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Be A VIP To Bartenders

You want bartenders to like you?  Of course you do.  Why annoy the people who work hard to create your favorite libation of the moment?   This good article in the New York Times gives you some tips about what to do, and perhaps more importantly, what not to do.  Many thanks to my friend Chuck for posting a link to this article.

Here's my summary -- be nice, be patient, and know what you want to order.  If the place isn't busy, put down your phone and have a real live conversation with your bartender. Trust me, you'll be fine. It's not about how much you spend (but you should tip generously).  Let me give you an example ..... Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den and I have been patrons at our favorite watering hole for more than 15 years. Compared to other patrons, we spend far less but we always get great service.  Why?  Because we speak with, not at, our bartenders (and we tip generously).

Be a good person and your bartenders will love you.  My liver can vouch for it.


A Unique Cocktail Lady -- The Donna Maria

If you want to show respect to an Italian lady, call her Donna.  It's the feminine equivalent of Don, e.g. Don Corleone in The Godfather (my favorite movie) or Don Giovanni (one of the two operas I like).  I did not discover the Donna Maria in Italy, but in Ireland.  It is one of many original creations from Ilario Alberto Capraro, the 2017 Irish National Cocktail Champion who plies his craft at Waterford Castle.  Ilario himself made me a Donna Maria. This is my home adaptation.

Donna Maria2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce Benedictine DOM
.5 ounces allspice dram
2 dashes aromatic or Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir as if you're a lady con forza e grazia, and strain into a chilled glass.  Serving options include putting sugar on the rim of the glass and/or orange peel garnish.

The Donna Maria has a rich taste and is deceptively powerful (sort of like a real lady).  While I'm not as discerning about which dark rum to use as Ilario is, I agree the Benedictine DOM (a herbal liqueur in cocktails such as the Royalist) and allspice dram (a rum based liqueur) are indispensable.  You can find both in many liquor stores and/or online.   Allspice dram is also known as pimento dram, as the allspice berry comes from the pimento tree.  Think of it as autumn in a glass.

Are you a donna?  Do you want to impress a donna?  Then make a Donna Maria.


BYOB -- Bottle Your Own Bourbon

BYOB 1Over the years I've consumed plenty of bourbon, but this month (which happens to be National Bourbon Heritage Month) was a first -- this time I got to bottle my own bourbon.  Falls Church Distillers, a new distillery located in Falls Church, Virginia, recently hosted a bourbon bottling party.  My wife (Ms. Cocktail Den) and I participated in all aspects of the bottling process from cleaning it, pouring bourbon into it, sealing it, and labeling it. It's a win win for everyone -- Falls Church Distillers gets some free labor, and you get a fun experience.

BYOB 2During the event we got to meet the father-son team behind the operation.  Michael (the father and CEO) and Lorenzo (the son and head distiller) Paluzzi are smart and engaging.  It's exciting to watch, and briefly be a small part of, a new business taking flight.  I use that term deliberately, as Michael is a U.S. Air Force veteran.

So what about the bourbon?  Forget about tasting notes (identifying flavors is not my forte) and let's cut to the chase -- it's smooth and will work well in cocktails.  It's a little over three years old, which it makes it relatively young by bourbon standards.  Some bourbon drinkers might find it a little too mellow, but that may be due to its youth. 

If you get a chance to BYOB, do it. 

 


Tama What? -- The Tamarind Fizz

Tamarind is the fruit from the tamarind tree, which is common in South Asia and Mexico.  It is tart and sweet.  I discovered tamarind when I had it in sauces on food in Thailand.  After savoring a Tamarind Fizz at Aqimero (great drinks, gorgeous decor) at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Philadelphia, I now appreciate using it in a cocktail.  This is the adaptation I made at home.

Tamarind Fizz2 ounces cachaça or light rum (see below)
1.5 ounces tamarind juice or soda
.5 ounces agave syrup or nectar
Juice from 1/4 lime
1 egg white

With tamarind juice, combine everything in a shaker with ice, shake as if you have a tart and sweet nature, and strain into a chilled glass.  Want a challenge?  Use a reverse dry shake to shake shake shake your egg whites. With tamarind soda, put the soda in a chilled glass (not the shaker; I know this is obvious but I figure I'd say it anyway), put everything else in a shaker with ice, and follow the same process.

The Tamarind Fizz has a lot of unusual ingredients.  You can get them pretty easily.  Cachaça is a clear liquor from Brazil.  It's similar to rum, but cachaça is distilled from fresh sugar cane juice and most rum is distilled from molasses (basically boiled sugar cane juice). You can find tamarind juice or soda in Asian and Latino grocery stores.  Agave nectar, an ingredient in the Kentucky Sunshine, is in many grocery stores.  Depending on how sweet the tamarind juice or soda is, you might want to cut back or cut out the agave nectar.

In a way the Tamarind Fizz is reminiscent of a Pisco Sour. Both have clear base spirits, and they include egg white and lime juice.  Of course, the big difference is pisco comes from torched Dutch grapes, and cachaça or rum comes from sugar cane.

Sometimes a little effort can lead to a big reward.  Making a Tamarind Fizz is one of those times.


Drinking Like Royalty

Drinking Like Royalty 1Despite the cocktail I created for her, the Whiskey Queen (Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den) is not actually a queen, and I'm not a king.  That didn't stop us from briefly living like royals during a recent vacation in Ireland.  We stayed two nights in Waterford Castle.  That's right, a castle.  On a private island. Cool, right?  My exact words on seeing the place: "Holy (rhymes with mitt), this is awesome!"

Drinking Like Royalty 2What made the experience even more amazing is that Waterford Castle has a top notch cocktail program.  We had no idea until we got there. It turns out Ilario Alberto Capraro, this year's National Cocktail Champion of Ireland, is the driving force behind the program.  We had the pleasure of meeting Ilario in the Fitzgerald Room bar.  Ilario is pleasant, a gentleman, and makes a hell of a good cocktail.  He also trains his people well, as we had a good time meeting John, a newer bartender, our first night at Waterford Castle.  The Fitzgerald Room, like Waterford Castle, isn't as big as it seems.  The atmosphere is elegant without being stuffy.

All of the drinks at Waterford Castle are excellent, but I thought the standouts are Ilario's creations such as the Sweetheart Stout (main ingredients are Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and Guinness beer), the Oscar Wilde (you know, the Irish writer who coined the wonderful line "work is the curse of the drinking class"), the Originale (includes Irish whiskey, amaretto, lemon juice, and egg white), and the Donna Maria (if you like dark rum, you will love this one .... trust me).

As we discovered when we stumbled into Kol in Reyjavik, Iceland earlier this year, you never know when and where you might find a great cocktail. Now you know you can find one (ok, more than one) in Waterford Castle.  All hail Ilario!


"The Best (And Sort Of Anti-Nazi)" Drink -- The Bee's Knees

The phrase "bee's knees" was Prohibition era slang for "the best."  So how is this simple cocktail anti-Nazi?  Frank Meier, the creator of the modern Bee's Knees, was the head bartender at what is now Bar Hemingway in the Ritz Hotel in Paris.  He included the drink in his 1936 book "The Artistry of Mixing Drinks."  During World War II Meier was a French Resistance operative, undermining the efforts of the high ranking Nazis who patronized his bar.  In this respect Meier was much like Felix Kir, who created the eponymous Kir.  Gives new meaning to the phrase "liquid courage," doesn't it?

Bee's Knees (edited)2 ounces gin (I used the Botanist)
Juice from 1/2 lemon
.75 ounces honey syrup (see below)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the confidence of being the best at something, and strain into a chilled glass (preferably coupe).  Lemon peel garnish optional.

Making honey syrup is so easy even I can do it (see A Thief In The Night). You may want to adjust the amount of syrup depending on the type of honey.  When I made the Bee's Knees I happened to use buckwheat honey syrup, which has a richer taste than regular honey (it's also why the drink in the photo is darker than a typical Bee's Knees).

It's not clear who originally created the Bee's Knees, which in a way is similar to a gin based version of a Whiskey Sour.  San Francisco bartender Bill Boothby referred to it in his 1934 book "World Drinks and How to Make Them."  However, his version also contained orange juice.  I prefer Meier's take on the Bee's Knees. It doesn't overpower the cocktail with citric acidity.  More importantly -- it's tasty and refreshing.

You want to be the best?  You want to be anti-Nazi?  Then have a Bee's Knees.


Cold as Iceland -- The Icelandic Sour

The wonderful country of Iceland is the polar opposite of the person who's the subject of the Foreigner tune Cold As Ice.  As foreigners who recently traveled to Iceland, Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den and I had a great time seeing the sights and meeting people. The Icelandic Sour is my adaptation of the Whiskey Sour served at Loftid in Reykjavik.

With vitamin C and protein, the Icelandic Sour is a relatively healthy cocktail.
Containing Vitamin C and protein, the Icelandic Sour is a relatively healthy cocktail.

2.5 ounces rye
1 ounce super simple syrup
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 egg white
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash aromatic or Angostura bitters

Combine everything except the egg white into a shaker, add ice, shake with the force of water cascading over the majestic Gulfoss falls in Iceland, strain everything into a glass, toss the ice from the shaker, pour the contents of the glass back into the shaker, add the egg white, shake as if you're hustling to make your connection in Keflavik airport (don't ask), and strain into a separate chilled glass.

Why the complicated preparation? The reverse dry shaking process described above works really well for any drink with egg whites, e.g. the Pisco Sour (click on the Protein category for other examples) because it enhances the flavor and results in more foam.  If you don't want to reverse dry shake, just put all of the ingredients and ice into a shaker and shake away.

The Icelandic Sour is another example of the Whiskey Sour's versatility.  Other variations include cocktails such as the Midnight Train. All of the ingredients for the Icelandic Sour are easy to obtain, and you end up with a tasty and balanced drink. 

If you want paradise, pay the price with an Icelandic Sour.


Iceland Iceland Baby -- Apotek and Loftid

Ice in Iceland -- an ice cave in Surtshellir.
Ice in Iceland -- an ice cave in Surtshellir.

Even though Reykjavik, Iceland isn't a big city, it has a lot of great eating and drinking options. Apotek and Loftid are two of them. Friends highly recommended Apotek to me and Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den, and we discovered Lotfid while walking around the neighborhood. 

Like Kol, which is the subject of a prior post (link), Apotek is first and foremost a restaurant.  Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den thinks the lamb filet we had there was the best lamb we've ever had (I agree), and I could go on all day about the fabulous fish, e.g. arctic char and minke whale.  But you're not in the Den to read about food.  The cocktails are excellent and creative.  I applaud Apotek for incorporating Icelandic spirits into the drinks.  Some of the spirits are familiar to many, e.g. Reyka vodka, and some are not, e.g. Brennivin (a clear liquor, technically an aquavit, also known as "Black Death"). Our first meal in Iceland happened to be at Apotek, and we enjoyed our experience so much we had our last meal in Iceland there, too.

Even the soap dispensers at Apotek are alcoholic.
Even the soap dispensers at Apotek are alcoholic.

Unlike Apotek, Loftid is a bar and club.  Interestingly, you have to be at least 25 years old to enter the place. Presumably it does this to keep out younger drinkers (apparently Reykjavik has quite a party scene) and entice "classier" (?) drinkers like me and Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den.   We went there on a Sunday night so it was pretty quiet.  The bar is well stocked, and the drinks on the handwritten list on the wall (there is no printed list) are good.  They aren't nearly as complex as those as Apotek.  This is not surprising, as Lotfid is set up to operate as a high volume bar.

The highlight of Loftid was meeting a young bartender named Johann.  He clearly has the desire to succeed and the potential to become a great bartender.  He just needs more exposure to classic cocktails, e.g. he confessed he never made a Manhattan, so we walked him through the version we prefer.

Our experience at Loftid involved the three Cs I love about the world of cocktails -- creating them, communicating about them, and connecting with people through them.  If I can do that in Reykjavik, you can do it anywhere.


What's Your Sign? -- Zodiac Drinking At Bars

Whether you believe in horoscopes or not (I don't), they can be fun to read.  Could they indicate what type of bars you like or your drinking habits?  Who cares?  More importantly, do you want to have some fun and laugh?  Of course you do.  Click on the links in the second sentence and enjoy.  Thanks to my friends Danielle of Barrow's Intense Ginger Liqueur (full disclosure -- I am a small investor) and CJ of the forthcoming travel site Wanderonomy (full disclosure -- Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den and I will be contributors) for telling me about these articles.  

According to these articles, I'm best in a tiki bar, level headed, and want everyone to have fun.  Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den is best in a corner bar, a good wingwoman, and won't bow to peer pressure. Are these drinking horoscopes accurate?  Here's my absolutely definitive one word answer -- maybe. Drink with us and find out.

Zodiac signs


Iceland Iceland Baby -- Kol

Think great cocktails and food in Reykjavik, Iceland, not the musical abomination from Vanilla Ice (who brazenly ripped off the bassline in the great song Under Pressure from Queen and David Bowie).  Sometimes you find fantastic places when you're wandering. That's exactly how Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den and I discovered Kol in Reykjavik. 

Gulfoss waterfall is spectacular, even when the rain is coming in sideways.
Gulfoss waterfall is spectacular, even when the rain is coming in sideways.

I have no idea how to say "wonderful surprise" in Icelandic (all I learned was "takk," which means "thanks"), but that's exactly how I would describe our experience at Kol restaurant. When we entered Kol we had absolutely no idea it has a top notch cocktail program.  Asgeir Mar Björnsson created the program. High quality ingredients (I was stunned to see such a wide ranging selection of whiskey in Iceland), expert proficiency behind the bar, and careful attention to details and presentation.  The bar would do well anywhere in the world.  The same goes for the restaurant, as the food and service are outstanding.  

Duck Fat Sazerac
Duck Fat Sazerac

Kol divides its drinks menu for the type of drinker you are or want to be -- accessible, advanced, professional, and responsible.  Don't focus on the categories, focus on the ingredients you might like.  All of the cocktails we had were excellent, and I loved some of the names.  For example, the Duck Season (duck fat washed bourbon, maraschino liqueur, lemon) had me channel my love of classic Warner Brothers cartoons and exclaim "Rabbit season!" like Daffy Duck.

After some conversation with the maître d', he was kind enough to give us a copy of Kol's cocktail book. Granted, it is in Icelandic, but if we can't figure it out we'll use Google Translate.

Like Iceland, Kol is expensive, but it is worth every single krone (the Icelandic currency).  Your wallet might be under pressure there.  Your taste buds and liver will not.

Takk to Kol!