Dizzy Recap: Good Deeds

Contemporary Cocktails teamed up with NYC bartenders for the "Hearts and Cocktails for Haiti" benefit at Bar Celona on Sunday. Photo by Lush Life Productions.

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?” — Rabbi Hillel

It goes without saying that we have all been profoundly touched by the earthquake crisis in Haiti and have desired a way to send help to the impoverished country. Initially, many of us sent text messages that allowed us to immediately give $5 or $10 to Yele or the American Red Cross, but we all knew that more could be done. So it was with great pride that I attended two fundraisers for Haiti relief put on by the spirits industry last week.

Last Thursday, Park Avenue Liquor Shop teamed up with Davidoff of Geneva Madison Avenue to host a “Help Haiti Now” benefit. The event featured a wide array of sipping rums, single malts, and cocktails shaken up by Jonathan Pogash and Justin Noel. Sponsors included Appleton Rum, Plantation Rum, Tuthilltown Distillery rums, Goslings Rum, Classic Malts, Rothmann’s Steakhouse and Cigar Aficionado magazine. One hundred percent of the $50 ticket price went to the American Red Cross Haiti Relief Fund. They netted close to $3,000 and plan to host another fundraiser soon, so stay tuned!

And last Sunday, what seemed like virtually everyone in the NYC cocktail community turned out to Bar Celona in Williamsburg for “Hearts and Cocktails for Haiti” spearheaded by Ray Raymond and Dave Catania. The event asked for $40 per person at the door, offering guests access to a four-hour open bar of punches, cocktails, and shots made by the city’s best mixologists. In total, $5,283 was raised for the American Red Cross Haiti fund. Food, clothing, and supplies were also collected for Haiti’s Edeyo Foundation.

Participants/volunteers included: Members of USBGNY and LUPEC NYC, Contemporary Cocktails, Leo DeGroff, Abigail Gullo, Cary “Kerry” Shouest, Aisha Sharpe, Willy Shine, Brian Van Flandern, Charlotte Voisey, Lisa Hare, Erin Williams, Bek Allen, Hal Wolin, Candice Coy, Esteban Ordonez, Trevor Schnider, T. J. Lynch, Justin Noel, Edwin Nadina, Tim Cooper, Jim Meehan, Stephan Meyers, Dale DeGroff, Miguel Aranda, Bryce Jones, Tom Chadwick, Joe and Nicole Desmond, Naren Young, Lynette Marrero, Javier Rey, Francine Cohen, DJ Kimiko, and Lush Life Productions’ Leo Borovskiy and Lindsey Johnson.

Bar Celona owner Cynthia Diaz and bar manager Clif Travers helped organize everything, and the staff at Bar Celona donated their time both in the front and the back of the house.

Brands that generously donated product included: Appleton Rum, Atlantico Rum, Averna Amaro, Beefeater Gin, Bacardi Rum, Bulleit Bourbon, Chairman’s Reserve Rum, Combier, Compass Box Whiskey, Domaine de Canton, Domaine Select, Don Julio, Don Q Rum, Double Cross Vodka, Fidencio Mezcal, G’Vine Floraison, Hendrick’s Gin, Ilegal Mezcal, Leblon Cachaça, Lillet, Luna Sueno Tequila, Maker’s Mark, Michter’s Rye, Milagro Tequila, Orange V, Palm Bay Imports, Partida Tequila, Pernod Ricard, Pipeline Brands, Plymouth Gin, Regatta Ginger Beer, Rhum J.M., Sailor Jerry Rum, Scorpion Mezcal, St. Germain, Tom’s Tonic, Tuthilltown, VeeV, Vision Brands Wines, William Grant & Sons, and Zacapa Rum. (Whew!)

Jill DeGroff donated proceeds of her book sales for the evening. Also, Park Avenue Wine and Spirits, The Blue Note, Drinkupny.com, Porterhouse, Havana Central, Calle Ocho, Cocktail Kingdom, Brian Van Flandern, Bar and Books, and others donated prizes to the raffle for the evening.

Ray and Dave deserve a huge thanks for putting together an amazing event in a short period of time! I’m sure there will be more Haiti benefits to come, and I think they set the tone for future events.

On a similarly charitable note, Veev Açaí Spirit recently presented a check for $10,400 to Southern Wine & Spirits to honor the amount of money VeeV donated to the Sustainable Acai Project in 2009 as a result of New York area sales. VeeV donates $1 for every bottle sold straight back to The Sustainable Açaí Project, which ensures the sustainable harvesting of açai in the Amazon. Nationwide, Veev raised $74,400 in 2009.

“VeeV is passionately committed to ensuring the sustainable harvesting of acai for generations to come,” said Carter Reum, co-founder of Veev. “It is great to see New York’s cocktail drinkers playing their part in our pledge.”

VeeV is continuing to give New Yorkers  ways to help Mother Earth while enjoying a cocktail. In April, order a VeeV “Treetini” at any participating New York bar in the month of April – including Spring Street Natural, Cookshop and Yerba Buena Perry – and VeeV will plant a tree in flood-ravaged Tamil Nadui, India. More info at veevlife.com.

From left to right, Jim Morrow, New York Market Manger for VeeV at Southern; Bill Desilva, Director of Sales in the On-Premise for New York; Larry Romer, Vice-President; Carter Reum, co-founder, VeeV; Killy Smith and Michelle Bourque, New York Market Managers for VeeV; Jack Battipaglia, General Sales Manager for the Spirits Division at Southern.

NYC's cocktail community came out in full force for "Hearts for Haiti." Photo by Lush Life Productions.

File Under: Hot Dates

Bar Celona is hosting "Hearts for Haiti" Sunday night. Photo by Bartomeu Amengual.

  • This Sunday, Jan. 31, NYC’s cocktail community is coming together to raise money for the crisis in Haiti: “Hearts and Cocktails for Haiti” is asking for $40 (100% proceeds to American Red Cross’ Haiti Relief) at the door. Attendees will enjoy a four-hour open bar from 6 to 10 p.m. with cocktails mixed by the USBGNY, LUPEC NYC, Jim Meehan of PDT, and Dale DeGroff, among others. Jill DeGroff will be donating sales of her book, “Lush Life: Portraits from the Bar,” to the Haiti fund. This event, organized by Leblon Cachaca’s Ray Raymond (of Haitian descent) and Dave Catania of Team Spirits Imports, takes place at Bar Celona. 104 S. 4th St., Brooklyn.
  • On Feb. 2 from 6 to 8 p.m., The Summit Bar is hosting a special tasting event, “Shaken, Stirred, and Straight,” featuring Compass Box whiskey’s Robin Robinson and St-Germain’s Phil Pepperdine. Tastings will be free and featured cocktails will be just $6. 133 Ave. C.
  • Also on Feb. 2, don’t miss Jason Littrell’s initial run as bartender at Louis 649‘s Tuesday Night Tastings. While the tasting goes from 7 to 9 p.m., Jason will start shaking from from 10 p.m. ’til lord-knows-when. Already dubbed “Groundhog Day Massacre,” this is guaranteed to be a scene not for the weak of liver.
  • NYC cocktail enthusiasts have until Feb. 5 to submit aphrodisiac cocktail recipes featuring Bacardi Rum for the “Love Potion Cocktail Challenge” taking place from 7 to 9 p.m. on Feb. 9. In case you missed the memo, the first place winner (judged by Dale DeGroff) wins $250 smackers, and the event has been moved to Havana Central Times Square, 151 W. 46th St. Send entries to: LovePotion@havanacentral.com
  • Quite possibly the most awesome cocktail competition ever, the 6th Annual “Cocktail World Cup,” presented by 42 Below and the U.S. Bartending Guild, is accepting entries through Feb. 8. The top three bartenders chosen for the U.S. team will join finalists in New Zealand for challenges such as mixing drinks while bungee jumping and riding in jet boats [looking forward to seeing video of that!]. Oh, and Dale DeGroff and Jim Meehan will be judging in New Zealand, too–those guys have all the fun! Enter the contest here.
  • And it’s already time to start thinking about the most spirited event of the summer, Tales  of the Cocktail–find instructions for entering the official Tales cocktail contest here. Entrants are challenged to create a drink inspired by the famous “Planter’s Punch” that will impress judge Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. The drink must include at least one sponsored ingredient, and should consist of at least a rum, citrus, and sweetener. The deadline is Feb. 22.

Saloon Stakeouts: Bar Celona and Summit Bar

Bar Celona sure is pretty. Photo by Bartomeu Amengual.

Recession schmecession, it’s fall in New York and that means bar openings, people! Not since June, which saw the openings of Fort Defiance and Ward III, has there been so many new cocktail menus and plush seating to try out. While I have plans to hit up Highlands, Henry Public, and the bars at Crosby Street Hotel and Ace Hotel (plus a brand-spanking new bar you probably haven’t heard about yet), there are two joints where I recently caught a whiff of new bar smell, Bar Celona in Williamsburg and Summit Bar in Alphabet City. Both are lookers, both have savory-centric cocktails, and both are keepers, in my opinion.

Bar Celona, on South 4th Street between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street, is a swanky, noiresque enclave in a neighborhood full of grungy pubs and cafes. A Spanish tapas and cocktail lounge, the space is the vision of Cynthia Diaz, a fashionista who grew up in the restaurant industry. The Hollywood Regency-style decor, which Diaz designed with her mother, is simply stunning–gold lion wall decals, leopard-print salon seating, glass-enclosed fireplace–but what’s really impressive is the cocktail menu created by the Tippling Bros.

Tad Carducci and Paul Tanguay have put together a slew of sweet and savory drinks using Spanish ingredients–expect the menu to expand soon, according to bartender Frank Cisneros. The cocktail menu is divided into three categories: “G y Ts” (variations on gin and tonics, Spain’s most popular drink), “Gastros” (featuring savory culinary flavors), and “Variedades” (variety of ingredients).

I started off with the “Paellarinha” ($11), a “gastro” drink that included Leblon cachaca, fino sherry, red bell pepper/saffron syrup, and lemon juice. I’m usually not a fan of bell peppers, but this drink was incredibly refreshing and the paella-inspired flavors made it a justifiable appetizer. Next, Frank offered me a special off-menu cocktail, a “Burnt Caipirinha.” He torched some demerara sugar with an alcohol-filled atomizer before muddling in limes and adding Leblon. The drink had a nice toasted caramel flavor and the fire show was definitely a conversation piece. Lastly, while I nibbled on dates stuffed with Mahon cheese and wrapped in Serrano ham, I sipped down a “Sea Monkey.” One of the gin and tonics, this cocktail called for Plymouth Gin, celery/apple juice, lemon juice, Anise del Mono, Fever Tree tonic water, and a fennel salt rim. Since I am a fan of all things celery, I quickly made it disappear. It was hard to choose from this menu–all of the drinks sound amazing. Next time, I think I’ll try the “Missionary’s Position” (for a change, wink, wink), with reposado tequila, Rioja pear syrup, falernum, and ginger. Take note that Bar Celona is closed on Mondays.

Summit Bar, on Avenue C between 8th and 9th Streets, also features plush seating and chandeliers, but the brick wall interior and laid-back East Village vibe offers a balance that has attracted a sizable following (and even a mention in The New York Times). Co-owned by Greg Seider, who created the cocktail menu at Minetta Tavern, Summit features a mix of “Classic” cocktails (Tom Collins, French 75, Vesper, Dark and Stormy, Daiquiri) and “Alchemist” drinks which exhibit Seider’s culinary-inspired mixology skills. I had a “Shu Jam Fizz” ($12), a combination of DH Krahn Gin, apricot jam, fennel-infused syrup, peach bitters, lemon juice, and club soda. The apricot jam married perfectly with the gin and anise flavors of the fennel and was not cloyingly sweet.

I wish I could have stayed for more drinks at Summit Bar, like “The Gov’ner”–Yamazaki 12 year whisky, toasted cardamom-infused agave syrup, Japanese yuzu, and fresh orange juice. I did, however, get to scope the cabana-style back patio, which will be a neighborhood destination once the mercury reverses. Summit also offers a small menu of charcuterie, with more options coming soon.