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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