Posts filed under Links

Outbound: storm in a julep cup

How big of a deal is three percent? If you're talking about whiskey, apparently a lot. Last weekend, the news that Maker's Mark was to be bottled at 42% ABVinstead of its current level of 45% ABV brought forth the full range of reaction from the Internet - y'know: disbelief, anger, torches and pitchforks. While the subsequent decision to reverse the ABV reduction has been broadly welcomed, some are starting to draw differentconclusions.

(Not that any of the above is actually relevant in certain markets.)

Topically, there's a very interesting NYT article from Harold McGee. The title? To enhance flavor, just add water.

The eternal Sydney/Melbourne rivalry takes another turn as the former is named Australia's bar capital.

A lot of good people in the Edinburgh bar/cocktail scene get some well deserved exposure, courtesy of the Scotland on Sunday, though the thing itself makes everything feel a little more like Portlandia than I remember it.

A couple of gems via the excellent if acronymically-complex TYWKIWDBI - Mixing alcohol with diet soda may make you drunker  and a pretty epic wine poster for the oenophile in your life.

Posted on February 19, 2013 and filed under Links, Mixology.

Outbound: Learning the world

I've spent the first few weeks of 2013 adjusting to life in Australia. On paper, you'd think moving to an Anglophone, Westernized country with a developed economy would be straightforward and, for the most part, it has been. The adjustment hasn't been so much in the big things -  bank accounts, property leases, tax codes and so on - but in the details of everyday life. For my money, it's a feeling best captured by William Gibson in Pattern Recognition, even if he's writing about an American in Britain:

Mirror-world. The plugs on appliances are huge, triple-pronged, for a species of current that only powers electric chairs, in America. Cars are reversed, left to right, inside; telephone handsets have a different weight, a different balance; the covers of paperbacks look like Australian money.

I still catch myself quoting prices in pounds, not dollars and I won't even get into the whole beer size thing. There's certainly some specific technical adjustments required for bar work - spirits are generally served in 30ml measures and it seems it will more than a week to train a decade worth of pouring 25ml measures out of me; glasses of wine are generally smaller (150ml vs. 175/250ml in the UK) - and then there's the question of what's available in terms of product. Things that I'd taken for granted in the UK are seemingly tougher to come by here, which is equally useful (in terms of forcing some creative re-thinking) and frustrating.

Of course, it's not all quibbling about measurements and what kind of vermouth is in the shops. The weather's OK, I guess.

New for this year: the war on tips, at least from those with strong views on God or taxes.

Don't expect a win for the plucky underdog: I Played A Drinking Game Against A Computer.

With the re-emergence of Tanqueray Malacca just around the corner, is now a good time to bring up edible geography's excellent musings on the impossibility of historical flavour?

Bacardi UK just named the Savoy's Chris Moore as their 2012 Legacy Cocktail Competition winner and named the three finalists for the 2013 title (recipes for the 2013 drinks in the link).

Some guy made a drink for the 2013 Bols Around The World competition. Seems OK.

Posted on February 10, 2013 and filed under Links.

A bartender in need

The history of mixed drinks is, in general, pretty murky. The creators of many drinks have seen their names drift away from the record while the credit often falls not to the first person who made a thing, but to the first person who wrote it down. The question of why some drinks make it into however a loosely-defined canon as we have is one that I keep coming back to, so the news that one of the solid links we have between a drink's hazy backstory and its current popularity could use some support is something I wanted to flag up. I can't put it any better than the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry for the Last Word cocktail:

The Last Word is a Gin based prohibition-era cocktail originally developed at the Detroit Athletic Club. While the drink eventually fell out of favour, it has recently enjoyed a renewed popularity after being rediscovered as a cult hit in the Seattle area by Murray Stenson, a bartender at the Zig Zag Café.

Since 2004, the Last Word has enjoyed a remarkable revival - it forms the basis of an annual Chartreuse-sponsored cocktail competition in the UK and has even lent its name to a bar. Murray Stenson's role in that revival can't be understated; his decision to include it on the Zig Zag Café's menu in 2004 is arguably the seed from which the drink's return to relevance grew.

By now, I'd guess that most people with an interest in cocktails have heard that lately Murray has been unable to work due to a heart problem and, having spent somewhere north of thirty years as a bartender, I'd guess that most people wouldn't be surprised to learn he is uninsured. One of the benefits of living in the UK is nationalised, Government-supported healthcare that's free at the point of care, so I can't imagine what it's like to have to deal not only with a major illness but also the stress of having to cover the cost of treatment. I've never met Murray Stenson but I felt moved to contribute something towards helping him and you can do that at either MurrayAid or through this page on Facebook.

Posted on October 23, 2012 and filed under Links.

Outbound: telling Tales

So, Tales of the Cocktail was a thing. It's been nearly three weeks since I got back and I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about it. There were definitely enjoyable parts - putting faces to names was a particular pleasure (thanks to everyone I foisted a business card upon), as was catching up with people that I haven't seen for a while from other parts of the UK and further afield. I enjoyed the seminars I caught - Bartenders in Media provided an interesting insight into the changing perception of bartending in certain areas (though notably not in fictional representations); the world's first session on the history of blue drinks was both enlightening and amusing; and the annual I Love/I Hate...Cocktails debate had some of the biggest laughs and best insults of the week.

Tasting rooms proved to be something of a hit-or-miss thing for me. The ones that were held in the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone weren't that useful; those generally ended up being little more than a queue for a single drink with barely any time to find out about what it was I'd end up drinking. I did stumble on a couple of gems - a really old sherry-cask finished Bacardi stood out - but they were thin on the ground.

Overall, it was fun and I'm glad I went; the caveat is that I probably wouldn't go again on my own dime. I'd probably also suggest not trying to have a shot in every bar along a two-block stretch of Bourbon Street.

Retronaut - Disposing of Alcohol during Prohibition (via Barbore).

Art of Drink - Announcing the "Jerk Off"...which is probably my favourite ever name for a cocktail competition.

American Drink - not so simple

Bar Magazine - UK winners in 42 Below Cocktail World CupTeam East London take the prize and a spot in the world final in New Zealand with Team Scotland sneaking a wildcard spot.

The Guardian - it's farewell to mother's ruinTwo things: 1) Hi, mainstream media! Gin's a thing, who knew? 2) As if to prove that nothing good ever happens in the comments section of anything on the Internet:

"My tipple is gin and lime, but the other day I mistakenly added milk instead of lime."

We've all done it.

Posted on August 20, 2012 and filed under Links.

Outbound: tulips and headbutts

Posted on July 21, 2012 and filed under Links, Photos, Places.