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.

 

Wonders of Summer: Blueberry Currant Whiskey Smash

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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!

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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