Wednesday, June 4, 2008

When was the last time you swallowed?

Wow. I guess it would be fair to say I haven't updated this blog very recently. I won't make any excuses about how busy I've been, how distracted I've been, or how lazy I've been. I won't

So, the only question left to answer is where I've been. Well I did go with family in tow to Monterey Bay area, first stopping in Santa Cruz for a day (just to say I've been), before moving on to Monterey/Pacific Grove for a few days off.

My comments on the vacation:
1. Santa Cruz. Well, now I can say I've been there.
2. Monterey - the aquarium kicks as much ass as a bottle of
vodka at a frat party. We had lots of family fun in Monterey.
3. Pacific Grove - absolutely gorgeous place. By far the best I've seen in my short California existence. If I were a rich man I'd love to have a summer
cottage there.
So overall, I had a great time, the family enjoyed themselves, the old lady got a bit tipsy on a few occasions and we even had a deer family a few feet from our hotel room. Good times, good times.

You know what else is good times? Bourbon.

I can't say it enough, folks. In today's world of wine-fanaticism, where subtle notes and floral yadda yaddas prevail, and everyone is an expert, Bourbon really gets a bad rap. There has always been that idea that a fine single-malt scotch has oodles of character, whereas the bourbons, vodkas, tequilas and gins of the world were designed more for their heat-transfer capabilities than for palate pleasures. In the last decade and more specifically in the last five years or so, these old fashioned ideas have been thrown out the window by those in-the-know and sort of put in the back of the cupboard by most others.

But there are others still, who simply, through stubbornness and possible ignorance, simply refuse to acknowledge the flavour capacity of a good Bourbon. It doesn't help that the most popular purveyors of Bourbon provide a harsh slap in the face to most who brave the stuff in their cup. When 80 - 90 % of the drinkers out there first introduction to Bourbon is Jim Beam or Jack Daniels or some well bottle with a variant of a turkey or a horse and cart on the label, it's not surprising that those palates can be lost forever.

So, Bar Owners, Restaurant Managers, and mixologists alike. Stand up for Bourbon. You stood up for gin and vodka. and most of you stood up for tequila as well. So much so that the stuff we considered "the good stuff" ten years ago, is now the "well stuff" in most discerning establishments. So why then do most bars not do the same for their Bourbon? Because the purchasing guy hasn't sat down with a fine bottle of the stuff at the end of a good night (you should never make judgments at the end of a bad night, you should always just WALK AWAY), and UNDERSTAND the difference. Bourbon is the next tequila, people. Get on board now!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Happy Map Reading!

Hope everyone's HAPPY today, but if you're not, there's a solution. Go to MappyHour
and you can see, by city, where the closest bars are and what specials they have going on. This way you don't get caught walking into a new place and order a $7 beer! Cool website. If you're city isn't on there, you can add it and upload what info you know about your locals.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Negroni

The Negroni is one of those acquired taste cocktails, reserved for those who like their drinks to 'activate' their senses as opposed to those who like a drink to 'numb' said senses. You know who you are.

Originally a modification of the Americano cocktail in Italy, an old dead guy by the name of Mr Negroni, asked the bartender to add replace the "weak" soda water with something more powerful. In this case, it was Gin. Ironically, the Negroni is not known for its 'power' but rather, it's finesse. Of course, you have to use a little finesse to create a good one. The first Negroni I ever had was after a gentleman requested one at a high end bar I worked at in London. To be honest, in my previous life as an American bartender catering to 20 somethings, I had never even heard of the Negroni, but seeing as this gentleman's socks probably cost more than my whole outfit, I didn't want to disappoint. Fortunately for me, it was an Italian bar/restaurant staffed almost entirely by just off the boat/plane Italians and I got a good starting point...the ingredients, from my fellow cast members.

"Gin, Campari, fortified wine (in thickest italian half english)"

Okay, now I knew what was in it, I just had to figure out how to construct it. Figuring it was an italian concept, derived from the Americano, I assumed safely it was to be built on ice in a tumbler (whisky glass as I call it). Using my Martini knowledge I also knew that Campari would blanket the taste of the Gin, and fortified wine would enhance the flavor of the Gin. This lead me to believe that the proportions would be relatively the same for all three ingredients. It was by this (some would call bizarre) logic of mine that I quite confidently replicated the Negroni cocktail without ever having "learned" it.

This is a very important difference between a "Mixologist" and a chain restaurant bartender who generally gets a lot of tips because he can remake the same drinks over and over because he has learned it, but doesn't know why it is a good/bad drink. The Negroni is a perfect example of something that works because the originator of the Americano, and the bartender/s that formed the Negroni as we now know it, understood the properties of the ingredients, and the effects of their own actions on the complexities of the drink. That's why if you go into a London pub or a TGIF's and order a Negroni you might get a glass of poison in return.

Here is how I make my Negroni for myself as well as my patrons.

1 1/4 oz Tanqueray Gin
1 1/4 oz Campari bitters
1 oz Sweet Vermouth (I use Martini Rosso)

Pour all ingredients into mixing glass and top with ice. Placing the handle end of your bar spoon into the middle of the ice, stir gently, moving only the ice in a smooth, silent rotation. Just as we did in the Manhattan and Martini, we rotate the ice as one entity, not a bunch of tumbling noisy banging cubes of ice. This does two things that are very important when making a delicious Negroni for someone at your bar. First, it will not annoy the customer with clattering spoons, flying ice cubes, or ice crunching sounds (which to me are as bad as fingernails on a chalkboard). Secondly, it will dilute the drink without breaking shards of ice off into the drink. You might be thinking, if we're pouring it on ice anyway, what's the big deal? Well, that brings us to the last step. The "plating" of the dish as it were. If you're in the United States, there's a good chance that your customer, house policies, American beliefs, whatever, will want you to strain the drink into a chilled martini glass. And despite what some "bartenders" and patrons alike think, ice shards in a strained cocktail defeat the whole purpose of using a strainer in the first place, and all practicing bartenders know, a three prong strainer will not prevent these shards from coming through, so why make them in the first place? And if you're in Europe, it's most likely you will strain the drink into a whisky glass with either no ice, or just a couple of cubes, and thus you do not want those ugly, and texture altering ice shards in there either.

Think about it this way, just because there is parsley in a recipe, doesn't mean you want a bunch of dried parsley on top of your food changing the texture of something that already has the flavour in the dish.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Manhattan, here I come!

Okay folks, here's the first of many classic recipes to be shared here. Everyone has their favorite spirit, and for me, that spirit is Whisky. I generally sip Scotch Whisky straight or with a sprinkle of mineral water to open up the palate. If I wanted to do shots or an adventurous whisky cocktail I would tend to choose an Irish Whisky as I feel they form a better base for multiple/stronger ingredients. However, when it comes to a simple, classic cocktail, there is no better base in my mind than Bourbon or Rye. What is better than a proper Mint Julep, Sazerac, Old Fashioned, or my favorite, the Manhattan.

Now, the name of the cocktail doesn't lead one to think of Bourbon necessarily, but the originators at the Manhattan Club for which it's named used Bourbon for a clever reason. The event that sprouted the creation of the Manhattan was a fundraiser for a presidential candidate who was a "Bourbon Democrat," a term that is long since forgotten.
In any case, none of us choose a cocktail based on its political tendencies, but rather on it's taste, and this is a great way to taste Bourbon.

Here is the Tin Shaker recipe:

Manhattan Cocktail

2 oz Bourbon or Rye Whisky (I use Maker's Mark Black Seal, or Black Maple Hill)
3/4 oz Peychaud's Bitters
1/4 oz Grenadine (just a smidge)

Chill the cocktail glass (it's not just for Martinis, friends) first. In a boston glass combine all the liquid ingredients, then fill the glass with ice. Take the handle end of the bar spoon, and place it into the middle of the ice and you'll find you'll be able to easily swirl the ice and ingredients. Tip: you should make little or no noise and all the ice should not move up and down much. We do this to mix the ingredients together very well as well as to chill the drink with just the right amount of dilution and also to prevent (cuss word) ice shards breaking off into the drink! Thus we must stir the drink for a good full minute (it's not that long, especially if you're conversing with a friend or customer).

Now, once you are satisfied with the consistency and taste (yes, you should taste the drink before serving it), strain into the chilled glass and garnish with a cherry. You can use a maraschino, but I prefer a fresh cherry because I don't like mushy edible garnishes. And a final Tin Shaker touch, flame an orange zest over the drink, and zest the rim of the glass as well. Now Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


TearDrop Lounge in Portland, OR is celebrating Repeal Day (the end of prohibition) with an eventful evening full of great cocktails and entertainment on December 5th. I unfortunately cannot attend since I live in California, but you can believe I'll be there next year (plans are in motion to relocate back to the "homeland").

Since I can't go this year, you should go in my stead and use the password: "Moonshine" to get $5 cocktails all night at a PROPER cocktail bar! (Yes I am being snooty)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Welcome to the opening post of the Tin Shaker blog. I am a professional bartender, bar-chef, mixologist, bar scientist, or whatever you want to call me. I have over ten years of experience on an international level, working extensively on both sides of the pond in a widely varied list of establishments. I started out as a bar back way back in the mid 90's in Tampa, FL and eventually became a trusted and respected bartender trainer for the largest hospitality company in the UK.

I have worked EVERYWHERE in between.

Through this blog, I will facilitate discussion amongst professionals and enthusiasts, discussing everything from cocktail preparation, new products, bad restaurant experiences (generally not the bartender's fault ), and anything that the readers and myself feel like discussing at the time.