Posts Tagged ‘Audrey Saunders’

SUPPORT THE RACK!

Monday, May 28th, 2012

The Speed Rack Finals in New York City
By Amanda Schuster
Photos courtesy of Speed Rack

On Thursday, May 10th, Yael Vengroff (Miss Speed Rack NYC, and now a Houston, Texas resident) won the title of Miss Speed Rack 2012 to the collective rapture of what seemed like the entire US drinks community, all gathered at the Prince George Ballroom. In the final round, Vengroff narrowly beat fellow Texan Alba Huerta in a tense smackdown.

While the showing on the stage was great, so were the onlookers, other participants, competitors and the audience. Suffice it to say, if there had been some sort of unspeakable catasclysmic event there, much of the country would go awfully thirsty. The biggest names in the bar business were representing as judges, barbacks, and sponsors, not to mention those who attended simply to cheer on their friends and colleagues to support the cause.

The cause goes far beyond Speed Rack’s mission of showcasing some of the best talent possessing XX chromosomes in the country, it also raises significant funds for breast cancer prevention, education and research. To date, $68,500.00. This event, which was created and executed by Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix, two of the founding members of the New York chapter of LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails), has built a nationwide community while doing an outstanding job of spotlighting the female bartenders who are pivotal forces behind our new golden era of cocktail culture. Without people like them, and pioneers such as bar owners and Speed Rack event judges Julie Reiner and Audrey Saunders, a lot of us would still be consuming syrupy neon sludge from a gun as our only option, and probably not having too much fun where we drink it either.

For decades, women have worked hard to achieve this level of respect in the bartending community. Physically seeing the culmination of this progress together in one place proves how integral women have been to this business. Said Reiner as the night began, “We’ve come a long way, baby! Now there’s so many of you and it’s so inspiring. [I’m] So proud of Ivy and Lynnette.”

In a relatively short amount of time, Marrero and Mix have done a tremendous job assembling this level of talent and garnering supporters. As judge Dale DeGroff pointed out during the intros, “This is the biggest thing [of its kind] in America right now.” Degroff, who is considered one of the most important mentors in the business, has often pointed out that women are key facets of creating successful bar communities with their instinctive talents for creating recipes and cultivating a welcoming atmosphere for guests.

The Speed Rack tour was a guest in 10 key cities around the country. In each town they visited local female bartenders were put to the test to determine which was the fastest and who would travel to New York to compete in the final showdown. Competitors raced head-to-head to prepare four cocktails, one for each of the judges.

Sponsored brands donated the ingredients, and also libations with which audience members sipped along with Speed Rack finale judges Reiner, Saunders, and DeGroff plus Chopped judge, and first time cocktail competition judge, Chef Amanda Freitag.

Top talents also contributed barbacking duties, including Sean Kenyon (Denver), Ricky Gomez (Portland), Jeff Bell (NYC), Dominic Venegas (NYC), Michael Neff (NYC), Toby Maloney (NYC), Steve Schneider-Hadzismajlovic and Daniel de Oliveira (Chicago) while industry instigators Simon Ford and Chris Patino, clad in all white suits, kept the proceedings, er, staying alive, as emcees.

The cocktails were randomly chosen by the judges from a list of fifty standard recipes. Speed counts, but so does flavor and technique. Saunders’ critique can be especially discerning (said of a garnish in Round One: “…it was like the sinking of the Titanic!”), which is why she announced that once the competition is over, she can revert to a more nurturing style of support and encouragement. “How this thing has grown! I’m looking forward to going easier on you. I want to see some of you ladies step up and own your own bars.”

Freitag, who originates from solely a culinary background, was a little concerned for her alcohol tolerance. “I’m honored to be here. If you see me later in the crowd and I’m tipsy, forgive me.” For the record, she was seen later in the crowd, and she held up just great.

The great were separated from the merely great in the preliminary rounds which narrowed the competition down from sixteen to eight. Even a simple Daiquiri, which is, as Degroff called it, a “naked drink,” can show certain flaws, and potentially knock someone out. There were then four qualifying rounds before the two semifinals.

Despite a long, boozy night that lasted over five hours, the crowd kept its enthusiasm burning strong, with snacks from local businesses Viktor and Spoils, Pies ‘n’ Thighs, Clover Club and Steve’s Ice Cream, and the palpable energy re-fueled by those working the sidelines. The Ladies of Lillet in particular, among them brand ambassadors Amanda Boccato and Charlotte Voisey, should get some sort of Speed Goddess achievement award for maintaining their roller derby finest (and big smiles to match) throughout the night.

The night ended with a champagne toast (of sorts) to Yael. Congratulations, Yael! And congratulations to every last person who was involved in Speed Rack nationwide. Every last one of you is a winner as it seems impossible that any other industry measures up to the bartending community’s commitment to celebrate the hearts, minds and breasts of so many.

JAMES BEARD TURNS 25

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

By Francine Cohen and Victoria Ruvolo

“…showers bring May flowers.” And, the James Beard Awards.

Yes, it’s that time again. Time to see who steps onto the stage at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall to accept the medal that announces to the hospitality industry that he (or she) is at the top of their game.

About a month ago the 2012 James Beard award nominees were announced, leaving the food world all a buzz. And the chatter will last up until late in the evening of May 7th, when the last award has been handed out and the last morsel of food created by the country’s best chefs and the last drop of champagne has been savored by the winners.

In celebrating the 25th anniversary of the foundation, and 23 years of bestowing these awards, it is evident that the James Beard Foundation is as much a winner as any of the stellar culinary and beverage artists who got a nod. James Beard Foundation President, Susan Ungaro, notes, “This year is the 25th anniversary of the foundation. And the 23rd year of the awards. Our awards committee wanted this year’s event to celebrate 25 years of American food at its best and salute the legacy of James Beard. Most notably, after our ceremony at Avery Fisher Hall, the grand tasting will feature chefs from all over the country each creating a recipe from one of James Beard’s cookbooks. He was not only a restaurant advisor/consultant, but also a mentor to a number of great restaurant owners and chefs; many of whom went on to win.”

She continues, “We are really excited about the fact that we’re playing up James Beard’s role in the development of the food world. How prescient he was

Read the rest of this entry »

SUPER SIPS

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Memorable cocktails that rise to the top of the list
Stories curated by and photos by Jason Rowan (except where noted)

Photo by Virginia Miller

Most publications are busy prognosticating; focused on the year ahead, projecting trends and anticipating the future. But at INSIDE F&B we decided to take a moment before rushing pell-mell into 2012 and invite you to join us in relieving some stress that always comes with looking ahead. Instead, stop and smell the proverbial roses as we take a look back at some of the spirit industry’s best drinks tasted around the world.

Simon McGoram, Drinks Editor, Australian Bartender Magazine (boozebraggart.blogspot.com/)

The best drink I had all year had to come from one of the more unlikely places in Australia – Katoomba in the Blue Mountians in NSW. Once upon a time it was known as Sydney’s playground – especially during the roaring twenties with Gatsby-like characters parading around in finery. Now the place attracts only a few weekend tourists with its beautiful art deco cafes and hotels remaining for the large part empty and falling into disrepair.

I was up there with my partner for a Valentine’s Day getaway – with February being the middle of summer down under we were expecting swelter. Instead a cool mist hung eerily over the whole town as we walked up the steps of the Carrington Hotel for a pre-prandial tipple. The hotel by the way looks like something out of The Shinning and sure enough during the middle of the week the place was empty and spooky.

We were sat next to a roaring fire in an anteroom next to the grand 1930s ballroom. I was expecting that they might manage a decent G&T but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the cocktail offering. I ordered an Old Cuban – an Audrey Saunders masterpiece that had somehow found its way to this country town. My partner had a Bramble – a Dick Bradsell modern classic from London. The drinks were good. Not exceptional. bBut it was the more the fact that in rural Australia I could order drinks created by the best bartenders of London and New York whilst being transported to almost untouched art deco setting. I thought truly cocktail culture has come of age and perhaps one of America’s greatest inventions can be enjoyed at all ends of the earth.

Stephen Myers, Illegal Mezcal
(www.ilegalmezcal.com)

Drinking a Negroni at an outdoor cafe with a beautiful girl and a great friend on the Sardinian coast as the sun set over a Phoenician ruin and a lighthouse. Rather than the 1:1:1 ratio of the drink on its own it was all the elements of the time, place, people and the great drink itself that made it my best drink for 2011.

Philip Gandevia, cocktail bartender, Eau De Vie, Sydney
(eaudevie.com.au/)

We were having a meeting at Eau De Vie, going over our recipes and making sure that our techniques were uniform. We mentioned a Bijou (equal parts gin, Dolin and Chartreuse, orange twist and discard) and I made a casual statement that of course it was always stirred. One of our team, Taka Shino, demurred, saying that he always shakes his. Not only was this interesting in terms of discovering an inconsistency but it was also something I’d never entertained for this cocktail. “Well, let’s try them,” I said and we made side-by side identical Bijous, mine stirred and his shaken. When we tasted them I was fairly shocked to discover that I preferred the shaken. It was an excellent reminder that the junior bartender can show the senior bartender something

Read the rest of this entry »

ROCKS STARS – TALES OF THE COCKTAIL 2011

Friday, August 19th, 2011

A Few Of My Favorite Things
By David Ransom

Photo by Charles Steadman

Once again this past July in New Orleans, Mrs. And Mr. Cocktail (aka Ann & Paul Tuennerman) put on what those of us in the business have affectionately come to consider the triathlon of liver survival (drink-filled seminars, drink-filled tasting rooms, and drink-filled dinners and parties… not to mention the obligatory night-ending swing through Old Absinthe House on Rue Bourbon every night just to prove you didn’t expire during the course of the day) that is Tales of the Cocktail (www.talesofthecocktail.com).

Having just completed its ninth year, Tales has grown from a tiny industry-focused event that brought the nation’s top bartenders together for a few days of camaraderie, events, and parties, into a truly international symposium, complete with a “Spirited Awards” program (like the movie industry’s Oscars) that hands out honors to establishments and industry leaders from around the world, and now brings in professionals and consumers from all over the globe to celebrate the world of cocktails in the city that created them.

Rocks Stars and I feel honored to be given the chance to attend each year, and as always, I’m thrilled to be able to share some of my experiences…now that I have recovered enough to be able to write again…

So without further ado, here are a few of my favorite things from this year’s Tales, both good and bad, but really all good, as nothing that includes having a well-crafted drink could ever really be bad… and in no particular order:

Best Hosts Under Pressure: Ann & Paul Tuennerman. Nine years into it, Tales could probably have run itself, but Ann and Paul were everywhere. Every event. Every day. Every night. What amazes me about this is that Paul was recovering from a health scare and had just spent time in the hospital. I have to tip my hat to these two intrepid souls for not staying in the background and recuperating at home while “their baby” was staged. Quite to the contrary, they were all over the place from Tuesday’s Media Welcome Party at Arnaud’s French 75 bar (beautifully run by Chris Hannah, one of NOLA’s finest drinks-smiths – www.arnaudsrestaurant.com),to the final Sunday Brunch with Mr. & Mrs. Cocktail, and everywhere in between. I even ran into Paul solo, visibly tired yet surely on the mend, at the Suntory Suite (www.suntory.com) one afternoon where we chatted on the balcony overlooking Bourbon Street while enjoying a glass of Japan’s finest single malt.

Read the rest of this entry »

THE NOSE KNOWS

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Exploring the Alchemy of Taste and Smell

Guests may first eat with their eyes, but their satisfaction with what goes into their mouths is directly correlated to what they smell as the aromas from their first bite or sip wafts up to their nose.

How are you considering the impact that smell has on taste, memory, culture and nature as you think through each dish? Do you consider the importance of aroma and its impact on your guest’s food and drink experiences?

Do you want to learn more about how to create that elevated guest experience that brings them back again and again? You can this weekend at The Alchemy of Taste and Smell – a seminar dedicated to the exploration of creativity in cooking, the composite nature of flavors with a crucial focus on scents.

Event creator, Daniel Patterson says, “The reality is, that what we smell comprises at least 80% of taste and flavor. We’re looking to provide people with a better understanding of that.”

The understanding culminates on Saturday night with an experimental seven course meal that illuminates the explicit connection between what we smell and what we taste. Expect each of the seven chefs presenting their course to wow you with some culinary sleight of hand tricks.

Join Mandy Aftel (Owner, Aftelier Perfumes; Author), Dave Arnold (Director of Culinary Technology, FCI), David Chang (Chef/Owner, Momofuku, ** Michelin Stars for Ko, World’s 50 Best Restaurants #26 for Ssam Bar), Bill Corbett (Pastry Chef, Coi), Wylie Dufresne (Chef/Owner WD-50, * Michelin Star, World’s 50 Best Restaurants #45), Johnny Iuzzini (Pastry Chef, Jean-Georges, *** Michelin Stars), Harold McGee (Author and NY Times Columnist), George Mendes (Chef/Owner, Aldea), Nils Noren (Vice President of Culinary and Pastry Arts at The International Culinary Center), Daniel Patterson (Chef/Owner Coi, ** Michelin Stars), Audrey Saunders (Mixologist, Owner Pegu Club), Alexander Talbot and Aki Kamozawa (Chefs and Authors, Ideas In Food) for two days as chefs and mixologists gather to dine, investigate, and explore together the importance of aromatics and how it integrates into the food & beverage experience.

Below is the program, with pricing. Tickets are available at: www.astorcenternyc.com/shopping-cart.ac

Friday Evening

5:00 p.m:
Dave Arnold and Audrey Saunders
Demonstration: Using Aroma in Cocktails (The Study, up to 36 people) $55

Dave Arnold and Audrey Saunders will demonstrate how they use aroma in cocktails, including distillations, essential oils and infusions.

7:00 – 10:00 p.m:
Opening Party (The Lounge and The Gallery, up to 250 people) $95
Creative cocktails by Dave Arnold and Audrey Saunders
Participating Chefs: David Chang, Alexander Talbot and Aki Kamozawa, Daniel Patterson, Nils Noren, Bill Corbett

The party will feature stations spread throughout the two rooms, with chefs and mixologists on display, making food and cocktails. There will be some passed food as well, and white and red wines will also be served.

Read the rest of this entry »

ROCKS STARS

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Julie Reiner
By David Ransom

Julie Reiner’s favorite spirit is not what you probably think it is. As she’s a native of Hawaii, one would think that Julie’s dream drink would include exotic ingredients like pineapple, star fruit, and rum, and inspire visions of far off places like the north shore of Kauai or the white sand beaches of Fiji. However, while she does show a deft hand at creating masterful libations reminiscent of Gauguin’s South Pacific, her personal go-to drink is far more mainland than that. But rather than let the cat out of the bag in my own words, I think it may be best to let Julie tell us in hers…later.

As one of the world’s most accomplished and respected mixologists, Julie has helped define an industry, and along the way, built herself a mini empire of trendsetting cocktail bars that have been emulated countless times around the world. Strange as it may seem, while growing up the last thing Julie ever thought was that she’d end up in the business she’s in, or that she’d play such a major role in pioneering what we now call the world’s “cocktail culture.” Yet that’s what she’s done, and it may have been inadvertently due to the fact that she gets bored easily.

Spend some time with her, and one almost immediately notices that Julie has a somewhat restless spirit, visibly apparent in her mannerisms and constant need to out-do her last success and not rest on her laurels. So, it may not be such a stretch to say that boredom played a key role in making her who she is today, as lack of inspiration invariably leads one to want to change a situation to the way they feel it should be. And this is certainly true in Julie.

Like many young people first starting out in the job world, she was first drawn to the hospitality industry for the benefits it offered; like flexible hours, excitement, and quick money. Her first job, as a cocktail waitress at the Hotrod Café on Honolulu’s famed Waikiki Beach, was the perfect vehicle for this, and she did well there, but never dreamed of actually pursuing it as a career path. However, life has a strange way of dictating to us what we are born to do; and we are powerless to change it, no matter how hard we try. Calvin called it predestination, Aristotle and Taylor called it fatalism, and luckily for us, Julie’s experience at Hotrod Café lit an internal spark that remained burning no matter how hard she tried to extinguish it. And it kept coming back to life until she finally gave in and let it blaze the path to her future.

After the Hotrod Café, college was in her immediate future and, having spent her formative years on Oahu, and feeling there was lots more world to see, she decided to go to school as far from Hawaii

Read the rest of this entry »

AT FULL SAIL

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Proof That Overproof Is What You Need
By Ted Henwood

Photo courtesy of Haus Alpenz

With the recent release of the last of the Black Tot (rum rations distributed to British Sailors through July 31, 1970) our thoughts turn to figuring out how to get our hands on some of this spirit which holds an iconic (and now expensive) place in beverage history. As we contemplate affording this purchase we think back to July in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail 2010, the annual cocktail conference which brings together the best and greatest of the cocktail, spirits, and tastemakers’ industry to the city that has survived and thrives. It was here that we were treated to a seminar titled At Full Sail: The History and Application of Spirits at Proof and Overproof.

Led by the founder of Haus Alpenz, Eric Seed, a lover and re-creator of authentic spirits and liqueurs, we embarked on what demonstrated to be a gentle gaze at the pyrotechnics and genesis of liquor distribution.
Seed remarked, “We are hard wired for the taste of vanilla and milk.” And thus, the seminar began. In light of Seed’s condemnation of our desire for the soft and sweet palate pleasers you might ask overproof spirits, why? And why no longer cask strength? And wherein does the difference lie? Seed’s opening comments make it evident that his fight in part is to cut that wire at every turn, or at least begin to rewire that beast in us. One taste of the “Waters of Life” he has resurrected, and you will soon become one of the converted.

But before conversion it’s important to lay out the well known facts. So, let’s get simple; we know the amount of alcohol in any given spirit is indicated by proof, percentage or ABV. Stateside, proof is really the commonly known mark. Certainly almost everyone knows that proof denotes twice the percentage of alcohol. Yet how did this come to be?

Well, the answer has to do with the “work-hard play-hard” motto of the open seas, when ships were powered by three sheets flapping, and the boys pulling the ropes taut knew how to celebrate their unfettered creed. These sailors were paid in part with hard liquor, and knowing the value of a stiff drink, they developed a method to ensure their daily ration had not been made water-weaker by the ship’s bursar: apply gunpowder!

They’d take a dram of hooch and spill it into a saucer, shake a small cone of decent black powder into that shallow little pool, and touch it with a struck match. If a bright blaze, pop, and eruption of smoke ensues, they’d “proved”

Read the rest of this entry »

ROCKS STARS – TALES OF THE COCKTAIL 2010 TOP 5

Friday, July 30th, 2010

By David Ransom

Photo courtesy of Tales of the Cocktail

Rules are made to be broken, and while Rocks Stars, originally conceived as a profile column focusing on “Movers and Shakers” in the sprits industry, will for all intents and purposes remain that way, from time to time I may just throw in some thoughts on experiences I have along the spirits trail that I find need some play.

To that effect, I would like to bang a few keys on the keyboard, updating you on this year’s 8th Annual Tales of the Cocktail conference held in New Orleans this past hot and steamy week, by bringing to light what I consider to be the week’s top five events:

Here we go, in no particular order, except the last one:

5. Wednesday evening’s Beefeater Welcome party. Held in the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center, This “welcome party” had it all: Alice in Wonderland characters floating through the room, trapeze artists floating through the air, and some beautiful cocktails with the “always classic” Beefeater gin, made by some of the world’s great bartenders, like Jamie Gordon and Audrey Saunders, while others, like Tony Abou-Ganim and Dale DeGroff roamed the room. A great way to kick into the week’s festivities.

Read the rest of this entry »