Posts Tagged ‘Employees Only’

ONE TALE OF THE NEW TALES OF THE COCKTAIL

Friday, July 13th, 2018

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

TALES OF THE COCKTAIL® ANNOUNCES TOP FOUR FINALISTS FOR THE 8TH ANNUAL SPIRITED AWARDS®

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Tales of the Cocktail 2014 Logo with New Orleans

Coming to you from a webcam in an apartment in NYC Simon Ford and Jacob Briars initiated the inaugural broadcast of the top four finalists in each category of the 2014 Spirited Awards. As Ford notes, “Millions tune in for the Oscars, and we are going the same route for bars. There are more bartenders than actors [out there].”

And speaking of more…Briars explains, “This was the biggest and most comprehensive Tales Awards nominations pool ever.” With over 2,000 individual nominations and over 50 countries being represented with at least one nominee, the 135 judges were hard pressed to whittle it down to a list of four per category. Let’s see who we’ll be cheering on Saturday night at Tales during the Black and White themed 8th Annual Spirited Awards® show (although you know you’re all winners).

AMERICAN CATEGORIES:
American Bartender of the Year
• Jeff Bell (New York)
• Marcovaldo Dionysos (San Francisco)
• Bobby Heugel (Houston)
• Sean Kenyon (Denver)

Best American Brand Ambassador
• Brooke Arthur (House Spirits)
• Chris Patino (Pernod Ricard USA Portfolio)
• Neyah White (Suntory Japanese Whiskies)
• Angus Winchester (Tanqueray Gin)

Best American Cocktail Bar
• canon (Seattle)
• The Dead Rabbit (New York)
• Smuggler’s Cove (San Francisco)
• Williams & Graham (Denver)

Best American High Volume Cocktail Bar
• Employees Only (New York)
• Honeycut (Los Angeles)
• Polite Provisions (San Diego)
• Trick Dog (San Francisco)

Best American Restaurant Bar
• Clyde Common (Portland)
• Gramercy Tavern (New York)
• The NoMad (New York)
• nopa (San Francisco)

Best American Hotel Bar
• Clyde Common (Portland)
• The Hawthorne (Boston)
• Sable Kitchen & Bar (Chicago)
• The Spare Room (Los Angeles)

Read the rest of this entry »

BRAIN FOOD – BOOZE FOR BABES

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Give Women What They Want. Not What You Think They Need.
By Francine Cohen

Booze for Babes cover image.jpg

Booze for Babes: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Drinking Spirit Right, and its author Kayleigh Kulp, is ready to be your agent of change if you let it/her be.

This soon to be published tome that will quickly become a must read for the Skinny Girl/whipped cream vodka set is destined to turn things around for female drinkers everywhere; much as it did for Kulp. The author began as an uninformed imbiber who admits, “I really didn’t have any preferences. I was a victim of that marketing – I would drink bottled cocktails and all the flavored vodkas that are the weird candy flavors. It was because I didn’t know enough to care.” Now, like you, she knows plenty. And she cares!

This appreciation began on a DISCUS (Distilled Spirits Council of the United States – www.discus.org) trip to visit whiskey country for a travel story she had been assigned. There, her eyes were opened. It was the first time she’d ever experienced whiskey production and she notes, “There was such an impact being able to see how it was made and see all the products. This was a whole new world of exploration that I had already done with food and wine but never the brown spirits my husband had been drinking for example.”

She continues, “I came back home and discovered my favorite whiskeys and in talking to my girlfriends about this new passion and drinking whiskey while out with them they were asking, ‘why are you drinking whiskey?’ and so I wondered why do I and my girlfriends have this issue and my husband his friends don’t?”

Read the rest of this entry »

BRAIN FOOD – CRAFT COCKTAILS

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Brian Van Flandern’s Sophomore Book – Craft Cocktails – Debuts With Much Fanfare
By Francine Cohen

Photo courtesy of Assouline

Photo courtesy of Assouline

Craft. Think about that term in relation to furniture makers and you conjure up a small workshop with myriad tools; each with their own unique purpose. Each wielded by an artisan who has dedicated many years to mastering the intricate details that go into making his final product a work of art. The craft of the bartender is no different. And nothing illustrates this more beautifully than Brian Van Flandern’s second cocktail book which includes 50 of his own recipes plus 20 from the likes of Jim Meehan, James Menite, Eryn Reece, Julie Reiner, Dushan Zaric and other professionals from Clover Club, Death & Co., Employees Only, and PDT – the stunningly photographed Craft Cocktails.

Van Flandern explains how Craft Cocktails, his second book, came to life, “After the amazing success of Vintage Cocktails I wanted to release a book that would be appreciated by the multitude of fellow mixologist but still be accessible to the masses. Vintage Cocktails was released in late 2009. It won Best Cocktail Book of the Year 2010 from the Gourmand Cookbook Awards in Paris. It is now in its fifth printing and is distributed in dozens of countries throughout the world. Even though the recipes are simple classics, I was thrilled that so many industry professionals really loved the layout and design of the book. When I left Michelin Three Star Restaurant Per Se in 2007, I wanted to write a book showcasing the recipes that

Read the rest of this entry »

WHO CARES IF YOU “LIKE” ME

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Taking the focus from being liked to being used
By Francine Cohen

Pinas in oven tight shot

The other night I found myself at the bar at Employees Only. The purpose was tri-fold; I needed to taste the entire range of spirits from the newly launched 86 Company as a story about them was pending, I hadn’t seen Dev Johnson in far too long and a semi-proper catch up was in order, and my aunt was visiting from out of town and it had been even longer since I’d seen her and had any sort of quality conversation that wasn’t overshadowed by the entire family sitting around a Thanksgiving dinner table and engaged in less intimate chatter.

So, at 6:00 PM on the nose we entered the hushed tones of EO (www.employeesonlynyc.com). Having been there myriad times, but only one other when it was this empty, it was a whole other place but one that I imagined filled with people. People coming from after work around the corner with their friends in accounting, neighbors popping in on their way home, and the expected industry folks paying homage to the bar for reasons as varied as just wanting a good cocktail to hoping to ply their wares and/or support an account.

In the quiet of the first hour my aunt and I were able to catch up, Dev and I reminisced a bit, and Vincent Vitek made us laugh. Suddenly, right next to me sat three Mexican gentlemen. There why? To pay homage to the institution known as EO and graciously introduce their line of mezcals. Interesting fellows, all, and, as happens in bars, our two parties melded and we five fell into conversation and discovered we had a lot to talk about that went well beyond the booze business (which is refreshing); and, of course, their Wahaka mezcal came out for me to taste (www.wahakamezcal.com).

Far different from the mezcal I usually order, both the ones I tasted last night opened up a whole new appreciation for a different kind of terroir association. The first immediately hit me as having a mustiness to it; as if the smoke flavor that generally gets imparted during production had been muffled by cotton wool. Not offensive, just that that was my gut reaction. One person mentioned above found it oily, another liked it. The second mezcal I tried made me feel as if the spirit were very vertical. Not just a long finish, a descriptor which to me means it lingers and coats the inside of your cheeks, but actually as if there was a very directed column of mezcal running down the middle of my tongue and picking up those spicier flavor receptors along the way.

Interesting to discover later that the second mezcal was made from a wild agave which, unlike the Weber Blue with which we make tequila, the wild agave harvested for this mezcal was tall and had a trunk. Hence the vertical? Who knows! I certainly can’t claim to be an all knowing botanist who would have immediately recognized that the origins of this liquor came from a taller standing plant and that’s why it resonated “vertical”; I just think that’s how it made me feel and so that’s what came out of my mouth when asked.

When Dev asked what I thought about the mezcals my immediate and honest reaction was to say that there were elements of it I liked and elements of it I didn’t. I wasn’t jumping up and down and raving about how wonderful they were. It wasn’t that I DIDN’T enjoy them, but I wasn’t going to unequivocally give these spirits I’d just tasted a whole hearted two thumbs up and a big snap. But you know what? That’s okay.

I felt the same way about the vodka, gin, rum and tequila I tasted from the 86 Company’s line (www.86co.com). They make things I would drink on its own (thank you Cana Brava) and things I’d like to sip mixed into a cocktail. But that’s just my opinion; though it has some validity given that the 86 Co. designed their spirits for cocktails. The more I taste the more I believe that it’s not so important whether or not I “like” it. This is not a popularity test. For me, despite the fact that I don’t run a bar, it’s the application that is important. Remembering that each spirit can be a tool. And that you need lots of tools in your tool belt to build a house. One of them may be the 86 Company’s products, or you might reach for Wahaka mezcals. Some you may like to use, others you have no use for at all. Chefs like Rick Bayless (www.rickbayless.com/restaurants) and Jose Andres (www.oyamel.com) who both carry Wahaka in their restaurant bars understand this. So do Angelo Sosa and his bar manager Josh Wortman over at Anejo (www.anejonyc.com). Like every ingredient they bring into the kitchen they understand that spirit doesn’t fit into every drink or every bar.

Appreciating how they can is what sets you apart from the pack who just wants to be “liked.”

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 »

VIVA LA DIFFERENCE

Friday, July 15th, 2011

The French are coming. And the new breed of bar is on its way.
By Miguel Calvo

High-end cocktail bars have been around for quite a while in the United States. In New York alone tropical Lani Kai (www.lanikainy.com), austere Death & Company (www.deathandcompany.com), tiki style Painkiller (www.PK-NY.com) and stylish Dram (www.drambar.com), to name a mere few, have set the standard in what people expect from a proper mixologist bar. In other parts of the country too, like in Chicago at The Drawing Room (thedrchicago.com), these bars exemplify what is now the norm in cocktail culture in the United States; offering fresh ingredients, paying attention to glassware, drink specific ice, house infused spirits/ bitters and atmosphere to match. While a number of the new breed of American bars have embraced a singular spirit centric focus like punch pavilion Cienfuegos (rum; www.cienfuegosny.com) and Mexican style Mayahuel (tequila; www.mayahuelny.com) many still embrace Prohibition rooms as Milk & Honey (www.mlkhny.com/newyork) and PDT (www.pdtnyc.com). So are we ready for a European invasion that may challenge what we have thought should be a mixologist bar?

Across the water there is a surge in the style of what may be the new direction of cocktail culture that is headed our way. These drinking dens sometimes have a selective door, they allow standing (and occasionally dancing), and have no fear of vodkas. Of course you may find the usual spirits suspects on their menu such as Hendrick’s gin (www.hendricksgin.com) and Appleton rum (www.appletonrum.com); but right alongside these iconic brands proudly stand a group of vodkas, such as Ketel One (www.ketelone.com) and Stoli (www.stoli.com), which are commonly ignored by their stateside brothers. Another big difference is that these cocktail crafters who, like their US counterparts, embrace the use of bitters like Peychaud’s (www.sazerac.com) and

Read the rest of this entry »

ALL HAIL THE DIRTY DOZEN

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

New York City’s best cocktail minds muddled up their best efforts at Cocktail Jam
By Francine Cohen

Cocktail Jam, the proving ground for bartenders where exploration meets the truth, kicked off the drink festival season on March 28th at Astor Place with a gathering of one dozen of New York’s most professional bartenders laying it all on the line in pursuit of the greatest prize of all…bragging rights.

They call them the dirty dozen; 12 of the city’s top bartenders who promoted their newly concocted cocktails created with the finest spirits, mixers, and garnishes, as they vied for a $2,000 Founders Day package prize that sends them to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail (July 20-24).

The truth was revealed at this annual experimental cocktail laboratory when Justin August (British Gins), Damon Boelte (Prime Meats), Frank Cisneros (Dram), Duane Fernandez (Donatella), Rob Fuentevilla (Mayahuel), Moses Laboy (Red Rooster), James Menite (Fornino), Ivy Mix (Lani Kai), Michael Neff (Ward III, Rum House), Steve Schneider-Hadzismajlovic (Employees Only), Karin Stanley (Dutch Kills), and Hal Wolin (El Cobre)hopped behind the bar.

Originally created by PipeLine Brands in 2009, Cocktail Jam showcased the best brands on the market adeptly mixed by the hands of these dozen mixologists, and raised much needed funds for tsunami relief.

John Henry of PipeLine Brands says, “I am delighted to see President Jason Littrell and the USBG NY take our “CKTL JAM” creation to new heights–in fundraising, fun and by broadening the guild’s awareness. This is an annual tradition at Astor Center for the bartender community, run by the bartender community. May USBG membership thrive as a result. Our PipeLine Brands is a proud part of the team effort.”

The team effort to pull this event together was led by USBG NY President Jason Littrell who comments, “The USBGNY is very proud to be an organization of creative professionals with a social conscience. The Cocktail Jam represents some of the core values our organization; education and charity. With a ‘what you see is what you get’ approach to making cocktails, the level of skill required to make something delicious is pretty high, and all 12 bartenders really stepped up and blew some minds using only the provided ingredients. Without the cooperative efforts of a small army of volunteers, guest judges, spirit producers, bartenders, and especially Astor Center, none of this would have been possible.”

The participating bartenders pulled it off handily, each presenting their cocktail to the esteemed judges who possess some of New York’s most progressive cocktail minds: Giuseppe Gonzales (Painkiller), Stephanie Moreno (Astor Wines & Spirits), Phil Ward (Mayahuel), Thomas Waugh (Death & Co.), and Jim Wrigley (Santa Teresa rum). With cocktails circulating throughout the crowd during each round, every drink was also put to popular vote and, at the end of the night, Rob Feuntevilla of Mayahuel walked away with the big win and Steve Schneider of Employees Only was crowned “crowd favorite.”

The crowd of thirsty cocktailians were eager to allow the bartenders free reign to create, and rewarded that creativity, as excitement for the summer’s biggest cocktail event – Tales of the Cocktail – filled the room. Enthusiasm about drink creation and experimentation starts with the bottles on the back bar as new and favorite spirits come out to play and this year Absolut joined returning rum brand DonQ as well as Campari, Cherry Heering, Coffee Heering, Denizen rum, Dry Sack sherry, Four Roses bourbon, Fruit Lab Organic Liqueurs, Herradura tequila, Lillet, Michael Collins Irish whiskey, Nolet’s gin, Perfect Puree, Pierre Ferrand cognac, Sagatiba cachaça, St-Germain, Santa Teresa rum, Solerno, Tanqueray, and Tuthilltown whiskey, all having their bottles firmly planted on the bar and at tasting tables available throughout the evening. Uber Tools were available behind the bar, making the muddling go that much faster.

COCKTAIL JAM has done so much more than just muddled along since its debut as the brainchild of John Henry, PipeLine Brands partner. It’s become the ultimate annual battle with bragging rights as the prize and a plethora of spirits plus virtually every imaginable herb, spice, berry, fruit, and vegetable as the ammunition. Jennifer Smith, General Manager, Astor Center concludes, “What makes the Jam different and special is that it brings talent from all over the city together in one venue, for a full-bore, elbows-and-shakers swinging good time. It is equal parts creativity and competition, and results in a truly unique show for guests.”

**** Hear about Cocktail Jam from the winners’ perspective:

Rob Fuentevilla

The truth of the matter is that I didn’t treat it as a competition. Jason and the USBGNY committee had a great idea to do what we do best, and help people. I wanted to help raise money for a good cause, and just have fun with my bartending friends and family.

It’s not every day I get to work side by side with some of the best bartenders (and old friends) in New York like Damon Boelte, Steve Schneider, Frank Cisneros, Karin Stanley, Moses Laboy, James Menite, Ivy Mix and Hal Wolin. It was also a great time meeting and working for the first time (and hopefully not the last), with new friends like Michael Neff, Duane Fernandez, and Justin August. I had not worked with these three great bartenders before and they rocked it! 

It was a little hectic while getting everything ready, but most of us showed true professionalism, adapting, overcoming and helping the USBGNY team pull off another successful event.

Although, the win came as a complete surprise, truthfully I knew I had a good drink, but I was just trying not to embarrass myself in front of the esteemed judges. I knew with the caliber of bartenders there, it would be tough.

Blind Side
By Rob Fuentevilla

1.5 oz. Herradura Blanco Tequila
.50 oz. Dry Sack Sherry
.25 oz. Solerno
1 Barspoon Agave Nectar

Stir
Strain into Double Rocks Glass rinsed with Michael Collins Irish Whiskey
Lemon Twist (not dropped in)

Steve Schneider
It’s always gratifying to know that the masses have your back and are having a great time. The crowd is the pulse of any bar or event and I feed off of it. It is why this business will never get old for me. Like any event, my Employees Only comrades came in packs to support me, and for that, I am grateful. Grateful to work for a cocktail making machine with my family at EO.

I was inspired to make the Fo’selle cocktail from a dear friend and fellow EO bartender, the brilliant Robert Krueger. When you think of the ingredients, fresh grapefruit, fresh lime and hibiscus -it is a universally appealing blend. I decided to stick with my usual view of a quality cocktail which is: not too difficult to make, fast, efficient, and appealing to a wide variety of drinkers (sell! sell! sell!)

We, the competitors, lined up before the show and picked the brand we were going to represent out of a hat. I drew Four Roses Bourbon. We didn’t have much time, space, or supplies to create a cocktail – so we had to think fast, which was the beauty of it. I already knew I wanted to have a cocktail with crushed ice, as it’s always fun to bring out my obnoxious mallets and hammers to crush ice to a pulp. The crowd seems to dig the whole “Thor” show.
The judges, some of the most well respected men and woman in the business, were all a lot of fun to interact with. Not only do they push out a quality product at their respected establishments (Painkiller, Death and Co, etc), they know a quality one as well.

What better person to bring us a winning cocktail than Mr. Rob Fuentevilla. Rob is one of the most brilliant cocktail minds in the business, and sitting at his bar at Mayahuel is an absolute pleasure. Whenever I’m in a competition and I see his name on the card, the question isn’t “How can I win this competition?” It’s “How can I beat Rob Fuentevilla?” He delivered again and won on the judges poll with a much deserved cocktail featuring Herradura Tequila. He also was a prominent leader behind the scenes helping Jason to batch all of our cocktails for the crowd. I respect the hell out of him as a bartender and even more as a man.

All in all, I was honored to be invited to participate in this event by Jason Littrell and the USBG. After getting a chance to meet and hang out with the other competitors (most for the first time), I figured that if anyone didn’t belong with this star-studded group of bartenders, it was me. They are all amazing at what they do. Thank goodness the crowd reminded me otherwise. Voting me “crowd favorite” reminded me that I belonged amongst the top in their eyes, and in my heart! I’m glad I got the opportunity to represent Employees Only and the USBG at a spectacular fund-raising event and hope I get invited back next go-round!

Fo’selle # 2

An adaptation of the Roselle cocktail by Robert Krueger

By Steve Schneider, Employees Only

1 1/2 oz Four Roses Bourbon
1 oz Fruit Lab ‘Crism’ Organic Hibiscus Liqueur
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz fresh ruby red grapefruit juice

Shake and pour over crushed ice in an old fashioned glass, garnish with a mint crown. Drink quickly and have another.