To Look At The Year Ahead As A Taste-Maker Often Takes Great Perseverance

Taste Maker

Why?  Because if anything is for certain, there will be change in the way we taste.  It’s just part of becoming more sophisticated and worldly.  And hopefully with my help, you’ll want to follow along and then take your own path, with the knowledge that I’ve imparted to you and your team.

Going from one way of doing things to another is never easy, but hopefully with this list, you can try some new ideas.  Why you would want to stay the same is beyond me, all I can give you are the ideas for what you should be tasting going forward.  Trends?  I’m not sure drinking Jerry Thomas influence cocktails can be called a trend.  But after attending the Moscow (Russia) Bar Show this year- and seeing for myself the deep passion for authenticity and nostalgia, but exemplifying Jerry Thomas, well, I knew that this trend had to succeed.  Jerry Thomas for all who don’t know, was the father of the American Cocktail.  He was around before our Modern Day-Tales of the Cocktail reinvented what it means to make a well-crafted drink with both passion and determination.

(And a nod to history of course!)

Jerry Thomas made his mark on the hospitality industry in the 18th and 19th Centuries!  Think about that the next time you make fresh fruit juice instead of opening up that uncertain bottle of ‘juice’, and make your own sour mix from scratch- instead of the stuff that comes out of your drink-gun…. No offense, but I like doing things the slow way- speed behind the stick, slow in the making of the ingredients.

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•  Traditional style Rum…  Going forward I call for authentic rums like Mezan XO.  I think it’s important to taste their XO style from Jamaica.  It is certainly as pertinent as drinking high-end Scotch, Bourbon or even a Cognac after your meal.   And if I wanted to make a Mezan XO Negroni?  Sure you can do that too.  1 oz. Mezan XO, 1 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, 1 oz. Campari.  Mix together and pour over a large cube of ice.  See? It’s easy to look like a pro.  I’ve tasted rum from New Jersey (Busted Barrel), from Massachusetts (Privateer), from Austria (Stroh Rum 160,yes..160 Proof!), from Georgia (Richland) and just about all around the globe, even Japanese rum aged in Japanese Whisky casks!

•  Agricole Rhum…  Oh yes.  There is a big difference and you will taste it immediately. Agricole is made with freshly crushed sugar cane juice, not molasses.  Agricole has an important place in the cocktail universe and it should always be represented at your bar.  There are several distilleries that you can find here in the United States…  Ed Hamilton brings in some of the best (read: old style) Agricole Rhum I’ve ever enjoyed.  You should take the Blanche (100 Proof) with lime chunks and Martinique cane sugar syrup.  But remember… You secure your own fate by making these little firecrackers yourself. Chacun prépare sa propre mort.  Also seek Clement Rhum and Rhum JM Agricole

•   Bourbon Whiskey…  Small producer Bourbon gets my attention.  You know, the stuff that is actually hand-made in a distillery, instead of “craft” from a Madison Avenue marketing department.  I’ve recently tasted some world-class whiskies from Koval, Few Spirits, Hudson (Tuthilltown), Breckenridge Distillery, and Barrell that speak clearly of the passion for this simple grain.. You can drink well at most price levels too. Buffalo Trace always comes to mind- although not Craft, it is high quality.

•  Rye…  If you haven’t tried Rye, you’re missing something very important.  That is history.  Rye paved the way to civilization. Rye is responsible for flavor and rye is easy to grow- and easier to distill.  Rye is not for everyone because it is not sweet.  It is an authentic drink.  IT DEMANDS YOUR ATTENTION.  Thank you for trying Rye and keeping alive this essential history of drinking.  Redemption Rye always comes to mind as high quality stuff.  For your preverbal, every day quaff, I’m always quite fond of Old Overholt.  They have been around for something like 150 plus years.  That should account for something!  Try mixing your Rye Whiskey with equally historic Laird’s Applejack.  They are the producers of the oldest spirit in America.

•  Lo-Fi Aperitifs… They make a fantastic Gentian Amaro, amongst other hand-crafted elixirs.  This line of intriguing products hails not from across the pond, but from right here in America.  California to be exact.  They are breaking new ground in the growing field of cocktail augmentations.  Many of these stress nostalgia over flash.  Gentian is an essential ingredient in digestives making the Lo-Fi Aperitifs just the thing after eating a large (read heavy) meal.  Use them in classic cocktails such as the Old Fashioned, Rob Roy and even in a Gin/Tonic.  I’m always impressed by another brand of cocktail augmentations named Uncouth Vermouth.  I suggest seeking out these hand-gathered flavor time-capsules. They are some of the best in the world.  Out on the North Fork of Long Island, Channing Daughters is weaving Orange Wine (traditional digestives/aperitif) wines. The list goes on and the research will continue.

•  Shrubs and Bitters… Expect to see more Shrubs *acidulated beverages based on vinegar* (not shrubberies) on more and more creative cocktail menus.  And bitters don’t necessarily mean just Angostura.  There are hundreds available on the market, many from all over the globe.  They’re even making Jerry Thomas influenced bitters in Russia!  Some of the best (authentic) bitters that I’ve ever tasted came from this mostly unknown country.

•  Fruitations Soda and Cocktail Syrups…  Traditional is boring and no better at revealing modern fruit flavors is the woman-owned, Lynn, Massachusetts-based company. Fruitations makes what I consider to be the very best- if not the tastiest fruit based cocktail syrup in the land.  Try their Cranberry with Raw Honey and Grain based- Barr Hill Gin from Vermont.  I like mixing it with a splash of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice in a twisted-take on the classic Gin and Juice.   For non-fruit based syrups that sing a determined song of quality over quantity, may I suggest Royal Rose, formerly of Brooklyn, NY and now from Maine.  They produce their all hand-made syrups with ingredients like exotic Saffron, Cardamom and Clove, Spicy Ginger/Lime and the ever popular Rose which I brought to Russia with me for the Moscow Bar Show.  I’m also extremely fond of their Three Chili for an exciting take on flavor with a measured twist of heat.

•  Ice… If you are not taking the time to make your own ice you’re missing the boat.  Ice is HOT… Everywhere you turn there are funky ice cube trays and even the large cube makers are available at Bed, Bath and Beyond.  This says to me that fresh is better and those large cubes?  You can make them at home!  Just do me a favor, wrap your ice cube trays in a plastic bag before freezing them.  Why?  Because that plate of garlic pasta lurking in your fridge is just waiting to infuse your specialty ice cubes.  Don’t ruin your drinks.  Of course if quality matters, I suggest using Gläce Luxury Ice if money is no object.  Each cube is no mere cube of cooling.  It is a slice of perfection.

•  Spanish Brandy… Years ago, Spanish Brandy fell out of favor with respect to the more influential (read: wealthy) Spirits Houses from Cognac and Armagnac.  This historic beverage that dates back hundreds of years, languished on store shelves and was generally forgotten by drinkers from around the world.  After all, what was the drink that plied the oceans before rum?  It was Spanish Brandy of course.  You should drink more Spanish Brandy because the quality level is incredibly high for the price that they seek.  I know you work hard for your dollars, why not seek out something that is undiscovered, yet is known only by a few.   Spanish Brandy.  Yes.

•  Vintage Port…  I’ll go on record to say now is the time to buy Vintage Port.  The price/quality level has never been so high and those little half bottles age twice as quickly.  Certainly Vintage Port has class and nothing says more about a person than their knowledge of the classics- in this case Vintage Port.  It’s safe to say if you bought six bottles of Vintage Port for your newborn, then it will be just coming into its own by your child’s 21st birthday. What other drink can do that?  Oh, I know, Madeira Wine.  Come to think of it, Madeira is another forgotten, fortified wine that dates back hundreds of years.  Get some of that too!  And forget about it for a hundred or so years.  It can last that long with ease.

In conclusion, I’ve offered you some ideas and products that resonates with me.  I hope you concur and if I may offer you any personal advice, please write to me at this magazine, I’ll do my best to be of assistance to you.  I’m also available for private mixology classes and events around the globe.  Thank you and Happy New Year!