UNIQUELY UNICO 20˚87˚ HOTEL RIVIERA MAYA – RESETTING THE BAR ON HOTEL BEVERAGE PROGRAMS

By Francine Cohen
All photos courtesy of Unico 20˚87˚ Hotel Riviera Maya

Lobby

When Unico 20˚87˚ Hotel Riviera Maya opened in 2017 everything they did, from sense of arrival to decor to room
rates to retail, restaurants, and included activities were truly unique at this adults-only all-inclusive boutique property that envelopes guests in local culture, luxuriously.

That fresh take on operations, driven by maintaining an enhanced guest experience, also touched the bars.

In the past when you found yourself at the bar at an all-inclusive property, no matter if it was a swim up bar or one where the drinks were wetter than the guests, the back bar was pretty uniform; filled with the same bottles you’d find anywhere. That’s not the case at Unico 20˚87˚. Land at this property and you’ll find that each cocktail is prepared with the same care, attention and creativity as you’d find at the world’s finest cocktail bars.

Bar Balam_2

This is all thanks to ownership’s creative vision and the personal passions of Beverage Manager, Luis Villanueva, who has more than 20 years behind the bar and a lot of perspective on what guests want and need. So, when the time came to fashion his own program the vision he had was expansive, and innovative in the region. He shares his vision for the program that integrates both property wide outlets as well as in-room cocktailing. He explains,” To take the program to another level, by using all natural ingredients we mark the difference among other resorts, and by implementing the mixology throughout the hotel at every single bar, even in the guest room, is something that no other all-inclusive is doing. “

Being unique in the all-inclusive space didn’t just stop with the liquor. As any self-respecting bar professional would, be focused on every component of his drinks. Villanueva notes, “By using all natural ingredients we mark the difference among other resorts, and implementing the mixology throughout the hotel at every single bar, even in the guest room, is something that no other all-inclusive is doing.”

Jade

Villanueva’s passion for the craft, and great guest service shines through; in interactions with him and his staff and in the cocktail menu itself. When evaluating new hires Villanueva says the most important things he looks for are “people who are committed and passionate in this profession.” He takes that passion, pairs it with the carefully chosen spirits he’s selected for their high quality, texture and flavor, and then takes a hands-off approach with his staff since he knows the best way to make a great barman is to, “Let them be themselves, showing pride in local culture and surprising our guests.”

Guests are also always pleasantly surprised by the property’s wine list which he oversees. It’s a mix of Mexican wines and those from other regions around the globe, all chosen to specifically pair well with each of the property’s unique restaurant menus.

They’re also pleased by how much cocktail & spirit knowledge they can glean at one of Villanueva’s afternoon cocktail classes. Taught four times a week with different subjects in each one, starting with the origin of the distillate, history and origin of the cocktail, preparation of the cocktail and then the guest recreates each cocktail this is more than just a refreshing respite from the afternoon Mexican sun; they’re a serious, and seriously fun, hands-on education designed to guarantee that home bars are getting better after vacations at Unico 20˚87˚.

For guests not consuming alcohol while on vacation, or after they return home, there’s no shortage of excitement in the glasses they’re handed upon arrival or across the bar during the stay. Local, authentic experiences are the focus on property from decor to activities to drinks, and it is delivered at every turn. Villanueva concludes, “I created these drinks to boost the local flavors and culture and have our guests try something new and exquisite.”

Xke Ban

Xkeban (Sinner)

2 oz. Vodka Infused with Chile de Arbol (sun-dried pepper)
1 oz. Lemon Juice
1 oz. Agave Honey
1.5 grams Strawberries
3 Basil leaves
3 Mint Leaves
Chile de Arbol for garnish
Lemon twist for garnish

Method:
Add vodka, lemon juice, strawberries, mint, basil, agave to a shaker and muddle
Add ice and shake
Strain into a chilled martini glass
Garnish with lemon twist and Chile de Arbol

ONE TALE OF THE NEW TALES OF THE COCKTAIL

Words and some pictures by Francine Cohen
Cow photograph courtesy of William Grant & Sons/Image by Jennifer Mitchell Photography

Photo by Francine Cohen

Photo by Francine Cohen

As we go racing towards Tales XVI talesofthecocktail.com and all plan to land in New Orleans next week it seemed an appropriate time to reflect on the past year.

My oh my have things changed! Sadly, some beloved members of the community are gone. New ownership has taken over the event, topics that weren’t generally discussed out loud in the past are now front and center on the schedule where they belong, and new programming like we’ve never seen before at this cocktail conference, awaits us.

And as if that all wasn’t enough, the 2018 edition of Tales of the Cocktail coincides with the city’s tricentennial celebration 2018nola.com. Three hundred years is a long time for anything to go on and time can take its toll, but New Orleans has proven resilient and renewed in its glory year after year, century after century. This city known for its architecture, charm and hospitality is also America’s birthplace of cocktails and a bastion of good times. So, it is fitting we gather in the Crescent City to celebrate the spirits industry old and new.

Celebrating the cocktail, spirits education, and one another’s company is both an old and new reason that people think of when they head for Tales. And, of course the parties. This year is no different. Or is it?

Over the years William Grant & Sons www.williamgrant.com has thrown memorable bashes at Tales. More than 10 years ago they invited us to gather at a Garden District mansion. And who can forget the one at the WWII museum where the team from EO www.employeesonlynyc.com shucked oysters and a cow patiently allowed itself to be milked in order to produce the ultimate á la minute Ramos Gin Fizz? And then there was the camel at the airport…

Photo by Francine Cohen

Photo by Francine Cohen

But perhaps the most memorable one of all may be the one that hasn’t happened yet. Yet everyone’s already talking about it…this year’s portfolio party that won’t have any of the portfolio brands served. That’s right…an entirely non-alcoholic party kicking off the world’s biggest cocktail conference.

Honestly, like many of you, we here at INSIDE F&B, have been skeptical about this event and the need to have it be all or nothing. But we’re embracing this new era at Tales; it fits in with our long held belief that Tales, and our business in general should you want to make a career of it, is a marathon, not a sprint.

So, to squash our skepticism we turned to Charlotte Voisey, Director Brand Advocacy at William Grant to explain why, where, and how they’re throwing a party that’s already on everyone’s mind. It’s only got a little bit to do with Tom Cruise and we’re not sure about the four legged friends. But more on that in a moment.

This evening already sits well in the mind of Sother Teague, the Beverage Director at Amor y Amargo www.amoryamargony.com and partner in Blue Quarter (and the soon to open Windmill –you heard it here first). Teague comments, “Do I think it’s strange to be putting on a party at a huge cocktail convention and not serve any cocktails? In any other city, I might. But in New Orleans, which is steeped in cocktails and cocktail culture? I think it’s the perfect place! We as a whole should focus on what we offer; which is service and hospitality. Somewhere in my handwritten employee manual I say, ‘we sell the lighting kept at the right level…, we sell hospitality – all that other stuff comes with it.’”

He continues, “We sell experiences. I don’t have to get you drunk to achieve that experience. But who knows how many people will be willing to suspend their disbelief and attend. Let’s hope they do, especially in a city that is known so much for drinking but has so much more than that to offer.”

Voisey and her team are excited to put every aspect of William Grant & Sons on offer; the brands and the people. And Neal Bodenheimer, one of the new owners of Tales of the Cocktail, is hoping that moving forward people will continue to appreciate Tales for the community tool that it is. Including the economic benefit it brings to his hometown.

So, without further ado, let’s hear what Charlotte has to say:

IFB: The press release says, “William Grant & Sons guarantees a truly unforgettable experience at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail festival – kicking off the week with a spirited, yet spirit-free, portfolio party. Getting back to the roots of education and focusing on responsible consumption for the bartender community, the independent family-owned Scottish distiller will throw a party with all its expected revelry and signature high-concept experiences – without serving alcohol.”

And Neal was quoted in the release saying this, ““We see a big opportunity for a fresh beginning with Tales of the Cocktail this year, and we’re ready to truly focus on what’s important to us – access to proper education, the welfare and wellbeing of bartenders and the importance of responsible consumption,” said Neal Bodenheimer, Tales of the Cocktail Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors. “We can think of no better partner than William Grant & Sons to join us in this effort, and we can’t wait to see what they have in store for us in New Orleans this year.”

And the entire industry instructs, “Please drink responsibly.”

So how is not drinking at all/no alcoholic beverages provided “drinking responsibly”? Is abstinence the best and only answer?

CV: The decision to go dry is simply about proving that we can get together as industry peers and professionals, network, learn, see what’s new and interesting and have a good time without the need to drink alcohol to do so. With industry events often lining up back to back every day of the week even outside of ‘Tales week’ we have to be able to do this. The William Grant & Sons portfolio party in particular is one of the first events of Tales so the idea of being able to enjoy what is arguably a “must-attend” event without any obligation (intended or otherwise) to drink is a responsible gesture from us to bartenders who have a full week of learning and networking ahead of them. We are not promoting abstinence, we will be promoting our brands on the night, we very much still want our guests to consider our brands for use in the bars when they return from Tales. The objective of this party remains the same since the first year we did it: throw a party to thank bartenders for their support during the past year.

IFB: How should we be looking at this alcohol free event — in a vacuum or cumulatively over the week of William Grant & Sons’ offerings?

CV: I think it is best to look at our full ‘dance card’ of events at Tales 2018. William Grant & Sons have a total of 13 events that allow us to participate and interact with the industry in a variety of different ways: straight up education in the seminars, trial of our brands in the tasting room, supporting the CAPs at breakfast time, sharing creative ideas at the spirited dinners and celebrating at the Spirited Awards and parties such as Beach Monkey and the Reyka Pool Party.

IFB: Last year you made a commitment to refreshing people with the departure lounge. I know it was open to just a select group of people. Is this another way, on a larger scale, to deliver a balanced Tales experience?

CV: You will be pleased to hear that The Hendrick’s of Ministry of Relaxation will be open at Tales this year again, on Sunday from 10am -5pm and it will be open to a larger number of people with our Ambassadors on hand to take reservations for some of the sought after ‘treatments and diversions’ that will be on offer. And yes, I would agree that the spirit-free party allows us to deliver even more of a balanced Tales experience to visiting bartenders, that is a lovely way to look at it.

IFB: What’s your answer to those who say, ‘how can a spirits company not promote their spirits and what does that say about what it is they produce, i.e. alcohol”?

CV: We will still be promoting our brands at the party. We are lucky to have a rich portfolio of not only spirits, but brands to bring to life, not to mention our team of Ambassadors who embody those brands. Furthermore, we recognize that a well-rounded bartender should be proficient in many areas of beverage, including spirit-free cocktails so we actually anticipate an opportunity to educate and inspire at the party, we want bartenders to leave feeling motivated to improve or start a spirit free cocktail section on their menu, alongside alcoholic cocktails.

IFB: Could you have imagined doing something this bold in past years? If not, why is now the right time? If so, why did it take 16 years of Tales?

CV: We have always strived to be bold and interesting with our parties and always considered the needs of the industry each year. For example, In 2014 we recreated the travels and writings of Charles H Baker to expose a younger set of bartenders coming up in the industry another slice of cocktail culture history, last year our mission was to celebrate diversity in the industry which is why we chose Studio Be as our venue with its striking, statement making artwork. Unfortunately, there were complications at the last minute and we had to switch venues but carried on the idea of inclusion by celebrating Love Supreme as our theme. In the early years it was more about introducing our brands to bartenders as they were lesser known 12 or so years ago. This year it was all about ‘how does the industry need supporting now, this year?’ or ‘what can we do to contribute to a positive environment’ and the idea of really getting behind responsible consumption seemed very appropriate, something we are very passionate about.

IFB: Will the drinks be a mix of sweet and savory? What can we expect to be sipping?

CV: I am thrilled to be working with the very talented Julia Momose, from Chicago, on the drinks for the party. Julia has made a name for herself as an authority in spirit free cocktails, so I approached Julia to consult on the menu for the event. Julia has been working with our Ambassador team to come up with cocktails that are still inspired by our brands yet remain spirit free. There will be a range of styles and flavors and even some of everyone’s favorite New Orleans classic cocktails to try, all with this year’s twist! We will also be working with our dear friends at the Chef’s Garden using their beautiful and flavorsome ingredients and garnishes. Most top chefs around the world have The Chef’s Garden on their supplier list and it is high time that that is the case for bartenders too.

IFB: What sort of activations do you plan to have going on that will encourage conversation when people are used to having drinks in hand that provide if not just a conversation piece, but also some liquid courage?

CV: There will still be plenty of drinks in hand and nibbles, we will have music and dancing and we will have various stations throughout the party where our Ambassadors will bring our brands to life in a variety of ways fitting our theme. There will be photo opportunities, a game of two, a speech and, most importantly, lots of merriment!

IFB: Can you tell us where the portfolio party is being held and what the theme is?

CV: Our venue this year is the iconic Mardi Gras World www.mardigrasworld.com. We have a great space right on the water with half of the party tented outside and half inside in the cool air conditioned space. And our theme this year is……. We are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the cult movie ‘Cocktail’! our activations will bring to life certain scenes from the film as we follow the world’s most famous bartender from New York City, to the dreamy beaches of Jamaica.

IFB: Will there be animals?

CV: I couldn’t possibly say.

IFB: Is there anything else about the William Grant & Sons opening portfolio party being non-alcoholic or the entire slate of programing that is a fresh approach to a new world of Tales that we didn’t ask about and you want to tell us about?

CV: To surmise, just as in years past we are very excited to be coming to Tales to connect with, listen to, support and ultimately enjoy the company of our extended bartender family. Our simple gesture with the party is one of support, a break from the norm. People have come to look forward to this party for new ideas and creativity and we intend to deliver once more.

This party, along with other fresh additions to the schedule, delivers a signal loud and clear that there’s something new going on in our industry. A change that is long overdue; a positive message about balance in light of excess; enjoyment and appreciation; exploration and a little abstinence. And embracing every way of life that walks through this industry like you never have before.

Looking forward to seeing y’all down in New Orleans where we will be embracing one another, (and maybe a cow or Tom Cruise), and this brave new world.

Photo by Jennifer Mitchell Photography

Photo by Jennifer Mitchell Photography

NOTHING BUT FLOWERS: Spring’s Garden to Glass Moment

By Georgette Moger

Floral Cocktail Story by Georgette Moger - Nasturtium-Capucine (002)

Talk about a floral fantasy. This spring, cocktails made with fresh blossoms are spreading like wildflowers.  Whether plucking from their own backyards, from rooftop gardens, or just neighborly sharing of their fortuitous abundance, bartenders are serving up a bounty of blossoms to cocktail enthusiasts.  From restaurant bars to cocktail bars to hotel lobby and pool bars floral garnishes of jasmine flowers and hibiscus have been spotted on the west coast, while across the pond in London capucine capers take center stage and in the south of France a bounty of bougainvillea premiers in a punch.  All proving that no matter where you wield your tins and mixing glass the garden is merely an arm’s reach away.

Join us as we take a gander to see what’s sprouting up at home and abroad.

In Los Angeles, the neighborhood of Brentwood holds a veritable Eden of earthly delights. Nick Westbrook, In-House Mixologist at Farmshop, finds the humid nights of spring lingering with the scent of jasmine. “One night when I left work, I took a big indulgent inhale and babbled something about how much I love jasmine.” Farmshop’s sommelier, Aida Parsa, overheard Westbrook’s sigh, and brought him a beautiful bag of wild Persian jasmine from her mother’s backyard. Westbrook sensed cocktail magic on the horizon. “The flowers were so fragrant and the buds so vibrant, I created an infusion with some scented tea pearls from China. The tannins from the tea reinforce the subtle bitterness of the jasmine but the Lillet brings it back to the floral—the Porto Branco lends a touch of fruit.”

Floral Cocktail Story by Georgette Moger Nick Westbrook drink IMG_6873-02-01-01

Que Soraya Soraya, Nick Westbrook, Farmshop, Los Angeles, CA

2 oz. Jasmine-infused Soju vodka*

1 oz. Lillet Blanc

1 oz. Porto Branco, or white port

1 Jasmine ice globe*

1 thin peel of seasonal orange or small citrus, expressed and rubbed around the rim

 

Build all ingredients in a rocks glass, including jasmine ice globe. Before stirring the drink, take a paring knife to the part of the orange rind that was just peeled. Make a deeper cut into the citrus, peeling off a section with pulp. Squeeze that part over the drink, adding a touch of fresh juice. Stir with a bar spoon 10-15 times and serve.

 

Jasmine-Infused Soju

1 750 ml bottle Soju vodka, with 4 ounces reserved

1 tbsp. Chinese Jasmine Pearls

3 sprigs Wild Jasmine

Add Chinese jasmine pearls plus several sprigs of wild jasmine to the bottle of vodka. Strain after six hours. If the infusion is more bitter than floral, dilute with the reserved vodka until a balanced flavor is achieved.

 

Jasmine ice globes

Use a silicone mold and distilled water that has been boiled for several minutes and allowed to cool. Add the flowers to the molds and fill only half full with water. Once frozen, fill to the top and return to the freezer until solid.

**Photo by Molly Posey

 

Floral Cocktail Story by Georgette Moger Omni Rosebiscus vertical 06 for edit_Rosebiscus Cocktail_Omni

 

Every April, the city of Carlsbad is awash in blossoms whether pouring out of window boxes, spreading over sprawling resorts or tied in bundles at farmer’s markets. From April 5th to the 15th, local bars and restaurants have a chance to show off Carlsbad’s new blooms with the Petal to Plate Festival, where attendees have a chance to taste culinary creations that feature a flurry of fleurs. At the Omni La Costa, Director of Food & Beverage, Patrick Sarte creates a unique menu of libations, fresh from the flower patch. “It’s easy to be inspired by the lush landscape of the resort,” says Sarte. “For this drink I looked to our iconic Omni hibiscus logo and used the subtle aroma of rose water, the refreshing citrus twist in the vodka and a hint of lemon and hibiscus syrup—spring in a glass!”

 

 

Rosebiscus, Patrick Sarte, Omni La Costa, Carlsbad, CA

1 ¼ oz. Ketel One Citroen Vodka

¾ oz. St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur

½ oz.  Wild Hibiscus Company Flower Syrup

¼ oz. Rosewater

1 oz.  Lemon Juice

2 oz.  Club Soda

 

In a shaker, pour the vodka, St.-Germain, hibiscus syrup, rosewater and lemon juice. Fill with ice and shake vigorously. Fill Collins glass with ice. Strain the shaker into the glass and top with club soda. Stir and garnish with a hibiscus flower.

**Photo courtesy of Visit Carlsbad

 

Chefs Garden Flower - Nasturtium Flower- Red

In London, over at Mr. Fogg’s Gin Parlour where cream cakes and gin concoctions are the call of the day, Bartender Paul Carpenter has combined the delicate flavors of the season’s capucine flowers (Nasturtium) with the piney, meadowsweet botanicals of a Norwegian mountain gin. “This drink is basically a twist on a dry martini,” says Carpenter. “The gin itself is really fresh and herbal, the Cocchi Americano brings some sweetness and some texture to the drink, while the vermouth infusion adds depth and sharpness. The flavor of the capucine flowers lends a touch saltiness and a refined floral finish.”

 

Cousine Capucine, Mr. Fogg’s Gin Parlour, Paul Carpentier, London, UK

1½ oz. Vidda Torr Norway Gin

½ oz. infused dried capucine capers Dolin Dry Vermouth*

½ oz. Cocchi Americano

2 dashes Orange Bitters

 

In a mixing glass filled with ice, combine gin, vermouth infusion, Cocchi Americano and orange bitters. Stir until sufficiently chilled. Strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass. Float one capucine flower atop cocktail or garnish with a caper.

 

Capucine Vermouth Infusion

1/3 oz. of fresh, dried, non-treated Nasturtiums flowers

16 oz. of Dolin Dry Vermouth

Rinse flowers and dry thoroughly. In a glass container, combine flowers and vermouth. Store covered in refrigerator for three days, then filter into jar.

 

Casting aside tales of punsch-swigging buccaneers, Emmanuel Balestra, Manager of the Bar Galerie Le Fouquet at Le Majestic in Cannes, set out to create a refreshing, low ABV cocktail to keep spirits high while ensuring no one goes overboard. “Pirates were the first to mix tafia, the predecessor of rum, with fruit juices and sugar to create an explosive cocktail to serve young sailors in the Royal Navy to get them drunk,” says Balestra. “I recently revisited these ingredients to create a cocktail that was lighter and more refined, beginning by replacing the sugar with pineapple water. Using fresh leaves of rose geranium, abundant in the south of France, and at the Majestic, the floral aromas deliver a delicate, honey note.”

Floral Cocktail Story by Georgette Moger - Majestic Punch (002)

Majestic Punch, Bar Galerie du Fouquet’s Cannes, Emmanuel Balestra, Cannes, FR

2 oz. Grand Arôme white rum

3 oz. Pineapple Geranium Water*

Dried pineapple and rose geranium leaf garnish

Pour rum and pineapple water into a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir. Serve in an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with dried pineapple and rose geranium leaf.

 

For the pineapple water:

Cut a whole pineapple into cubes. Place into a 2-liter pot and cover with 2½ cups of cold mineral water. Add 1 teaspoon of fleur de sel. Cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add 25 green leaves of rose geranium. Stir. Cover and let sit for 24 hours. Filter into jars. Yields approximately 5 cups.

**Photo by Alban Couturier

 

GREETING GENEVER: Genever In Today’s Marketplace

By Frank Caiafa

Genever Frank Caifa cocktail photo flamingo title

Photo by Frank Caiafa

 

By the time Bols re-launched its Genever in the United States in 2008, it joined the ranks along side many other defunct, turn-of-the-last-century ingredients (old tom, navy strength gins, absinthe and even kummel (!) just to name a few) to finally make it to the menus of our most ambitious bars around the country. For someone like me, whose inspiration and guidebooks came from a sepia-toned era, Genever was going to fill a lot of holes recipe-wise and I think that its popularity has yet to be fully realized.

Rutte Genever bottle with cocktails photo by Margaret Pattillo

Photo by Margaret Pattillo

Brands as varied in flavor profiles and distillation processes as Bols, Rutte and the newly released Old Duff, all vie for the consumer’s attention. For those willing to be adventurous, there will be rewards. After all, by the middle of the 19th century, Genever was the most imported and consumed spirit in America until improved distilling techniques paved the way for more botanically led spirits to gain favor among the tippling public. In other words, it’s been hot before.

One connection I’d like to see go away is its forced relation to standard gins. Since it is a multi-grained distillate blended with malt wine, it bears more of a link to un-aged whisky than to any gin we are familiar with today (with the inclusion of juniper being the common denominator). It’s one of the things that have made it a tough item to market. I’d rather see it on a bar or in a retail shop somewhere between un-aged whiskey and blended Scotch. I think that the consumer interested in those products will have the shortest leap into the Genever category.

Education is a key issue as well. Although younger generations make the time to educate themselves to the point of geekdom, the older guard has had years of simply describing it as the ‘original gin’. Certainly there is some truth to that but I think that it does a disservice to its provenance and its potential.

As for the spirit itself, the Genever that makes it over to the U.S. is typically made in two styles; ‘Jonge’ (young), a 20th century distillation process resulting in a clear spirit utilizing a lower percentage of malt wine, and ‘Oude’ (old), the older practice using significantly more malt wine and botanicals in its distillation process, making for a light-whisky flavor profile and less neutral than the ‘jonge’ style. Both of these expressions have their uses for sure.

Old Duff bottle shot with Sother blurry in the background - DSC_0154 jpg

Photo by Greg Buda

Traditionally served ‘boilermaker’ style (neat, with a beer chaser – a personal favorite), many pre-prohibition cocktail recipes featured Genever as their lead ingredient and it’s easy to see why. It’s malty flavor profile lent a bit of complexity to uncomplicated cocktails that allowed it to shine. I am not in the least bit surprised upon visiting cocktail bars and seeing Genever paired in both simple and complex recipes. A ‘Jonge’ expression makes for an intriguing ‘Sour’ or paired with your favorite soda or tonic. A classic ‘Old Fashioned’ or ‘(Dutch) Negroni’, presented with an ‘Oude’ Genever as the star will definitely be added to your cocktail shortlist.

Genever can also add the ‘what is that?’ quality that most of the best recipes possess. Daring and creative bartenders like to be the first on the block and using an off-the-beaten-path ingredient like Genever is just the ticket to get the conversations going. With its classic, historically significant brands (Bols, Rutte) and its ‘indie cred’ up and comer (Old Duff), Genever is the type of product that can continue to be discovered for years to come.

 

divider-doodle

 

 

 

Genever Frank Caifa cocktail photo flamingo title

Photo by Frank Caiafa

Soho Flamingo

2 oz. Genever

1 oz. Pineapple Juice or Puree

3/4 oz. Fresh Lime Juice

1/4 oz. Grenadine (home-made preferred)

1 dash Peychaud’s Bitters

 

Method:   Add all ingredients to mixing glass (except bitters). Add ice and shake well.  Strain into chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with one long dash of Peychaud’s bitters across the top of drink.

The ‘Flamingo’ first appears in the cocktail book, “Bottom’s Up” (Saucier, 1951). It was originally rum based. The genever and Peychaud’s are my idea. Enjoy!

Frank Caiafa is the former beverage director of Peacock Alley and La Chine at The Waldorf Astoria NYC and author of “The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book” a 2017 James Beard Award Finalist. His F&B consultancy ‘Handle Bars NYC/Global Inc.’ can be found here:  handlebarsnyc.com

TRY ANOTHER SIP – PINOT GRIGIO

By Susannah Gold
Vineyard with road tracks courtesy of Terlato winesWelcome to the first in INSIDE F&B’S new grape series, “Try Another Sip.” This new column, written by wine expert Susannah Gold, sets out to explore a variety of interesting alternatives to some of the bland and unimaginative wine offerings that populate wine lists everywhere.

No better place to start than with the workhorse of white wines, Pinot Grigio. Though often considered an easy-sell wine with little personality this grape, if grown on optimal terroirs at higher elevations, and handled properly, can yield compelling, complex wines with lots of pizzazz and flavor.

When Pinot Grigio is great it offers up interesting textures and beautiful white stone fruit flavors and aromas. Yet these exciting Pinot Grigios are mostly absent, sadly. For many years, what we have seen is a race to the bottom for much of this varietal.

This varietal pops up on US wine lists most often under the Santa Margherita label. They can legitimately boast that theirs is the most widely selling Pinot Grigio here in the States. Other brands, trying to get in on the list, have not always sent competitively worthy wines.

However, there is a lot going on today with Pinot Grigio including wines made from single vineyards and growing grapes at higher elevations. Grapes grown at higher elevations tend to have higher acidity levels and the wines that are made from these carefully selected grapes have a better overall balance between acidity and alcohol. In turn, these factors are bringing better examples of Pinot Grigio to market.

Rather than emulating those ABC types who shy away from Chardonnay–Anything But Chardonnay-make time to seek out Pinot Grigio again. Otherwise you are sure to miss out on some great wine list opportunities. A well-made Pinot Grigio offers versatility to your wine list with an ability to please a variety of white wine drinkers. It can be made in many styles; some dry and others with considerable residual sugar. A lot of that depends on the winemaker and his/her regional traditions and preferences.

Terlato vineyards Friuli

Pinot Grigios are known by that name across the globe. In addition to finding it in Italy, lots of Pinot Grigio is also grown in California, Australia and Germany. When you find it in France, or in Oregon or in New Zealand, it is often called Pinot Gris. Yet it’s made from the same grape, a member of the Pinot Nero family. In these places outside of Italy, where it is called Pinot Gris, it seems to signal more careful attention to detail in the winemaking process. Is this a bias against traditionalism or just a new trend cloaking a familiar wine? Certainly, in places like Oregon or New Zealand they seem to be carefully signaling that they want to identify with French Pinot Gris rather than Italian Pinot Grigio.

That may soon change due to the new activity in Italy’s Pinot Grigio regions that warrant us taking another look at this familiar grape. Italy’s Pinot Grigio comes principally from three regions: the Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige. Recent trade tastings revealed numerous examples of memorable Pinot from the Colli Orientali del Friuli, Grave, and the Collio, as well as from the Isonzo DOC. These are much higher quality wines made with carefully selected grapes and close attention to vinification. In these areas, Pinot Grigio has a history and tradition. It is not grown merely because it is widely loved in the USA.

If you want to expand your US dining customers’ horizons what should you be keeping your eye on to find some of the most interesting Pinot Grigio wines available? For sure keep track of these two Pinot Grigio fanatics -Marco Simonit and Pierpaolo Sirch. Known as the “Super Pruners” because of the work they do worldwide on pruning techniques. They come from Friuli and are working to create a Pinot Grigio district in the Colli Orientali del Friuli.

They believe so strongly that Pinot Grigio grown on hills in their region is completely different than those mostly found on wine lists in the USA that they have bought more vineyards there and are expanding their holdings. Sirch family has had a winery for many years. Wines made on the hills tend to have soils with good drainage, and larger swings in thermal excursion between day and night and better exposition to the sun. Additionally, because it is harder to farm on the hills, producers tend to put grapes they care about there. Simonit and Sirch also believe that Pinot Grigio is a grape that does not necessarily produce better wines when yields as severely restricted.

Together with Terlato Imports, Simonit and Sirch, their partner in the new Pinot Grigio challenge, are working to create a signature variety for Friuli that will pay off for farmers and producers alike. And that will justify the slightly higher prices than Pinot Grigio typically commands.

Vineyard Terlato Vineyard Sirch handling vines

These new and improved Pinot Grigio wines are going to face a daunting initial challenge. They will be priced higher than the typical $10 range that guests are used to seeing in a by the glass program. How to justify it? Your bar and floor staff will have to enlighten your guests and show them that the wine is of higher quality and made from hand selected grapes. Producers are hopeful that consumers will pay a little more for a better quality of something they are already intimately familiar with once they understand what’s really in their glass.

This hand-sell educational process isn’t without precedent. It has worked. Alsace has done a terrific job in getting guests to pay a slightly higher price for a Pinot Gris by the glass. They have built an exceptional reputation thanks to the heavy hitters in the Alsatian wine world, who have long been in the USA and have undertaken great marketing campaigns. Hugel & Fils, the wine producer, is a case in point.

The Alsatian experience suggests that Pinot Gris can age well also, making it seem more valuable to customers than some young wine just weeks from being grapes on the vine. The Pinot Gris wines from Alsace generally tend to have more residual sugar than those from Italy. The acidity in Pinot Grigio can be pronounced. It’s also got some weight on the palate. In Italy, Pinot Grigio tends to have an almond note on the finish, like many Italian white wines.

We have all had plenty of glasses of Pinot Grigio that have been dull or insipid. This no longer has to be the case. It is time for beverage directors to rethink their Pinot Grigio by the glass offerings, and see if customers like some of the producers they may not know as well.
These new Pinot Grigio entries are exciting and racy and great for an aperitivo or a first course. So, while it is said that familiarity breed’s contempt, it is time to put preconceived notions aside because, luckily in the wine world, what is old can be new again.

Dining Less Dangerously

New gluten meter makes restaurant experiences easier to navigate
By Amanda Schuster

Nima Gluten Free response meter

“How allergic are you?” That’s a question commonly asked to those afflicted with gluten, celiac disease and other food allergies. For many, there is no such thing as a mild gluten sensitivity – if you have one, you really have one, and even the slightest speck of it can cause severe reactions, which often take the form of violent intestinal distress that can last for days. It’s a question Shireen Yates was tired of being asked whenever she inquired about foods she wanted to eat. The pleasure of eating something that looked delicious and sounded deceptively safe could often lead to those reactions.

Even if chefs are positive no ingredients containing gluten or soy go into a dish prepared for a guest with sensitivities, there might be other triggers within those ingredients or the kitchen itself they are unaware of. For this reason and countless others, eating food Yates didn’t have full control over had become a stressful game of gluten roulette. She knew she wasn’t alone with this predicament, so, along with a team of fellow MIT scientists, she invented Nima, a sensor that determines whether a food contains any level of gluten.

As the website states, the device is akin to a “pregnancy test for gluten.” Yates explains, “Imagine taking a sample of food, putting it in a one-time use capsule and using that capsule as a sensor. Then you’ll know if the food you are testing contains the proteins you’re looking for. There’s also an app component so you can share what you tested with a community of people. Imagine all these data points people are aggregating about whether something in a packaged food or a restaurant food contains gluten. We’re accumulating data that just doesn’t exist today.”

Nima Low Gluten indicator

She stresses, however, that although the tested morsel might be read as safe, that doesn’t necessarily mean that an entire plate or all of that muffin, etc. is guaranteed to be unaffected. It’s still a good place to start. One of the reasons that so much food comes into question is that the person preparing it doesn’t fully understand what causes the symptoms of Celiac or gluten allergies and might use an ingredient that contains the reaction-causing protein, such as an everyday soy sauce, in a dish that is otherwise free of other more obvious substances containing gluten, such as wheat flour. Or a dish might be prepared entirely with ingredients that are guaranteed to be gluten-free, but has been accidentally cross-contaminated with something that isn’t.

There has been quite a bit of testing since Nima was developed. “People who have been using it every step of the way have been giving us extensive feedback. What we’ve found through numerous tests is that many dishes that are presented as gluten-free have been coming up positive for gluten.”

Therefore, not only is Nima useful for anyone suffering from these sensitivities, it’s also a pragmatic tool for chefs and the packaged food industry to better understand the protocol for preparing something that is safely gluten-free. “Now that they have data suggesting foods that are supposed to be gluten-free aren’t, maybe restaurants should post a warning that they can’t guarantee cross-contamination. They should change the language of how they communicate what’s in their food,” says Yates.

Yates is also developing other devices that aid those with specific dietary concerns. “We’re in development for peanuts (our hope is to launch that by the end of next year), dairy, and basically all the major allergens that people care about. Moving beyond that, we’re also interested in pesticides and fats and salt and sugar – things in our diet that are causing some of the main health issues we’re experiencing. We just don’t have a lot of transparency about our food. We have a few data points from doctors’ offices and nutritionists, but connecting all of this is really important to control what we’re putting in our bodies. It gives us a better understanding about what’s in our food.”

For all of us, eating should be a pleasurable experience, and not a decision that teeters on a dangerous precipice. Hopefully the Nima sensor and subsequent devices can help restore a peaceful state of mind to diners when it comes to nutrition, and provide a better understanding to chefs and servers about food communicating with customers about allergies.

The product can be purchased here: https://shop.nimasensor.com/products/nima-starter-kit.

WHISKIES WASH OVER MANHATTAN

Not to Be Missed Annual Spirits Conference and Whisky Live Return to New York City
By Glenn Haussman

Whisky Live men in kilts drinking

Hey, whisk(e)y lovers, next week is the week to get your whisky (and spirits) on in New York City.

Whiskies and Spirits Conference 2016 logo

First, on February 23rd, come explore all things whiskies and spirits at the annual Whiskies and Spirits Conference where, along with tastes of winning North American whiskies awarded accolades from the World Whisky Awards sponsored by Whisky Magazine, you can expect no-holds barred conversations, tough questions answered with candor, and a roadmap to brand success at the annual Whiskies and Spirits Conference. This kind of unvarnished conversation that doesn’t happen anywhere else which explains why so many spirits industry leaders take the day off to gather here. and thoroughly explore the state and growth of their products along with challenges, successes and future plans for building, positioning, marketing and growing their brands.

Kicking off with an in depth state of the industry report, there’s also an array of leading speakers and panelists such as Heaven Hill, DISCUS, KDA, ACSA, along with marketing experts sharing and exploring trends and business tactics focusing on the leading players and the emerging upstarts.

According to David Sweet, President USA and Canada Whisky Live USA, Whiskies & Spirits Conference USA, and Sr. VP North America Whisky Magazine, this event is very different than anything else. Take its partnership with the Stave & Thief Bourbon Steward program, and the Malt Advocate program by Diageo, for example.

“These are the two premier instructional programs in the world that truly teach an in depth deconstruction of that specific spirit. The sessions will [demystify whisky] teach attendees how to develop a true appreciation of quality, craftsmanship,” says Sweet. “This next level of understanding has to be taught, it is not just developed over time.”

Whisky Live glass on empty black graded background

The following day, after all this information is absorbed and the World Whisky Awards’ winning brands have been feted and sipped, the doors open to Whisky Live, the world’s preeminent whisky tasking event. It touches down in New York for the 12th year in a row and is the must attend event of the year for whisky lovers, no matter what stage of your appreciation journey you may be on.

From whisky neophytes to those well versed in the spirit, the February 24th event is a not to be missed opportunity for a deeper educational experience wrapped around preeminent tastings from leading and emerging brands. Plus, there’s great food too. More intimate than other events of its kind, you’ll never see a more in depth event that also provides inside access to the business side of the whisky world.

With a four hour event there’s some time to slip away from your booth and share perspectives with fellow industry insiders who revel in this category’s success, identify and discuss challenges and are finding new ways to heighten the success of whisky with customers. There’s no better way than Whisky Live to tap into preeminent minds within the category and hear about brand perspectives and segment earnings; everyone is open to exchanging valuable information as the whisky flows. Be part of candid conversations while exploring insights and trends for this ever-burgeoning business. All while sipping great world whiskies and sharing them with potential customers and colleagues.

Also included is Authors’ Row, a brand new experience curated by Greenlight Bookstore, featuring whisky experts Lew Bryson, Peter Fornatale, Heather Greene, David Haskell, Dane Huckelbridge, Jaime Joyce, Fred Minnick, Clay Risen, and Noah Rothbaum, who are signing copies of their latest books which are available at the show. Plus pop-ups from local bars Daddy-O, American Whiskey, Fool’s Gold, Ward III and others to sample signature cocktails and private label pours.

Whisky Live which takes place at Chelsea Piers Pier 60 offers more than 300 of the world’s best whiskies side by side and hear the stories behind them as told by master distillers, brand ambassadors and industry experts.

VIP Tickets to Whisky Live New York are $189 and include early access at 5:30 PM, an exclusive VIP tasting room with select exclusive bottlings available throughout the night (many not readily available in the US market), a signature, cut crystal Glencairn tasting glass, event program and a one-year subscription to Whisky Magazine.

General admission tickets are priced at $139 and for those ticket holders, doors open at 6 PM. The ticket price includes an event program and a souvenir Glencairn tasting glass.

For more information, and to remain updated on Master Class topics and new exhibitors, please visit the New York page at www.whiskyliveusa.com.

For more information about the annual Whiskies and Spirits Conference, please visit www.whiskiesandspiritsusa.com.

OH HOLY NIGHT, IT’S NOT TOO LATE

Last minute holiday gifts that still say “I care”
By Francine Cohen

Lewis Bag Sample Pic 1 with bottle in it.jpg

People, do not despair.

Yes, Christmas is just 48 hours away, and yes that means that unless you have an in with the big guy in the red suit you’ve probably blown it in terms of getting something shipped to you to give to your loved ones this holiday. But there’s still a couple of great options for holiday gifts you can find locally as long as you get yourself to a liquor store or a book store before they close tomorrow evening.

First up (because we know you probably need a drink if you’re still out there looking for Christmas presents), the Ford’s Gin Lewis Bag. It’s snazzy, it’s handy, it’s functional, it’s a great educational gift to give and share your love of gin (and other spirits) with family and friends, AND it can be used over and over and over again for making great cocktails or just getting out some aggression.

The Lewis bag, a canvas ice crushing vessel that had a long history of use and was revived and popularized in the 1990s by the Lewis Company, is more than just a thoughtful and useful gift for the bartender in your life. It’s also good for the planet. Simon Ford shares, ” Something that upsets me is the amount of un-necesscary packaging there is in the spirits industry, especially during the holidays, so I wanted to make a VAP that was an example of something that could be reused rather than one that will most likely end up in the trash once it is opened. I have worked in liquor stores and about half of the boxes that housed bottles would end up in the trash before they had even left the store and almost every gift box that is delivered to a bar will end up in the trash. I do understand that they look nice and make for nice packaging for gifts at this time of year especially for the luxury spirits but for The 86 Co I will always try and push ourselves to come up with packaging ideas that can be reused and failing that recycled whenever possible and our first attempt at a VAP is to put Fords Gin in a Lewis bag/Canvas Wick Ice Bag.”

He continues, “The copy on the bag reads… “The Lewis Bag was a staple of 19th century bartending and remains one of the most effective ways to crush ice for your drinks at home. Simply fill the bag halfway with cubes and smash them with a wooden mallet or even a rolling pin. The canvas wicks away moisture , resulting in colder ice pieces that are less apt to water down your drink. Perfect for Juleps and Smashes.” We have also placed the recipe for a Gin Julep on the bag (and in Chicago we have had a local bartender give us a recipe for the bags that will be distributed there.)”

A Lewis bag…what a smashing gift idea!

SG book gotham 7

Next, for the readers (and eaters) in your life: Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover’s Companion to New York City. This encyclopedic history of all things food and drink that make NYC the culinary destination that it is, Savoring Gotham came together in 568 entries across 760 pages written by 174 authors (including yours truly). Want to explore the history of restaurants like Delmonico, 21 Club, and Barney Greengrass? Need to delve further into the history of bars and cocktails, charities like Citymeals on Wheels, and people like Ruth Reichl, Bob Lape, and others who have been an integral part of the city’s food & restaurant scene so that you’re the smartest foodie at your next pop-up dinner?

Take a walk to your favorite bookstore (or order here at a 30% discount if you don’t need it immediately–use code ADFLYK2 at https://global.oup.com/academic/product/savoring-gotham-9780199397020?cc=us&lang=en& ) for this delicious read.

And, for five lucky www.insidefandb.com readers, we’ve got copies of this to give away. Be the first five people to email us with the answers to the following questions: How many entries in the book? How many authors contributed? Can you name one of the authors? Where is Barney Greengrass located? Whom does Citymeals on Wheels support/what do they do? Send your answers to: francinecohen@insidefandb.com and books will be on their way to you shortly.

Best wishes for a delicious holiday season and a wonderful new year!