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.

The Scotch Life: The Best Cure for Jetlag? Whisky.

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What’s the best cure for jetlag?  SCOTCH.  That was the first thing we learned when stepping off the plane, when we were transported to Diageo’s newest facility in the Highlands, the Diageo Whisky Archive at Menstrie.  Simply put: when we walked into this room, with bottles stacked as high as the library’s 18-foot ceiling, it completely slipped my mind that I was running on a time change.

With our jetlag promptly cured and forgotten, we spent some time culling through hundreds of glass cases jam packed with spirits bottles, some dating back hundreds of years.  It was there that we had a small whisky primer, delivered by Nick Morgan of Diageo.

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From there, we toured Cambus, Diageo’s cooperage, to get a bit of an overview on the barrel making process.  While a cooperage is essentially a working factory (with none of the sex appeal of the Scotch distilleries, warehouses, or their glamorous visitor centers), it does help demonstrate how much care and attention goes into the entire whisky-making process; as we know with American Whiskey, the aging process is just as important at the distilling process, and a well-produced barrel is of paramount importance.

Here’s what we learned from Diageo: as mentioned previously, the overwhelming volume in the Scotch Whisky category globally comes from blended Scotch Whisky sales.  Yes, the single malts that are the building blocks for these blends are fantastic on their own (each with a distinct flavor profile and character), but they are fundamentally ingredients for blends.

Second, the industry is just as much about technological innovation as it is about upholding the traditional whisky styles that have been perfected over hundreds of years.

The most obvious takeaway, however, was the sheer magnitude of the Diageo portfolio.  At its core, Diageo is a whisky company, and owns around 30 distilleries in Scotland.

 

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!