Archive for September, 2008

Reviving Corpses

September 28, 2008

I love this time of year in London. It’s on the cusp of slipping into fall but still warm and sunny enough to remind us of the summer we’re slowly saying goodbye to. It’s an odd time for making drinks and leaves us always a little bit bewildered….do I go with a bright, citrusy, summer cocktail or a more savoury ‘welcome to fall’ cocktail–is it white rum or golden Calvados? Lime juice or blood orange? etc. etc. in the world of the bar. I’m happy to say that tonight our packed joint was plumb full of cocktail revelers all wondering the same questions and luckily we were able to supply them as needed with what I think were some good on the cusp options. We launched a seasonal menu change (1 of 3 to get us into Autumn full blown) and people seemed happy, if not a little legless as they left.
The best of the new list? Well I’ll be slowly divulging but my vote goes for two slurps: the Classic Corpse Reviver (#2) with it’s slightly savoury but oh so balanced and strangely autumnal blend of Cointreau, Lemon, Lillet, Junipero Gin, and a slightest dash of Absinthe (le Clandestine)….as well as the El Pecadoro which is a little number I came up with featuring Ocho Blanco Tequila, Ruby Red Grapefruit, Tarragon-Thyme-Chili, Agave, and Grapefruit Bitters. I must say we had a lot of people wondering if it was really gonna work but I think they seemed quite turned around by the end of the evening. The trick is the sour (based off the traditional use of Tequila and Grapefruit Soda we go with Grapefruit) and the savoury….the savoury notes of Tarragon and Thyme. The notes match right up with the earthy and floral scents of the Ocho in a way you might not expect.
I think the main thing is, if you supply the highlights of the season but mix them with the tastes of summer (using the citrus perhaps, the aromas of lime with something like Rhubarb or Persimmon) you get the best of both worlds. That is, at least until we’re full on into Fall. Or falling over.

The Scent of a Barman

September 24, 2008

This morning I attended a very interesting workshop with Mixologist extraordinaire Tony Conigliaro at the Boutique Bar Show near London Bridge. Thought billed as a Molecular Mixology workshop the event actually focused much more on the infinitely interesting subject of aroma. As many barmen, sommeliers and rubbish collectors know their is nothing more essential to the human condition as aroma–especially when it comes to taste. Indeed so much of what we actually think is taste ends up being a perception of what we are smelling (and if you doubt that just try tasting anything the next time you have a cold–onions and apples couldn’t be closer in texture without the pungent smell that the latter puts off.) Indeed, my absolute favourite place in the world when I’m in NYC is to go to my friend Christopher’s CB I Hate Perfume–a veritable PLAYGROUND of scents with colognes created to smell like everything from Wet Pavement, to Porcelain to Rubber Cement.

What struck me the most about the workshop was Tony’s concepts that a cocktail (and indeed I feel ALL gastronomic endevours) should really send a message to the brain of a ‘scene’. Case in point is some of the work Audrey Saunders is doing to create a stage for classic tropical cocktails by enhancing the aromas of a drink with beach smells or perfumed fresh indigenous Thai flowers and Ginger Blossoms, or my attempts at using fresh Jasmine flower and Soy scents with Eastern cocktails based on sake, lotus root and the essence of a Tokyo subway.
In discussing his by-now-famous Tobacco and Leather Old Fashioned, Congiliaro made the point that the hydrosols of tobacco and leather he used to give the essence of a large old chair didn’t in fact control the cocktail but rather enhanced the flavours of the bitters, bourbon (he didn’t specify which was used), sugar and orange zest. In some ways I may agree that there are so many opportunities to help customers come across smells within their cocktails in a new way, yet in some ways (as I brought up today) I feel that it is downplaying the essence of a perfectly crated (and for my purposes NATURAL) spirit. My favourite bourbons don’t need to be perfumed with tobacco, leather, vanilla, or musty cedar box scents because it’s all there and for the seeking drinker can be explored in every sip so long as the spirit is presented in such a way to assure the mixers don’t get in the way. I’m excited to play more with molecules of scent and will no doubt be a convert in the next 6 months but as I discussed with my Dynamic Wines rep today following the conference, “it’s like spraying ‘fresh cut grass’ perfume into a less-than-perfect Sancerre–why??”.
I hope my cocktails create the ‘scene’ on their own. I hope one can close their eyes and just by virtue of the mix alone have enough happy or nostalgic memories to order 1-2-3-7 more! That’s the point in my eyes.

A bar to call home

September 23, 2008

One of the most exciting parts about bartending across the globe is running into a bar you wish you worked at. That definitely happened tonight at the Hawksmoore in London. Following a boring trade convention (however one which I found an amazing Organic Cachaca and some divine Finnish Cloudberry liqueuer!) my associate and I headed to a much touted bar right around the corner from mine. Not only did I taste some fantastically made cocktails but–low and behold–I actually LOVED the bartender. A french chap who SWEARS he’s Polish–he did what every right-minded barkeep will do: asked what I wanted, asked my likes/dislikes, and made me a cocktail based off of that. Granted when asked to make a Ward Eight he stared at me like a deer in headlights–and he made his Martinez with Luxardo Maraschino (a personal vendetta I have on that product) but he was extremely knowledgeable, passionate, and above all had a je ne sais quoi quality that makes every bartender approachable if not a candidate for your new best friend. Oh–and did I forget to mention running into an old friend/barkeep from Green and Red and discussing the finer points of his Toredor–one of my favorite cocktails of the last 6 months molded with El Tesoro Reposado Tequila, Apricot Brandy and Lime Juice….divine!!!

Bronx Battered

September 22, 2008

Winston Churchill whilst debating with Lady Rudolph drunkenly one night was once called out.
“You sir, are drunk!” Ms. Rudolph commented.
“Yes my dear, and you are ugly…tomorrow I will be sober”

One of the hardest things about being a bartender (and in some respects especially a sommelier) is dealing with the varied tastes that customers may have. Indeed it’s the hardest but also the most exciting because it you get someone who understands their likes/dislikes the dance begins–you can chat on and on about the balance of a particular drink or the tannin (or lack there of) of a glass of wine. But every now and then (and not to give too much away but it just happened NOW at my bar Saf) you run into someone who won’t be happy. I actually understand completely the mindset and think it’s a natural response to how exacting us bartenders have become–we forget that sometimes it’s very off-putting for the average ‘joe’ as it were to discuss the finer points of the Bitter Truth Orange Bitters and Regan’s. That being said I always welcome the chance to turn a guest onto a classic recipe because (until tonight) I’ve found that 9 times out of 10 the recipes of yesteryear are so well balanced, and so delightfully simple while yielding a complex taste that it can cause a moment of revelation for said guest. Tonight’s guest however was on a mission. My bartender Aaron made one of the most superb cocktails I’ve tried in a while–a delicious and surprising mix of Pisco, Hayman’s Gin Liqueur, Freshly muddled grapes, Cointreau and a secret ingredient that was a divinely balanced cocktail! But with a look as sour as the secret ingredient, the patron declined saying she tasted a ‘compote’ in the glass.
Enter super-mixologist who thought he’d save the day by making a Bronx with the Beefeater Crown Jewel, Carpano Antica Formula, Dolin Dry and fresh OJ. Wrong. Even though she said she wanted something ‘stronger–no no no it’s all wrong.
The thing is it’s my fault–but I don’t know, every now and then you encounter tastes that just can’t be decyphered. Ultimately as a bartender we need to read the minds of our patrons and deliver them the best cocktail they never thought of…but every now and then someone just wants to cause a fuss.
Anywho…moral of the story is…well, I’m drinking the most delicious Bronx I’ve had in a while.
And she’s sober. Tomorrow I will be sipping a Bronx~!

Shrub it off 2

September 20, 2008

Okay…so now the moment we’ve been waiting for. The cocktail that got me through my long journey back into the craziness of London was none other than a delicious Raspberry Shrub! I was reading the incredibly delightful Eric Felten book “How’s Your Drink?” and learned a lot more about this colonial cocktail which I’ve been a fan of for years and it just struck me…why don’t you make yourself a Shrub? Though there are great versions for sale such as the Old English Shrub from Fareham Wine Cellar, it’s an easy thing to make yourself and not too different from a simple syrup. It’s easy and oh so refreshing–and for any of you cocktailians out there it’s a nice change to swap out the usually-from-citrus tartness in a cocktail with the bright and lively vinegar that is called for in the Shrub! Also, anything that Alexander Hamilton or better yet Harry Croswell could have been caught drinking is good enough for me. Check out my recipe adapted from the Felten published version:

Dandelion Shrub by. Joe McCanta

50 mls Dark or Golden Rum
25 mls Raspberry Shrub*
10 mls Cointreau
100 mls Fentimans (venerable) Dandelion & Burdock

* 2 pints Raspberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 ½-2 cups Sherry vinegar

Make with any seasonal berry and/or vinegar.

In a saucepan whisk together sugar and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the raspberries and wait about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add in the vinegar and bring to a boil for 2 min. Strain into a glass bottle and store.

“There never was any liquor so good as rum shrub” William Makepeace Thackeray of the amazing shrub and it’s easy to see why–especially at a time before ice made it’s way into our drinks, the shrub has a certain balance that can stand on it’s own.

I used the Trios Rivieres 1998 Single Missouri Cask and it was an amazing match to the rich raspberry flavours! Also Fentimans’ great Dandelion & Burdock which is usually too medicially sweet by itself rounded off the drink wonderfully! It’s a great new addition to the list!

Shrub it off!

September 19, 2008

My newest favourite cocktail was found last night after quite the stressful day–what a great thing about working in the restaurant biz…if all goes to hell you’re never that far away from a lovely glass of wine, a cocktail, or really sharp knives. Just kidding.
Seriously though, getting back to London has been a bit of a ‘hit the ground running’ type of experience which are the kind I normally thrive on-however it’s taking a bit longer than I expected (hence the lack of posts from my promise of one-a-day). The very first night I returned Saf Restaurant was hosting a party for Ethical Fashionistas soon to be in Paris but now celebrating London Fashion Week. It was fantastic and people gobbled up the organic food of Chad Sarno as well as my cocktails which included the Safia–a lovely mixture of strawberry, basil, Juniper Green Gin, chamomile and lime and the Spiced Apricot Martini which uses Apricot infused vodka, ginger, lemon and agave. The event was quite the success we wanted it to be as evidenced by the press.
Anyways, one of the more interesting meet was with Heather Mills who was a really lovely person, not at all what the tabloids have made her out to be. A truly passionate individual who is looking to make a change. Chad is in New York this weekend helping her feed 1000 Brooklyn kids better school food–! So if that’s not something to praise I don’t know what is.
We’ll be seeing her again along with a certain Ms. Moss who’s quite the fan of the food and drinks too!
So what’s the favourite cocktail….I gave a hint but stay tuned!

Back in the UK!

September 17, 2008

Hi Everyone and welcome finally to the website blog! Here I will update you with all things Pursip and where in the world I’m at as well as update you on new products, trends, restaurants and anything else that I come across in my infinite search for finding the purest tastes on the planet! I hope you enjoy and come back often!

At the moment I’m just getting caught up but had a lovely night with my Chef Chad Sarno chatting about the status of our London spot Saf Restaurant. It seems since I’ve been away the place has been booming with all sorts of great press and happy customers! Hopefully we can keep up the excitement as we enter the fall season–my favourite for interesting ingredients to play with. Check out Fine Living for some great ideas too or check back here soon for some of my ideas.

Hello world!

September 4, 2008

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