Browsing Tag

James Menite



December 29, 2014

By Sara Kay


With events like New York Champagne Week, which is only in its second year and has already experienced an incredible amount of notoriety, it brings to mind an important question about the future of champagne as not just a celebratory beverage on its own, but a key player in the cocktail world.

The French 75 and the Kir Royale – both cocktails that feature champagne – are staples in the classic cocktail category, but as we’ve seen from events such as this one on Nobember 4th, versatility is the name of the game.


Champagne and cocktail lovers alike came together for the first consumer event of New York Champagne Week 2014 to see bartenders from around New York City compete for the title of best champagne cocktail. Sponsored by Nicolas Feuillatte, these competitors took over Evelyn Drinkery and created some truly outstanding tipples for people to sip on and enjoy as they talked about all things bubbly.

For Rob Bigelow, Master Sommelier and Senior Director of Wine Education and On-Premise Development for Ste Michelle Wine Estates, the future of champagne cocktails looks bright, and won’t be slowing down any time soon. He says, “It’s my opinion as a master sommelier and the opinion of most mixologists that champagne is the superior choice for sparkling wine in a cocktail, and that has to do with the quality of the grapes it comes from. At the end of the day, it’s just better.”

The competition ended with a bit of a twist; two competitors came away with the first place trophy, that trophy being a magnum bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte and the possibility of having their cocktail featured at Tales of the Cocktail 2015. Marlo Gamora of Jeepney and James Menite of The Plaza Hotel were crowned the two winners of the evening, with Micaela Piccolo of Distilled NYC coming away with the People’s Choice award.


A tie in a cocktail competition is fairly unheard of, but it signaled something exciting that industry insiders have known for a while; that Champagne cocktails are on the rise. It also means that competitions like these are finally being seen as ways to showcase the creative use of a base spirit like Champagne, and not just for bartender bragging rights or awareness of a certain spirit brand. In a display of excellent sportsmanship, Gamera and Menite accepted their equal first place win with joy, hugging it out and congratulating each other on a job extremely well done.

Gamera’s win with his drink The Pastry War meant first taking on the job of thinking about champagne in a whole new way. He explains, “I never thought mezcal and champagne would go together, I’ve never made a mezcal champagne cocktail before and I figured, why not? Mezcal is a great spirit and champagne as well. I took a dash of absinthe to tie them both together, then added a form of Asian expression from my background into the cocktail to really balance them out.”

Menite had similar sentiment about his approach to creating his winning cocktail, the Doit Anoir, which featured Salerno Blood Orange Liqueur as the base spirit. He notes, “I wanted to do the first egg white champagne cocktail. I’d never seen it done before and I thought it would work really well with the Salerno blood orange liqueur and the Ramazzotti Amaro. I don’t know if Salerno has ever been used as a base spirit, people mostly use it as a mixer. I wanted people to see it can be used as a base spirit. I wanted to showcase the Salerno and the champagne and how well they worked together.”

Whereas most champagnes ring in with a fairly hefty price tag, making working them into a drink menu not the economical choice for using in cocktails, Bigelow believes it’s brands like Nicolas Feuillette that end up coming out on top based on the low price point and the younger and hipper personality.


Cocktail innovation tends to be the focus for many of these competitive events, but there is also an element of education that comes in as well. Mixologists of this caliber know what makes a good cocktail great, and by discovering that champagne serves as the perfect balancing agent, it’s only a matter of time before the bubbly becomes a regularly featured ingredient in many a cocktail.

Charlotte Voisey, Brand Ambassador for William Grant & Sons, which provided all the spirits, comments, “It’s nice to see champagne in the industry getting the recognition it deserves. Champagne is a fantastic source of acidity, and that’s the key ingredient in any cocktail to balance everything out, and as we saw tonight, it goes well with every spirit category too.”

The cocktail industry sees its fair share of changing trends, with a particular drink being all the rage one day and yesterday’s news the next day, but when it comes to champagne cocktails, the attitude is fairly clear; they aren’t going anywhere.

“Whether it’s a cocktail or champagne straight up, it’s always going to be a good time,” says Gamera. “And, to quote Coco Chanel, she said t’here’s only two times that I drink champagne, when I’m in love or when I’m not.’ Anytime is a good time for champagne, even if you’re feeling down or feeling up. Champagne cocktails are always going to be there.”

We’ll cheers to that.


Brain Food


July 15, 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 Continue Reading…



May 10, 2013

Lemon-Aid Helps End Hunger While Mixologists Vie for Ultimat Lemon-Aid trophy at Manhattan Cocktail Classic

This is a battle you don’t want to miss; a handful of the country’s most thirst-quenching mixologists re-creating their grown up version of lemonade. All in an effort to help end hunger.

Check out this event on May 20th during the 4th Annual Manhattan Cocktail Classic (

Ultimat Vodka Lemon-Aid Stand Kick Off Invite FC with recipes



May 10, 2013

Jazz Age cocktails revitalized thanks to the new film version of The Great Gatsby
By Francine Cohen

F Scott Fitzgerald profile and quote

While Hemingway’s prowess with the pen and his penchant for drink are widely acknowledged and celebrated by fisherman and imbibers alike (for goodness sake, the man has a cocktail named after him- the Papa Doble aka a Hemingway Daiquiri) this prolific author isn’t the only notable one with something to say about living a spirited life.

As attention turns to today’s opening of the Baz Luhrmann screen adaptation of The Great Gatsby it certainly seems evident that if anyone should get credit for popularizing drinking culture it seems most fitting that the honor goes to F. Scott Fitzgerald; the Jazz Age writer who conjured up an aspirational way of life that quietly masked a sense of despondency and unspoken truths behind the glittering allure of vicarious adventures.

Fitzgerald’s Gatsby lived a life that seemed carefree; the ideal escape from the everyday- much the same as release from cube city and a night out with friends represents today.

Always something to look forward to as a reward for hard work, cocktails, and the culture Fitzgerald created around them, have as much relevance today in this improving economy as they did when the Princeton graduate wrote about them decades ago. Stores like Tiffany are celebrating the era with jewelry collections″ target=”_blank”> and even the venerable clothier Brooks Brothers is involved in this revival. The store’s archives were mined for period appropriate pieces on which the men’s costumes in this new movie were based.” target=”_blank”>

It’s likely you’ll find some dapper Brooks Brothers-inspired bartenders and spirits industry leaders flowing through the streets of New Orleans this summer if you head down for Tales of the Cocktail July 17-21st ( as this year’s Spirited Awards are Gatsby themed. Tales founder, Ann Tuennerman, explains, “The Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards production team [Claire Bertin-Lang, Michelle Dunnick, Simon Ford-who is also our host, and I] wanted a fun and relevant theme to add to the excitement of crowning the best of the best in our industry. While some consider Prohibition a dark period in our nation’s history, The Great Gatsby evokes an aura of nostalgia for the time, full of the glamour, music, parties and – of course – drinks. We thought this theme would offer guests an opportunity to return to one of America’s Golden Ages, get jazzed up, enjoy Prohibition Era cocktails from our amazing sponsors and toast the winners of the 2013 Spirited Awards. The book’s author F. Scott Fitzgerald was a notorious imbiber, making the theme doubly appropriate.”

If after seeing this film you are looking for a theme to intrigue your guests next time you host a party or need to draw a crowd on an otherwise quiet night at your bar or restaurant here are some Gatsby( inspired cocktails.

It’s unlikely that Leonardo DiCaprio (or even Robert Redford, the 1974 film’s Jay Gatsby) will show up to help you shake a few, but one can always hope. Just make sure to keep that green light on at the end of the pier to guide him in.

Photo by Ken Goodman Photography

Photo by Ken Goodman Photography

By James Menite

1 1/2oz. Bootlegger 21 Vodka
1/2 oz Dry Vermouth
1/3 Maraschino Liqueur
Dash of Absinthe
Dash of Regan’s Orange Bitters
Lemon twist for garnish

Method: Shake all ingredients over ice, strain into rocks glass. Add
bitters and lemon twist.

Menite created this drink using Prohibition Distillery’s Bootlegger 21 Vodka for fundraiser Taste of the Nation which works to end childhood hunger via its NoKidHungry campaign ( The distillery, which is open to the public for tours and liquor purchase, is located in the town of Roscoe, NY (population- approx. 608), well known as the country’s favorite fly-fishing destination. Visit the intersection of Fitzgerald and Hemingway. and
Continue Reading…



November 28, 2010

Mix It Up NYC with Don Q from Francine Cohen on Vimeo.

Leave it to DonQ rums ( to hold their cocktail competition in a space (almost) nobody had seen before, revealing the country’s best rum cocktails that (almost) nobody had tasted before in New York.

Though New York City’s fire department officially frowns on Albert Trummer’s pyrotechnic show at his Chinatown cocktail den, Apotheke, thankfully they were nowhere to be found on May 17th during the Manhattan Cocktail Classic ( as the judges for the DonQ cocktail competition’s US finals dodged workmen busily putting the finishing touches to Trummer’s latest venture, Theater Bar.

After an hour or so of ducking out of the way as wallpaper was smoothed and lighting fixtures affixed to the wall, a sneak peak taste of the soon to be released Blackbeard Spiced Rum was shared before the taste tests began.

15 cocktails were sipped and assessed; each featuring DonQ Rum. The competitors were evaluated on their use of the spirit, drink flavor, and presentation by judges Tony Abou Ganim, Francine Cohen, James Menite and Albert Trummer. The prize? Five winners were to head to Puerto Rico in June to represent the United States in a cocktail throw down against the Puerto Rican team.

The fabulous five selected to represent the United States: Tony Devencenzi of San Francisco; Noah Heaney of Denver, CO; Charles Joly of Chicago; Brian Matthys of New York City; Darren West of Las Vegas.

Ultimately, the overall competition winner was from Puerto Rico, Hiram Avila.

By Hiram Avila of Puerto Rico

½ oz. DonQ Cristal rum
½ oz. DonQ Añejo rum
½ oz. DonQ Coco rum
½ oz. Monin ginger syrup
1 oz. Fresh cucumber juice

In a cocktail shaker, add rums, ginger syrup, fresh cucumber juice and ice.
Shake vigorously and strain over martini glass.

Garnish with cucumber slice and a sprinkle of sparkly sugar.

To make cucumber juice, use 2 cucumbers and a juicer. If a juicer is not available, add 2 unpeeled cucumbers and ¼ oz. of water to a blender. Blend on high speed and strain mixture.

Events, Features


March 14, 2010

Story and Photos by Joe DiStefano

Tools of the Trade

“The Bar Loves the Kitchen” seminars recently held at the International Food & Restaurant Show ( brought together top mixologists, bartenders, and industry experts to discuss a simple yet powerful idea: a closer relationship between the bar and the kitchen leads to cost savings and more efficient sourcing strategies all while enhancing the guest experience.

Jason Littrell Muddles It Up A Bit

“The concept behind bar loves the kitchen is really about crossover between what happens in the kitchen and the back of the house and what happens in the front of the house and the bar,” said Francine Cohen, Editor in Chief of INSIDE F&B (, who designed and hosted the seminars. “A lot of restaurants don’t take advantage of what’s happening back in their kitchen, they don’t think about how items like oranges and lemons can be ordered just once and used in both arenas. Continue Reading…