A Farewell Cocktail for a New York Legend

As Eater and the NY Times have both reported, long-time New Yorker and bartending legend Jim Meehan is packing up his bar tools and moving to Portland.  Though he’s a Midwesterner by blood, Jim has been a staple in the NYC bar community, and has created two of the world’s most iconic cocktail bars, PDT and Death & Co.  He’s written for countless publications, including Food & Wine and GQ, published his own books, and even created the most over-the-top, One Percenter bar carryall out there (if you’ve got $800 to spare, that is).

But Jim isn’t one of my favorite bartenders for those reasons, it’s because he’s a great guy.  Part Midwestern Nice, part Bar Nerd, he’s been one of my favorite people to work with here in New York.  New York will miss him, but Portland is lucky to be getting one of the country’s best.

In honor of his impending departure, I’ll be mixing a drink in his honor tonight.  It’s an Arnold Palmer riff he created for a Canadian Whisky event we worked on together last year.  The perfect drink to toast to him tonight on this balmy summer day.

Cheers to you, and happy trails!

TORONTO ICED TEA

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 oz. Strong Brewed Iced Tea (Jim recommends Ceylon Iced Tea from In Pursuit of Tea)
  • 1.25 oz. Crown Royal Canadian Whisky (or other Canadian Whisky)
  • .5 oz. Lemon Juice
  • .5 oz. Simple Syrup
  • .25 oz. Fernet Branca

DIRECTIONS:

Stir and strain into a chilled Collins glass filled with ice.  Garnish with half an orange wheel.

Wonders of Summer: Blueberry Currant Whiskey Smash

Blueberry Currant Smash_1Blueberry Currant Smash_2
This summer, I’m participating in the West Village CSA, a local farm share, which means that once a week, I’m the lucky recipient of a hodgepodge of organic, New York-grown produce.

While every Tuesday feels like Christmas in July (as I eagerly rip open up my overstuffed bags of each week’s harvest), that moment of sheer joy quickly tranforms into that odd feeling at the end of a White Elephant Holiday Party.  I always feel like I’m leaving with an assortment of the most random things possible, and I’m never quite sure if I’m losing or winning.

Either way, it’s a great exercise that forces me to get creative in the kitchen, and most importantly, in the bar.

Here’s what I whipped up last night with a half pint full of fresh summer currants.

Happy sipping!

Currants_1

BLUEBERRY & CURRANT WHISKEY SMASH

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 ounces Bourbon whiskey (I used Jim Beam Signature Craft)
  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ ounce currant-infused simple syrup (recipe below)
  • Blueberries

DIRECTIONS:

Muddle a small handful of blueberries in a cocktail shaker.  Add bourbon, lemon and simple syrup and pour into a rocks glass filled partially with crushed ice.  Stir.  Fill rest of glass with crushed ice, and garnish with blueberries or fresh mint.

CURRANT-INFUSED SIMPLE SYRUP

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh currants

DIRECTIONS:

Combine sugar and water and bring to a boil.  Once all sugar has dissolved (the liquid will be clear), add the currants and simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, strain and refrigerate until use.

Currant Syrup

St. Patrick’s Day Edition: An Irish Hello

Our Irish Whiskey Portfolio

Our Irish Whiskey Portfolio

It’s no secret that Irish Whiskey is a media darling these days.  According to the Distilled Spirits Council (and their PR director, yours truly), Irish Whiskey is the fastest growing spirits category, up nearly 400% in volume since 2002.  Last year, 2.2 million cases were sold here in the States.  It’s important to note that in terms of volume, the category remains small (2.2 million cases sold here versus the 17 million cases of bourbon sold last year), but the growth potential is massive.

As I explained to the Leaguers, the global spirits companies recognize the potential for the category and have made some major investments in Irish Whiskey over the past few years.  Beam bought the iconic Cooley distillery.  Pernod Ricard is in the throws of a massive distillery expansion.  They’re experimenting with new offerings, and are bringing several spirits to the U.S. that have previously only been available in and around Ireland.

So why the growth?  Quite simply, it’s because Irish Whiskey is a lovely little category that’s an easy spirit to consume.  Irish Whiskey is typically distilled three times, unlike its Scotch counterparts, which are distilled twice.   The Irish claim the third distillation creates a smoother, more balanced spirit that’s easier to consume.

Ok, now on to our sampling spirits.

Jameson Irish Whiskey

  • A Irish tasting wouldn’t be complete without Jameson, whose own success story deserves its own post.  Jameson leads Irish category growth, with by far the largest category brand share.  It’s owned by the good folks at Pernod Ricard, and the brand continues to grow rapidly, not just in the States but around the world.
  • Jameson is produced at the Midleton Distillery, located near Cork in Ireland.

Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey

  • A well-balanced Irish blended whiskey.  You may have heard of it by now, Beam (their parent company) just launched its first marketing push around the brand in time for St. Patrick’s Day.  Watch their “Tight Knit” TV spot here.

Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey

  • Owned by the good folks at Beam, this peated whiskey is my personal favorite (probably because it reminds me of a perfect blend of a smoky Islay Scotch and a nice smooth Irish whiskey).

Michael Collins Irish Whiskey

  • Owned by my friends at Sidney Frank, Michael Collins was my spirit of choice for our group’s Irish Toddy.  It’s well-balanced and served as an excellent base for our cocktail goodness.

If you’re ever lucky enough to visit, make sure you see as many of Ireland’s distilleries as you can (though in truth, there are only three major distilleries in Ireland, and Bushmills in Northern Ireland).  And until then, see below for a few of my favorite images from my trip there last September.

A very happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Slainte!

Red, White and Booze. An Inaugural, Patriotic Affair.

Our Inaugural Affair.

After forcing the Ladies of the League to save date weeks in advance, I then realized I had chosen a particularly important date: the night of the first presidential debate.  Since I love a good theme more than almost anything else in this world (with the exception, perhaps, of puppies, bagels and yes, my mom), we embraced the occasion.  In honor of the eve, we hosted a Red, White and Booze bash.

We aptly chose to celebrate all things American with our country’s most prized agricultural product and signature spirit: Bourbon.  Not only is this heavenly nectar my whiskey of choice, but it also felt like the perfect platform to kick off the League in style (with hair on our chests).

And given we were keeping with the election theme, Maker’s Mark was the perfect poison.  If you’re not aware, they have a kitchy and awesome Cocktail Party political campaign running right now.

It is no secret that Maker’s Mark is in my regular rotation of bourbons.  I love the whiskey’s sweet flavor profile and though it would make a great first choice for the League.  The good folks at Maker’s must’ve thought so too, because they sent some my way.

First and foremost, we went over the basics.  The League is comprised of ladies of varying whiskey knowledge levels—some are my girlfriends in the industry (writers and flacks like myself), some are generally just badass brown slugging gals, and some are just looking to learn a thing or two to keep their boyfriends on their toesSo we started with the basic definition.

A view from the distillery.

bour·bon  (bûr bn)

  • A distilled deliciousness and a distinctive product of the U.S.
  • Made from at least 51% corn (with the rest coming from barley, wheat and rye)
  • Aged in new charred oak barrels
  • Distilled to no more than 160 proof
  • Barreled at no more than 125 proof
  • Bottled at 80 proof or more
  • Barrel aged (if more than 2 years, it’s a straight bourbon)

And some basic myths:

  • Bourbon isn’t required to be made in Kentucky (though if you talk to the KY folks, they believe their Bluegrass state and its limestone-filtered water  imparts super powers special benefits)
  • Despite popular belief, barrels do not need to be American oak (just oak), but must be new and charred
  • It’s  only for dudes

Now that we were on the same page, we got to tasting, both Maker’s Mark and Maker’s 46 and in some handy dandy homemade Manhattans.

For those not in attendance, let’s recap:


Maker’s Mark

  • A crazy good small batch bourbon from Loretto, KY (owned by the good folks at Beam)
  • Known for its distinctive bottle and red wax stamp
  • Bottled at 90 proof (45% ABV)
  • Achieves its distinctive taste because of its mash bill, which contains corn, winter wheat and barley (and doesn’t include any rye)

Maker’s 46

  • Holy deliciousness
  • Achieves its flavor from finishing in French oak
  • Bottled at 95 proof (47.5% ABV)

And there you have it.  Our 101.  Great drinks, great company, and a great thirst for knowledge among the group.