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Jason Kosmas



November 4, 2013

How the 86 Co. Gave Bartenders Just What They Asked For
By Francine Cohen


You may know them for their big win in the best new product category at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards, or (depending on whether you gained access or had drinks graciously ferried outside to you while waiting on line before being turned away) love them/hate them for their brand’s Tales debut party, The Bare Knuckle Brawl. But do you really know the 86 Co. and their line of spirits?

Unlike many other brands that start off with a product or a marketing plan, the pros behind the 86 Co. (Malte Barnekow, Simon Ford, Jason Kosmas, Kris Roth, and Dushan Zaric) started with goals and a bunch of questions. Kosmas explains, “You need to be able to get great spirits at an honest price. That’s part of the equation. We don’t want to re-teach people how to make drinks. What we did want to do when creating our spirits was to make them be plug and play and have bartenders use our spirits. We want them to be inspiring, which is why they are spirit driven.”

The focus on being spirit driven, and higher proof than some competitors, was all to make bartenders happy. Despite the reality that they’d be facing higher excise taxes, the 86 Co. team made a conscious decision to satisfy the bartender’s need for an impressive ABV number. Says Kosmas, “They think that people’s experience is based on the spirit straight out of the bottle. But it is not until you mix with it that you get the impression of what the spirit does. So we used mixed drinks as a benchmark and a we ended up with a tequila that is so full of agave, rum that is sugar cane; they are all very stereotypes and exaggerated stereotypes. And all highly viscous. It was about producing a tool for bartenders.
Creating precisely the right tools was the first order of business as Ford explains how they arrived at the profile for each brand, “We started with what we wanted the liquid to be before we went into it [production].”

In part the success of the company’s product line (Aylesbury Duck Vodka, Caña Brava Rum, Ford’s Gin, and Tequila Cabeza) has as much to do with the combined spirit wisdom and bar experience of the brand’s principles, as it does the input and needs of the greater Continue Reading…

Rocks Stars


August 19, 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 (

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 –,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 ( one afternoon where we chatted on the balcony overlooking Bourbon Street while enjoying a glass of Japan’s finest single malt. Continue Reading…

Brain Food


December 31, 2010

Give the gift that keeps on giving (even after you’re gone)

Photo by John Kernick

Let’s just say (for argument’s sake) that you didn’t manage to get away during the holidays because hotels, restaurants, and bars don’t shut down even if everyone else does, and so you didn’t make it home to your family. Once again, like many years past (or at least those since you’ve worked in the hospitality industry) family holiday celebrations and gift giving were postponed until after the new year.

And let’s continue to say (just hypothetically) that you arrive home and either a) discover that your family is, much as you love them, supremely annoying and the only way to cope is with a couple of cocktails or b) you realize how much you love and miss them and want to treat them to the best cocktails they’ve ever had so you whip out your favorite recipes and shake and stir up a couple for them.

But then, the sad part comes…you have to leave and go back to your daily routine. And they are without you and without your delicious cocktails. Not to fear, you can leave behind the gifts that keep on giving… cocktail books.


If you’re looking for the perfect book that suits your family member with a well stocked bar and a few cocktail tricks up his sleeve just as well as it suits your family member who simply likes to drink, then Vintage Cocktails by Brian Van Flandern is the edition for you to gift.

Both elegant when sitting on the coffee table and useful when pulled behind the bar, this book offers a well edited collection of some of the best loved cocktails through the ages. Shot at Bemelmans Bar; the destination watering hole in Manhattan’s posh Carlyle Hotel, each drink is exquisitely presented in Baccarat crystal glassware.

Recipes are easy to follow and enjoy and it’s no wonder; they’re vintage cocktails. Van Flandern explains just what that means as he says, “Vintage cocktails are cocktails that at one point in time, for whatever reason, gained global popularity and are either classics or are destined to become classics. Like Dale DeGroff’s Whiskey smash and Audrey Saunders’ Gin Gin Mule.”

Understandably, Van Flandern is proud of this book. And you’ll be proud to give it. He remarks, “There are stunningly beautiful pictures side by side with easily followable cocktail recipes. It’s a staple for any bar, to see what the drink should look like.”


Next up is a new book that takes a look at both old and new cocktails. Speakeasy, by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric of Employees Only, brings the liquid best of this well-loved NYC industry bar and restaurant into your own home.

We think its one part instruction manual and one part reveling in memories of your late nights at EO. Says Kosmas, “The book is intended to be more than a recipe book of classic and EO cocktails. Its purpose and format is to help the reader understand the mentality behind our process of bringing new cocktails to life. A chef once told me, ‘To break the rules, you first have to know what they are.’ We lay out the classics to show how we reconstruct them. Some cocktails have new ingredients, some are tweaked for the modern palate and some are inspired by the idea or audience of a cocktail. We wanted take our readers on a journey through the evolution of the cocktail.

To keep cocktails alive we need to breathe new life into them constantly. Bastardizing spirits in new way is the essence of cocktail making.

Zaric notes, “This book is an example of how Jay and I evolved our methodology in cocktail creation; by learning from the classic and implementing it for the pallet of the 21st century drinker. A cocktail today is far more exciting then it was ever in the history [of cocktails]. We have at our disposal a huge variety of ingredients, some of which find their way into mixed drinks for the first time. Additionally – and I have to emphasize that point – a cocktail should stay within its gastronomical boundaries and serve as a part of the overall experience.

We encourage the readers and trade in particular to “break conventions” and experiment. Use the classics as a guide line; and when you master the techniques and methods of preparation and service, by all means, play and discover your own “taste.” Remember that the classics became classic when someone “broke conventions” and went down a road “less traveled.” Fortunately, Lady Luck rewards the brave and courageous and today we have a solid foundation from which to build upon. Use the book as a guideline and inspiration and you will for sure have a wonderful time with it.

They conclude, “The Miles Davis quote on Jazz sums up our philosophy of cocktails:
‘I never thought that the music called ‘jazz’ was ever meant to reach just a small group of people, or become a museum thing locked under glass like all other dead things that were once considered artistic.’”

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August 22, 2010

Employees Only Lime Cordial and Grenadine
By Francine Cohen

Image by Jill DeGroff

Once again we find ourselves in the unusual position of being more than happy to write about a commercially produced product, this time it’s the Employees Only brand of non-alcoholic cordials (Lime Cordial and Grenadine) which were lovingly created by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric, partners in Employees Only (

Of course we’re always partial to products handcrafted by the industry for the industry and, as usual, there’s a back story to our favorable impression of these new products – we had the pleasure of first sampling the prototypes last fall while hanging out with Jason Kosmas at the bar during the Manhattan Cocktail Classic Preview( Jason proceeded to share a taste of these all natural mixers that he (and we) was certain would be a hit, both with the mixology crowd and those bartenders who don’t have time/expertise/space to make their own grenadine and are looking for something far better than the existing lime cordials.

A few sips in and we put our names at the top of their waiting list, eagerly anticipating the Lime Cordial and Grenadine’s actual production and distribution. Thanks to the intricacies of mass production the flavor profile shifted a wee bit from what we first tasted but they are still delicious and, more importantly, they’re available now and easy to get your hands on.

What is it about these cordials we liked so much? It’s the intensity of flavor and the philosophy behind their entry into the marketplace that won us over. The piercing tartness of the lime screamed “fresh” to us at our little tasting, though we’ve noticed the recipe has changed a bit since the cordials went into formal bottling stage and now there’s the addition of a round mellowness to the flavor. The grenadine remains the same intense pomegranate flavor. Almost syrupy, this is something that should be used sparingly per drink but in a lot of them on the menu because it’s got great flavor. Heck, we’d build a whole section of a cocktail menu around drinks that contain grenadine, and sweet is not generally how our palate leans. But don’t get us wrong, this is not overbearingly sweet grenadine– the Employees Only product sits perfectly Continue Reading…