Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Manhattan Cocktail Classic, Day 3

So alas, due to the beckon call of the real world (i.e. my day job), this was my last day at then MCC. I started the day with a seminar entitled "Spirits in a Blind, or How Spirits Professionals Describe Spirits with Something Other than 'I Like it,'" with Doug Frost and Steve Olson. The duo took us through a blind tasting of a swath of spirits, teaching us some techniques for spirits tasting, and helping us talk through and identify some of the flavors we experienced with each tasting.

I followed up spirits in a blind with another event with a spirits tasting emphasis, "Discovering Le Cognac." Steve and Doug were joined by Dale DeGruff, Paul Pacult, Dave Wondrich, and Andy Seymour this time. After giving a background on cognac, its terroir and characteristics, they took us through a tasting of 8 different cognacs, and a few cognac cocktails as well. Cognac is a spirit I am less familiar with than some others, so this session and the prior were in many ways the most enlightening of the conference for me. You can find much of the information they provided on a site the participants helped put together, http://www.experiencecognac.com.

The last seminar I attended was "Tequila's Rebirth: Agave's Golden Age." Jaime Salas of Milagro tequila took us through the history of tequila, and its role as popular newcomer to the cocktail scene (as compared to other spirits).

Finally, I closed out the night with a trip to the Indy Spirits Expo at Soiree Nightclub. This event was jam packed with small producers and importers (and attendees!). I tried as many things as my remaining stamina would allow. Among the products that stick out in my mind now as great/interesting were Redemption Bourbon; Death's Door Gin; the Midnight Moon products from Piedmont Distillers; and several of the rums and amaros from the Classic and Vintage Spirits collection of Domaine Select Wine Estates. Also, while I didn't do as much sampling there because I am already familiar with many of their products, I must also give mention to Haus Alpenz, which in my opinion has a universally fantastic line of products that just keeps getting better and better.

Thus ends my daily wrap-ups from the MCC. I will post some more highlights, tips and tricks learned, and other tidbits from the event in the near future. First, I need to go through my notes, and more importantly, get some rest! But as a final note, I must say, this was a great event that was enjoyed by both a slew of industry folk and amateur enthusiasts alike. If you have the chance to go next year, do it!

Manhattan Cocktail Classic, Day 2

I spent a good chunk of today as a volunteer at the MCC working the welcome table rather than as an attendee, so I have less to report on than yesterday. However, I can definitely say that it was my experience that this is a very well-run event with great organizers and a very friendly crowd of attendees. I actually had a great time working the front desk and chatting with the participants and my fellow volunteers.

Before volunteering, I attended a morning seminar on the Art of the Simple Cocktail with Elayne Duke. Elayne took us through the use of the simple formula of base plus modifier plus modifying agent to create tasty drink varients with ease through simple substitutions (while giving credit to David Embury for his pioneering thoughts on such cocktail creation). She also gave tips on how she thinks through designing a new drink, and let us sample some creations including a Godiva chocolate raspberry vodka drink with champagne, a honey drizzle, and a chocolate truffle and raspberry garnish.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Manhattan Cocktail Classic, Day 1

I've just wrapped up my first day at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, and while I am bummed to have missed the opening gala (I heard it was awesome), it has been a blast so far.

I started the day with a session on the Science of Mixology with engineer/bartender Anthony Caporale of Art of the Drink. Anthony took us through an exploration of several myths or hypotheses about drinks and looked at some experiments to confirm disprove them. Some of the topics explored included whether larger ice cools more with less dilution; the effect of glass chilling and shaking versus stirring on drink temperature; whether gin can be bruised; and some demonstrations on distillation and barrel aging.  Results of these experiments will show up at http://www.scienceofmixology.com.

Next, I attended a session on history and cocktails involving a panel led by cocktail historian David Wondrich. The thoughtful discussion revolved around the role of history in the modern trends in cocktails, and perhaps more generally, the role of historical narrative. We also had the pleasure of trying several vintage drinks, including a punch, the original Singapore Sling, and the Airplane.

My third session was entitled "Be a Part of the 'Next GINeration':  Tips & Techniques for Reinventing the Classic Cocktail Party."  During this session, mixologist Alex Ott led us through using items to be found on hand in the kitchen to spice up (literally and figuratively) spirits (in this case, the sponsor spirit New Amsterdam gin) to make new and interesting cocktails.  He also took us through some garnish techniques and showed off his skills with some improv cocktail concoctions.

Finally, I topped off the evening with a session on Aperitivo:  The Italian Happy Hour.  In this session, Joseph Campanale took us through a look at the Italian take on Happy Hour and some beverages that characterize it:  Italian vermouth, Campari, Aperol, and Cynar.  In addition to learning about each, we got the opportunity to sample each aperitivo and a cocktail that used them (in the case of Campari, we tried two variations). 

For some pics from the seminars, check out my twitter feed:  http://www.twitter.com/raisedspirits

Friday, May 13, 2011

Off to the Manhattan Cocktail Classic!

This weekend should be a blast, as I will be off to the previously mentioned Manhattan Cocktail Classic!  Sadly, I am missing the opening gala, but I will be in town tomorrow to attend a few seminars (and enjoy a few drinks), and will be volunteering at the event on Sunday.  I'm also going to be trying my hand at some tweeting/micro-blogging this weekend in honor of the event, so if you care to follow along, take a look at my twitter feed here.