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Feb 06, 2016
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Drinking on the job

Drink This Weekend Edition: The Grand Dame of cocktails puts on a fashion show at Water Street

Friday, January 20th, 2012

012012_dtweGin is the original mixable spirit (and the most mixable, in my opinion). While a martini, a Negroni or even a simple gin and tonic are time-tested showcases of the sprightly, juniper-forward liquor, there are many more gin cocktails worth checking out, which is exactly what I did recently at Water Street, located at 7268 Manchester Road in downtown Maplewood.

The restaurant’s menu includes a section called “The Classic Ladies,” with Lady Gin taking multiple walks down the drink runway. Offerings include the Pink Lady, White Lady, Green Lady and Blue Lady. Among the four drinks, Pink Lady is perhaps the most commonly known: Gin wears a dress dyed pink from grenadine and a frothy white collar of shaken egg white. A splash of tart lemon juice could have turned her runway sashay into more of a snappy saunter, but the citrus is kept in check by sweet Calvados. Not all Pink Lady recipes call for the French apple brandy, but the one published in Henry McNulty’s Vogue Cocktails – the vintage bar book that Water Street owner Gabe Kveton reaches for most often – does.

The White Lady, my favorite among this Grand Dame parade, is simply a more casual, dressed-down version of the Pink Lady: Keep the gin, lemon and egg white, slip off the grenadine, put on Cointreau. If this mild-tasting cocktail is gin wearing nothing but a slip, she’s perfectly poised about going public in undergarments. As for the herbaceous Green Lady, I like to think of it as gin wearing gardening attire. After all, she’s hanging out with Green and Yellow Chartreuse and lemon juice.

Gin, grenadine, egg white. Gin, grenadine, egg white, lemon. Gin, egg white, lemon, blue Curacao … or Chartreuse … or Cointreau. See the Grande Dame on display at Water Street. She puts on a fun, tasty fashion show.

Mixing things up with the cocktail world’s leading lady: A chat with Charlotte Voisey

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

100611_charlotteCharlotte Voisey is one of today’s most talented master mixologists. She was recognized for her contributions to mixology by the James Beard Foundation in 2009 and was named 2011 Mixologist of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. And now, as portfolio ambassador for premium spirits powerhouse William Grant & Sons USA, she leads the charge to raising the bar ever higher. “Now that we have mastered the classics and we know what we’re doing, let’s get clever and think of new, fun things to do,” said Voissey, who considers an understanding of cocktail history tantamount to making a well-crafted cocktail. During Voisey’s recent visit to St. Louis, between stops at Blood & Sand, Taste and Sanctuaria, she sat down with Sauce to discuss what’s shaking in the craft cocktail movement. Read on to find out this native Brit’s take on the 3-ounce pour, the Long Island Iced tea, and more.

You preach the importance of really understanding the base spirit to craft a cocktail around it. Any other fundamentals for mixing? Understanding what alcoholic percentages different ingredients have. Most people know that spirits are around 40 percent ABV, but things like Campari or St. Germaine or vermouth, not everyone knows about those. One big personal approach I have to cocktails is not making them too strong. I’m not a big fan of the three-ounce pour or trying to make a cocktail taste boozy. (There are certain exceptions, of course, like the Manhattan and martini.) Understanding the alcoholic percentages of cocktails is one way to get balance. When you say balance in drinks, most people think sweet, sour. Not too tart, not too sweet. Well, that’s very important, but also not too alcoholic. Make sure the flavor of the spirit comes through, but not the heat. Unless it’s a boozy drink you shouldn’t taste the alcohol.

What are some trends in the craft cocktail scene that you have noticed? The first movement was understanding where cocktails come from, understanding that’s it’s not just a Long Island Iced Tea but that this thing has a history. So what you do is you take the old book, the first-ever bartender guide that was printed in 1862, Jerry Thomas’ [Bartending Guide]. You start reading it and you think: So they make their own ingredients from scratch. So you start to understand, OK, we don’t buy lime juice any more; we buy limes and we squeeze them. We don’t buy grenadine anymore; we buy pomegranates and we make grenadine. You can read that book and see all of the trends that have come: fresh juice, more use of bitters, vermouths playing more into cocktails, small producers trying to bring in less-than-forgotten liqueurs or trying to make them again from old recipes, the use of ice (They knew the importance of having a great cocktail in terms of temperature and dilution.), the use of punch. Again, 1862. It’s all in that book.

Are there some craft cocktail trends that feel gimmicky? Whether it’s molecular mixology, barrel aging, cocktails on tap, infusions, making your own bitters – if it makes a drink taste better or if it brings more people into what we are doing, then it’s great. But if it’s just there for the sake of being able to say, “I did X, Y, Z,” there’s probably better things you could be doing with your time and passion and effort.

Some cocktail menus can be dizzyingly confusing for the uninitiated. What can bartenders do to help guests figure out the drink menu? Alternate the drinks [on the menu] – maybe something familiar, something new. If you are going to go with an “out there” cocktail list, you have to have the bartenders and the serving staff be very familiar and talk in layman’s terms about them. You’re not going to describe them by saying, “Aperol, Cocchi Americano and Decanter bitters,” because that means nothing to most people. You describe it as, “Dry, low alcohol, perfect before dinner.” It’s fine to push the envelope and put out these great new drinks, but we are never going to convert everyone else – which is the end goal – unless we connect the dots.

What elements characterize the mixology movement in various parts of the globe? In America, you see a return to classics and liking the spirits that come from here. I think Bourbon is always going to have a place in every American bartender’s heart, and rye whiskey too, so you see a love affair with those. Whereas in Europe, they are more used to vermouths and amaros, so they will mix with them with a little bit more ease. Then you go to Japan; they are famous for their attention to detail whether it’s the preparation of the drink, the ice carving. … Then you go to Australia and New Zealand where they’ve had no classic cocktail culture of their own, so there are no rules to be offended. They are very innovative and they’ll do whatever tastes great. Then you have San Francisco with the fresh produce and the tequila obsession. In Mexico, they are slowly starting to tap into mixology. Mexico City now has a couple of speakeasys. You walk in and you’re like, “Oh, am I in Brooklyn?”

Which U.S. cities do you consider to be the most exciting right now? LA has been thrilling over the last two years. It came from “I don’t really bartend, I’m working on my screenplay,” to being some of the greatest bars we have. I think because of their attitude, because they probably did go to LA for those reasons, they are out to impress people – but in a good way. And that translates to a very high standard of hospitality. They also have a great female mixology movement. Same thing with [Las] Vegas. Now all of a sudden those girls are realizing we can mix drinks, too. And they happen to be quite good at it.

Are you noticing more female bartenders as a whole? I guess there was a time when bartending was about lifting heavy crates of beer, things that you could understand why more men were in the business. Now, there’s absolutely no reason why one gender should excel at this more than the other. The only reason there are more men, I think, is because it has traditionally been that way.

Any thoughts on crafting a good nonalcoholic mixed drink? Without the base spirit you are lacking a bit of fire, so how do you replace that force? By using ginger? More intense fruits? Figure out what the spirit gives to a cocktail and then find a new base “spirit” and work around that. That’s the way I would like to see more people approach mocktails. Shrubs are a good idea. Jon Santer has just opened a bar called the Prizefighter in Emervyille, San Francisco. His nonalcoholic cocktails are shrubs, which is great. They are interesting, different, they look good, you can garnish them like a cocktail, and you’re not just having a Coke or a sparkling water.

What is your favorite spirit for mixing? Gin is the original spirit of the cocktail. That’s why I love it.

How about your favorite spirit for sipping? I love to sip a well-made tequila or cognac. The Balvenie 21 [year-old Scotch] – it’s like liquid Christmas to me.

Have a hands-down favorite cocktail? There are too many great ones to think of. It depends who’s making it, where you are, the time of year. Maybe a White Lady: great, gin, refreshing. French 75: It’s usually a good one for most occasions.

Drinking on the job: Stirrings Blood Orange Martini set

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Call it research. Call it getting our creative juices flowing. We occasionally sample a little something-something during business hours. “Dine, drink and live well!” is the Sauce way, right?

new Stirrings Blood Orange Martini mixer and Rimmer garnish

First, a disclosure: We have a soft spot for Stirrings. Its line of mixers, packed in big apothecary bottles, is our go-to for gift-giving. So when Stirrings sent over its latest flavor, we were already sold. Here’s what we did with it:

Blood Orange Bellini
Courtesy of Stirrings

Stirrings Blood Orange Martini Rimmer for garnish
1 part Stirrings Blood Orange Martini mixer
4 parts dry sparkling wine

• Chill a champagne flute.
• Rim the chilled flute with the Rimmer. Pour in the blood orange mixer and top with the sparkling wine.

Office consensus: It’s worth hosting a shower just to serve these pretty, coral-colored cocktails. But the blood orange mixer is tougher than it looks: It’s juicy, not too sweet, and would mix easily with bourbon, tequila or vodka. Basically, anything OJ can do, blood orange can do better – and look better doing it, too.

Drinking on the job: Skyy pineapple

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Call it research. Call it getting our creative juices flowing. We occasionally sample a little something-something during business hours. “Dine, drink and live well!” is the Sauce way, right?

Inspiration: Brand-new Skyy Infusions pineapple vodka

With warm weather not part of the plan for this weekend, we decided to take matters into our own hands. Tiki time! We received a promotional package from Skyy Spirits, picked a promising pineapple voddy recipe and set about shakin':

Pineapple Chi-Chi
Courtesy of Skyy Spirits; recipe from mixologist Barbi Caruso at Luau in Beverly Hills

1½ oz. Skyy Infusions pineapple
2 oz. coconut milk
2 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice
½ oz. cane sugar syrup
Pineapple wedge and maraschino cherry for garnish

• Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake well, strain and serve over ice in a coconut glass.
• Garnish with the pineapple wedge and the cherry. Add an umbrella and a straw.

Office consensus: Less creamy and sweet than a colada, but still icy-cool. According to the press materials, Skyy pineapple “was developed for the modern tropical cocktail as an alternative to heavy rums.” While we probably won’t swap it for Pyrat XO anytime soon, Skyy pineapple could add some fun to umbrella drinks and summertime punches. Is it July yet?

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