Dizzy Recap: The 3rd Annual Holiday Spirits Bazaar!

Photos by Vanessa Bahmani.

Photos by Vanessa Bahmani.

New Yorkers were treated to the ultimate festive cocktail experience at the Third Annual Holiday Spirits Bazaar, on Saturday, November 17, 2012 at Astor Center.
Tickets for the evening session were completely sold out, as two sessions were available for guests to choose from, attracting 700 guests. Some of the best bartenders in NYC served holiday tipples for guests, including Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff, Jonathan Pogash, Damon Dyer and Elayne Duke. During the VIP hour, Jim Meehan signed copies of his PDT Cocktail Book for Urban Daddy ticket holders.

Sponsors included: Maker’s Mark, Pierre Ferrand Cognac, Don Q Rum, Catdaddy Moonshine, Bulleit Bourbon, Death’s Door Spirits, Ardbeg, Greenhook Ginsmiths, The Black Grouse, G’Vine Gin, Caliche Rum, Four Roses Bourbon, Molinari Sambuca, Rhum Clement, Kansas Clean Distilled Whiskey, Cockspur Rum, Iceberg Vodka, Aperol, Starr African Rum, Brooklyn Gin, Redemption Rye, Averna Amaro, El Buho Mezcal, Cacao Prieto, Half Moon Orchard Gin, George Dickel Tennessee Whisky, Don Julio Tequila, Philadelphia Distilling, Whistlepig Rye, Becherovka, The Balvenie, Monkey Shoulder, Hudson Whiskey, Scorpion Mezcal, Gotham Artisanal, Perrier Sparkling Water and more!

A portion of ticket proceeds benefits the Children’s Aid Society and guests also brought dozens of toys and non-perishable food items for Sandy victims.

For recipes from the event and more information, please visit www.holidayspiritsbazaar.com. For additional photos, please visit The Dizzy Fizz on Facebook.

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Special thanks to Damien Good, Stinky Bklyn, Emeche Cupcakes, Urban Daddy, Vanessa Bahmani, event staff and volunteers. Happy holidays everyone!

Dizzy Recap: Benedictine Smackdown

Last week, after 10 days of self-induced sobriety, I fell back off the wagon, and oh, what a good fall it was. I headed to the finals of the Benedictine “Alchemists of Our Age” cocktail competition held in partnership with Esquire magazine at the Hearst Tower. Walking into Hearst is like walking into a scene from “The Devil Wears Prada”–the cascading waterfall sculptures and escalators are as awe-inspiring as the leggy editors and models teetering about. For a journo type like me, it was an electrifying experience just to be at the publishing group. This feeling was magnified when I reached the Benedictine event on the 44th floor and saw the view of Midtown from the tower’s triangular windows–how can you not love New York?!

The five finalists were stationed throughout the room, accompanied by barbacks and other staff dressed in brown robes in honor of Benedictine’s monastic history. Created 500 years ago by Dom Bernardo Vincelli, a member of the mysterious Benedictine Order in France, the unique elixir combines 27 herbs and spices gathered from around the world. The competition asked bartenders to create cocktails that were creative, balanced, and highlighted the warm spice of Benedictine.

It turned out that the first drink I tried was the winning ticket–supporting the hometown contestant, I headed straight to where Louis 649‘s Damon Dyer was stationed to try his “Monte Cassino.” A modern twist on the classic “Last Word” cocktail, Damon’s drink included equal parts of Rittenhouse Rye, Yellow Chartreuse, Benedictine, and lemon juice. Simply garnished with a lemon peel, the drink was a harmonious burst of herbaceous spice, whiskey, and citrus–I was happy to have it as my first post-detox tipple.

Damon’s drink was selected for first place by Benedictine Global Brand Ambassador, Ludovic Miazga, and famed cocktail historian and Esquire Drinks Correspondent David Wondrich, who was most impressed by “the way the Monte Cassino had of just sliding down the throat.” He added, “It was a tough field, though, and all the drinks were truly excellent.”

Excellent indeed, and the crowd favorite was the “Greyhound’s Tooth” from San Francisco’s Brandon Clements (Benedictine, vodka, fresh grapefruit juice, house-made grapefruit bitters and sugar). Other finalists included Boston’s Jackson Cannon, New Orleans’ Daniel Victory, and Chicago’s Lynn House. Personally, I thought Jackson’s drink was Damon’s closest competition–a simple but delicious combination, the “Vincelli Fizz” (Benedictine, egg white, rose vermouth, and lemon juice).

In addition to bragging rights, Damon will receive a full-page advertorial feature in Esquire’s April 2010 issue–congrats!

“Monte Cassino” by Damon Dyer:

3/4 part Benedictine Liqueur
3/4 part Yellow Chartreuse
3/4 part fresh lemon juice
3/4 part Rittenhouse Rye

Shake, fine strain into a chilled coupe (or small cocktail glass). Lemon twist garnish.

Bottlerocker of the Week: Maxwell Britten

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Maxwell Britten, recently named a 2009 Star Chefs Rising Stars mixologist

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”–Holden Caulfield, “The Catcher in the Rye”


I recently sat down at Freemans, and Maxwell Britten, a 2009 Star Chefs Rising Stars-winning mixologist, was behind the stick. Unlike Holden Caulfiend, Maxwell, a creative writing student who has lived in NYC since 2005, certainly has not had a lousy childhood. Growing up with a passionate epicurean and food & beverage professional for a father (Eric S. Britten), Maxwell has been surrounded by food and spirits since he was old enough to handle a fork and a knife.

Despite what sounds like silver spoon-fed beginnings, he started out as a busboy at Jack the Horse Tavern in Brooklyn Heights in 2006 and pulled through the ranks to become head bartender and beverage director within a year–all while finally turning of legal drinking age. Craft bartending became Maxwell’s passion when a copy of The Gentlemen’s Companion, V.1 & 2 Around the World with a Fork, Knife and Spoon; Around the World with a Jigger, Beaker, and Flask” by Charles H. Baker Jr., was handed to him by St. John Frizzell (now owner of Fort Defiance in Red Hook) in the fall of 2007. Maxwell also studied with Damon Dyer of Flatiron Lounge, took the BarSmarts course, and has twice been a cocktail apprentice at Tales of the Cocktail–so he’s more than done his homework. Now running a food and drink consulting firm, Jigger, Beaker & Flask, with his older brother, Jeremy Osslund, Maxwell is a notable bottlerocker in NYC’s cocktailian scene, but he’s not letting it go to his head, he says.

“The Dizzy Dozen: The Same 12 Questions We Always Ask” With Maxwell Britten

Q: What is the first thing you drink after you wake up?

A: A big, HUGE cup of nice cold water, occasionally (depends on what I was up to before bedtime), or a Coke over hand cracked ice with a lime wedge. Or an iced Americano from the coffee shop around the corner of my apartment, Glass Shop, shout out to Francesco!

Q: What is the first thing you drink after a hard day’s work?

A: An ice cold brewsky. I might have a nip of Rittenhouse depending on how hard my night was.

Q: What is the most delicious ingredient in your liquor cabinet?

A: Probably the Lasanta by Glenmorangie. I recently finished a bottle of the Cuvée Homére by Rhum Clément with some world-class scumbags (bartenders) just before moving into my new apartment. I think I have a Budweiser or Brooklyn Lager in the fridge, those are pretty delicious too.

Q: If you could sit at the bar between any two people (alive or deceased), who would they be?

A: Charles H. Baker Jr., and my Dad.

Q: Three favorite NYC bars:

Prime Meats: Styled after a German beer hall, excellent beers on draught, good bartenders, great eats, and the kitchen stays open until 2 a.m., which is a rarity in Brooklyn.

Fort Defiance: Counter-culture coffee, St. John Frizell, great bites, in the heart of Red Hook, great menu—just a classic, check it out!

Milk & Honey: Too easy, right?

Q: Three favorite non-alcoholic hangouts:

Prospect Park at sunset

The Met

Fairway in Red Hook. I swear I don’t live in Red Hook—there is just some great stuff down there.

Q: Average night’s sleep:

A: Lately, 6 1/2-7 hours, and I have been in bed before 2 a.m. most nights these days.

Q: What is your favorite place to shop for your bar?

A: It was once Lenelle’s (in Red Hook!), which is no longer open. Astor Wines is pretty good. Sometimes doing a gig is good shopping—then again, I can’t remember the last time I actually had to buy the booze myself.

Q: Where do you find inspiration?

A: The kitchen, text books, bar manuals, characters in novels, movies, music, fashion, food, and most importantly, the ass-kicking bartenders you can find around the world these days.

Q: If you woke up on a desert island, what bottle would you hope to have wash ashore?

A: A gallon of chilled water. If you were hoping for a bottle of booze, then I guess I would hope for some rum, maybe Appleton VX? Jamaican rum calls for the occasion, and it’s just really easy on the palate. If there is no ice and I am on a desert island, I might not want to be sippin’ on warm/hot hooch.

Q: Do you have any bar-related good luck charms?

A: No, but from time to time I might put a dash of aromatic bitters behind the ears when I am feeling like I want to impress the ladies. Some barkeeps I know say it’s good luck in competitions, I just like the way it makes me smell. It’s almost like really great-smelling cologne. People will be like, “You smell magnificent,” and I’ll say, “Thanks, just a little limited-edition Repeal Day Bitters by The Bitter Truth, no biggee.”

Q: Do you have a nickname for yourself when you’ve had too many?

A: Yeah, it’s “French Exit”—that’s when you peace out without saying anything to anyone you’re with and in some occasions, not paying your bill—I swear the only person I do that to is Jason Littrell [of The Randolph] and that’s because he is the mad man behind the most debaucherous bar in Manhattan.  Sometimes it’s safer just to leave before he tries to give you another pickle back. In a conversation with him last week about my most recent “French Exit,” I go, “I am sorry man, I REALLY needed to go home, I could barely talk.” He says, “Well, you could still drink, so that’s not good enough for me.”

Maxwell Britten's "Zorritto Dorrado (The Golden Fox)" with Elegal Mexcal Reposado, Yellow Chartreuse, and orange marmalade.

Maxwell Britten's "Zorritto Dorrado (The Golden Fox)" with Elegal Mexcal Reposado, Yellow Chartreuse, and orange marmalade.