Dizzy Recap: WhiskyFest New York

Nov10 024

David Blackmore and Arnaud Dalibot of Glenmorangie

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough.” –Mark Twain

Toasted vanilla, sweet sherry, cedar. Prunes, dark chocolate, charred fruits. Cracked pepper, moss, smoky peat. What is there not to love about the spicy, tongue-tingling world of whisk(e)y? Clearly, not a thing, as the 12th Annual WhiskyFest New York at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square was wall-to-wall packed with whisky drinkers Tuesday night. With more than 200 exhibitors pouring drams of single malts, blended whiskies, bourbon, rum, beer, and other spirits, this was one dizzy affair.

Upon entering the boisterous scene, I made a beeline for the USBGNY booth to sip on some scotch cocktails before diving into straight pours. As expected, the drinks were complex and delish–I sampled Meaghan Dorman’s “Bagpipe Dream” (Compass Box Asyla scotch, fresh lemon juice, ginger maple syrup), Jolene Skrzysowski’s “Rustic Plums” (Woodford’s Reserve bourbon, Domaine de Canton, plum wine, pear nectar), and Hal Wolin’s “2009 Scotch Odyssey” (Glenmorangie 10 Year scotch, Laphroaig scotch, mole bitters, demerara syrup). I also had a fantastic Old Fashioned by USBGNY President Jonatha Pogash, but forgot to write down the ingredients.

John Glaser, creator of Compass Box Whisky, said the recent evolution of fine scotch as an ingredient in cocktails has made for a positive addition at WhiskyFest. “You would never have seen this five years ago,” he said.

So which whiskies did I try? Let’s see, from what I can recall there was Michael Collins Irish Whiskey Single Malt, Compass Box Spice Tree, Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or, Ardberg 10 Year, The Balvenie Portwood 21 Year, Glenrothes 1991 (they were out of 1985),  Tullamore Dew 12 Year, Blanton’s Single Barrel bourbon, Highland Park 18 Year, Yamazaki 18 Year, and a most delicious Signatory Glen Grant 1976 from the Bar & Books booth. I also had Zacapa Rum, BrewDog Paradox Smokehead stout aged in Scotch casks, and more scotch cocktails mixed by kilted bartenders from St. Andrews Restaurant & Bar. There were so many more drams I wanted to try, if time and liver capacity were of no concern.

The crowd was, from my approximation, 90 percent male, 40 percent Orthodox Jewish (maybe more), and 70 percent over the age of 40, not that it matters or anyone’s counting. Thanks to Malt Advocate for organizing the event and to Kate Laufer for the invite. Slainte!

Dizzy Recap: Rosangel Throwdown

First-place cocktail by Ben Clemons

"Franky's Puebla" cocktail by Ben Clemons

Earlier this week I attended a cocktail competition put on by Gran Centenario for their latest product, Rosangel, a hibiscus-infused reposado tequila. Held at Kingswood downstairs in the West Village, the throwdown attracted a packed crowd while eight or nine bartenders battled for cash prizes. In between contestants, Kingswood’s house bartenders handed out Rosangel concoctions such as lavender margaritas. Subtly sweet and floral, the Rosangel posed a complex challenge to the competing bartenders, who were allowed to bring their own special ingredients. Each had four minutes to prepare at least two drinks, one to give to the thirsty audience and one to present to the half-dozen judges. It was a more-than-pleasant surprise when Ben Clemons of 33 Libations was awarded first place for his salsa-inspired cocktail featuring Rosangel, muddled watermelon, elderflower and hibiscus tea-infused agave syrup, cilantro, lime juice, and serrano chiles. He inverted a lime wedge to float in the cocktail with an additional shot of Rosangel, a move that seemed to impress the crowd. Second place went to Allan Katz, beverage director of Fatty Crab, who mixed Rosangel with Meyer lemon juice, pomegranate brandy, apricot syrup, a Thai chile-absinthe tincture, and a chile sugar-salt rim. Paolo Votano of On The Rocks NYC came in third with Rosangel and muddled red grapes, ginger and cardamom-infused agavey syrup, cinnamon liqueur, elderflower liqueur, and topped with Veuve Cliquot. The judges had such a hard time deciding that they also awarded a fourth-place prize to Zach Sharaga, owner of Louis 649, who mixed ruby red grapefruit juice, honey syrup, egg white, and sage with Rosangel, garnishing the drink with Peychaud’s bitters and a sage leaf. I really don’t envy the judges at these sort of things since there were so many delicious drinks to choose from. Other competitors included Jason Littrell of The Randolph, Liz Green of Bar Candy, Javier Rey of La Zarza, and Hal Wolin of A Muddled Thought. If I didn’t catch your name, my apologies, I blame it on the tequila.

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Ben Clemons

Zach Sharaga's Rosangel cocktail

Zach Sharaga's Rosangel cocktail

The mixmasters of the evening.

The mixmasters of the evening.