Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Boston Cocktail Summit Weekend, Part III: Scent Science, Drink Writers, and More

I began my Friday afternoon at the Boston Cocktail Summit with the seminar Making Sense of Scents, presented by Domingo-Martin Barreres, the resident mixologist at Market by Jean-George at the W Boston Hotel, who also teaches the class The Art of the Cocktail at the Boston Center for Adult Education.

Domingo started out by giving us a bit of a primer on olfaction and the human brain, and the interactions of taste, smell, and memory.  During the rest of the session, Domingo took us through a few scent experiments to show some of these interactions (and also let us sample some cocktails, of course).  First, we smelled some aromatic substances in some capsules that began with baby powder and ended with tobacco to demonstrate scent in the context of a trip down memory lane running from youth-related to later in life aromas.  Next, Domingo had us chew on a jelly bean while holding our nose at first and then not doing so, in order to show the difference in taste just from having your sense of smell cut off (it was actually pretty dramatic).  After that, we tried a cocktail first on its own, and then with drops of some highly aromatic oils that had been prepared (one was a basil-mint oil, I can't recall the second) to see the difference.  Finally, for our last comparison, we were given a standard Margarita, presented in a glass with a clip attached.  We were then able to sample the Margarita on its own and compare the taste when clipping a sprig of mint or a sprig of rosemary just above the drink.


Our palate of scent experiments



Margarita with a mint sombrero

My next session of the day was the "Drinking for a Living" cocktail writers panel.  The panelists consisted of moderator Jason Wilson, cocktail/spirits writer for the Washington Post and author of Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits (which coincidentally I wrote a review of here); Liza Weisstuch, a freelance writer in the areas of cocktails and the spirits industry, as well as food, theater, and marketing, who contributes to publications including The Boston Globe, The Boston Pheonix, Fine Cooking, Imbibe Magazine, and the Boston Zagat Boston Restaurant Survey, for which she is a 2011-2012 editor; Kirsten (Kitty) Amann, freelance writer, founder of LUPEC Boston, weekly cocktails/spirits contributor for the LUPEC column in The Weekly Dig (as "Pink Lady"), and author of The Screaming Orgasm: 69 X-Rated Cocktails; Brandy Rand, a freelance spirits writer and consultant, whose publications include pieces for Boston Common, Northshore Magazine, Nightclub & Bar, Boston Magazine; and Kerry Byrne, food & drinks writer for The Boston Herald, whose beer writing has appeared in Esquire, Boston Magazine, Penthouse, and elsewhere, and whose sports writing has appeared at sportsillustrated.com, Yahoo!Sports, and his own websites coldhardfootballfacts.com and footballnation.com.

The panelists talked about a wide range of topics generally covering their experiences getting into and working in the drink writing field, whose writing they tend to read regularly, and tips and perspectives on entering the field.  None of the panelists went head on gunning to become a drinks writer from the start.  Liza, for example, started out writing about theater.  The panel also agreed (sorry to disappoint) that drink writing was not from their experiences a viable full-time occupation, but rather one nuance of what they each do.  Brandy, for example, provides marketing and other spirits industry related consulting services.  Kitty works as a marketing representative for Fernet Branca.  Jason teaches writing at Drexel University.

Regarding what other writers the panelists regularly read, a few familiar names popped up like Dave Wondrich, Robert Hess, and Camper English.  Some other authors that came up were Wayne Curtis, M.F.K Fisher, Crosby Gaige, and of course Hemmingway, the quintessential drink and travel writer.  Some specific works that came to the panelists' minds were The Accidental Connoisseur by Lawrence Osborne, The Tender Bar, and Barnard's Whiskey Distilleries of Scotland.

The panel was very fun to listen to, and seemed a well-spoken, and light-hearted group (as perhaps epitomized by the point where Liza passed around some 40s of Busch that the panel shared).

Drinking for a Living panelists taking a moment to pass a 40 (courtesy of Liza)


That evening, I grabbed dinner and drinks with a friend at Central Kitchen before heading out to the Bacardi 150th Anniversary party back at the Royal Sonesta Hotel.  Bacardi definitely did it up for the event, with the entrance to the patio decorated like an airplane and 2 women dressed as stewardesses there to greet us.  Inside, they also had a number of girls roaming around dressed as vintage cigarette girls.  I think what most drew my attention was the table setup with a woman hand-rolling cigars for us - she is definitely welcome at my parties.

While impressive, the Bacardi party just didn't feel like the appropriate scene for me and my companions (they were trying really hard to make it feel like we were in a Bacardi commercial).  Before it got too late, a we headed over to Bergamot, where we had a fantastic time hanging out at the bar for a few hours.  Many, many thanks, as always, to Servio, Paul, and Kai for their hospitality.

Still an entire day's worth of recap to come, stay tuned...

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