Dizzy Recap: The Six Dizziest Moments of 2009

Junior Merino, The Liquid Chef.

So really, this recap only reflects the past seven months of 2009 since I started this blog in May, but so much radness went down that I thought the time period deserved some pause–including one event I haven’t even recapped until now because life and too many cocktails got in the way (it happens to the best of us).

  • Junior Merino’s Liquid Lab (November): Holy hole in a lotus root, if you have been to Junior’s lab you have truly tasted the rainbow.  Primarily for bartenders, this free, day-long experience at Junior’s offices in the Bronx (sorry, no photos allowed) is a mix of mad cocktail science and blind tastings. On the day I attended, we tasted five different kinds of vodka, cachaca, rum, pisco, tequila, and mezcal, and we tasted everything twice. Tasting spirits twice (after lots of water and spitting) allowed my palate and brain to register more intense flavors. We then mixed cocktails using each type of spirit and pulled ingredients from Junior’s seemingly endless supply of liquor, liqueurs, juices, syrups, bitters, fresh produce and herbs, garnishes, spices, salts–really anything you could imagine, it was there. Each cocktail we made included at least one sponsored ingredient–Combier Orange Liqueur, Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, and Castries Peanut Rum. Being an amateur mixologist, this was a real treat for me, as was tasting the more experienced bartender’s concoctions. My best drink (in my opinion) included: muddled pepquinos (tiny melons) and starfruit, habanero-infused Siembra Azul Tequila, Combier, The Liquid Chef Agave Nectar, lemon juice, and garnished with rock chives, starfruit, and The Liquid Chef Cactus & Lemongrass Salt on the rim. Some bartenders toyed with the liquid nitrogen, dry ice, and liquid smoke for more molecular experiments. A highlight for me was tasting the not-yet-released Creme Yvette, which offers a brilliant mix of berry and vanilla flavors. Another major highlight was the amazing lunch spread provided by Junior’s wife, chef Heidi. If you are in the NYC area and are a working bartender, this is an opportunity not to be missed.
  • World Cocktail Day (May): The day I got this blog up and running, and what a day it was! More than 20 of the country’s top mixologists threw down at Pranna in celebration of the birthday of the cocktail.
  • The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, Day 1 & Day 2 (October): Two days of expert sessions and tastings, followed by a blowout gala. This is one weekend that will probably be remembered as the event of the year for NYC cocktailians.
  • WhiskyFest New York (November): Where I learned that there is no such thing as too much whisk(e)y. Why can’t every day be WhiskyFest?
  • 2nd Annual D.C. Repeal Day Ball (December): No better reason to put on a black-tie outfit than to celebrate the anniversary of Prohibition’s end–and no better place to celebrate than the D.C. cocktail hub.
  • The Dizzy Fizz Holiday Puncheon (December): C’mon, you know I had to put the puncheon on here! If you were there, you know; if you weren’t, I’m sorry but you missed a damn fine time.

*Glaring omission: No, I was not at Tales of the Cocktail. Hopefully next year!

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New Year’s Eve in NYC is for Cocktail Lovers

“New Year’s Day:  Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions.  Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”–Mark Twain

How was your 2009? Mine was half crap, half amazing. I’m ok with that–discomfort breeds growth, and let’s just say I had a lot of growth over the past decade. I’ll be ringing in New Year’s Eve 2010 with a Moroccan-inspired dinner and cocktail party at home with friends, followed by a few rounds at some of these cocktailian fêtes for a tip of the arm or two (or three):

  • What’s a new decade without a pre-party? Swing in 2010 a night early with “The Salon” at The Players Club featuring guest bartenders Eryn Reece (Rye House, Louis 649) and Loungerati’s Fredo Ceraso as well as free Dewar’s cocktails to the first 125 paying guests. Entertainment includes George Gee’s Jump, Jivin’ Wailers (10-piece band); Gelber and Manning vaudeville; burlesque tap dancing by Helen Pontani; burlesque by Pandora; and DJ Rikomatic. Tickets are $25 cash at the door. 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.
  • Death & Co. is not only celebrating the New Year but also its three-year anniversary. Tickets are $125 per person (not including tax and tip) and include cocktails, champagne toast, bites, and dessert. 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. RSVP: nicole@deathandcompany.com (Tickets are almost gone!)
  • Lexington Bar & Books is hosting an exclusive New Year’s bash with a midnight champagne toast, hors d’oeuvres, and party favors for all. Plus you get to light up cigars inside, if that’s your thing. Tickets are $25 in advance; $30 at the door. RSVP: (212) 717-3902. Proper attire requested. 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • Louis 649 is hosting a “No Bullsh*t” New Year’s Eve with no cover, no doorman, no tickets, no pre-fixe–just bring your smiling faces. 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.
  • The Summit Bar is throwing two parties in one–a “Disco 2010” party from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. with DJ Kimiko, followed by a bar industry party from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. with DJ D Sol. Head mixologist Greg Seider will be whipping up a spiced cranberry champagne drink and a New Year’s punch. No cover, drinks are pay-as-you-go, and you can bring non-industry friends. RSVP: Hamid@thesummitbar.net

Also, if you’re looking for food with your drink on New Year’s, here’s some restaurant suggestions. Cheers!

The Dizzy Fizz’s Top 10 NYC Cocktail Bars to Open in 2009

The "Suffering Bastard" at Dutch Kills (bourbon, gin, lime juice, ginger bitters, and soda)

This was really tough to narrow down, but in no particular order (not to sound like a kindergarten teacher, but they’re all Number 1!), I found that these amazing new cocktail bars made NYC a better place to drink in 2009:

*Honorable Mentions: Bar Celona, 118 S. 4th St., Brooklyn.; Minetta Tavern, 113 MacDougal St.; The Jane Hotel, 113 Jane St.

Dizzy Gifts, Part 3: Tools & Accessories Under $50

Hopefully by now you’re doing better than I am and you’re already done with your holiday shopping. If like me, you were busy with too many pre-holiday events and are now shopping last-minute, here are a few handy ideas for those cocktail lovers on your list–good luck!

Dizzy Recap: The Dizzy Fizz Holiday Puncheon!

LUPEC's "Remember the Night" punch was one of seven served at The Dizzy Fizz Holiday Puncheon. All photos by Leo Borovskiy of Lush Life Productions.

“If you’d know when you’ve enough – Of the punch and the claret cup – It’s time to quit the blessed stuff – When you fall down and can’t get up”–Unknown

Blessed stuff indeed, and thanks to all who made The Dizzy Fizz Holiday Puncheon an unforgettable evening!

On Sunday December 20, 2009, I was pleased as punch to ring in the holidays in style with a plaid-fashioned punch party at The Summit Bar, 133 Avenue C. This invite-only event gathered more than 100 of the city’s top mixologists and bar industry professionals, cocktail bloggers, lovely friends, as well as some internationally-recognized master mixologists. The Puncheon not only celebrated the holiday season, but was also  my way of toasting the six-month mark for TheDizzyFizz.com as I approached 20,000 views–thanks for your support!

The Puncheon, named for the speakeasy that preceded the ’21’ Club some 80 years ago, featured seven punches created by members of the USBGNY (United States Bartending Guild of New York), LUPECNYC (NYC Chapter of the Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails), and The Summit Bar’s staff. Punches featured sponsored ingredients including: Plymouth Gin, Bols Genever, Ron Zacapa 23 Aged Rum, Bulleit Bourbon, Partida Tequila, Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky, 10 Cane Rum, Martini & Rossi Prosecco, Gran Marnier Liqueur, Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur, Benedictine Liqueur, Chartreuse, and Averna Sambuca Agrumi.

Author/illustrator Jill DeGroff, and her husband, master mixologist Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff, were featured guests. Jill DeGroff signed copies of her new book, “Lush Life: Portraits from Behind the Bar,” for party guests, courtesy of Chartreuse. Brian Van Flandern, a Michelin three-star mixologist, consultant to Chef Thomas Keller of Per Se, and author of “Vintage Cocktails,” and John Myers, cocktail historian, mixologist, and author of the upcoming “What Would Jesus Drink: Cocktails for the Second Coming” were also in attendance.

LUPEC bartender Jane Elkins’ punch, “The Redhead,” won the most applause and bragging rights as the crowd favorite. The punch included sage-infused Barenjager Honey Liqueur, Yamazaki 12 Year Whisky, Bulleit Bourbon, rooibos tea, ginger syrup, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, and Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters.

For the complete list of recipes, see the “Events” page. I can’t thank the participating bartenders enough: Greg Seider of The Summit Bar, Frank Cisneros of Bar Celona and Prime Meats (USBGNY), John Pomeroy of The Hideout (USBGNY), Jane Elkins of Rye House (LUPEC), Lynnette Marrero of Rye House (LUPEC), Elayne Duke, mixologist for Diageo (LUPEC), Kelley Slagle of Hearth (LUPEC), and Katie Darling of White Star (LUPEC).

Special thanks to Jill and Dale DeGroff for driving through the snow to make the event, to Katie Darling and Tal Nadari of Bols Genever for letting us use their gorgeous punch bowls, to Lush Life Productions for their amazing photography (see the full reel here!) and for providing the yummy cheese and fruit platters, to Hamid Rashidzada of The Summit Bar for organizing an extremely professional staff, to my lovely door host, Chaya Wilkins, and to everyone who made it out on a cold Sunday night–I know you all could have just stayed home in your PJs. Thanks for getting punched in the mouth with me, let’s do it again soon!

(Click on the photos to enlarge:)

Elsewhere in the Liquiverse…

 

Harlem speakeasy 67 Orange.

Dizzy Gifts, Part 2: Education

 

Thinking about his next drink.

“Study as if you were going to live forever; live as if you were going to die tomorrow.”–Maria Mitchell, American astronomer

If you’re anything like me, once you become passionate about something, you have a strong desire to learn as much about that something as you can. Some people might call me a nerd. Sure, there is something to be said for artistic intuition and natural talent, and there isn’t a field of study for everything–abstract expressionist painting or a sense of humor, for instance–but when it comes to having a craft, such as writing or making cocktails, well, I come from the school of thought that you can never have too much school for your thoughts (although we should all get outside more and learn from nature, too).

I’ll never forget the time I met Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown a year and a half ago at a Sagatiba tasting at Brandy Library. Spirits and drinks historians whose books include “Shaken Not Stirred: A Celebration of the Martini,” “The Soul of Brasil,” and “Cuba: The Legend of Rum,” the couple travels the world to uncover the secrets behind the history of drinking. They are also the directors of Exposition Universelle des Vins et Spiritueux in Southern France. [In short, they are my idols.] Dave Wondrich, author of “Imbibe! From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash,” also made a similar impression on me last year. These writers have managed to make a living by constantly seeking to quench their thirst for knowledge of drink-making of the past, present, and future.

Most cocktail enthusiasts consider themselves geeks and are in a constant state of study. So if you have a few of those types on your holiday shopping list, why not drop some knowledge on them and give them a gift that will last a lifetime? Here are some suggestions:

The Bartender’s Gin Compendium” by Gaz Regan navigates the world of gin, from its roots as genever to the prominent brands of today.

“The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in American from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet” by Garrett Peck charts the shift in social attitiudes towards drinking since the days of Prohibition and includes lots of facts on how we drink today.

Spirituous Journey: Book One” by Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller is one of the most thoroughly-researched looks at the birth of spirits and the distillation process, from China, to India, to Persia, through Europe and onto the New World.


“Lush Life: Portraits from the Bar” by author/illustrator Jill DeGroff is not only a stunning collection of her caricatures of who’s who in the world of bartending, but the book also includes colorful stories and classic recipes.

Imbibe Magazine is the premiere publication on liquid culture and the art of drinking, and is must-have for anyone in the cocktail industry.

Astor Center’s classes on cocktail-making and spirits history are an excellent resource for cocktailians in NYC. Gift certificates are available to cover the cost of the sessions.

And last but not least, BarSmarts Wired is an online version of the B.A.R. (Beverage Alcohol Resource) program developed by the leading mixologists in the industry. For $45, students receive educational DVDs, a workbook, and a bar tool kit, and earn certification once they pass the class, which takes about four weeks.