • 3/4 oz. honey syrup (equal parts honey and water heated on the stove)

Shake over ice, strain into ice-filled chimney glass. Top with tonic water.

DISCLAIMER: I am no longer a part of Cook and Brown.

Ads of the Week: William Jameson Irish American Whiskey

Yes, you’ve read that headline correctly: Irish American whiskey. What on earth?

You might recall my post from October in which I first showed you William Jameson’s whiskey. It sparked a bit of discussion about the connections between William and John Jameson, the Jameson brand we know today. As a commenter there pointed out, William was the son of John and started a distillery to compete with old dad. But as I recounted in October, the Irish uprising, followed quickly by Prohibition, resulted in the demise of many an Irish whiskey distillery, Wm Jameson included. (Ads are from various 1937/1938 issues of Life magazine.)

wm-jameson

wm-jameson

What remaining stocks William’s company had left were quickly bottled and shipped into the American market to fill the growing post-Repeal thirst for whiskey. As supplies dwindled, and as American distilleries ramped up production, the William Jameson company began blending its own whiskey with American product as a way to stretch its inventories–hence, Irish American whiskey.

wm-jameson-full

wm-jameson-detail

Cook and Brown update

A couple of you have asked me to journal the process of opening Cook & Brown and becoming a professional bartender, so today I’ll begin a series of (I hope) weekly updates documenting the process.

and so it begins...The first big news to announce is that the Bolins closed the deal on Friday, which means the restaurant is officially theirs. It was tricky to publicly discuss the location, since it was an operating restaurant. The owner told his staff on Tuesday, “Hey, we’re closing tomorrow; you’re canned.” But with that behind us, I can announce the location: 959 Hope St., Providence.

Opening is scheduled no later than March 1. They’re operating as a new business and not a turnkey operation, so it’s not as simple as closing a few days to clean the kitchen. They need to repaint, make minor repairs, rebrand the exterior, thoroughly clean (especially the kitchen), hire staff, stock the restaurant and bar, etc. We could open sooner, and in fact they’re hoping to open somewhere around the 20th. One thing they’ve decided which I think is smart is to not shoot for Valentine’s Day. That’s only about 3 weeks away and would require everyone to rush too much. The last thing we want is to spoil a couple’s romantic evening by being unprepared. Bad hospitality, bad PR.

With the restaurant in their hands, the Bolins welcomed Jen and I up for lunch yesterday afternoon. (Jen had the holiday off.) She was eager to meet them; after all, I’ll be seeing them more often than I will Jen after the restaurant opens, and she wanted to start to get to know them. As often happens when I meet up with Nemo, the conversation flew and we talked for hours.

I was eager to get behind the bar and see the setup the previous owners left behind. The Bolins agreed to buy up the place lock, stock, and Apple Pucker–which they had fun discarding over the weekend–so I wanted to get an idea of what equipment, glassware, and bar stock was left behind. (By the way, if anyone wants Purplesaurus Rex Smirnoff, let me know. I won’t be needing it.)

We wound up pitching in, using razor blades and elbow grease to scrape the Restaurant Oak decals from the windows, signaling to the neighborhood that things were changing. Alas, we had to cut the conversation short. Tomorrow’s our (fourth) wedding anniversary, and Jen needed to get home to start braising the oxtails we’ll have for dinner.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back up there, with tentative plans to meet a friend who’s a distributor; he’s the guy who brought Bols Genever into Rhode Island and will shortly be distributing Haus Alpenz products here–a good man to know. I’ve been poring over cocktail books and the Rhode Island Beverage Journal for weeks, thinking about our opening cocktail menu, and it’ll be fun to sit down and talk about the practical aspects of alcohol distribution.

Also, I’m working on staffing the bar, and getting a kickass team in place. More on that later.

DISCLAIMER: I am no longer a part of Cook and Brown.

Ads of the Week: Jack Cole cocktail accoutrements

Moving on from Vanity Fair, we’re now visiting the 1950s archives of Playboy magazine. Playboy is very much an aspirational magazine, of course, filled with articles promoting the bachelor lifestyle. As such, ads for beer, wine, and spirits fit right in. The magazine, which premiered in the waning days of 1953, was published almost entirely in black-and-white for its first few years, so the ads here will feature a mix of color and black-and-white.

I’m going to change the focus here a little in presenting these vintage booze ads. I have collected so many by now that to feature only one a week would provide me enough material for several years! So instead, I’ll be grouping them by interesting themes, brands, or … well, whatever suits my fancy. This will allow me to write up a little about the ads, too, and do a bit of Internet research.

Jack Cole and Playboy

Among the early slate of illustrators and cartoonists for the magazine was Jack Cole, creator of the zany superhero Plastic Man. Cole had spent years enhancing his comics income by drawing single-panel “good girl” cartoons for magazines, so moving to Playboy was a natural fit. For the rabbit, Cole produced both line art and watercolors.

plas cole_playboy “Plastic Man”, left; Playboy, right

One popular Cole feature was a series called “Females,” a set of gag cartoons. Writing in their Cole bio Jack Cole and Plastic Man, Art Spiegelman and Chip Kidd describe “Females” as “breezy black-and-white brush impressions of women’s psychological states.”

A set of cocktail napkins, reproducing Cole’s “Females” gags, became the second Playboy merchandise introduced (after the iconic cuff links featuring the rabbit logo), and the following advertisement appeared in the July 1956 issue.

Cole-Females

A couple of years later, Playboy expanded this product line, introducing sets of double old fashioned and highball glasses, as seen in this September 1958 ad:

cole-cocktail

I don’t know about you, but I think these are excellent collectibles and would be a great addition to any retro home bar.

Big, major announcement! ZOMGreally!

2010 is shaping up to be a busy year. Among the several things I have to announce is a career change. See, I’m currently employed by unemployment, having lost nearly all of my freelance gigs in 2009. In the next few weeks, though, that’s gonna change, assuming everything proceeds as planned.

Here’s the announcement: I recently agreed to become the bar manager of a new restaurant. My hobby is about to become my profession.

The restaurant is called Cook & Brown Public House (there’s a website, but it’s pretty skeletal right now), and it’s opening on Hope Street in Providence in late February. The owners are a young couple, Nemo and Jenny Bolin. Nemo’s worked at Craigie St. Bistro, No. 9 Park, and similar places in the Bay Area. His sous chef just finished a stage at Gramercy Tavern. Nemo envisions a menu that changes daily, sourced from local, seasonal ingredients. They’ll be breaking down primals and whole animals, and Nemo’s planning to work with Farm Fresh RI‘s farm-to-chef program, which supplies local produce to restaurants.

For the bar, he envisions a small cocktail menu, also with a seasonal focus, using house-made tinctures, syrups, bitters, and sodas. As bar manager, I’ll stock the bar, create cocktails, hire a backup bartender, talk to suppliers, and take care of the more mundane aspects of running a bar.

(As an aside, I’ve been wanting to tell Camper English how closely I’ve followed the discussion on his post, “Why Can’t I Get a McDonald’s Hamburger at Chez Panisse?“, but until recently, I couldn’t say much about the new gig. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to serve people who ask for cosmopolitans, rum-and-Cokes, Bud Lights, and so on.)

You may be thinking, I don’t recall Dietsch mentioning ever working in a bar. You’re right, I haven’t. I haven’t actually worked in food service in any capacity since college, too many years ago. So, why me? How’d I catapult to the top? Nemo subscribes to Danny Meyer’s theory of hospitality–that most of the battle is about hiring people who have it, and then training them on technique, so his idea (and time will prove him right or wrong) is that he’d rather bring in someone passionate about cocktails and then let that person grow into the job of bar management.

I’m lucky in a way. The Cook & Brown space will be fairly small, seating about 50-60 people. We’re hoping that a good night, when we first open, will see about 50 plates of food go out. Even if all 50 guests order cocktails, which isn’t likely, I’d be mixing about 50 drinks a night. Some of you who tend bar do that in half an hour or less. Realistically, I’ll probably only mix half that number a night, when we’re starting. So I don’t expect to get weeded.

I know this market, and I’ve dined in other local restaurants that cater to it. You don’t often see drunken people misbehaving at them. I’m sure it happens, but this won’t be some dive or college bar. So I shouldn’t have to break up fights or cut people off on a regular basis.

I know this job will be about more than mixing drinks and offering bon mots in a cool setting; I don’t want anyone to think I’m naive. I’ll have chapped hands daily from all the running water, and they’ll probably get cut up even more often than I already expect. The hours will be long and seem longer as my 41-year-old back and feet adapt to a torso that’s upright all day.

The hardest part is that I’ll be away from my wife all day. When the restaurant opens, I’m committed to being there every day it serves customers, for the first few weeks, until I know the bar, the clientele, and the food. At that point, I’ll bring someone in to cover a shift or two a week so I can have a break.

But for Jen and me, our lives will change. She’ll still leave the house before 7 every morning to get to Boston, and she’ll still come home just before 7 every night, but the difference is, I won’t be here. This will affect her blog, and she’ll weigh in on that herself soon, but more importantly it’ll affect our marriage. Luckily, she has a standing invitation from the proprietors to come up to the restaurant and have a meal and a couple of drinks. They want her to be part of the family, and they want the restaurant to be part of the community. Jen’s such a strong proponent of the local food scene that just having her on hand could be good for business.

And this change will affect this blog as well. One thing I’m seriously hoping to do is document the process of opening a new place, from the p-o-v of a newbie. Taking this on is a challenge, but since I am so passionate about it, I’m hoping it’ll be a fun one. At times, it seems pretty intimidating, but there’s one thing that stays in the back of my head. I’m unemployed now, and my benefits are close to running out. It’s been a hard year as I’ve applied and applied for jobs with no result. I have very, very little to lose here, and potentially a very lot to gain.

Here’s to the start of an exciting ride, and I hope you all have a great 2010.