Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I've been writing about spirits, cocktails and bars since 2006 and during that time I've attended several spirit launch (and re-launch) events. Figure on average about seven a year.
In that time I've learned from my mistakes and the mistakes of others.
So, I've come up with some basic rules for you to follow if you find yourself attending a Spirit Launch Party.

Rule #1 for attending a Spirit Launch Party.
Stock up on singles & 20's. Be prepared to tip everybody.
The thinking behind this is simple - 5's & 10's make you look like a hipster piker. Also, do you want to be that person who asks for change of a 5 dollar bill or the guy who doesn't tip at all??

Rule #2
Bring plenty of business cards. Be prepared to get a ton. Bring 2 cardholders.

Rule #3
Dress like you mean business.
3.1) Men: Clean Shirt with a nice tie and jacket.
3.2) Ladies: Yeah, I'm not going to tell you how to dress. 

Rule #4
Learn how to spot the sloppy drunks.
Glossy eyes lack of balance. They will spill  a drink on your nice outfit (see Rule #3) and blame you.

Rule #5
If there is a band and they are on a break. Buy them a round.
5.1) Who knows, one day you might be able to say 'I knew them when...'

Never act like you are in a club. Two words: BOTTLE SERVICE.
Two more words: OH HELLA FRICKING NO!

Drink some water! Can't stress that enough

Never assume they will serve food. Eat before you go.

When you start drinking know when to finish.

Always have a exit plan and a back up ready to go.

Don't be that guy. If you are over 40 don't hit on a 25-year-old girl.
SIDE NOTE: This rule only applies to men. Cougars, GO FOR IT! RIDE' EM COWGIRL!

Plan on getting home late.

Drink water. Drunks don't close.

Rule#14Anything that happens at a launch event STAYS at a launch event. IT NEVER HAPPENED!

Last rule of attending any launch event.

Rule # 15 Bring it! Own it! Work it like your rent depends on it. Cause it does

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Death & Co. Review or Clipboards & Cocktails, Oh my!

 Some time ago I was hired to write a review about Death & Co. This version of my review was never published so....

Death & Co. 433 East 6th Street New York, NY 10009 (212) 388-0882 
(East Village)

When you are standing at the threshold of Death & Co. you will notice something that most cocktail bars don’t have, a gatekeeper. This man’s job is not to demolish people. He is NOT a Ray Lewis clone dressed in black and carrying a chip on his shoulder. This man’s job is to make sure you enjoy your evening in a stress-free environment. Once he lets in you’ll realize that the gatekeeper’s clipboard was set to ‘comfortable and cozy’ not ‘crowded and noisy’. And if that means taking your cell phone number and calling you once space is available - than that is what happens. This isn’t Fort Knox or Studio 54…they know that. This is Death & Co. and they want you to have a great time in an intimate setting.

Brian Miller is one of the principles behind Death & Co. He’s an imposing six foot tall gentleman bartender. Brain possesses a rare quality for someone in the spirits industry. He has no ego; he’s not in it for the money, glory or the fame. He is in it to make quality drinks for everyone in a setting that would make Etta James feel at home.

One of the curious dissimilarities you’ll discover at Death & Co. is their cocktail menu. It’s broken down by the major spirits (Gin, Rum, Tequila and Whiskey) but from there it is divided by shaken versus stirred drinks. The difference being, cocktails with juices (liqueurs, dairy or simple syrup) are shaken to open up the flavor profiles of the heavier ingredients with the help of straining and effervescence. Stirred cocktails are about the mild mix of items to reduce dilution while maintaining each items essence. Of course I have a favorite from each category.
Slap n’ Pickle ($13) 
Shaken- Not Stirred
Krogstad Aquavit
Muddled Cucumber
Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
House made Grenadine
Cucumber Wedge

Cure For Pain ($13)
Stirred- Not shaken
Rittenhouse Bonded Rye Whiskey
Carpano Antica Vermouth
George T. Stagg Bourbon,
Otima10yr Tawny Port
White Crème De Cacao,
Orange Twist

If you consider Death & Co. is a speakeasy, think again. If it were the name would not be printed on the sidewalk. Its location would be a whisper, lost in rumor and better hidden than the island on LOST. At its heart Death & Co. is a romantic two fold tribute to a time when hard working Americans were NOT allowed to exercise their God given right to have a good drink. Co-owner, Dave Kaplan, got the name from a short story written by Dashiell Hammett. Hammett also wrote a little thing called ‘The Maltese Falcon’.  The other part of the tribute comes from a group of Prohibition era artists called Death & Company. They painted signs in support of Prohibition but if you read the signs correctly there was a hidden map within the picture that would show you how to get to a speakeasy and have a drink. Basically, it was a quick response (or QR) code for drinkers.

Beyond the literary and historic tributes, Death & Co. is about perfectly constructed cocktails for you and your date in a setting that looks back to the days when a man stood up when a lady entered a room. Death & Co. is NOT about ‘getting your drink on’ or how many shots you can do. It is a cocktail bar where the classics are shown respect and rudeness the door.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A love Letter to Ward III ...No relation.

It's been way too long. And that's all I'll say about that. This much is true, I am back to my craft, my joy... my reason for rocking the boat. 


Ward III
111 Reade Street New York, NY 10013 (212) 240-9194

Some of the best cocktail bars in Manhattan are smothered in rumor, hidden behind false walls and drenched in the rich history of the prohibition era. The men and women behind these establishments spend their time writing about, researching and rebuilding the cocktails of that bygone time. Ward III is one of those bars and its proprietor, Michael Neff is one those men.

The Ward (as it’s called by its long time patrons) is hidden in plain sight at 111 Reade Street between West Broadway and Church Street in Tribeca. The front of Ward III looks like a tough- as-adamantium nails New York dive bar (circa 1970), but don’t be fooled. The façade is just a clever trick to keep the Budweiser crowd away. When you walk in, you’ll be greeted by the usual décor – exposed brick walls, cozy black leather loveseats and dim lighting – a standard for any hip bar in New York City. Once you go deeper, past the tchotchkes on the wall and sit at the bar, you will notice something - You’ve left the usual behind. The Ward is a realm of delicious bespoke cocktails made by professionals who will take the time to map out your drinking desires by asking what excites your taste buds. This is not an interrogation – it’s a genuine inquiry about what you love to have in your mouth; not an attempt to sell you whatever spirit is popular.

Bespoke cocktails are just part of the ingenious libation menu put together by The Ward’s gentle genius, Michael Neff. Over the last fifteen years Mr. Neff has perfected the art of remaking classic recipes with a modern twist by working at some of the best bars in New York, San Francisco and Seattle. Always inventing, reformulating and bringing his best works; he is the Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic of the classic cocktail movement. (For you non comic book readers, he’s the super elastic, smarter than genius leader of the Fantastic Four.) 

Mr. Neff and his staff of mixologists pride themselves on putting the art in artisan and the pro in professional. If you’re looking for a simple rum and coke, this is neither the place, nor are these the men to ask. They have built a solid cocktail program by improving on the new, enhancing the old and putting what you want at the forefront. Beyond the bespoke cocktails, The Ward delivers both House and Premium cocktails that start at $12 and $16 respectively. Among my personal favorites are:

Maker’s 46 Bourbon

Red Breast Irish Whiskey

Muddled Cardamom Seed

Lemon & Orange Zest Infused

Sugar Cube
Served up with a Burnt Orange Twist


Maker’s Mark Bourbon

Muddled Strawberries


Egg White

Peychaud’s Bitters

Any bar worth its bitters has something up its figurative sleeve, a ‘Tesoro Nascosto’ as my Grandmother would say. If you stop by The Ward on a Monday night between 8 and 10 PM, you can take part in a free whiskey tasting. If you are extremely lucky you will be able to sit in on a few different tastings. Stopping by however, is not an excuse to drink for free, it is an invitation to an education on a variety of spirits. On any given Monday, you may get to sample a new blend or get the first taste from a label’s reserve stock. If you want to stay one step ahead of the crowd, check out their Facebook page where they maintain an up to date listing of what the featured spirit will be.

Lastly and on a more personal note-

I’ve been to Ward III more times than the Kardashians have been mentioned on TMZ and every time Mr. Neff has been there. If he’s not behind the bar, he’s busing tables or talking to the patrons, making sure everything is running smoothly. One night my friend ordered a Gibson (Gin & Vermouth garnished with a mini pickled onion) and casually commented on the amount of onions (one) in her drink. In the time it took us to finish our drinks and order another round, Michael had run out to the store and bought more onions. Apparently, the bar was low on that particular garnish. This course of action might have gone unnoticed had it not been for the five onions in her second Gibson. Mr. Neff could have gotten a bus boy to get them or told my friend ‘one per customer’. Thankfully that was not the solution. He made sure that Gibson was perfectly crafted her. That’s the sort of man Michael Neff is, that’s the sort of bar Ward III has become. 

If you want to read more of my reviews (not as long as this one) pick up the 2nd issue of VODA. I cover some of the best cocktail bars in NYC.

  Have a safe and Happy New Year. And remember- 

That's the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”
Charles Bukowski, Women  


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I know a bunch of these guys and gals. I've heard them say a few of these line. I'd love to be in a Shit Liquor Writers Say video...

Friday, August 3, 2012

Hey, Mr. Mixologists.

Saw this one on Facebook and I had to share it. Funniest line- "What's Star Fruit?"

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Band, State, City and University have nothing to apologize for.

In October of 2011 I was sent a bottle of Kansas (Clean Distilled) Whiskey and the press kit for it. After reading the major selling points and the history behind Kansas (The whiskey, not the band) I was ready to file it all under the heading of WTFWTT (What The F$%K Were They Thinking?) and walk away. But I could not do that, it would not be professional. So, I took the bottle home and did what any good liquor reviewer would do: I let the bottle sit on my shelf for a month.

On a random day in November, I opened the elongated flask-shaped glass bottle, poured myself three fingers worth of the cream colored whiskey, took a healthy swig and something interesting happened: I discovered that I was drinking a horrible whiskey.

Usually this is where I go into a scathing two-page rant on why I think Kansas (The whiskey not the State) is one of the worst whiskeys on the planet, compare it to a WMD and make witty jokes about it using references from TV shows and movies that have long since passed. But I have matured and come to see the big picture. The big picture is...This is not the whiskey I was looking for and the sad thing is they told me this right from the start.

The Press Kit for Kansas contains the following selling points:
  • Not fusty, tweedy or rednecky.
Basically, Kansas (The whiskey not the City) believes that whiskey is for old people who enjoy Jeff Foxworthy jokes. On that point they're half right - I turned 43 years old in January, but I couldn't pick Foxworthy out of a line up.
Foxworthy is the guy wearing the shirt, right?
And for the record - whiskey, good whiskey, is supposed to have an aged olfactory quality to it. If a whiskey smells like CK One, then something has gone horribly wrong in the process of making said whiskey.
  • Appeals to both men and women who enjoy vodka.
This point struck me as odd. When I want whiskey I drink whiskey, and when I want vodka I drink vodka, the two trains have never met. And I believe the same holds true for most real drinkers.
  • Can be consumed neat wearing bikini or slithery cocktail dress.
Slithery? Really, I'm calling poor word choice on that. I'm guessing Kansas' target audience is women and cross dressers. Since I can't pull off a strapless Blood Red Valentino gown...
  • Dark brown is sexy unless you are drinking something dark brown.
HUH? I'm brown and I taste delicious. Sorry, I could not resist.
  • Mixes well to create an astonishing variety of cocktails.
Now we arrive at the heart of the matter. I will agree that Kansas goes well in a variety of cocktails but so does ice. Kansas (the Whiskey, not the University) is such a substandard excuse of a whiskey that it cannot stand up to even simple ingredients.

The Kansas Cooler
1 1/2 oz. Kansas
An unmentioned amount of Ginger Ale
Squeeze of Lemon or Lime
Dash of bitters
Whiskey and ginger ale have been successfully paired together since the invention of the bar...until now; I made and drank The Kansas Cooler. I will not make nor drink it again. The taste, smell and finish is that of sour ginger ale with bitters. If you don't know what bitters are, have no fear;
  • It is a highly concentrated food and beverage flavoring agent than works to bind your various ingredients.
Adding bitters to this cocktail does not work because there is nothing for it to bind but the juice and the ginger ale. You end up with a glass of watery lemon-flavored ginger ale. Kansas is doesn't have the strength to stand up ginger ale, let alone bitters.

The Kansas Twister
3 Orange wedges
Handful of Mint
2 oz. of Kansas
3/4 Simple Syrup
The muddled mash of fruit and mint is nothing more than a poor twist on The Mojito. The taste of Kansas cannot be found in this drink due to its lack of essence and flavor. It is deficient of a quality that all real whiskeys share... A back bone fortified with generations of pride in the process and an unyielding determination to make a quality product.
You might wonder how a whiskey can be so bad that it makes ordering a Seagram's Golden Wine Cooler a better option. The answer is in the distillation process. Kansas is a winter wheat base spirit that is column distilled. If you’re confused about the last line I’ll walk you through it.

·        Most whiskeys (good whiskeys) use full bodied grains like corn, rye or barley as a base. Usually whiskey is pot distilled; this is done to capture a variety of aromatic components. Using earthy grains adds a healthy sapidity to the final product (whiskey). All of which creates a spirit with strength, weight and depth that presents whiskey’s color, taste and mixability.

·        One uses wheat and a column still to make VODKA not whiskey. Column stills are used to refine or remove a variety of aromatic components (the very things that make whiskey). Your final product is a crisp, clear spirit and that’s fine but it ain’t whiskey. Yes, I used the word ain’t.

I could go on ripping apart the cocktails and the "spirit" but I won't. I won't waste my time and yours on a pop up whiskey created for Generation Hipster looking to create a Zima Effect in the liquor industry. This spirit is not for someone who has a mature palate, still plays pool in a bar and knows how to make a Manhattan, blindfolded. So, I'll end my review with this... 

If you want an easy to drink whiskey that tastes like flat crème soda and rubbing alcohol then by all means go out and grab a case. But if you want a quality whiskey, something that can be mixed or sipped or shot, then you need to look elsewhere. And by elsewhere I mean:
Maker's Mark, Buffalo Trace, Mitcher's, Knob Creek, Jack Daniels, Gentleman Jack anything but Kansas... (The whiskey not the Sunflower State).

Till next we drink.
Everybody should believe in something; I believe I'll have another drink. 
Author Unknown

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