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The Myths & Mysteries of Absinthe: Ten Years Legal in the U.S.

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

Absinthe at Hotel Delmano March 2009

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.

Absinthe photos by Rose Callahan Aug 2015Most 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 photos by Rose Callahan Aug 2015

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.

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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.

Green Fairy party sponsored by Vieux Carre photographed by Rose Callahan at the Red Room in NYC on Oct 6, 2016

But 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.

Absinthe photos by Rose Callahan Aug 2015

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.

Absinthe photos by Rose Callahan

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.

Absinthe photos by Rose Callahan Aug 2015

So, 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.

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That’s not to say we haven’t come a long ways 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?

Green Fairy party sponsored by Vieux Carre photographed by Rose Callahan at the Red Room in NYC on Oct 6, 2016

According to absinthe educator Kellfire Bray, seen here at the monthly Green Fairy Party produced by Don Spiro in NYC, here are his recommendations 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 SuperieureMid-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 SuperieureMid-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 SuperieureTop 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.

Absinthe photos by Rose Callahan Aug 2015

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”.

Absinthe photos by Rose Callahan Aug 2015

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!

Absinthe photos by Rose Callahan Aug 2015

So, go ahead and celebrate the progress we’ve made this 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!


All photos provided by Rose Callahan, of the Dandy Portrait fame, and our photography partner on the Bartender Style series.

Cointreau’s The Art of La Soirée Curated by Design Star Jeremiah Brent

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Last Saturday night, Cointreau, the iconic French orange liqueur, partnered with Jeremiah Brent, TV personality, interior designer and handsome hubs to Oprah bestie Nate Berkus, on a beautiful, travel-inspired evening as part of their “The Art of La Soirée” tour of events.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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?

If you are interested in attending one of  The Art of La Soirée events, check back in to Cointreau’s site to see about a soirée near you!

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All photos courtesy of Shannon Carpenter from This Aperture.

Boozy Babes in “All About That Mix” 5 pm (EST) Tonight at Mother of Pearl…on Periscope!

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?!

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All About That Mix

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:

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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!

Wanderlush: House Spirits Distillery in Portland Oregon

House Spirits bottles

Last month I had the opportunity to visit House Spirits Distillery in Portland, Oregon, tour the facilities with head distiller, Andrew Tice and get to know founder & distiller, Christian Krogstad – one of the pioneers behind America’s craft distilling revival.

Christian Krogstad

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House Spirits Distillery, a forerunner in Portland’s craft distilling community, is now in their 12th year of operation. And after leading the development of the city’s first Distillery Row in Southeast Portland, making the move into a shiny, new $6 million production facility with tasting room last November, they’ve solidified their position as the largest distilling operation in the Pacific Northwest.

The new 14,000 square foot space includes a 3,000-gallon copper and stainless steel whiskey still, one of the largest on the west coast.

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The new production facility allows for them to distill six times their previous distilling capacity and they have more than doubled their production of their flagship spirit, Aviation American Gin.

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They’ve only been in their new digs for about eight months now, but according to Krogstad, demand for product has them already outgrowing the building. They may soon have to look for another space entirely for the different legs of production. But in the meantime, they’re running a tight ship, producing excellent products and having fun while doing it.

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After having spent some time with Krogstad, I can’t help but think that the convivial atmosphere around the House Spirits Distillery is in large part due to his leadership.

A Seattle native, Krogstad spent some formative years post college in Hawaii where he first got into home brewing. After settling in Portland in ’91, initially drawn by the city’s craft beer boom and working in that industry for 12 years, he then looked to craft distilling as the next big thing. Observing the success of the microbrew scene informed his decision to test the industry waters. But it was the resurgence of craft cocktails and ultimately his partnership with local bartender Ryan Magarian that helped to launch Aviation American Gin as we know it, designed with cocktails in mind.

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As a longtime fan of Aviation Gin (and after having celebrated their 10th birthday in July with an original cocktail), I was eager to learn about and try all the other products House Spirits is producing.

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Volstead Vodka, cheekily named after the father of Prohibition, Andrew Volstead, was also created with cocktails in mind. Made with pure Cascade mountain water and filtered through charred coconut husks, this vodka went on to win the 2013 Gold Medal at the 2013 SF World Spirits Competition.

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I LOVE a coffee liqueur and House Spirits Coffee Liqueur is a lovely take on the category. Using pot-distilled rum made with Barbados molasses and then blended with cold pressed coffee from Portland’s famed Stumptown Coffee, this stuff was made to be sipped on its own, but would also be fantastic in a cocktail.

coffee-liqueur

Aquavit, a traditional Scandinavian spirit, usually distilled from grain and flavored with botanicals, namely caraway seed, is having a bit of a renaissance. Many bartenders specializing in craft cocktails have discovered it to be as important as a base spirit as vodka or gin. Coming from a desire to honor his family’s Scandinavian heritage, Krogstad had House Spirits produce aquavit early on in their development. They now produce two expressions, the unaged Krogstad Festlig Aquavit, made with only two botanicals, caraway seed and star anise and Krogstad Gamle Aquavit, aged in premium French oak wine barrels for 10-12 months, available once a year.

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Rounding out House Spirits’ portfolio is the fantastic Westward Oregon Straight Malt Whiskey launched in 2013. Using locally sourced barley and then fermented with ale yeasts, this malt whiskey, inspired by an Irish style of whiskey making, then has to spend two and a half years in new American oak barrels.

westward-whiskey

Head distiller, Andrew Tice, had me taste the whiskey wash, also known as distiller’s beer – essentially the beer that is to be distilled into whiskey. This normally is not very tasty, tends to have off flavors, and no one would voluntarily drink this unless they were in the business of distilling. But Westward Whiskey’s distiller’s beer was incredible. Like a Saison ale – earthy, fruit forward, nutty, complex and extremely quaffable! Maybe it’s because both Krogstad and Tice have craft brew backgrounds or they’ve just hit on something magic in the process, but if they ever want to go back into the beer business they may have something here!

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In any case, this quality wash also creates a beautiful whiskey. And the new facility will allow for even more of it to be produced and aged. They predict 1000 barrels of the stuff in their first year.

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To go behind the scenes on my tour of House Spirits Distillery, check out the Snapchat video I made that day below. Many thanks to Christian and Andrew and everyone who helped facilitate this amazing experience. I highly recommend visiting their Tasting Room the next time you’re in Portland. The space is beautiful, the people are lovely and extremely knowledgable and the spirits (and cocktails!) are top-notch. More info here.

Zen and Tonic: Savory and Fresh Cocktails for the Enlightened Drinker & Massive Bar Swag Giveaway!

Before I knew Jules Aron as the author of the beautiful, new garden to glass cocktail book Zen and Tonic, I knew her online as the Healthy Bartender. As a certified health and nutrition coach with a background in bartending, she was always transforming green juices and fruit smoothies into boozy concoctions, and figuring out ways to get those superfoods and antioxidants in to help balance out that boozy booze. And now she’s created a whole book of these recipes that lean heavily on the local, organic and seasonal and immune boosting fruits, herbs and veggies.

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If you’ve ever gotten a juice or smoothie and thought while sipping on your salad greens or slurping up a fruity ambrosia, “Hey! This would be aMAHzing with a splash of tequila in it!”, (and who hasn’t, let’s be real?!) then this book is for you. Aron breaks the recipes up into different categories: Lush and Fruity, Fresh and Crisp, Garden Fresh, Floral and Fragrant, Sweet and Spicy, and Rich and Creamy. I decided to make a cocktail from the Sweet and Spicy section – the Peach Honey Bomb.

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A blend of whiskey, fresh peaches, lemon juice, honey and ground turmeric, this is one of the easier concoctions in the book, tastes like sunshine and looks like it too!

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I used a new-ish to me whiskey, the “Alabama Style” Clyde May’s. This is a 6 year old bourbon mash with hints of dried apple and cinnamon…a lovely addition to the bright fruit and spices in the Peach Honey Bomb.

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Peach Honey Bomb (from page 199 in Zen and Tonic)
4 ounces whiskey
2 peaches, pitted
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend well. Serve chilled.

Superfood Spotlight
Turmeric, the bright orange spice, has long been used in the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of conditions. 


MASSIVE COCKTAIL SWAG GIVEAWAY!

You have five days from today to enter the Zen and Tonic giveaway for the chance to win a signed copy of the book and over $500 in bar swag! Some of my favorites like Love and Victory glassware and Gastronomista jewelry are included in this amazing prize, so you don’t want to miss out on this! Enter HERE for the chance to pimp your bar today!

Art of Auchentoshan & My Pretty Whisky Glass!

Founded in 1823 by Irish refugees settling in the Scottish Lowlands, on the edge of Glasgow, Auchentoshan, (pronounced ‘OKKen-TOSHan’) is a single malt whisky that is triple distilled, resulting in a delicate, approachable, and very mixable Scotch whisky; The perfect gateway Scotch for people who may be intimidated by the stuff, or who tend to favor lighter, Irish-style whiskies.

Achentoshan & Glass

Art of Auchentoshan is all about our journey to perfection. Our triple-distilled process to craft the smoothest single malt whisky. But it’s about more than just our approach to making our whisky. It’s about what we value. Attention to detail. Crafting our own course. Driven to be the best.”

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Last month, during Portland Cocktail Week, Auchentoshan Single Malt Scotch Whisky announced their Art of Auchentoshan program conceived to celebrate the art that bartenders create when they’re NOT behind the bar. This national campaign, in association with the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, is a year-long call to action for bartenders to share all forms of their original art, from music to photography, painting and sculpture, and every artistic expression in between. From now until September 2016, a panel of art experts will be evaluating submissions and will then choose a number of pieces to be exhibited or performed at a gallery.

To help celebrate this exciting, creative launch, a handful of spirits writers, media and photographers were given the incredible opportunity to learn how to blow their very own whisk(e)y glass at Brooklyn’s UrbanGlass. It was terrifying because, hi I’m a super clutz, but so fun. And, just look at how pretty it turned out!

Achentoshan glass

I MADE this with molten glass, a long tube and my own powerful lungs!!! (And a LOT of assistance from Esteban). A lovely “A” for Auchentoshan was etched onto the glass after it had cooled – I clearly didn’t do that part, but I was still pretty proud of what I had done!

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I was SO excited to see the finished product when I finally got this in the mail recently. The perfect vessel for my Auchentoshan whisky!


If you are a bartender and interested in submitting your artwork to Art of Auchentoshan, you’ll need to share a visual representation of your art in either a photograph or 15-second video on Instagram and tag #ArtofAuchentoshan. Once submitted, the image or video will be ‘on view’ on the dedicated Auchentoshan Tumblr site.

For more information, including all terms and conditions, visit http://www.ArtofAuchentoshan.com.

The Bubbly Boulevardier

We like to keep things fairly light-hearted here in the boozy world of Bit by a Fox. Cocktails (and cocktail culture) are happy making for the most part. And the tone is a pretty jovial one. Today’s cocktail post was created (originally) to honor the recent launch of the gorgeous book Paris Cocktails, written by Doni Belau creator of the popular site Girl’s Guide to Paris. And I don’t want to take away from that. But in light of the multiple tragedies that took place in Paris just a few days ago, I realized this post can’t help but take on a different tone. I couldn’t NOT address the world outside the bubble of this care-free blog, even for just a moment.

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I lived in New York City during the World Trade Center attacks. It was a devastating time. But the city, and the world around us, came together in a way that still moves me when I think back on it. When first hearing of the coordinated attacks on the beautiful City of Light this last Friday, I was immediately reminded of that overwhelming heartbreak and helplessness. I was also reminded of the generosity of spirit from total strangers and the solidarity that the rest of the world showed us during our city’s darkest hour. That was so crucial in the healing of our city.

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To show my own sort of solidarity, I’d like to dedicate this post to the people of Paris, whose joie de vivre, lust for life is forever an inspiration to me and this little blog. The City of Light will not be dimmed by the dark hearts of others.

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The Boulevardier is a pre-prohibition era cocktail that is often described as a whiskey Negroni. Bourbon or rye takes the place of gin. Like the Negroni, it is traditionally made with equal parts Sweet Vermouth and Campari. When I was asked to recreate a classic French cocktail or put my own twist on a favorite, I immediately thought of The Boulevardier. It’s easily one of my favorites, and is remarkably adaptable by switching out or adding additional ingredients. While this cocktail was actually created by an American ex-pat, Erskine Gwynne who was  living in Paris at the time and founded a Paris literary magazine in the 1920s called…the Boulevardier(!), the drink is most associated with Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. I thought it fitting to include a cocktail that is part New York City and part Paris. We’ve always adored one another!

Paris Cocktails

What makes this particular version even MORE French is the addition of French Whisky, Bastille 1789 (the year of the French Revolution). Hand-crafted in the Cognac region, this blended whisky, made in a Scotch style and aged in French Limousin oak, is softer and lighter than the usual bourbon or heavy-duty rye. Oh! And did I mention there’s Champagne?!

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That’s my big twist! I ADORE adding bubbly to a Negroni. And it totally works with The Boulevardier as well. It makes it feel even more festive. This is actually the perfect type of drink this time of year. And four ingredient cocktails are a must when entertaining for the holidays…

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Speaking of the holidays…Paris Cocktails would be a delightful gift for anyone in your life who is a Francophile, cocktail enthusiast, avid traveler or aesthetically inclined. Belau documents the rise of the cocktail culture in Paris and profiles many of the go-to bars and the bartenders that have helped shape that scene. There’s also a TON of cocktail recipes both classic and modern, inspired by the City of Light. Purchase the book directly from Belau’s site: Girls Guide to Paris.

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The Bubbly Boulevardier
1 oz Bastille 1789 French Whisky
1 oz Campari
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Brut Champagne
cocktail cherry for garnish

In a mixing glass filled with ice, stir whisky, Campari and sweet vermouth for 30-40 seconds, until well chilled. Strain into a coupe glass with a cocktail cherry already at the bottom of the glass. Top with Champagne. Santé

Foxy Friends: Eataly New York’s Beverage Director, Emily Hand

For the second installment in our Foxy Friends series, we are featuring another Jersey girl! Emily Hand is the Beverage Director for Eataly New York, the 50,000 square foot food and drink mecca devoted to all things Italian.

Emily Hand Head Shot

Emily Hand started working at Eataly as a sommelier in early August 2010, just before the store opened. Although she had been studying wine on her own for a couple of years, it was her first foray into the wine world. In April 2013, Emily was appointed to her current role as Beverage Director for Eataly New York.”

Emily Hand has a big job – a dream job for anyone into wine and food and Italy and LIFE, but a very big job, to be sure. She oversees all 7 (SEVEN!) wine and beer lists for each of Eataly New York’s restaurants (which change-up every week!), she leads a knowledgeable team of sommeliers, keeps track of inventory, year over year sales, and even teaches food and wine classes at La Scuola…in her spare time. That’s actually one of her favorite parts of the job. Sharing her vast knowledge of Italian wines in a casual and approachable style is already Emily’s trademark. And she’s done this all in just a few short years. She must be doing something right! Here’s an inside look at Emily and her job as Beverage Director at Eataly.

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Prairie Rose: What is an aspect of the job that would be the most surprising to people who don’t know what you do?

Emily Hand: The most surprising part of the job is probably the least glamorous parts such as organizing cases upon cases of product, and crunching lots of numbers as part of being a responsible buyer.  I can certainly be spotted tasting wine with various sales reps and with my team throughout the week, but I am a spittin’ fool. Cant be slowed down by drinking!

What was it that initially drew you to wine? Have you always been interested in Italian wine, in particular? What’s your favorite region?

I love the way wine incited such passion in people as they spoke about it…maybe it was the Italians, they are a passionate people. I became very interested in Italian wine when I went to Italy during college for a week-long wine trip/scholarship. There is much to offer from opening up a bottle alone, but to backtrack through the import/export process and back into the vineyards and wineries, to meet the people behind the wine, that is what sealed the deal for me. I’ve studied (and tasted!) wines from around the world, and enjoy other old world wine regions as well, but I’ll always come back to Italy.  My favorite region is Toscana because that is where I fell in love with Italian wine.

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What would you consider a (perhaps, lowbrow) guilty pleasure?

I truly don’t consider it lowbrow, but if I’m out at a bar after work, you’ll almost never catch me drinking wine (dinner, yes, bar, no). I love tequila…not frozen margaritas per se but a nice aged tequila on the rocks with lots of lime…that’s my jam.

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People are always looking for a deal but still want quality. What is your go-to, bang for your buck pick right now?

My bang for the buck will typically come from the lesser known regions of Italy, and usually fall geographically on the outskirts, the far north such as Trentino Alto Adige and Valle d’Aosta  or far south such as Calabria, Sicila, Sardegna. You can pick up the Odoardi Terra Damia (Gaglioppo) on the shelf at the wine store for $20.80, it’s a crowd-pleaser.

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With the seasons changing, what do you foresee being in everyone’s glasses in the next couple of months?

Whisky, Whiskey and more WHISKEY– tis the season for the beverage that warms you from the inside out.  There are a lot of local distilleries breaking onto the scene right now, just as local food is all the rage (and hopefully a permanent ideology), the movement of handcrafted, small-batch spirits is making waves. I like the whiskey lineup from Hudson distilleries. Also cider, I am a big cider fan so that’s what will be in my glass. I’d like to add some cider influenced cocktails to the lineup. I experimented with that last weekend. Research is exhausting 🙂

Do you have a favorite cocktail to make? To drink?

My favorite cocktail to make is a Bloody Mary because I feel like a chef with all of the ingredients and variations, it’s a challenge to create the perfect balance. I’m a savory cocktail nut, always have been. My favorite cocktail to drink is a dirty vodka martini, the more olives the better. So dirty I want the bartender to blush.

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What are you most excited about right now at Eataly?

That’s a tough question because so much is going on…I get excited as the seasons change and we delve deeper into the fresh and local bounty of the tri-state area. We integrate seasonal changes into the cocktails and beer/wine selections just as the chefs do on the food menus. Right now I am excited about two huge wine events we are hosting, a walk-around Brunello tasting with Jancis Robinson and Walter Speller (exclusive 2010 vintage!) and a seminar with Angelo Gaja, that man is a legend!

What has been your biggest learning at Eataly to date?

My biggest revelation here at Eataly has been my ability to roll with the punches, and that managing people-not just managing them but investing in them, caring about their development as much as your own, is the key to success.

BOOK GIVEAWAY! The Art of American Whiskey By Noah Rothbaum

Hey there! Do you consider yourself a bit of a whiskey nerd? Are you also into American history, and like to geek out over vintage advertising, graphic and industrial design? Am I just describing myself? Is this a dating profile?? Stay with me here.

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I KNOW I’m not the only one around these parts who is a fan of all of the above. Even if you only have a passing interest in history, design and American whiskey, but appreciate a thoroughly researched, visually appealing page turner, you’ll very much enjoy The Art of American Whiskey: A Visual History of the Nation’s Most Storied Spirit, through 100 Iconic Labels by Noah Rothbaum.

Unlike the glut of whiskey books out there concentrating on what is inside the bottle, The Art of American Whiskey tells the story of this revered spirit by focusing on what has been created to appear on the outside.

Fans of historic Four Roses would be sure to spot this ornate box decorated with its signature flowers on the pharmacy shelf. This particular bottle was prescribed to a patient in Sparks, Nevada, in 1924. According to the label, two ounces of whiskey were to be mixed with hot water.” (excerpt from the chapter: Prohibition)

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Four Roses, p 32 (Photo courtesy of Four Roses)

Turns out, the iconic labels and packaging that have helped to market the spirit that is so ingrained in American culture and history, have their own story to tell.

Bourbon Falls was the first whiskey sold by Heaven Hill, which started up right after the end of Prohibition. This striking Art Deco label was used in the late 1930s.” (excerpt from the chapter: Life after Temperance)

Bourbon Falls, p 53 (Photo courtesy of Heaven Hills Distillery)

Bourbon Falls, p 53 (Photo courtesy of Heaven Hills Distillery)

Rothbaum, clearly a whiskey enthusiast, does a wonderful job as story-teller, historian, and booze archaeologist. He uncovers a rich visual history starting in the late 1800s, going through Prohibition and the Great Depression, into “The Swinging Sixties” and even through the “Dark Ages” – The 70s, 80s and 90s, finally taking us up to the present booze-soaked renaissance we currently seem to be in, “The New Golden Age”.

This 1969 label perfectly encapsulates the progression in liquor packaging design, with a sleek Manhattan cocktail image, gold chain link borders, and modern font, while still paying tribute to the brand’s historic roots.” (excerpt from the chapter: The Swinging Sixties)

Jim Beam, p 95 (Photo courtesy of Beam Suntory Inc)

Jim Beam, p 95 (Photo courtesy of Beam Suntory Inc)

In each chapter, Rothbaum includes cocktails of the time, with recipes contributed by legendary bartenders, distillers and spirits writers and historians. The below cocktail, The Scofflaw Cocktail featured in the Prohibition section of The Art of American Whiskey, was contributed by writer, bartender and cocktail legend, Gary (“Gaz”) Regan.

The Scofflaw Cocktail – Contributed by Gary Regan
2 ounces of Bourbon or Straight Rye Whiskey
1 ounce Dry Vermouth
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce grenadine
2 few dashes orange bitters

Put all ingredients in a shaker and fill with ice. Shake and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Giveaway Alert!

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A signed copy of The Art of American Whiskey can be yours! With the holidays coming up, this is PERFECT for that special whiskey fan in your life. It’s also a wonderful addition to your own bar library in case you want to keep it all for yourself. You have a bar library, right?! In the comments below, write about your very first experience (that you can remember) with American whiskey and if the bottle design had any influence on your decision to drink said spirit.


All the labels featured here: “Reprinted with permission from The Art of American Whiskey by Noah Rothbaum, copyright 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.”

Martin Miller’s Gin in Iceland

If you follow me on social media, you are well aware that I went to Iceland this past May with Martin Miller’s Gin. And if you talk to me on a regular basis, you know that I still can’t shut up about it. I mean…

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Like many people, visiting Iceland has been on my “bucket list” for a while. And I sort of STILL can’t believe how lucky I was to be able to have had that experience. Iceland is one of those magical places that truly lives up to the hype, exceeding my expectations, in fact. The sheer natural beauty, the vastness and otherworldly quality is so hard to convey in pictures. But, oh baby, we tried!

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Manned with a GoPro, a Canon S110 and an iPhone 6 (and a couple of lavalier mics for decent sound), producer Joy Barrett and I set out to document the experience.

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Our home base was the stunning coastal capital of Iceland, Reykjavik.

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From there, we traveled to the mystical black sand beaches…

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…day tripped to the breathtaking countryside and volcanic fields…

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…and hit multiple geothermal spas, including the Blue Lagoon, of course!

bluelagoon2But, most importantly, we used our opportunity in this strange and beautiful land to really get to know the process it takes to make Martin Miller’s Gin, and see firsthand why Iceland is so important to their production. We wanted to capture the spirit of this unique product that depends on the purity of Icelandic water to produce such a superior gin.

In order to really immerse ourselves in the Martin Miller’s Gin experience, they had us caravan (in a fleet of Superjeeps!) deep into the country to see their small bottling plant.

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From there we were able to check out the exact spot of the water source for every one of their bottles of gin.

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Martin Miller’s Gin co-founder David Bromige leads to troops out to the gin’s water source.

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Martin Miller’s Gin co-founder David Bromige

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Martin Miller’s Gin was also hosting a global cocktail design competition called We Are The Tastemakers, and had flown out 6 regional winners from all over the world to compete in the Grand Final.

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The bartenders Lisandro Araoz from Argentina, Markus Muller from Germany, Gorge Camorra from Australia,  Allen Cheng from Taiwan…

as well as Alex Lawrence and Megs DeMeulenaure both from the UK, each presented their original Martin Miller’s Gin cocktails for journalists from the UK, USA and mainland Europe. There was so much ingenuity, and thought that went into every one of these cocktails, it was so difficult to choose! In the end, the winning cocktail was the delightful River Martini from Germany’s Markus Muller.

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The entire experience was pretty spectacular. And while I was already a fan of Martin Miller’s Gin, I really came away from this visit with a new-found respect for the passion behind producing this spirit and the importance of the water that they use. Using Icelandic water because it’s the purest in the world, when your main operation is in the UK is no easy feat! That is commitment to quality gin!

In the below video that Giggle Water Productions created from our visit last May, Martin Miller’s Gin C.E.O., Jacob Ehrenkrona, stressed how important it is to actually make the kind of trek that we did to truly understand the product. I’m so glad that I was able to be a part of it. It really was the Summer of Gin!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably already know that we will be launching an original web series called “Wanderlush” in the fall, that will essentially bring the blog to life. It will merge travel, style and drinking culture. And, Iceland is our first stop! We gave you a sneak peek in July and a taste of what’s to come in this post but we will finally reveal our first episode next month! Stay tuned for more Icelandic magic!

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This post was made possible by Martin Miller’s Gin. All opinions are my own.

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