Inventory for August 31st, 2014
Our latest inventory is up and running! This week we look at eight simple cocktails, Esquire Netherland announces their favorite cocktail bar, we learn about China’s ancient spirit Baijiu, Will Foster explains how to build a venue that’ll last, Robert Simonson talks everything Old-Fashioned, and the Sling Awards announce their Top 5 finalists.
This week we discovered Food, People, Places: a new webseries that focuses on food culture from all over the world. What drew us in was Alex Waldman’s interview. A self taught bartender the American began his career hosting underground cocktail parties before opening Turkey’s only craft cocktail bar in Istanbul. Find us at the airport’s last minute counter, we’re headed East!
1) Super Simple Cocktails Made with Booze, Bitters and Not Much Else
Food & Wine takes us back to a simpler time when recipes adhered to the strict definition of a cocktail: A drink made with spirits, sugar, water, and bitters. No juices, no egg whites, and no muddled fruit. Showcasing super simple cocktails that aren’t just suitable for summer cookouts, their line-up includes the Pink Gin, the Old-Fashioned, the Martini, a Champagne Cocktail, and the Manhattan. With a little history accompanying each cocktail instructions, this makes for the perfect end-of-summer read.
2) Esquire Netherlands Announces Best Cocktail Bar
For the fourth year in a row Esquire went on a the hunt for the Netherlands’ best cocktail bar. 17 bars made it to the finals, but only one can be the winner. This year’s crowning glory belongs to Door 74. As the country’s first speak-easy its location is tricky and can be hard to find, just like any respectable speak-easy should be.
Cocktails are heavy on the booze, light on fruit. On the evening Esquire visited their cocktails came prepared by bar manager Timo Janse-de Vries. The jury rests its decision on the following: “Door 74 is like a good friend that never disappoints. Sometimes you don’t see him for months, but then you go right back to where you left off.“
3) China’s Ancient Spirit: Baijiu
Punch’s Derek Sandhaus traces China alcohol production for an article which was published two weeks ago, in which he describes his travels to Moutai in Guizhou, China’s poorest province. His aim is to discover why baijiu, a grain spirit, has suddenly gained international acclaim and why it’s impossible to replicate anywhere else. Sandhaus describes the harsh terrain which makes overland travel so hard but that simultaneously creates a pocket of humid, temperate air perfect for crafting Chinese grain spirits, or baijiu.
The spirit isn’t fermented or distilled in liquid form, but rather in a solid state. The alcohol is extracted by running steam through the grains, which produces flavors and aromas unlike any other spirit. Sandhaus explains baijiu’s flavor as sweet and citrusy, but Moutai’s version is savory, dark and reminiscent of soy sauce marinated mushrooms. Every baijiu has its own unique taste which depends on the province, town, or village it was made in. Color us intrigued! Sandhaus ends his article on this beautiful sentiment: “To drink it is, quite literally, to drink of China.“
4) How to Create A Venue That Will Stand The Test of Time
Will Foster wrote a rather personal article about his journey as a bar owner and what, in his opinion, makes it a bar a success. He starts off with sound advice by an old boss: Don’t open a bar or restaurant because you want to make money, open it because you love good food and drink, love people and entertaining them, and genuinely want to create a space for people to come and enjoy themselves.
Words to live by, and so he did. Foster opened Casita in London’s, then still-scummy, Shoreditch in 2006 and is still growing it to this day. While the concept and drink offerings might be a thing that either appeals to customers or doesn’t, what truly matters is personality. Fosters is a firm believer of putting yourself behind the bar and serving the people what they want, what they need after a long day to enjoy a sip at the bar. The bartenders are the heart and soul, and as those, only the right personalities should be hired. His advice? “Drop the snobbery, drop the exclusivity, and embrace what this industry, the hospitality industry, is all about. Be the host.“
5) Robert Simonson Talks Old-Fashioned
The New York Observer recently sat down with Robert Simonson to talk all things Old-Fashioned. The topic doesn’t come as a huge surprise, seeing as Simonson published a book earlier this year named ‘The Old-Fashioned: The Story of the World’s First Classic Cocktail’. During the interview Simonsons reveals that the Old-Fashioned was his mother’s drink, though she didn’t make it very well. His best tip for a great cocktail is to pay attention to the ice: make it a large cube, so it doesn’t dilute as quickly and gently influences the spirit’s coloring.
6) Importing American Craft Spirits to Europe
Earlier this week the New York Times told the tale of Michael Vachon. An American expat working in a struggling tech start up in London, he regularly flew back to the States, making sure his suitcase would fit several bottles of craft spirits. He gifted some of his favorite bartenders with the bottles and, as one might expect, they clambered over themselves to get their hands on the American craft spirits. Shortly after, Vachon founded his import/export drinks business Maverick.
Both the lowering of state and federal regulations and businesses like his are reviving the American craft distillery scene, the NYT notes that last year American distillers exported $1.5 billion in spirits, more than double the 2002 amount. Maverick is solely focused on London for now, but expects to expand to continental Europe within the next few years. The NYT quotes Vachon stating that importing these spirit is “… like giving them (the bartenders) a new tool in their arsenal. Customers can go in and expect 10 different gins. Now your bar stands out.
You are offering a different experience to customers.” The article is quick to mention the problems that do arise when working with small craft distilleries. Some might not have the capacity, nor the interest, in expanding and are barely able to keep up with the demand as is. Vachon tries to ensure that the international export goes as smoothly as possible. His business manages overseas credit risks, makes sure that the paperwork involved get done and handles on ground-promotion, often personally. Vachon is confident in his business, stating that London is “a great proving ground. If it does well here, it will do well anywhere.”
7) Sling Award Global Finalist Revealed
Led by bar legend Simon Difford, Peter F. Heering Sling Award’s jury just announced their top five finalists this past week in London. The original competitors included 44 participants which have now been narrowed down to the five following: Canadian Taoufike Zrafi, Dane Nick Kobbernagel Hovind, Estonian Sigrid Sarv, Singaporian Aron Christian Lobrino Manzanillo, and American Jon Kraus. The finalists will battle it out at the Bar Convent Berlin on October 7th to October 8th.