Category Archives: Cocktail happenings

The latest on Cook & Brown

What’s the latest? We’re open for business! Not much time for blogging, so here are a few photos shot during our opening week, some by Jen and some by me.

Cocktail Menu
St. Paddy’s Day menu. Photo by Jen.

Jen’s Friday martini. Photo by Jen.

Friday dinner. Photo by Jen.

The barman straineth. Photo by Jen.

Setup. Photo by Jen.

Chef/owner Nemo Bolin working on the floors in the bar, February 14, 2010. Photo by Dietsch.

Bar, March 19, 2010. We’ve come a long damn way in a month. Photo by Dietsch.

Bar by day. Photo by Dietsch.

Bar by night. Photo by Dietsch. (Yes, we need more shelving.)

Dining room by day. Photo by Dietsch.

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

Year Five

Pepe et femmeWith another February sneaking slowly out the door, we’ve reached another milestone at A Dash of Bitters–our fourth anniversary–and with it comes another look back and forward.

Looking Back

When we last celebrated an anniversary, I was feeling a little glum. Unemployment had cruelly struck and I was lamenting my limited prospects for the future. Well, year four turned out rather better than I was expecting it to. No, I didn’t make it to Tales of the Cocktail, but that wound up really the only bleak part of my cocktail calendar. I made three trips to NYC for cocktail events and racked up a lot of Amtrak miles in the process. In April, I participated in the Beefeater 24 Thursday Drink Night at Quarter Bar in Brooklyn (special guests Dan Warner and David Wondrich); in November, I made it down for the Live portion of the Bar Smarts Advanced certification; and in December, I participated in Junior Merino’s Liquid Lab.

I was a judge for Rhode Island’s statewide IronTender competition, which introduced me to some … well, interesting drinks but more importantly to some great new friends. Ted Haigh included me along with some great vintage friends in the latest edition of his Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. Then came the Foodbuzz nomination, which still surprises me.

I became a published cocktail/spirits writer during this last year, with a regular column in Edible Rhody magazine. (Locals should look for the Spring issue to–yes, I’m going there–bloom around March 20.) Speaking of print media, this past year also saw Jen’s mug gracing the New York Times (which has fuck-all to do with me, but hey, I’m still proud of and stunned by that.)

Jen’s burst of fame came as a direct result of her participation in the Food52 website and cookbook project. And just this week, I was startled to see a familiar face in Food52’s Cook Spotlight feature. (Which reminds me, I should post more cocktail recipes to that site.)

Sooooo, yeah, it wound up being a very good year.

Looking Forward

But it’s Year Five that excites me even more: I’ll be moderating a panel at Tales of the Cocktail and editing the official Tales blog this year. (Which reminds me, I should arrange my flight and hotel soon.) And of course, there’s this baby:

cook and brown logo

And some of you may be wanting another update. We’ve been very busy, I can tell you that much.

We’re planning to open in mid-March; the date right now depends a lot on the contractor because we’re mostly set. Our DIY demolition work is finished and we’re ready for the contractor’s team to come in and rebuild the bar and dining room. Nemo and Jenny have hired pretty much the entire staff–cooks, servers, and dishwasher–and our first staff meeting is tomorrow afternoon. We have a preliminary menu and a full cocktail menu for both brunch and dinner. (The food is preliminary because Nemo’s cooking is ultra-seasonal. If he’s planning a braised lamb shank and it’s suddenly 60º out, there’s no sense in having announced braised lamb three weeks in advance.)

On the beverage front, I’m putting together a list of spirits and barware that we’ll need to order. Adam Mir, our sous chef is in charge of the beer list. We’re talking with beer distributors and hope to have a fun announcement to make, soon, regarding our beer program. Nemo’s fronting the wine program; we’ve been tasting wines all week and have another tasting tomorrow, so we should have our list of Old World wines ready next week. We’ve tasted coffees from New Harvest Coffee Roasters in Pawtucket. And finally, I’ve been in touch with a local soda bottler, Yacht Club Beverage, and we hope to speak to them soon about supplying our soft drinks.

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

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.

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.

Quick, Robin, to the Liquidlab!

Two weeks ago, I was in the Riverdale section of da Bronx, getting all mad scientist in Junior Merino‘s Liquid Lab. Junior’s a consultant and former bartender who created the Liquid Lab in a Riverdale apartment, as a facility where he can create and test new recipes for cocktails and food flavored with spirits. The Lab is stocked with thousands of bottles of spirits, liqueurs, mixers, and bitters–many of which are otherwise unavailable in the United States.

Gird Your Belly!

Junior’s wife, Heidi, had warned me in advance that I needed to start my day with a hearty breakfast, to provide a base for all the spirits and cocktails I’d be tasting. So after a hearty repast, I caught the subway up to the Bronx. When I arrived at the Lab, I met my fellow attendees: bartenders from Drink and Craigie on Main in Boston, and drink slingers from Hotel Delmano, Pranna, and Eleven Madison Park in New York. Rounding out the group was Village Voice writer Chantal Martineau, who’s beaten me to the roundup scoop, with her writeup here. We signed a release form (no photography or video allowed, which is why I have no pix of my own here), donned lab coats, and got ready to go.

The Gang

All photographs are the property of The Liquid Chef Inc. and are used with permission.

First up, though, was a true breakfast of champions: punch-spiked cereal. Talk about yer basic snap-crackle-burp!

Aroma Architecture

Next, Junior launched into a section he called Aroma Architecture. He passed around various herbs and greens, and urged us to sniff and taste each one, to think about using their flavors in cocktails, and also to think about how similar flavors come through in the taste of certain spirits. Some of these herbs are relatively common cocktail ingredients–mint, sage, dill, hibiscus. Others were surprising, but upon tasting them in this context, I could start to make some connections between my salad plate and my mixing glass; among these were baby chard, baby kale, carrot greens, borage, and pea shoots. When we started down this road, I knew I was in for a great time at the Lab because I knew I’d be tasting new flavor combos all day long.

Willy Wonka Cocktailing

Then we got into the heart of the Lab. Now, if you’ve never been, let me explain how it works. Junior secures sponsors for each Lab, for both base spirits and liqueurs. Each Lab is broken into five flights and mixing sessions. For each flight of base spirit, you blind-taste five examples of that spirit and discuss the flavors and aromas with Junior and your fellow participants. So, for example, you taste five piscos or five gins. Then you get to mixing with that base spirit.

The rules of the Lab are, you make two drinks per base spirit. Each of your two drinks must include the sponsor’s product, plus at least one of the sponsor liqueurs. Any other ingredients are your choice, using any spirit, liqueur, herb, spice, bitter, syrup, salt, or garnish that Junior has available. You mix up one drink, divvy it up among nine tiny cups, and distribute those out to Junior and the other guests (leaving one for yourself, of course).

The Lab!

That’s a Lotta Cocktails!

How many? Let’s rock some mathemagics now. For each base spirit, you’re mixing two cocktails, which means that over the course of the day, you’re creating 10 new cocktails. Eight other people in the room are mixing 10 drinks a piece (including Junior), and you’re tasting every single cocktail. Including your own drinks, that adds up to 90 cocktails. Zam! Now, each taste is only about half an ounce, but that still means, if you actually drink each one instead of just taking a sip, you’re consuming about 45 ounces of cocktail over the course of a day. That’s roughly 15 full-size drinks. Luckily for us, we had ample supplies of bottled water, but now you see why Heidi urged us all to have a large breakfast first.

Tipsy & Overwhelmed

Our base spirits, in order, were pisco, cachaça, rum, tequila, and mexcal. In each category, Junior had bottles of the spirit on its own, and he had several infused bottles. You could choose to use the plain spirit or one (or more) of the infusions. I wish I could tell you what I mixed up for these spirits, but I simply can’t remember, and it wouldn’t matter anyway because to be honest, my drinks weren’t that good. The thing you have to understand is that the Lab is fast-paced; I mean lightning fast. I was around professional bartenders here, who serve some of the top restaurants and bars in the Northeast.

In a very short time, we had to choose between the plain spirit and the infused options (tasting if you wished before you decided), then choose the liqueur, and then track down a third ingredient and anything else we wanted in there, and not just once, but twice. For an amateur, it was a challenge. I tried to get creative; I was grabbing bottles and herbs and whatever, just to see what worked together and what didn’t. Tequila, coca liqueur, and ginger-hibiscus syrup, with muddled electric Szechuan buttons? Why the hell not, what have you got to lose? (A bartender from Eleven Madison teased me at one point: “Why not use that? No one likes your drinks anyway.” At least, I think she was teasing.)

The Lab

But when I said my drinks weren’t that good–well, I don’t really know whether they were or not. It was a little beside the point, in a way. I mean, yeah, you want to make good drinks whenever you pick up a shaker. But often the cost of creating a really great drink is mixing your way through many bad ones first, until you find the right notes. I do know that at one point, I was playing with the tequila, and I paired it with Combier triple sec and something else. I realized the balance was off and added lime juice. Then I smacked myself in the head when I realized I had reinvented the fucking Margarita. Dammit!

My problem was, I was a little cowed by the talent around me, and I was letting it get to me, and starting to play it safe. After the fucking Margarita, I started taking chances again and having more fun as a result.

It’s Not Just About the Drinks, Though

At one point, Junior passed around plates of edible cocktails, and these were fun and surprising:

  • Macchu Pisco sour marshmallow
  • Siembra Azul tequila and Combier Liqueur D’Orange gummy
  • White chocolate, Castries Peanut Rum Creme, Chairman’s Reserve Rum, and Domaine de Canton truffle
  • Leblon cachaça and Vita Coco coconut-water popsicle

The truffle, of course, was amazing, but I think my favorite “edible” was the pisco-sour marshmallow, which really captured the essence of a pisco sour. Lunch, served I think after the cachaça round, was an amazing spread of booze-infused food. Here are just a few examples:

  • Tuna Lollypop: sushi grade tuna, marinated in whiskey that has been infused with pinepeppercorns, some asian spices, herbs, and grenache vinegar. Served with a cube of watermelon and topped with Koppert Cress Basil Cress.
  • Guava Chipotle BBQ short ribs: short ribs braised for 12 hours in herbs and cinnamon, and dressed with a bbq sauce made with guava, chipotle, and Chairmans’s Reserve Rum infused with vanilla and other spices. Served with a cipollini onion roasted with Royal Combier and topped with Koppert Cress Atsina Cress, that has light licorice notes.
  • Elotes: traditionally a staple in Mexican households, this dish is made by cooking ears of corn, then smothering it in a homemade Scorpion Mezcal aioli, queso cotija (aged dried cheese), and powdered chipotle pepper.

The Feast

Traditionally, Junior and Heidi then take everyone out for dinner and drinks. We wound up in the Bar Room at The Modern, a Danny Meyer restaurant connected to the Museum of Modern Art. This was a little heady for me, since the only other Danny Meyer place I had ever dined at was Shake Shack! Coincidentally, I was in the middle of Meyer’s book, Setting the Table, which covers the role of hospitality in business, so it was fun to both talk to the Eleven Madison bartenders about his book, and also see his concepts in action at The Modern. Everyone was pretty wiped out after dinner, so we chose to eschew the post-dinner cocktail round.

Was It Worth It?

Oh, hell yes. I’d do it all again if they’d let me, but I know they need to spread the joy around to many other bartenders. I took a lot from this day of creativity and rabble-rousing. First, as I said earlier, I loved sampling all the various herbs and thinking about creative ways to use them in drinks. Next, just being in the room with such talented and witty people was energizing. It made me really want to try to push my own ingenuity forward. It was also nice to see that nearly every bartender turned out at least one dud. Why wouldn’t that happen? You’re trying crazy new ideas, and not all of them are going to work. Finally, the day was just fun. Junior and Heidi kept a good, positive spirit flowing in the Lab and made it a really great experience.

I’d recommend Liquid Lab for anyone in the spirits industry; it’s that good.

Repeal Day!

Happy Repeal Day! On this day in 1933, Utah ratified the 21st amendment, fulfilling the three-quarters majority needed to repeal Prohibition, so hoist a glass of your favorite beverage today to celebrate. As for me, I’ll be in New York, preparing for a day of Willy Wonka cocktailing tomorrow, at Junior Merino‘s Liquid Lab.

I’m excited about this. A couple of times a month, Junior and his wife, Heidi, open the doors to his Bronx office to a small group of bartenders and spirits writers, allowing them to mix and discuss cocktails, talk about techniques and ideas, and sample unique and unusual ingredients, some of them otherwise unavailable in the United States. This is followed up with dinner and cocktails, and the whole day is paid for by liquor-company sponsors that Junior and Heidi line up.

I hope to have photos and a follow-up post in a few days.

Blend it like Walker

At 3pm Eastern today, I’ll be in sitting in the kitchen, surrounded by bottles of scotch. How is this any different than a normal 3pm in Chez Dietsch? Today, I have an excuse. Johnnie Walker’s black-label blend turns 100 years old this year, and to celebrate, Johnnie’s jetting his master blender, Andrew Ford, over to New York City, to lead a webcast focusing on the blending process.

I received an invitation to the webcast a couple of weeks ago, and shortly after I accepted, the FedEx man brought me a large box of kit.

Inside the box, I found seven sample bottles of single malt and grain whiskies, a small bottle of Johnnie Walker Black, a nosing glass, a measuring beaker, a funnel, and an empty bottle.


Seven brothers


Andrew Ford will be walking us through the process of blending scotch whiskies. He’ll also be taking questions, so if there’s anything you want to know, leave a comment here, and I’ll try to pass it along.

One question I have is why the grain whiskey appears to have been barrel-aged. I’m also curious about the number of whiskies they sent–one grain whiskey plus six bottles from various regions of Scotland (or in the case of the sherry-cask whiskey, a type of finishing method). Black Label is blended from at least 40 different whiskies. I know that Walker couldn’t possibly have sent 40 bottles without breaking their bank. Even this shipment wasn’t cheap, I’d wager. Now, what I don’t know is whether each of those bottles is actually a single malt, or if each bottle has a blend of several malts–say, several malts from the Islay region–to approximate the 40 whiskies that comprise Black.

Haigh’s pioneering champions, part 2

Following up on part 1 of this series, here’s the second batch of online “pioneers” featured in Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails:

  • Darcy O’Neill, Art of Drink. Darcy brings a unique perspective to the world of bartending and drinking: he’s a chemist, who understands the complex reactions that occur when you mix a drink. If you ever want to know what it means to be a super-taster, Darcy’s the man to ask.
  • Marleigh Riggins Miller, Sloshed! Graphic designer, nerdling, and all-around all-right gal, Marleigh’s been at this just a little longer than I have. Her new husband, Dan, has joined her in her blogging efforts. I met them both in New Orleans last year, and they’re good people. Check ’em out.
  • Michael Dietsch, A Dash of Bitters. I’m including myself just to show where I fall in the line-up.
  • Rick Stutz, Kaiser Penguin. A gifted photographer with an yen for creative garnish, Rick blogs from the Keystone State. One excellent feature of Rick’s blog is the recipe comparison, where he tries several variants on a single recipe and discusses what works for him and what doesn’t. Rick’s also a helluva cook, from what I hear, and a fan of throwing cocktail parties, so if you’re planning a trip to PA, invite yourself to Rick’s. Everybody comes to Rick’s, as an old movie once said.
  • Natalie Bovis-Nelsen, The Liquid Muse. As a mixologist, cocktail-book author, and educator, Natalie’s usually got a pretty full glass in front of her. Her first book is Preggatinis, which features virgin cocktails for expecting mothers, and frankly for anyone else who’d prefer an alcohol-free sipper.
  • Lauren Clark, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle usually top the list of cocktalian cities, but I believe that Lauren’s beloved Boston deserves a place in that list, with such excellent bars as Eastern Standard, Green Street, and Drink. A founding member of the Boston chapter of Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails, Lauren set out to document Boston’s bar scene, putting her on the front line for the cocktail resurgence in the Boston area. Lauren’s been branching out lately into video presentations of classic and new cocktails, and the videos are excellent, so check them out!
  • Karen Foley and Imbibe Magazine. Huge fan of Imbibe magazine. Huge. If you’re not familiar with Imbibe, the first thing you need to know is that it’s not just about alcohol. Imbibe covers all liquid culture, whether that’s coffee, tea, soda, or yes, beer, wine, or spirits. Imbibe Unfiltered is the blog portion of this endeavor, and it’s excellent. In fact, if you go there now, you’ll see the scope of Imbibe’s coverage–riesling, beer, the French 75 cocktail, mango green tea, a wine shop, and a daiquiri video are all on the front page right now.
  • Camper English, Alcademics. Camper, like Paul Clarke, is living the dream–he’s a full-time, paid spirits writer. His blog has a different focus from many here. He doesn’t write up cocktail recipes, for example; he tracks news about spirits, bartending, drink trends, and the like. His is one of the most informative blogs in my RSS reader.
  • Craig Mrusek, Dr. Bamboo. The only cat I know who illustrates every post with a new line drawing. As I said in this space a year ago, I think Craig’s a damn good cartoonist. Anything else I could say about the guy I’ve already said, but I’ll add this. His monicker always reminds me of perhaps my favorite character from Bewitched.
  • Jeff Berry, Beachbum Berry’s Grog Blog. Here, I think, is where we start to move into some new territory. For the most part (Karen’s an exception, and there may be one or two others), everyone I’ve talked about so far became “known,” to the extent that we’re known, because of our online writing. Jeff, though, was a published author first and a blogger second. One of the finest minds in tiki, the Beachbum peered past the kitsch to see the craft behind tiki classics. He interviewed retired tiki bartenders to learn the recipes they used and the techniques they employed. The Beachbum shows that there’s more to tiki than palm fronds, coconut-shell glassware, pink umbrellas, and cheap rum.
  • Gabriel Szaszko, Cocktailnerd. Writing from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Gabriel’s a generalist like me; he’ll try just about anything, and if he screws up with a drink, or if something just doesn’t work for him, he’ll talk about why instead of just dumping it in the sink and making an old-fashioned.
  • Blair Reynolds, Trader Tiki. Having just come off a week as a cocktail apprentice at Tales of the Cocktail, Blair’s one wiped-out tiki nerd, but he hasn’t let that slow him down. Check out his site for rum reviews, tiki drinks, and explorations of tropical culture.
  • Gary Regan, World Wide Bartender Database. Listen. Gary Regan merits an entire book, let alone a few lines in an appendix at the back of one. Gary’s The Joy of Mixology was the first cocktail book I owned, and I’d suggest it to anyone who wants to start mixing drinks at home. But Gary’s in this book for another reason, and that’s the bartender database he started. Open only to people who work in the hospitality industry (and the marketers who cater to them), the database provides resources for bartenders–job listings, news about mixology competitions, events, and the like. What people don’t seem to know is that for many bartenders (Jeff Morgenthaler and Jamie Boudreau among them), tending is a career. These folks are pros. They’re not pulling pints and shaking drinks while looking for a “real” job or going to school. What Gary’s given them is a virtual watering hole where they gather to exchange information and support each other. It’s huge.
  • Sonja Kassebaum, Thinking of Drinking. As Ted points out in the book, Sonja stands alone in this list. She’s not just a drinker and a cocktail nerd, and she’s not just a blogger. Oh no, Sonja’s actually a distiller to boot. She and her husband own North Shore Distillery in the Chicago area, making gins, vodkas, and other boutique spirits.

And that wraps up this look at Haigh’s pioneering champions. You’ll have to read the actual book to see what we all have to say about drinks and spirits and whatnot, but I wanted to provide a run down of the list for those of you unfamiliar with my fellow Internet wonders.

Haigh’s pioneering champions, part 1

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago. Ted Haigh’s seminal cocktail guide, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, entered into a new edition this week, and I’m honored and humbled to have a small part to play in the book. I’m part of an appendix to the book, called “Pioneering Champions of the Forgotten Cocktail,” in which Ted profiles 25 people he terms the “most influential online cocktail pioneers.”

In his introduction to the appendix, Ted explains that the forgotten cocktail is about more than just the drink itself, it’s also about those who mixed, drank, and popularized them in the media. Ted’s first edition profiled many of the bartenders, bon vivants, and scribblers who contributed to the birth and growth of cocktaliana.

Cocktail writing online has blossomed in the years since that first edition; I’ve seen it expand manifold in the three years I’ve been doing it, and Ted says that we have “influenced recipes, bartending, and even the spirits industry.” I’m honestly surprised to think of my blog playing such a role, but if Ted says it, I won’t dispute it. Ted wanted to ensure that we too have our place in the historic record.

The company is humbling, I must say. I have long respected everyone on this list; it’s a bit like finding yourself up for a James Beard award. Ted has them in chronological order by the date the Internet forum, discussion board, or weblog was established, and that’s the order I present them. Where the site in question still exists or is actively maintained by its founder, I’ve provided a link. If my site merits your attention, the others do all the more so.

Here’s the first batch; the remainder will follow later this week or early next:

  • Craig Goldwyn: America Online Food & Drink Network. Goldwyn appears to be no longer associated with the network he founded.
  • Paul Loberg: The web design may appear dated, but the message boards are very active and peopled by influential bartenders and other cocktail experts.
  • Paul Harrington, Laura Moorhead, and Graham Clarke: Owned and formerly operated by Wired magazine, this site is unfortunately defunct. Harrington tells Ted that he and his partners tried to buy the rights from Wired and revive the site, but were shot down. Harrington also wrote a book, Cocktail, that is out of print and now somewhat expensive to purchase.
  • Chuck Taggart, A New Orleans native now living in California, Chuck’s the first of many in this appendix whom I’m honored to call a personal friend. Like me, he’s not a spirits professional, just an aficionado. His blog is excellent, and he has personally helped revive one of the finest cocktails around, the Vieux Carré–rye, cognac, vermouth, Benedictine, and bitters. I’ll be pouring one tonight and toasting Chuck. UPDATE: Looka just turned 10; amazing work, Chuck!
  • Robert Hess, Defunct. Never fear, though, Robert’s still active at, the Chanticleer Society (where you’ll also find me), and the Cocktail Spirit series of video podcasts. Robert, incidentally, shares a name with my father in law, but I don’t hold that against either of them.
  • Hanford Lemoore, I’m not much of a tiki drinker, so I’ve never spent much time here, but the forums are poppin’!
  • Jamie Boudreau, Another friend, Jamie tends bar in Seattle, and he has an Amer Picon replica I’ve been threatening to make for over a year now.
  • Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Two things you need to know about Morgenthaler: 1) He loves Aquaman, 2) He’s an avid vodka collector, 3) He’s one hell of a juggler. Wait, that’s three things. Damn, that Vieux Carre is smoove. Jeff tends bar in Portland, Oregon, and we learned recently that we have a mutual friend, someone I met in NYC who later returned home to Oregon. Small world.
  • Jimmy Patrick, I’ve never met Jimmy, but his was among the first cocktail sites in my blogroll. A direct inspiration for ADOB.
  • Paul Clarke, Like Jimmy, Paul’s was another direct inspiration for this blog. When I chose to start a blog, I hit Google and started searching for other blogs. Paul’s, Jimmy’s, and Jamie’s were among the first I found. Paul’s a helluva guy and one of the most prolific cocktail writers on the scene. You can find his work in Imbibe magazine; the San Francisco Chronicle; the New York Times‘s Proof blog (currently on hiatus); the website Serious Eats; and the Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen. If Paul’s writing career in any way sucks, it’s because he has too much to do.
  • Erik Ellestad, Egullet’s cocktail forum, Erik’s a busy guy. Between posting at the Egullet forum (his nick’s EJE; mine’s Dietsch), and writing up his epic Stomping Through the Savoy posts for his own blog, Erik holds down a day job and also guest-bartends every week. I don’t know how he does it. It can’t hurt that he has a charming and patient wife.

More to come.

Tales of the Cocktail 2009

Despite the ad to the right of the screen, I’m not currently at the drink.write conference that’s heralding in this year’s Tales of the Cocktail, which starts tomorrow in New Orleans. Despite the ad to the left, I will also not be attending Tales this year. My long bout of underemployment left me no way to scrape up the funds to attend, I’m afraid. I am still, however, co-editing the Tales blog, along with Paul Clarke, Gabriel Szaszko, and Anita and Cameron Crotty.