Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Long Journeys & an Unexpected Absence...

...but not without cause, or rather a variety of them. By my feeble calculations, in the not-insignificant period of time since my last posting, I've traveled some 3500 miles! Between work, all this 'legging about the country and the requisite prep/cleanup prior to or following such travels, my (deplorable) absence from writing here might be understandable, however unfortunate it may be.

Yet, by way of apology, rather than wax poetic on every tiny detail accross a handful of posts, I reasoned a collection of highlights might serve best to catch you, my good reader, up on my spirits-doused activities of th
e past month or so.

'Tales 2009
First up in early July, my trip down to (all-too sunny) NOLA for this year's Tales of the Cocktail - an incredible and educational exerience to be sure. While at this spirited event of the year I attended seminars on all manner of fascinating cocktailian topics, sampled spirits from all over the world, wiled away the evenings in the friendly company of my fellow bloggers over at the Mixoloseum house and, in the end, nearly gave myself a hernia hauling home the mountain of 'schwag that was foisted upon the attendees at every turn.

I also took part in a cocktail competition of fairly epic proportions - a joint effort between the various chapter cities of the
USBG and the wonderful folks at Leblon Cachaça. The theme of said competition was to craft a riff on the venerable Caipirinha, and the collection of immensely-talented individuals (two for each USBG chapter city) chosen to compete certainly brought some of their best tricks to bear, much to the delight of the ~400 person guest list!

Such was assuredly the case with my teammate (& fellow New Jerseyian), Tad Carducci of
Tippling Bros. & USBGNY fame, who took the People's Choice Award for the event. Likewise with Tobin Ellis and Andrew Pollard of the Las Vegas chapter, who took the Judge's Choice Award. For a glimpse at the incredible show that Leblon, the USBG & all eighteen of us put on (as well as the various recipes concocted for the evening) check out the video stream below (the idiot in red with Pelé socks on his arms would be yours truly):


Pennsic 38
Of Portable Bars...
For those of you who have been tuning in here for a while (and who haven't been terribly put off by my recent absence), you may recall that this is the time of year when the Pennsic War takes place in the wilds of upstate Pennsylvania. Although this year's trip out was considerably shorter than previous years' (in span, the journey was just as mind-numbingly long), I could hardly miss it, as this was our local group's 30th Anniversary - which corresponded exactly with the date of our annual party. But more on that in a moment...

Along for the ride, as always, was my very own portable bar (which some of you may recall I promised pictures of last year). Finally having gotten around to actually getting photos taken of the thing, I reasoned that this is the perfect opportunity to present my hand-built creation in all it's devious detail, including its spirited contents. This handy tool & workspace is a direct solution to the many frustrations I often encountered at my first bartending gig; a catering outfit.

The overall design is fairly straightforward - three moulded countertops of treated mahogany, poplar & oak which bolt together discretely to form a back-bar with plenty of work & storage space. Straight and rear-facing angled legs of spun oak screw onto plates on the bottom. A number of "speed rail" boxes which fit into several positions on the bar surfaces (dependant on my needs at a given event) via fitted wooden pegs. Space for additional spirits runs along these boxes (which are watertight, so that ice may be placed inside of them in especially hot conditions) with a large drawer & watertight hinged box providing additional storage space for tools or miscellaneous items.

Other features include folding hooks on the bottom of each segment from which small baskets can be hung, a wall-mounted bottle-opener on one of the legs, an angled marble cutting board (complete with a removable trough for catching juice & seeds) and a pair of inset stainless steel foodservice bins for holding my bar tools. Bottles of Simple and Demerara syrups are mounted on a speed pouring rack (which dispenses 1 oz. pours), a butane-powered burner provides heat for warm drinks or making syrups when necessary. A combination of magnetic lights and lanterns provide me with light in the evenings and a sterile space is alotted for drying & storing my glassware. And yes, good reader, I bring glassware out camping...

A pair of double-walled coolers accomadates my mixers (Vermouths, Champagne, soda, juices, additional fruit &c.) and Ice, respectively. As ice can be a devilish thing to maintain without refrigeration in hot weather, I do the best I can by procuring several 10lb. blocks of ice, then pack cubed ice around these. For stirred drinks (or others requiring careful control of dilution) I utilize a brass hammer and ice pick to secure suitable chunks from the blocks, while shaken drinks get a combination of cubed & block ice (with careful attention paid to shaking times & temperatures). And as for what I actually stocked for all this mixing; my selections are listed from left to right more or less as they appear on the bar itself (pictures courtesy of the incomparable Ken Cleary):

Plymouth, Bols Oude Genever, Bols Genever, Boodles, Bluecoat, Tanqueray, Right, Beefeater, Beefeater 24, Martin Miller's, Distillery 209, Citadelle Reserve, Magellan.

Gomme, Pineapple Gomme, Ginger, Falernum, Cinnamon, Orgeat,
Horchata de Melon, Raspberry, Passionfruit, Elderflower, Berry-Apple Shrub, Hibiscus Grenadine.

Salignac Cognac, Lautrec VS Cognac, Cardinal Mendoza Solera Gran Reserva, Fundador Solera Reserva, BarSol Quebranta Pisco, Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy, Metaxa 5-star.

Sazerac 3yr & Old Overholt Rye(s), Hudson, Bulleit, Old Graddad & Evan Williams 7yr Bourbon(s), Yamazaki 12yr, Pig's Nose Scotch.

Rum & Cachaça
Brugal white, ONO white, Cavalier Antigua white, Ron Zacapa 23, Mount Gay XO, Appleton's V/X, Rhum Barbancourt 3-star, El Dorado 5yr Demerara, Neisson Rhum Agricole Blanc, Sailor Jerry spiced, Lemon Hart 151° Demerara; Boca Loca, Leblon & Inacca 5yr Cachaças.

Bitters & Tinctures
Angostura, Peychaud's, Regan's Orange, Angostura Orange, Fee's Peach & WBA, Spiced Lemon #1, Honey-Tangerine, Boker's, Improved Bitters mix; Orange Flower Water, Rosewater, Jasmine, Tahitian & Bourbon Vanilla(s), Candied Ginger; Atomizers of Del Maguey SV Mescal &
Bitters Mist.

Tequila & Mescal
Inocente Plata, Tequila Ocho Plata 2008 & 2009, El Jimador Reposado, Del Maguey SV Mescal.

Amaro, Pastis & Absinthe
Pimm's No. 1 Cup, Torani Amer (Picon), Zucca Rabarbaro Amaro, Amaro Nonino, Fernet Branca, Campari, Aperol; Pastis au Violette, Herbsaint, Pernod; Vieux Carre, Obsello, Kübler Absinthes.

Speed Spirits
Benedictine, Grand Marnier, Luxardo Maraschino, Amaro Abano & Amaretto, Yellow Chartreuse, Carpano Punt e Mes, Morello Cherry-infused Carpano Antica Formula, house dry Vermouth, house sweet Vermouth.

Wines & Liqueurs
Dry Sack & Lustau PX Sherry(s), Cockburn's Ruby Port; Cointreau, Tuaca, Marie Brizard Apry, Tia Maria, Hiram Walker Crème de Cassis & Crème de Cacao, Chateau Trimbach Pear, Domaine de Canton Ginger.

Oval, Van Gogh Espresso, Zubrowska.


...And (Quite) Successful Parties
As I mentioned previously, our local group reached its thirtieth year of existence this year, fortuitously on the precise date of our annual Pennsic party. And despite the intense chill of the evening (heralded by a poor, if ultimately inaccurate, weather forecast) after our best estimates, somewhere in the vicinity of one thousand people passed through our camp over the course of the evening!!

I daresay our reputation for hospitality and entertainment won us this more than steady influx of guests, and in that regard we surely did not disappoint. As we were perhaps the only camp group at this years' event to procure the proper licensing (admittedly something never before needed at Pennsic) for fire-spinners (i.e. Poi), we were visited by large a number of this art's master practioners (as pictured at left & below).

Similarly, and much like last year's festivities, we provided kegs and cases of beer & hard cider (Guinness, Smithwicks & Woodchuck); all were tapped before the night's end. As my own contribution to the event, I prepared and served up a large volume (15 Gallons in-total) of batched libations for our guests' pleasure. One of these was a slight variation on a warm beverage (at ~55°F it was quite chilly after all) compunded in moderate batches all evening long to help our guests (and me) fend off the evening's chill. These libations (including an unplanned, yet thoroughly delicious addition prepared a la minute) went something like this:

Swamp Sunshine

200 oz. Peach-infused Vodka, house-made 60 oz. Saffron-infused Bianco Vermouth, house-made
20 oz. Canton Ginger Liqueur
200 oz. Peach Nectar
60 oz. Ginger syrup
20 oz. fresh Lemon juice
1½ oz. Fee’s Peach bitters
½ oz. Sunshine bitters (modified to include Quassia bark)

4x fresh Peaches, julienned
Combine ingredients in a 5-Gal cooler & stir very well to incorporate. Prior to serving, add a 7lb. block of ice and stir well to chill. Serve over ice & top with 1 oz. of Seltzer (fresh from an iSi siphon).

East's Interdiction
300 oz. Sandeman's Ruby Port & Lustau PX Sherry (house-aged blend, 3:1)
4 oz. Lemon Hart 151° Demerara Rum
80 oz. → 64 oz. distilled Water, mulled & reduced in advance with:
* 15x Allspice berries, bruised
* 15x blades Mace
* 10x Canela Cinnamon sticks, bruised
* 10x Green Cardamom pods, bruised
36 oz. superfine white Sugar
24 oz. candied Ginger
30x fresh Oranges
10x fresh Lemons
80x whole Cloves
Bitters mist, for brûlée
Nutmeg, for garnish
Quarter the Oranges & Lemons and stick each segment with 2 whole Cloves. Reserve over ice. Prepare mulled Water by bringing specified spices & 80 oz. of distilled Water to a boil. Simmer until reduced to 64 oz. then fine-strain solids from water & reserve.

To compound each batch
(prepared here in 8 batches to ensure warmth):
Combine the following in a large pan:
15x Orange segments
5x Lemon segments
8 oz. mulled Water
Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat & add:
4½ oz. superfine Sugar
3 oz. candied Ginger
Carefully brûlée the pan's contents with the Bitters Mist (for approximately ten to fifteen seconds), then add 37½ oz. Port-Sherry blend and continue to warm over medium-high heat until steaming. Add ½ oz. 151° Demerara Rum and carefully ignite. Flame for approximately thirty to forty seconds before extinguishing with the pan's lid. Remove from heat and pour the entire mixture in a heatproof 5-Gal cooler. Serve in 3-4 oz. portions with a grate of fresh Nutmeg over the top.

The next beverage had great sentimental value for many of the older members of our group, though I'll admit, I varied the ingredients towards the fresher side. Nevertheless (or perhaps because of my alterations) it vanished alarmingly quickly:

Lynchburg Lemonade
20 oz. Bulleit Bourbon
20 oz. Old Granddad Bourbon
20 oz. Old Overholt Rye
30 oz. Cointreau
40 oz. fresh Lemon juice
10 oz. fresh Orange juice
20 oz. Simple syrup
10 oz. candied Citron syrup
64 oz. Seltzer
Combine all ingredients except Seltzer in a 2½-Gal Cooler & stir well to incorporate. Prior to serving, add a 3lb. block of ice & gently stir in Seltzer (2x full iSi siphons).

As the 'Lynchburg (& its accompanying libations) was relatively short-lived, as the crowd waned (briefly) I made my way to the portable bar at the rear of camp, to quickly prepare a new batch of beverages. I struck upon the bottle of Pineapple Gomme syrup (originally intended for Pisco Punch) & immediately recalled a drink of a different variety:

Developed by the inestimable Eryn Reece of NYC's Louis 649, the recipe (which I tripled; substituting in a bottle of ordinary Beefeater and 2 oz. of green Tea) for Desmond Punch was apparently crafted to honor Beefeater's master distiller (and creator of Beefeater 24) Demond Payne. Quite a tribute, I must say!

Despite the presence of Gin (sadly, a touchy subject for many), this wonderful punch lasted for even less time than its' predecessors and recieved many compliments from our guests. Check out the step-by-step recipe in the video stream at below (with Ms. Reece herself; courtesy of Embury Cocktails) - I promise you'll be delighted with the results...


And so, after returning (dead tired) from Pennsic, the last of my travels is complete. Consequently, my long absence from authoring long-winded articles here is now over and regularly-scheduled (!?) posts will begin apearing soon.

Throughout my time away I have been far from idle, learning of and experimenting with all manner of new (or at least new to me) ingredients, tricks, ideas & recipes. Many of these & more will be appearing here over the next few weeks - as a teaser, next up is a bit of fun to have with your pet soda siphon - so be sure to tune back in soon...


An enormous thanks to everyone from both 'Tales & Pennsic (and anyone in between) who has made these last few weeks an absolute pleasure; especially to those of you who were kind enough to share your excellent photography (Ken, Anna, Dani, Susan - you guys rock)!


Tiare said...

This was quite an amazing post, and your portable bar with all its contents(!) is amazing too!

BTW_Have you seen the drawing of you that DR B made? check it out..

I like the idea of mezcal and bitter mist..that i`m gonna try but without any fire, just spraying it gently on top..



Tiare said...

Btw - it was really nice to meet you in New York and Clover Club!

We went to Death&Co the next day.

Needless to say anything more..


Tony Harion said...

That is one hell of a portable bar!
How many trucks did it take to bring all of this with you?


Chris "Rookie" Stanley said...

Tiare - Thanks very much! Indeed, I saw Doc's drawing - love it! Looks way better than any photo of me would have too ; )

The mescal I've never tried to flame with, but as a glass rinse or aromatic on top of a drink it's awesome. Try a Margarita after a spray or two of mescal as a rinse.

Tony - Thanks! I probably should have included the dimensions/specs on the bar in my post, but it takes up very little space.

When set up it measures in at about 11.5' L x 2' W.

When broken down the whole thing (including the boxes & a bag full of legs) takes up 4.25' L x 2' W x 10" H.

To be honest the coolers, bins full of spirits, fruit & syrups, as well as gear takes up way more room than the bar itself. For this particular trip, a number of us went out together (with camping gear too) so we rented a small trailer (4'x8') to ease up congestion in the car.

But if I were traveling a shorter distance, the whole thing can fit in my little Honda with room to spare.

Arthur said...

Wow that's awesome. Thanks for sharing this with us!

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