Friday, May 18, 2012

My Weekend at the MCC 2012: Part II

Dushan Zaric at MCC Handcrafted Cocktails seminar

Sunday of my MCC weekend was a bit more leisurely than the prior two days.  The afternoon consisted of some dim sum and a trip over to Mario Batali's Eatily.  Eatily is pretty much an Italian foods super store that also sports some mini-restaurants, a cafe, pastry bar, and gelato bar, as well as a fun rooftop beer garden.  It is definitely a sight to behold, and if you're not already hungry by the time you walk in, give it a few minutes.

Later, I headed over to Macao Trading Company in Tribeca for the MCC seminar Handcrafted Cocktails:  How to Create Homemade Ingredients, Syrups, Cordials, Infusions and Accompaniments (sponsored by POM Wonderful).  The lecturer for the event was Dushan Zaric, one of the bartending minds behind Macao Trading Company and Employee's Only, and also the co-author of Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Reimagined and You Didn't Hear It from Us: Two Bartenders Serve Women the Truth About Men, Making an Impression, and Getting What You Want.

Zaric began by talking a bit about how he came reach the point of incorporating 25-30 homemade ingredients at a time into his bar's toolkit, and why.  One of the initial reasons had to do with the exploration of some of the classic recipes from older cocktail books which, when he and his co-conspirators tried, were terrible (unbalanced, etc.).  After some experimentation, they identified one reason why.  Back in the 1800s, many of the non-spirit ingredients (grenadine, for example) weren't commercially produced products that were purchased, but rather were handmade by the bartenders themselves.  After attempting to recreate some of these ingredients and using the handmade ingredients in the drinks, they found that the formulas used made much more sense.

During the course of the lecture, Zaric went through several different cocktail creations involving various homemade ingredients, the thought behind the cocktails, and the process for making the ingredients.  And, of course, we got to sample the quite tasty results, as well as the homemade ingredients.  The list of homemade components that were featured were grenadine, absinthe bitters, chai-infused sweet vermouth, grapefruit cordial, lavendar infused gin, "Vermouth de Provence," Pandan leaf syrup, and Macao 5-spice bitters.  One hot tip (no pun intended) that Zaric mentioned as far as making syrups and heated infusions (other than vodka infusions) was that instead of boiling in a sauce pan, he found that he could get faster/better results using the milk frothing attachment of an espresso machine (sadly, a restaurant grade espresso machine is outside my budget right now).

I found all of the cocktails we sampled to be tasty, but the two that really stood out for me were the Mata Hari and the Drunken Dragon's Milk.  The Mata Hari consisted of Louis Royer Force 53 VSOP cognac, homemade Chai-infused Sweet Vermouth, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, POM Wonderful, and 3 dried organic rose buds for garnish (shaken and strained).  The infused vermouth was made with cardamom pods, cloves, a cinnamon stick, chai tea, and Dolin sweet vermouth.   In addition to a great presentation and aroma, the drink brought with it a wonderful balance between the overproof cognac, tea, and fruit flavors.

The Drunken Dragon's Milk consisted of Charbay Green Tea vodka, young coconut puree (Boiron), lime juice, Pandan leaf syrup, a pinch of thai basil leaf, and Macao 5-spice bitters, served shaken and unstrained in a Collins glass.  The bitters were made from Goslings 151, fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, cloves, Szechuan pepper corns, star anise, and slightly burned brown sugar. This drink was kind of like a Thai iced tea or bubble tea meeting a pina colada.  I loved the flavor profile.  I also really enjoyed the taste and aroma of the Pandan leaf syrup that was used on its own and might have to play around with it at some point to see what other creative uses I might be able to find.

My evening ended very low key this time around, with a bit of Indian food with some friends and a relatively early night for the first time all weekend.  That's all for now - one more post to come with the final wrap-up.  Until next time!

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