Recreating the best cocktails of Tales ’17

Heading into Tales of the Cocktail 2018 next week, I find myself thinking back to my top five cocktails of last year’s Tales. Some may prove continually elusive: will I ever have that many Rutte flavors before me ever again? Do I trust myself to experiment with chicken essence? Will I ever find the patience to make my own vanilla grapefruit shrub or track down a commercial version? Unlikely.

But I have attempted to recreate two of those top five.

IMG_20170720_124104397_HDRMequignon’s Pandanuze at TotC’s Do You Suze? 2017 Continue reading

Time Out San Francisco Bar Awards 2018

Instagram: @justnlstewart
The Smouldering Rose photographed by Justin L Stewart Photography

The last time Time Out handed out Bar Awards, I discovered a life-changing spritzer that shook up my opinions of that category. 

This year Time Out’s local event focused on dear old San Francisco and the ways in which its cocktail scene deserves a round of applause. And we’ve earned it — not least for our historical contributions to the modern state of craft cocktails. Need context for San Francisco’s influence, alongside New York and London, in reviving and evolving our drinking landscape? Check out Robert Simonson’s excellent book A Proper Drink.

So San Francisco is historically innovative. But what about today? I headed to the Time Out San Francisco Bar Awards to learn who won the prize for “Most Creative Bar Menu” and find out how that honor breaks down in terms of inspiration and perspiration.

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9 Delectable Discoveries at the 2017 Craft Spirits Carnival

Craft Spirits Carnival: Seven Stills

The Craft Spirits Carnival returns to San Francisco June 9th and 10th. This year the annual celebration of the distilled and aged will take over City View – Metreon.  As we prepare our livers for this deliciously boozy event we thought we’d dust off an article we previously wrote for the now defunct UpOut.com. This post featuring some of the highlights of Craft Spirits Carnival 2017 should give you a good sense of what to expect this year. Continue reading

The once and future cocktail class (reprise)

A Coupe Tales reader requested another round of Bay Area cocktail classes, and it’s a great time to revisit Bay Area options. This round of imbibulous education is for you, Glenn!

Nothing justifies a drink like a little simultaneous learning. May your cups and your brains never be empty.

Women Movers & Shakers: Spring Cocktails of the Farmers Market from CUESA
San Francisco, April 18, $65
If you don’t have your ticket, woe unto you and your unchecked FOMO. These are my favorite events: not classes, but highly educational if you make it so.

Forgotten Favorites Cocktail Workshop from Trader Vic’s
Emeryville, April 20, $65
It’s not the original Trader Vic’s location, but Emeryville lays an admirable claim to Trader Vic’s part in tiki history. Learn some obscure tiki drinks and go home with some swag!

ForageSF doesn’t have cocktail classes on the schedule but the keen Oakland spirits devotee will notice that sustainable seaweed foraging makes a fine gin.

Various classes from SFMixology
San Francisco, various dates, $199-$300
SFMixology offers intro-level courses that cover a broad range of spirits and topics, each ranging from two to six hours.

Agave and American whiskey from Bourbon & Branch’s Beverage Academy
San Francisco, April 24 and 30, $95 and $100
My line in the sand is that $100 is too much for a 101-level cocktail class. But two and a half hours from industry experts might tip the scales for you.

Various classes from The Cocktail Camp
San Francisco, various dates, $299-$499
The Cocktail Camp promotes a full-fledged bartender certification program, so classes are a series of progressive education rather than individual courses. They even offer mentoring and apprenticeships.

DIY Mixology: Limoncello, Atholl Brose, And Absinthe Infusions from WorkshopSF
SF Workshop, San Francisco, May 24, $48
Limoncello? A great skill to add to a drinkmaker’s repertoire. Absinthe? Well, making an abinsthelike infusion at home is pretty neat. But Atholl Brose is what really popped my cork. Atholl Brose (or Athol Brose) is an obscure Dickensian detail whose mysterious origins leave a lot of room for ingredient interpretation.

Also check out WorkshopSF’s Whiskey Picks Not Whiskey Dicks: Pickling With Beer And Booze class. May 25, $60.

Making Cocktail Syrups & Shrubs from Preserved
Oakland, June 10, $50
Syrups and shrubs are among the fastest ways to personalize cocktails at home. And bottles of house mixes can make you look like an alchemical wizard or a Betty Crocker.

Somm’s Class: Cocktails with a Twist from by CIA at Copia
Napa, June 20, $30
The Culinary Institute of America promises delicious spins on classic cocktails, and I feel that $30 is a very reasonable price to discover what mysteries they have in mind.

Time Out Bar Awards Finale and the best spritz yet

The low-ABV trend stirs nothing more in me than polite disinterest. Brunchtime day drinking elicits a shrug. Frankly, I thought no spritz could move me. But at Time Out’s Bar Awards Finale at the Chapel in San Francisco, I found the lesson I needed to make me a spritz believer.

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Spicewood Spritz from Firehouse Lounge in Austin, TX. I don’t like spritzes. I loved this spritz.

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Top 5 cocktails at Tales of the Cocktail

Over the course of one week at Tales of the Cocktail I sampled approximately 100 cocktails/spirits. (Why so few? I was a volunteer as well as an attendee, which meant no drinking for 15 total crucial conference hours.)

Acknowledging that every attendee’s list will differ, here are the cocktails that struck me most deeply:

#1 : Dale DeGroff’s Abeja Limeña

Event: Make It, Eat It, Drink It from the Trade Commission of Peru in Miami

Abeja Limena

This take on a pisco sour highlights the torontel grape’s aromatic notes against just the right citrus zing. Aromatic pisco (brand unknown, possibly Founding Farmers but I think DeGroff said it was a single-grape pisco), honey syrup, lime, yuzu, and a red shiso garnish. My goal in the next six months (hell, I may be haunted my whole life) is to find the right pisco and the right proportions of other ingredients to recreate this memory.
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Is it worth it?: CUESA cocktails

Welcome to my new series: Is It Worth It?

The San Francisco Bay Area is f*#%ing expensive.  The U.S.’s most expensive rental market accordingly supports exorbitant fees for cocktail events, classes, and other entertainment.

Weighing cost against value is therefore as common as ordering a drink for the frugal cocktail enthusiast.

While I cannot personally investigate all options ($100 intro-level classes are out of my purview, for example) I am pleased to share my assessment of assorted classes and events.

Our inaugural event is one of my very favorites and its next iteration is coming up next week. Continue reading

Five non-industry people who will dig 2017 TOTC seminars

TOTClogoTales of the Cocktail has announced 2017’s seminars. As per usual it’s a superlative lineup of industry changes, enlightenment, and rollicking good fun.

I couldn’t help but notice major crossover appeal. Here are five non-hospitality-industry people who would get plenty out of the TOTC lineup.

History buffs

The schedule offers plenty of deep dives into our drinking past:

  • The Original Whiskey Writer: Alfred Barnard – Noah Rothbaum
  • We the People: Cocktails in the Colonies – Brian Maxwell
  • Great Hoaxes in Cocktail History – Robert Simonson (Simonson knows a thing or two about the topic.)
  • Sailor’s Joy: 400 years of Drinking at Sea – David Wondrich
  • From the Medicine Cabinet to the Liquor Cabinet – Noah Rothbaum
  • A Journey Into the World of Vintage Spirits – Edgar Harden

Librarians and academics

Get your sexy research on (and your cotton gloves):

  • Finding Classic Cocktails in the Dusty Archives – Philip Greene

Trekkies

We’re Next Generation devotees around these parts but there’s room for even  NuTrek under our umbrella:

  • Drink Well, Live Long and Prosper? – Claire Smith-Warner

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The once and future cocktail class

The problem with mixology classes aimed at civilians is the proliferation of Cocktail 101-level information. Fortunately, the demand for ongoing education and the area’s niche expertise appear to be forcing the evolution of local classes. Options are definitely improving for scholarly cocktail enthusiasts.

Plan your cocktail education with these upcoming opportunities:

Make Your Own Bitters workshop at the Oaktown Spice Shop
Oakland, March 14, $30
Coupe Tales expects to be in attendance. Oaktown Spice Shop has long been cocktail friendly; they offer a kit to make your own tonic syrup.

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Foraged Cocktails Workshop from ForageSF, May 2015

Artisan Foraged Cocktails Class from ForageSF
Oakland, March 19th, April 2nd and April 16th, $75
I have attended one of these before and very much enjoyed the lecture on my own local ecosystem and incorporating wild flavors into my cocktails. I went home with locally-driven, handcrafted bitters that I still use to this day.

Cocktail class series at Two Sisters Bar & Books
Hayes Valley, SF, March 13 (gin), April 3 (springtime mixology), May 1 (tequila and mezcal), $85
Two Sisters doesn’t wear its bookish charm skin-deep (unlike Novela): it walks the walk with a regular book club. While my experience with Two Sisters tells me its cocktail classes will be thoughtful deep-dives, which hopefully helps justify the steep price tag.

Of note is that Two Sisters has announced it is closing this summer. These classes are the last ones you’ll be able to attend there. Continue reading

A Sacred Undertaking

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Sacred Gin (and more) handsomely arrayed at Whitechapel for Sacred’s tasting and event. A wonderful night of rare flavors.

Above all, your humble narrator loves gin.

Sacred Gin hit my radar in London a few years ago, where the excellent history Gin Glorious Gin: How Mother’s Ruin Became the Spirit of London upended my itinerary and sent me instead in search of Sacred Gin at Gerry’s and cocktails at Artesian, Nightjar, and Callooh Callay.

Nestled in my checked luggage, a bottle of Sacred’s London Dry survived the return voyage to California where it now holds a place of honor among my bottles. American markets don’t offer the London Dry so cocktails made from it are few and far between in my home.

Therefore, Sacred’s event at renowned gin palace Whitechapel required a pilgrimage.

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The Cardamom G&T using Sacred’s Cardamom Gin

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