File Under: Hot Dates – Negroni Week!

Jacques Bezuidenhout serves Negronis at Campari's bar at the 2013 MCC Gala. (Image courtesy M Booth)

Jacques Bezuidenhout serves Negronis at Campari’s bar at the 2013 MCC Gala. (Photo by Virginia Rollison)

As the first steamy heat wave of the season descends on NYC, you’ll likely be reaching for a refreshing quaff to revive your tastebuds. Coincidentally, Imbibe Magazine has dubbed this week Negroni Week, May 27 to June 3. Not only will the classic Italian cocktail (1:1:1 ratio of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth) do the trick of cooling you off, but a handful of local bars (and nearly 100 across the country) will donate $1 from each drink sold to a charity of their choice.

In Brooklyn, participating bars include Maison Premiere (Charity Water) and Huckleberry Bar (charity TBA), while in Manhattan, PDT (American Red Cross) and Amor y Amargo (Barman’s Fund) are pitching in. Naturally, bartenders are putting their own twists on the drink, using a variety of gins, vermouths and bitter aperitifs. Huckleberry’s take is a summery, delicate version including Carouun Gin, Cocchi Americano Rosa, and Salers Aperitif ($10).

Speaking of Campari, the bittersweet aperitif threw an invite-only Bartender’s Bash during the Manhattan Cocktail Classic at the swanky McKittrick Hotel’s Gallow Green. Bar industry insiders swarmed the event, where delectable Campari concoctions were being served, but everyone was left talking about the brand’s innovative Negroni Sbagliatos in a can. While sadly not for sale on store shelves, you can make your own fizzy, low-alcohol version of the Negroni at home:

Negroni Sbagliato

1 oz. sweet vermouth
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. lightly sparkling wine (Prosecco)

Combine vermouth and Campari in an ice-filled glass. Top with sparkling wine, stir to combine and garnish with a slice of orange.

Canned Negronis. Photo by Virginia Rollison.

Campari’s genius canned Negronis. Photo by Virginia Rollison.

Elsewhere in the Liquiverse…

Gaz tends bar at the Dead Rabbit on Monday, Feb. 25.

Gaz tends bar at the Dead Rabbit on Monday, Feb. 25.

  • One of the most anticipated cocktail bars to open in NYC, The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog recently flung open the doors of its landmark building to much acclaim. Founders Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry of  the award-winning beverage program at Belfast’s Merchant Hotel have done their homework to create a cocktail menu that honors the mid-19th century drinking scene in gangland New York. On the first level, a pub-style bar room complete with sawdust on the floor serves up classic cocktails, bottled punch, draft beer and Irish whiskey, while upstairs a more refined lounge serves an expansive menu of meticulously crafted drinks. On a recent visit, I sipped the Automobile (Marie Brizard Parfait Amour, Pernod Absinthe, celery cordial, Piper Heidsieck Cuvee Brut Champagne and Bittermens Orchard Street Celery Shrub), the Ale Flip (Sixpoint Cask Conditioned “Dead Rabbit” Ale, Jameson 12 Year Irish Whiskey, spiced egg batter, muscovado sugar and nutmeg), the Bankers Punch (Redbreast 12 Year Cask Strength Irish Whiskey, Dead Rabbit Jamaican Rum Mix, fresh lime juice, raspberry cordial, Dead Rabbit Orinoco Bitters and dashes Graham’s LBV Port Wine), and a complimentary teacup of Grandieur Punch (Bols Genever, Varnelli Anis, lemon sherbert, lemon juice, orange flower water and peppermint tea). Everything was incredibly tasty, and the wait time for drinks was not long at all, a stunning feat considering there were only two barmen behind the bar and the room was full on a Saturday night. This Monday, Feb. 25,  mixology master Gaz Regan will serve as guest bartender from 7 p.m. onward–so don’t bloody miss that. The Dead Rabbit, 30 Water Street.
  • Speaking of new bars, Dipsology has a nice list of recently-opened and soon-to-open cocktail bars in NYC, including Attaboy, taking over the Milk & Honey space. Time Out New York interviewed Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy and rumor is they will open their doors later this month.
  • Beefeater Gin recently got the green light to open London’s first gin distillery visitor center, expected to be completed later this year. As someone who has been fortunate enough to visit Beefeater’s headquarters in Kennington, I am thrilled for Master Distiller Desmond Payne and his team. Desmond is profoundly passionate about the making of gin and will do a great service to the public by showcasing the distillery’s process. (Check out the video announcement here.)
Plans for Beefeater Gin's visitor center. Image courtesy of Access Communications.

Plans for Beefeater Gin’s visitor center. Image courtesy of Access Communications.

Dizzy Days Ahead: Trendcasting 2011

Tuthilltown's Hudson Whiskey line went global in 2010. Which microdistiller will be next?

Another year, another look into the future of the liquiverse. A good deal of my predictions for cocktail culture in 2010 were spot-on (I had no idea NYC would be getting three high-profile tiki bars when I wrote that post), so I’m feeling a little pressure this year, like I’m some kind of oracle. See Spice & Ice author Kara Newman’s projected trends here, NY Barfly’s crystal ball-gazing hereAbout.com’s list of cocktail trends from around the world, and read about predictions for a mild increase in bar sales for 2011 here. Here’s what I’m expecting from the NYC scene and beyond:

  1. Micro goes macro: In 2010, we saw Tuthilltown Distillery”s Hudson Whiskey line go worldwide with acquisition, marketing and distribution by the UK-based William Grant & Sons. The sale was considered a giant leap for the craft distilling movement as larger brands took notice. I’m guessing we’ll continue to see small batch spirits take on more of the market this year.
  2. Bartender-owned bars: Word on the street is a number of high-profile bartenders are saving their pennies to open the bars of their dreams this year. In late 2010,  The Drink, an all-punch nautical-themed bar in Williamsburg, was opened by a team including veteran bartender Frank Cisneros of Dram. Expect to see more of these rec-room-style bars serving crafty drinks–or, bartender’s bars, if you will.
  3. Cocktails on tap: We’ve seen wine on draft, and as previously mentioned, mixologists are readying for alcohol-infused libations from the soda gun. El Cobre on Avenue A is serving Dark & Stormies on tap with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, lime and CO2. In San Francisco, Fernet (which flows like water there) is on tap at a couple of bars. It’s only a matter of time before NYC gets fizzy with this trend.
  4. The punch bowl floweth: This is already old news in NYC, but I’m excited to see how other cities adopt this trend. I’m also hoping we see a wider variety of punch bowl sets on store shelves. However, I’m not too keen on the idea of drinking out of giant flamingo fountains–that just sounds unsanitary.
  5. Wood works: Whether barrel-aged cocktails are embraced beyond drink nerds or not, one thing is for sure–experimentation with various cooperage is a continuing trend. In 2010, for instance, we saw Excellia Tequila finished in Cognac casks and Maker’s 46, featuring original Maker’s Mark finished in barrels with staves of seared French Oak.
  6. Live entertainment: Expanding on 2010’s love affair with piano bars, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more cocktail bars adding vintage music, vaudeville and other shenanigans to the menu, with customers sporting more sophisticated attire to match.
  7. Anyone can be a mixologist: As educational programs teaching the craft of cocktail-making and organizations such as the USBG continue to go mainstream, more and more amateurs are finding the confidence to make complicated drinks. Some “bar-tweenies” could use more training. Of course, just like anything else, only the strong will survive–but the opportunity to get schooled is there.

Dizzy Days Ahead: Trendcasting 2010

You bitter be ready for The Bitter Truth in 2010.

After closing the chapter on a decade that saw cocktail culture rise from one that knocks back Cosmos on crowded dancefloors to one that sips Corpse Revivers in speakeasies,  the alcohol world is a-buzz with predictions for what’s next. Since NYC is ahead of the curve (i.e., we’re already over bacon infusions), cocktails made here could very well have an impact on what the nation will be drinking in the “twenty-teens.” The National Restaurant Association recognizes that organic cocktails will be a key element for menus next year, and you should also check out cocktail writer Paul Clarke’s trends to watch on Serious Eats. Here’s the view from my crystal ball:

  1. Creme Yvette: Rumors are swirling that this highly anticipated liqueur from the makers of St-Germain elderflower liqueur will finally be released in the first quarter of this year. Featuring notes of berries, spices, honey, vanilla, and a hint of violet petals, Creme Yvette disappeared in 1969, but Robert Cooper’s family has the rights to the recipe and has been fine-tuning the relaunch. Considering how well Creme de Violette went over with mixologists seeking the missing link to a proper Aviation, expect to see the reddish-purple Yvette make a splash.
  2. Terroir in spirits: One great trend to come out of microdistilling is that I’m tasting more terroir, or sense of place, in spirits. I think more and more spirit brands, such as Finger Lakes Distilling and Harvest Spirit’s Core Vodka, are looking to be an homage to their terroir.
  3. Japanese tools and techniques: The art of Japanese bartending, inspired by the Japanese tea ceremony’s attention to detail, is sweeping cocktail culture–at least for those with the luxury of making slow drinks. From handcarved ice balls to the hard shake, these skills are quickly becoming an expected part of the mixologist’s showmanship. Tools can be found on Cocktail Kingdom.
  4. Mezcal for the masses: Mezcal was a hit here in NYC among cocktail lovers who embraced Mayahuel last year, so don’t be surprised to see the smoky agave spirit go even more mainstream this year. Hot new brands include Sombra, Benesin, and Métl.
  5. Tiki everything: The end of 2009 saw the highly-publicized opening of tiki mecca Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, and suddenly, cocktail culture got way less serious.
  6. Sipping rums: On a related note, everyone from The New York Times to the Village Voice seems to recognize the appeal of sipping premium rum for the Winter of ’09-’10. This lines up perfectly for the classic daiquiri to be the drink of the Summer of 2010.
  7. Bitters on blast: Later this month, German-made The Bitter Truth Bitters–until now hard to get unless ordered online via Cocktail Kingdom–will be distributed on store shelves stateside thanks to DSWE Classic & Vintage Artisanal Spirits. Aromatic flavors such as the Xocolatl Mole and Celery will first be launched in 16 states.
  8. Cognac and Armagnac: Despite being hit hard by the recession, the global Cognac market is expected to resurge over the next few years. On Jan. 17-20, mixologists from around the world will gather in Cognac, France, for the third annual International Cognac Summit to create drink recipes using Cognac. It will be interesting to see what they come up with this year.
  9. Sherry and wine cocktails: Dry or sweet, mixologists got familiar with sherry and other fortified wines last year, so expect to see even more of that this year. Also, Bon Appetit is predicting that vermouth will be all the rage in 2010.
  10. Moonshine: Small-batch corn whiskey modeled after the homemade version synonymous with the South is finding its way into cocktails. Brand-name moonshine such as CatDaddy Carolina Moonshine–sweet, high-proof, and aromatic–could be an ingredient in your next punch.