This week on the Bit by a Fox Podcast we’re continuing the second chapter of the Bartender Interview Series, The Master Blend – a collaboration with BERTOUX Brandy.
This bi-weekly series of interviews will have each bartender discuss their distinct style, biggest inspirations, and how they’re making their mark on today’s cocktail culture.
This week’s guest is San Francisco bartender Natalie Lichtman. She may come off as an elegant pink-haired Holly Golightly behind the bar, however Natalie’s quick rise in the intense restaurant and bar world of San Francisco has proven that she has ambition and the chops.
We talked about the importance of mentors, getting that big break, and how she finds a way to feed her unique artistry behind the bar and away from it.
This week on the Bit by a Fox Podcast, we’re kicking off our second chapter of The Master Blend – A Bartender Series. In collaboration with BERTOUX Brandy, the Bit by a Fox Podcast will host a series of interviews with some of America’s most acclaimed and innovative bartenders.
This second installment is a continuation of interviews that will have each bartender discuss their distinct style, biggest inspirations, and how they’re making their mark on today’s cocktail culture.
Kicking off this second Master Blend series is Christopher Longoria, Beverage Director at the insanely popular restaurant, Che Fico in San Francisco. We talked poetry, California, hip hop, his 20 year evolution behind the bar, and discovering as an artist and as a bartender, less is more.
This week’s featured cocktail is Christopher’s BERTOUX Brandy cocktail currently featured at San Francisco’s Che Fico: SMOKED STRAWBERRIES
SMOKED STRAWBERRIES 1 oz Smoked Strawberry Juice* .75 oz Earl Grey Tea Syrup** .25 oz Ramazzotti Amaro .5 oz Lime Juice Pinch of salt 4 Dashes Absinthe (through a bitters decanter) 1.5 oz BERTOUX Brandy
Shake, double strain. Serve up, in a coupe. No garnish.
*Smoked Strawberry Juice: In a hotel pan, stack a perforated hotel pan. Lightly coat the perforated hotel pan with Vegeline. Add a flat of strawberries (capped) to the perforated hotel pan. Place over an open fire hearth for approximately 40 mins. Line a second perforated hotel pan with cheese cloth. Stack on top of a hotel pan that has clearance for the strawberry juice that will be pressed. Carefully place smoked strawberries over the cheesecloth.
Cover the strawberries with the excess cheese cloth. Using an additional hotel pan stacked over the strawberries, add an appropriate amount of weight to press out the juice (we use a case of beer). Allow for at least 24 hrs of press time. Press in a space at wine cellar or fridge temperature. Once pressing time is done, manually squeeze excess juice from the strawberries through cheese cloth into appropriate container.
**Earl Grey Tea Syrup: In a vac seal bag add: Loose leaf Earl Grey Tea: 42 g, Orange Peel (zested): 12 g, Clove: 8 ct, Water: 1 qt (800 g).
Let infusion sit at room temperature for 24 hrs. Strain infusion into a quart container to confirm volume.
Post infusion: Add the infusion into a pot. Using and induction burner, bring to a simmer (hot enough to melt sugar). Add volume of granulated sugar equal to the infusion volume. Stir until sugar is fully dissolved. Allow to cool.
All photographs by Anthony Parks on behalf of BERTOUX Brandy
This week on the Bit by a Fox Podcast, we are kicking off an exciting new series, The Master Blend – A Bartender Series.
In collaboration with Bertoux Brandy, the Bit by a Fox Podcast will host a series of interviews with some of America’s most acclaimed and innovative bartenders. They’ll be discussing their distinct style, inspirations, and journey to influencing today’s cocktail culture.
Kicking off this first episode in the series is Aaron Polsky. Part Mad Scientist, part Jimmy Page, part sweet Jersey boy, Aaron is the creative bar director behind the lively Rock & Roll cocktail bar in Hollywood, Harvard & Stone.
Aaron’s BERTOUX Brandy cocktail recipe is a riff on the French 75, named after a Kiss song, Black Diamond.
Black Diamond 1.5 oz BERTOUX Brandy .5 oz St Germain Elderflower Liqueur .5 oz homemade elderberry or blueberry liqueur* .75 oz fresh lime juice Champagne
Shake BERTOUX Brandy, liqueurs and juice over ice. Strain into coupe with sugared rim. Top with champagne or sparkling wine
**Blend 1/2lb fresh elderberries or blueberries with 500mL vodka. Strain, combine with 500mL simple syrup and bottle. Will hold indefinitely.
The Chicago Style Cocktail Conference is not your typical booze-fest. The three women founders behind this new cocktail conference coming to Chicago in May – coinciding with the James Beard Awards – are making it a point to address some much needed issues in the cocktail community – such as diversity, sexism and inclusion. They will even touch on substance abuse and sustainability in their featured panels.
Sharon Bronstein, director of marketing for the 86 Co. – a spirits & importing company, Shelby Allison, owner of the celebrated Chicago tiki bar Lost Lake, and Caitlin Laman, decorated bartender and beverage director at the Ace Hotel Chicago are the women behind this forward thinking cocktail conference that is already getting a ton of buzz.
For this week’s Bit by a Fox Podcast I spoke with Shelby Allison, a James Beard Award nominee, and one of the founders of Chicago Style Cocktail Conference.
Shelby also revealed to us her current go-to, pre-batched cocktail that she keeps in the fridge for a moment’s notice – The Florentine – an equal parts cocktail created at NYC bar, Attaboy.
In the spirit of the Negroni, this equal parts drink has vermouth and a bitter-sweet Italian liqueur. But in this stirred cocktail, the vermouth is dry and is accompanied by a low ABV (alcohol by volume) aperitif wine – Cocchi Americano. Cynar – an Amaro made from artichokes – is much darker and herbaceous than its Italian relative, Campari. This aromatic combo makes for a complex, rich and bittersweet sipper.
The Florentine created at New York’s Attaboy
1 oz Cynar
1 oz Cocchi Americano
1 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir until well chilled, and then strain into a cocktail glass. Optional garnish: orange peel.
The craft cocktail revival these last 15 or so years has introduced us to the classics, the pre-prohibition tipples dug up from dusty archives with foreign sounding ingredients, as well as the innovative, modern style drinks inspired, no doubt, by the foodie revolution and farm to table movement. And while it can be fun to indulge in some of these complex cocktails made with labor intensive infusions and syrups and a smattering of ingredients you may or may not recognize at your favorite swanky cocktail bar, recreating these types of drinks at home is…not really an option. Enter Kara Newman’s Shake. Stir. Sip.: More than 50 Effortless Cocktails Made in Equal Parts.
With the massive popularity of the Negroni in recent years, a classic equal parts cocktail made with gin, Campari and sweet vermouth, we know by now that some of the simplest cocktails can be the best! And they also can still be incredibly nuanced and complex. From the 50-50 Martini to the Paloma, a lot of our favorites are already traditionally made or can be easily adapted to the equal parts template. Kara has included 50(!) of these easy to make cocktails in this lovely little book! Your home bartending game just got elevated (and easier!)
Divided into 2, 3, 4, and 5 Equal Parts and More, I thought I’d try my hand at one of the easiest and, frankly under recognized, cocktails, the Rob Roy.
Made with just scotch and sweet vermouth, this two ingredient cocktail, a variation on a Manhattan, isn’t always served as an “equal parts” drink.
…often the ratio is two parts Scotch to one part vermouth. That said, this equal-parts version works remarkably well, especially if you prefer a slightly sweeter and less potent pour.
Since the quality of Scotch is fairly important to a recipe where that spirit is half the cocktail, I decided to use the newly released The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old. This is the first time The Macallan has used American Oak Sherry-seasoned casks as the most prominent flavor style in one of its expressions.
Matured for a minimum of 12 years, the resulting product is recognizably Macallan with a hint of sherry. Meaning, it has retained its dried fruit, honey and holiday spice qualities but has a floral and nutty addition on the finish. It made for a wonderful equal parts Rob Roy!
A few dashes of aromatic bitters and a couple of brandied cherries and you are good to go!
However you choose to make yours, be sure to toast the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, where the drink was created in 1894.
Rob Roy (equal-parts) from Kara Newman’s Shake. Stir. Sip.
1 1/2 Scotch Whiskey
1 1/2 Sweet Vermouth
1 or 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
In an ice-filled mixing glass, combine the Scotch, vermouth, and bitters. Stir well, and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with the cherries before serving.
“This journey didn’t start today at the ceremony, this week at the finals, or even last year when I entered the heats – it started many years ago when I first started working in a local bar. The flavours, the smells, the sounds, the techniques, the history, the theatre – I realized I did not want to create just another drink. I make drinks with my heart and it makes me happy to see customers happy. The possibilities open to a bartender are limitless, not just in terms of your career but your creations – the only limit is your imagination.” – Charles Joly
photo courtesy Diageo World Class
Joly is the first bartender from the United States to win this impressive title in the six years that Diageo Reserve has produced the global competition. And it’s a pretty huge achievement!
I recently got the opportunity to interview this acclaimed mixologist, master of cocktails, global booze ambassador, and mixer and shaker of magical potions that has won the world over. But, what was I going to ask the BEST BARTENDER IN THE WORLD?? With all of this massive attention on him recently, what could I possibly ask him that he wasn’t already sick of answering? Luckily, I didn’t have to! I made the brilliant decision to rely on you, dear Foxy Friends, to come up with those hard-hitting boozy questions! Thankfully, y’all came through! Then I turned those questions into a fill-in-the-blank questionnaire. Who doesn’t a like fill-in-the-blank questionnaire?? OK, I’m sure, some of these questions he’s been answering, ad nauseam, but I thought some of these things would still be fun to share. See his answers below in bold. Thanks to those of you who submitted questions on the Bit by a Fox Facebook and Instagram pages!
The very first cocktail I ever made was probably not very good, but I’m sure I made it with a smile. My go-to drink of choice when NOT tending is a cold beer and a bourbon with a bit of ice, but when I’m indulging, I’ll have an old rum served in a beautiful glass. I wish people didn’t order so many ___________ and that more people appreciated ___________ more (Sorry- order what ever you’d like. It’s my job to serve the guest). When I discovered Bridget Albert, it changed the way I approached cocktails. If I could work with one bottle of liquor for the rest of my life it would be pretty boring. When creating drinks, I draw most of my inspiration from the season and the guest. One of the biggest mistakes a mixologist can make is too much mustache wax.… My top tip for enthusiasts and home bartenders who may not have access to fancy tools and complicated ingredients would be that you don’t need them anyway. The beauty of cocktails is that simple is often best and the tools haven’t changed much. The most surprising thing that I learned about myself when I was competing was I can function on incredibly little sleep. I found that experience and calm was one of my biggest assets during the competition and that organizationwas very valuable in helping me to win. When I won DIAGEO RESERVE WORLD CLASS BARTENDER OF THE YEAR , I celebrated by having a 1863 rye whiskey Sazerac made tableside by Salvatore Calabrese.
photo courtesy Diageo World Class
While the World Class finals consisted of a series of challenges, there WAS a winning cocktail: Above the Clouds. You can find this innovative recipe below!
On this week’s Bit by a Fox Podcast we’re talking about one of the most misunderstood elixirs ever created and consumed – The Green Fairy, La Fée Verte, Absinthe! The social lubricant of choice for 19th century bohemians, artists and creatives – said to have aided their creativity and yet, driven them mad. It has been made all the more mysterious by a worldwide ban of the stuff for nearly 100 years. The ban was lifted in the states almost eleven years ago now, but a lot of misunderstandings still surround this spirit.
Most likely, you’ve heard the dark stories…about how “real” absinthe will make you hallucinate, turn you violent and drive you mad if you have too much. But what is the real story of absinthe? Can we get an authentic version in the states? And why was it banned for so long if it is truly harmless? Hopefully we’ll be clearing all that up over the course of this podcast.
My guest Ted Breaux is a researcher, scientist, artisan distiller, and leading authority on absinthe. He created Lucid Absinthe Supérieure – the first genuine absinthe made with real Grande Wormwood to be legally available in the United States, and he had a major role in overturning the ban in America eleven years ago. He’ll be talking about how he first got interested in absinthe, was the first person to disprove any claims that absinthe was dangerous, and how he helped to overturn the ban.
Kellfire Desmond Bray, absinthe educator and co-host of a monthly absinthe celebration and awareness party in New York City called The Green Fairy at the Red Room, will be joining us towards the end of this episode to describe the Continental Pour – the proper way to consume this boozy elixir.
According to Bray and Breaux, you don’t really need the sugar. However, the traditional French Method does involve diluting sugar in the glass to sweeten it up a bit. This ritual is such a lovely one, I thought I’d share that as well.
This is what you’ll need to prepare absinthe using the traditional French Method:
Bottle of genuine absinthe
An absinthe spoon – a flat, perforated spoon or even a large fork can work!
Tall glass, large enough for 6 ounces
Carafe of ice water
Pour about one ounce of absinthe into the glass
Place a sugar cube on an absinthe spoon and lay the spoon across the rim of the glass
Slowly pour the very cold water over the sugar and saturate it
Wait a moment for the sugar to dissolve a bit
As the water dilutes the spirit, the botanical oils are released, herbal aromas “bloom” and the clear green liquid turns cloudy, a result that is called the “louche”
Continue to slowly pour the water over the sugar until you have poured in about 5 ounces and the sugar is mostly dissolved
Allow the louche to rest, and then stir in the remaining undissolved sugar
Let me be mad, then, by all means! Mad with the madness of Absinthe, the wildest, most luxurious madness in the world! Vive la folie! Vive l’amour! Vive l’animalisme! Vive le Diable!”
― Marie Corelli, Wormwood: A Drama of Paris
The Green Fairy, La Fée Verte, Absinthe – One of the most misunderstood elixirs ever created and consumed. Made all the more mysterious by a worldwide ban of the stuff for nearly 100 years. After the ban was finally lifted in the states ten years ago now, some myths are still perpetuated by a few brands capitalizing on its mystique.
Most likely, you’ve heard the dark stories…about how “real” absinthe will make you hallucinate, turn you violent and drive you mad if you have too much. Well known writers and artists such as Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, and Edgar Allan Poe were all said to have benefited creatively and yet suffered negatively from the effects of their consumption of absinthe. But what is the real story of absinthe? Can we get an authentic version in the states? And why was it banned for so long if it is truly harmless?
Absinthe, for those of you unfamiliar, is a highly alcoholic distilled spirit, (not a liqueur as it is often mistaken for, because it is not traditionally sweetened with added sugar) made with macerated herbs – primarily aniseed, sweet fennel and wormwood – the main flavor components in the spirit. The various botanicals is what also gives absinthe its famous natural green color, inspiring the nicknames “Green Fairy” and “Green Goddess”. At its height in popularity, towards the end of the 19th century, when the French were drinking up to 36 million litres of absinthe per year, the nearly 30,000 cafés in Paris were transformed every day at 5:00 p.m. into l’Heure Verte, the Green Hour.
Absinthe’s rise in popularity coincided with a rise in alcohol consumption in general. Cheap, poorly made “bathtub” versions were being produced, and alcohol-related injuries and crimes were being blamed on the popular spirit, leading the way to a prohibition of absinthe internationally. The temperance movement as well as the wine industry, threatened by the massive popularity of the drink, leveraged the moral panic against absinthe in Europe at the time, and pushed the idea that it was especially dangerous and led to violent behavior.
Is there any truth to the dangers, the highs, the hallucinogenic qualities that have been rumored and written about and spread throughout the centuries? The truth is, absinthe is indeed potent. It is not to be taken straight as it is so concentrated. It is traditionally bottled at a high alcohol by volume – usually 110-144 proof versus whiskey which is about 80 proof. This is because it is to be diluted with ice-cold water prior to being consumed.
Ted A. Breaux, a scientist, researcher and leading authority on absinthe, had a major role in overturning the ban in America ten years ago. Lucid Absinthe, his creation and the first absinthe in the U.S. market, is still considered one of the top brands in the world. According to Breaux, “pre-ban absinthes contained no hallucinogens, opiates or other psychoactive substances”. The only drug in absinthe is alcohol.
Thujone, a compound found in wormwood, is often referred to as the hallucinogenic component in “real” absinthe. But according to the experts and extensive studies, there just isn’t any truth to this. In extremely high doses, thujone is known to be a dangerous neurotoxin, but pre-ban absinthe and the nearly identical recipes made today have always only had trace amounts. The truth is, there may very well be more wormwood in the vermouth you’re having in your next martini than a glass of absinthe. Aside from being its hallmark ingredient, the name “vermouth” is in fact the French pronunciation of the German word Wermut, meaning…wormwood.
How come, even after ten years of it being legal in the states, there are still so many misconceptions about this botanical beverage? Perhaps we prefer holding onto these romantic notions of madness and drug-induced achievements from some of our most notable creative geniuses. It surely doesn’t help when certain brands market themselves in a way that takes advantage of their naughty past, advertising thujone or wormwood on their bottles in an inauthentic way.
That’s not to say we haven’t come a long way since that 95 year ban. There are a lot of really wonderful brands that are making quality absinthe, each one, with their specific recipe, slightly different from the next. So, what brands should you be buying?
Absinthe educator Kellfire Bray, seen here at the monthly Green Fairy Party produced by Don Spiro in NYC, recommends these bottles to get you started:
Meadow of Love Absinthe from Delaware Phoenix Distillery – American Hidden Gem Made in the Catskills in upstate New York, Meadow of Love has a floral aroma and flavor interacting with the anise. This absinthe has a powerful louche of rolling, milky cloud banks, and it coats the tongue with flavor. Lucid Absinthe Superieure – Traditional, Easy to Find
Lucid is the first genuine absinthe made with real Grande Wormwood to be legally available in the United States in over 95 years. Lucid is prepared in accordance with the same standards as pre-ban absinthes. It is historically accurate in EVERY detail.
“Vieux Pontarlier” Absinthe Francais Superieure – Mid-range,Workhorse Very anise forward and fairly sweet, this absinthe is made in small batches using alambic stills that were specifically designed to make absinthe. Vieux Pontarlier Absinthe evolved from the research and experience of professional Absintheur Peter Schaf, using historic protocols, distilling techniques and equipment from the 19th Century.
Kubler Absinthe Superieure – Mid-range, Swiss style
Clear and colorless in the Swiss style. Along with Lucid, was crucial in petitioning the government to lift the absinthe ban. Anise and fennel dominate but get more complex post louche.
Jade 1901 Absinthe Superieure – Top Pick, Harder to Find From Ted A. Breaux’s high-end absinthe line, Jade Liqueurs, this bottle was recreated as a tribute to a widely studied pre-ban absinthe, as it appeared circa 1901. A classic vintage-style absinthe, balanced and crisp, with a stimulating herbal aroma and a smooth, lingering aftertaste.
The preparation to drink absinthe may seem intimidating. Do you need the correct tools? Is there sugar AND fire involved? How much is the right amount? It is all pretty simple, really. In fact, according to Bray, you don’t even really need the sugar. You’ll just need to slowly dilute 1 part absinthe to 3-5 parts iced water from a specially made absinthe fountain or even by hand with a carafe. As the water dilutes the spirit, the botanical oils are released, herbal aromas “bloom” and the clear green liquid turns cloudy, a result that is called the “louche”.
The traditional French Method, however, does involve placing a sugar cube on top of a slotted spoon over a glass of absinthe and pouring iced water over the sugar in order to slowly dissolve it and mix with the absinthe. Since absinthe is not made with added sugar, some people prefer to sweeten it up this way. But according to nearly all authorities on absinthe, DO NOT soak that sugar cube with liquor and then light it on fire. This “Czech Method” is not traditional and was actually started in the late 90s as a spectacle for tourists and to mask inferior spirits. We’re all better than that!
So, go ahead and celebrate the progress we’ve made in the last ten years, and get acquainted with the Green Fairy! Raise a glass to the magical, herbal delights of this cloudy wonder…without going completely mad! Vive la absinthe!
The fête, set inside the stunning Big Daddy’s Antiques in Los Angeles, is part of a series of events set in five different cities – Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas and New York City – each one curated by a different artist with a slightly different inspired entertaining theme. Last Saturday’s soirée showcased Jeremiah’s passion for travel and global discovery – the Collection de Voyages Soirée.
The immersive experience was a Moroccan summer’s night meets Croatian holiday crossed with a Mayan Riviera getaway. And the cocktails, curated by Jeremiah, also drew inspiration from those cities that made the most impact on him through his travels – Tulum, Mexico; Marrakech, Morocco; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Split, Croatia. Los Angeles, of course, played a role in the night as well. Despite feeling transported, the beautiful guests, unusual, dual-purpose event space, and the hip DJ, electric guitarist entertainment for the night helped to remind us that we were still in La La Land!
Oh, and, look who I ran into?! The lovely powerhouse mixology couple, Kyle and Rachel Ford, profiled on this here blog last year in our Bartender Style series. This event actually marked Kyle’s last as Cocktail & Spirits Expert for Rémy Cointreau. And with the decision to focus primarily on their revamped consulting firm, Ford Marketing Lab, Kyle has officially passed the Cointreau torch. I have no doubt the Rémy Cointreau family will miss him!
It was an enchanting night! And I sort of felt like I went on a mini 3-hour vacation to some exotic locale with elegant natives, citrusy cocktails and dazzling light fixtures everywhere. Jeremiah Brent, can you curate my life, please?
Hey guys! You know Al Roker? Yes THAT Al Roker of “Today” show fame and highly optimistic weather updates and everyone’s favorite morning jokester uncle…well, he has a multimedia production company, Al Roker Entertainment that he’s been running for the last 20 years!!! Not just a weather man, guys!
Roker Labs is their digital media incubator of sorts and they are dipping their toes in the live streaming content game, with much success. And, guess who’s going to be doing some cocktail segments with them?!
Fellow boozy babe, Emily Arden Wells from Gastronomista and I are partnering with @RokerLabs for this exciting new cocktail series that will stream live 5pm (EST) on Periscope for the next couple of Tuesdays starting TONIGHT! For our first segment “All About That Mix”, we are heading to Polynesian oasis, Mother of Pearl in New York’s east village. Our bartender for the evening will be industry vet, bartender extraordinaire and total babe, Jane Danger, pictured below (with a shock of blue in her blonde locks) from our Bartender Style shoot at Mother of Pearl last month:
I know what you’re thinking…what is this Periscope hooha? Why do I have to get another weird app on my phone? Is that the only way I can watch it? Listen, grandma, I totally understand. I was pretty intimidated by this new technology too, until LAST NIGHT, in fact. Up until I tried a test run with Emily I really couldn’t wrap my brain around it. But it is SO easy, and pretty fun, in fact. It’s like live chatting, face timing and youtubing all at the same time, if that means anything to you! And IF you just can’t be bothered with watching us in real time, this will be saved and posted on our sites. But, just know this, Al Roker is probably more tech savvy than you. So just upload that Periscope App, follow @RokerLabs (and @BitByaFox, of course!) and prepare to get your tiki on tonight. Welcome to the future!