File Under: Hot Dates

Whisky rocks! Yours truly and Carmen Operetta going wild for Ardbeg at Whisky Live 2010.

  • Oh, is there a football game on this weekend? Super Bowl fan or not, I think we can all rally around Union Square Wines’ Martini Bowl 2011, taking place from 2 to 5 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 5. Taste more than a dozen types of martinis featuring top vodkas and gins, including locally distilled spirits, all for free–game on!
  • And in case you haven’t heard, Louis 649’s Tuesday Night Tastings, free tastings featuring a different spirit every week, are back in effect. At 7 p.m. this Tuesday, Feb. 8, sip Redemption Rye with brand representative Dave Schmier.
  • Although Whisky Live New York is two months away, now is the time to get your tickets for the April 6 event–brown spirits extravaganzas like this sell out fast. Taking place at the same venue as last year, Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers, the focus this year will be on raising awareness that Scotch and bourbon are whiskies too, said event organizer Jeffery Connell. Cruise the tasting hall while you sip drams of whisky from Kentucky to Scotland, meeting the distillers, producers and ambassadors behind the brands. I attended last year, and whiskies I tried included Maker’s 46 and Suntory’s Hibiki 12, which weren’t even on the market yet. I watched a live iron bartender competition featuring some of NYC’s top mixologists, entered an Ardbeg chopper sweepstakes (guess I didn’t win), and  I even recall some amazing chocolate truffles among the impressive buffet spread. Mostly, it was a memorable event where I connected with whisky fans from all over–I hope to see you there this year!

Elsewhere in the Liquiverse…


Brooklyn. Bowling. Brothers. Bourbon!

  • September is Bourbon Heritage Month (complete with these NYC events and the Kentucky Bourbon Festival Sept. 14-19), and naturally, this is cause for celebration. Kick off the brown spirit-soaked festivities tomorrow night at Brooklyn Bowl, where Maker’s Mark is hosting the first Brooklyn Bourbon Bowl. You can count on two reserved lanes of free bowling, live music, and $5 Maker’s Mark drinks, Brooklyn Pilsner and Maker’s Mark frozen slushies from 8 p.m. to midnight. Don’t miss Brothers among the rock ‘n’ roll lineup, featuring actual twin brothers Dylan and (Prime Meats bartender) Damon Boelte. 61 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn. Free; Maker’s Mark drink specials.
  • Audrey Saunders’ iconic NYC cocktail bar Pegu Club recently turned 5; check out Sonya Moore’s recap here. Meanwhile, Alphabet City mainstay Louis 649 turns 6 tomorrow, with a happy hour from 6 to 9 p.m. featuring half-priced bottles of wine and beer and $9 cocktails.
  • Autumn is the season for new bar openings in New York, and Metromix has a long list of watering holes on the horizon. And you can add Whiskey BrooklynPeels (from the Freemans team) and Lambs Club at The Chatwal Hotel (bar program by Sasha Petraske) to the list of just-now-open bars–go warm up those fresh bar stools!

Brothers. Photo by Jason Goodrich.

The Whiskey Brooklyn, now open at 44 Berry St., Brooklyn.

Elsewhere in the Liquiverse…

Creme Yvette Aviation at Dram in Williamsburg.

“Her early leaf’s a flower.”–Robert Frost

  • Creme Yvette sold out within its first 48 hours on the shelves at Astor Wine & Spirits. The historic berry and botanical liqueur is a lush modifier, as I recently experienced with an exquisite Aviation at new cocktail den Dram in Williamsburg — I’m not kidding when I say hints of blackberry, cassis, framboise, violet petals and orange peel made the gin sing on mountain high. Released as a limited early launch, the first full shipment will be coming from France at an as-yet-announced later date. If you are lucky enough to have tried it, please leave comments!
  • In addition to Dram, recent bar openings include Midtown retreats Empire Room, Hospitality Holding’s swanky cocktail lounge on the ground level of the Empire State Building, and La Biblioteca, a swanky tequila library at Zengo–although I’ve heard the latter is still waiting for their swanky liquor license.
  • It’s currently Tartan Week in NYC, which means there are kilted men on the loose and drams of single malt whisky everywhere you turn–in other words, this is kind of the best week ever. Be sure to check out the Tartan Day Parade, this Saturday April 10. I’ll have some recaps for you on this, trust…
  • Amateurs such as myself have a reason to break out the jiggers and shakers beyond entertaining ourselves by entering Louis 649’s “Anyone Can Be a Mixologist” contest. Running now through April 18, non-working bartenders are invited to submit recipes using sponsored base ingredients. The live throwdown between 10 semi-finalists is April 21, and the winner gets their drink on the spring cocktail menu, a subscription to Imbibe and a $100 bar tab at Louis — game on! Click here for the rules, newbie.
  • Oh, and you probably heard this already, but Julie Reiner and her partners at Clover Club have purchased the Tailor space and are planning something somewhat tropical.
  • Meanwhile, Allen & Delancey, at one point featuring a cocktail menu by Alex Day, quietly bit the dust.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, April 4, 2010

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:
  • 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.

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.

Breaking Rumor: Jason Littrell to Bartend Louis 649’s Tuesday Night Tastings

Tuesday nights are about to get reeeal dangerous. Or so, a little birdy told me.

Ok, so normally I wouldn’t dare post a rumor–what kind of hack do you think I am, people? But this one’s too good to wait for something as paltry as a press release. So, off the record, I have received word from trustworthy but unnamed sources that Death & Co.’s Jason Littrell (aka Commander-in-Chief of the Drunken Army, aka brand ambassador of the pickle back, aka “The Ringleader”) will be bartending the Tuesday Night Tastings at Louis 649 beginning Feb. 2. Not that you needed another reason to indulge in free alcohol during the TNT series, but now you have that much more encouragement (i.e., Drunken Army orders) to stick around and imbibe after the tasting seminars–or risk demotion! Stay tuned for the “official” announcement…

Best Bar to Get You Through the Holidays: Louis 649

Louis 649's Absinthe Egg Nog (Kubler absinthe, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, heavy cream, simple syrup, and a whole egg)

If you’re in need of a respite from the nightmare that is holiday shopping in NYC (hands numb from the cold, double-fisted with shopping bags, bumping into throngs of dazed consumers), make your way through the charming boutiques of the East Village to East 9th Street and Avenue C, where cocktail bar Louis 649’s welcoming atmosphere and vast cocktail menu should warm you up.

During a season that is increasingly about spending money, Louis 649 understands the value of free. Every Tuesday night from 7 to 9 p.m., the bar opens its doors for imbibers looking to sample fine, free booze doled out for its Tuesday Night Tastings. Sponsored by a different brand of liquor (or wine or beer) each week, these tastings are essentially seminars. The tastings are especially popular among local bartenders who want to improve their palates and spirits knowledge, even though it’s their night off.

“Some of the leading bartenders in our area come to hear our speakers,” said Gianfranco Verga, general manager at Louis 649. “We’ve built relationships with these great producers and wanted to give our community the chance to benefit from them.”

As if that weren’t generous enough, Louis 649 is teaming up with Time Out magazine to offer a special drink deal tonight only–the “Sherry Pie” (sherry, rum, maraschino liqueur, honey syrup, cream, and cinnamon) is $8 tonight instead of $12. Also, the bar now offers food from local purveyors, including cheese from Saxelby Cheese Mongers, charcuterie from The Brooklyn Larder, and empanadas from Barnyard–all perfect for a quick bite before re-entering the madness of the season.

Louis 649, 649 E. 9th St., (212)673-1190.

Charcuterie from The Brooklyn Larder.

Dizzy Recap: Gordon & MacPhail Whisky Tasting at Louis 649

Just over half of the bottles sampled Tuesday night.

Just over half of the bottles sampled Tuesday night.

For months now, I’ve been meaning to make it to the Free Tuesday Night Tastings at Louis 649–after all, how many bars dole out fine spirits for absolutely nothing! I finally made it earlier this week for a sampling of malt whiskies by independent bottlers Gordon & MacPhail, and boy, it was a doozy. Gary Keimach, Senior Vice President of Business Solutions for Martignetti companies, led the packed crowd through the tasting of nine different whiskies–that’s right, nine–including a 35-year-old Macallan Speymalt. Since I hadn’t yet eaten dinner, I sipped lots of water throughout this tasting, and sadly, I had to refrain from finishing most of the samples–but I definitely tried!

Gary started us with the most palatable whisky of the evening, the Benromach Traditional Single Speyside Malt. Gordon & MacPhail purchased the Benromach Distillery in 1993, and their first release was in 1998. Mellow with subtle citrus, honey, and smoky peat flavors, the Traditional is a really enjoyable scotch for a novice like me. (If you are looking for an expert’s viewpoint on this tasting, click over to Whiskey Apostle. They are much more versed in this sort of thing than I am.) Next we tasted the Benromach Organic, which I also found very lovely. The first single malt whisky to be fully certified organic, it’s made from organically sourced barley and aged in virgin oak, which offers a toffee, sweet vanilla, and earthy oakiness. Other highlights included a 21-year-old Glen Grant, a 21-year-old Benromach, the 35-year-old Macallan, and, saving the peaty-est for last, the Caol Ila.

This was a real treat for anyone who attended to taste some luxury whiskies that would otherwise be enjoyed during a special occasion. Thanks to Gary for an informative tasting and to Louis 649 for being gracious hosts–I think I’ll be a regular Tuesday night fixture, so long as my schedule allows.

Out & About: Upcoming Events


Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, ink & watercolor on paper. © 2009 The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, ink & watercolor on paper. © 2009 The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation


  • Tuesday, June 9: Museum Mile, 6 to 9 p.m., Fifth Ave. between 82nd St. & 105th St. This year’s 31st annual festival kicks off on the steps of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum with an opening ceremony at 5:45 p.m. at 89th St. & 5th Ave. Free.
  • Tuesday, June 9: Yamazaki Single Malt tasting from 7 to 9 p.m. at Louis 649, 649 9th St. Grand Ambassador Gardner Dunn will be pouring the 12 year, 18 year, and a special rare bottling not yet available. Free.
  • Thursday, June 11: Happy Hour from 5 to 6 p.m. at Hudson Terrace, 621 W. 46th St. Free well drinks, Bud, and Bud Light. Hosted by Metromix every Thursday this month, rsvp to before 3 p.m. the day of. Free.
  • Sunday, June 14 & Monday, June 15: The New York Bar Show, from noon to 6 p.m. both days at Jacob Javits Center, 38th St. & 11th Ave. More than 300 bar, nightclub, wine, and spirit exhibitors, as well as flair bartenders, cocktail contests, and demos by top mixologists will be on view. Tickets are $40 for the exhibition; $100 to attend world-class seminars.
  • The Highline is open!
  • Also, if you were curious as to what went down at the Jazz Age Lawn Party (sadly, I didn’t make it), Metromix has a stunning photo gallery of all the lovely vintage garb–sartorialists, indeed!