Monday, June 27, 2011

Classical education, Part III

Although I did not have to work the morning shift again on Tuesday, I did wake up early again because I wanted to attend the Botanical Bartending seminar that began in the morning.  When I got there, it was nice to run into Elizabeth at the seminar, who I had met the day before at the Aging seminar.  When we first sat down, we were greeted by a lovely cucumber gimlet that looked and tasted as if it came straight from New Age spa retreat in Sedona.  It certainly a great way to start the morning, though, with something so deliciously light and refreshing.

Cucumber collins with Hendrick's, yuzu, lemon, simple syrup, soda and cucumber slices pickled in mirin and blueberry juice

I was certainly surprised by the sheer scope of the seminar.  Sponsored by Hendrick's gin, the seminar consisted of 13 bartenders having been each assigned one of the 13 botanicals found in Hendrick's to create a cocktail that accentuates that botanical.  As you may easily gather, the first botanical featured was cucumber, for which Hendrick's is quite famously known.  From there, we moved through cocktails that featured juniper, coriander, caraway, cubeb, chamomile, elderflower, yarrow, rose petal, orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root and orris root.  One interesting fact was that unlike the Tanqueray from the day before that puts all the botanicals in a basket to infuse with distilling, Hendrick's uses a basket for most of the botanicals, but that the rose and cucumber are added after distillation.  In many ways, this protocol makes sense to me since one would not desire a "cooked" rose or cucumber aroma or taste.

Hendrick's place mat showing all the botanicals

While there were too many to go through individually, I would just like to highlight a couple that were my favorites.  First, the cocktail featuring cubeb, a spice similar to allspice and black pepper, was so unusually delectable that I quickly finished off the sample.  Created by Nico de Soto, the cocktail contained Hendrick's, Dubonnet, cubeb distillate, sugar and egg white.  Unfortunately, it is by no means a drink that I can recreate, lacking the rotavap needed to make the cubeb distillate that is essential to this drink.

The place mat now covered with the 13 cocktails

Second, I was rather drawn to the angelica root cocktail, despite the creator, Ivy Mix, mentioning that she does not find angelica root to smell pleasant.  Perhaps it is because angelica root reminds me of Chinese apothecaries and grandmotherly remedies, but I rather enjoyed the smell and taste.  Sadly, I was not able to catch the recipe.

After this seminar, I had wanted to go to the Science of Taste talk given by a number of Bostonians.  However, since it ended up starting late, I was not able to attend since I had to tend to my volunteering duties yet again.  This time, I was assigned to ticket checking duties at the beginning of each seminar, so I was able to wander around and chat during the time between events starting.  As the Classic as a whole was coming to a close, though, things got a little more hectic with cleanup.  At one point, I had run across the street to buy disinfectant, and on my way back to the Astor Center, I ran into Shingo of Angel's Share on the sidewalk.  Since we were both busy at the moment, we made plans to meet up later.

Having finished tidying and cleaning at the Classic, I set off to find Shingo since it was his night off.  A PR person for Tanqueray had mentioned the day before that Tanqueray and Esquire were hosting a lounge into the evening, so Shingo and I decided to meet up there.  I took a cab up to the Andaz Hotel on 5th Avenue right across the street from the NY Public Library, where I made my introduction to the hostess and was promptly whisked up to the penthouse suite.  There, Angus Winchester and Steve Olson were entertaining behind the bar, alongside a barber offering hot shaves in the adjacent room.  In addition to meeting Shingo there, I also happened to run into Ali whom I had met volunteering the day before, as well as a couple Danish gentlemen, Henrik and David, from Copenhagen.

Right before we left, Angus treated us to some special nips.  One was a gunpowder rum from New Zealand, the likes of which I had never had before.  The nose smelled very much like a combination of molasses and firing range while the palate came across with a lot of flinty minerals and charcoal in addition to the more traditional taste of dark rum.  The other was a replica of the Mackinlay scotch found intact in Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic hut a hundred years after his expedition.  A sample of this scotch was extracted and tested at Whyte and Mackay, the current holding company of the Mackinlay distillery and apparently a replica was blended by the master distiller.  The replica was so smooth and had significant notes of peat, smoke and spice, but richly honey as well.  I must again thank Angus for his hospitality and generosity.

As the festivities at the Tanqueray lounge wound down, Shingo offered to take me to see B Flat, the bar opened by Angel's Share's previouds bartender.  Not one to pass up the opportunity, we went straightaway.  I had never been before and was looking forward to it, as I could not think of anybody better with which to go.  In many ways, B Flat does remind me somewhat of the ambiance of Angel's Share, with the dark wood, jazz and Japanese staff.  One difference I noticed immediately was that most of the signature drinks of the menu seemed to skew quite sweet.  Wanting to make an appropriate comparison, I ordered a Jack Rose, which I have had at Angel's Share many times before.  I do not know whether it is a personal bias or whether the ingredients varied slightly, but I swear that the Jack Rose at Angel's Share was more fragrant and delicate than that of B Flat.  Of course I cannot say with certainty or rigor that Angel's Share is absolutely better than B Flat, but I am quite comfortable saying that Angel's Share will remain my bar of choice in New York.

By this point, it was getting late, and I had not gotten a proper dinner yet.  A little cheese or hors d'oeuvres here and there can tide me over, but in the face of the drinking I need food.  Shingo came to the rescue by suggesting a visit to his favorite spot for ramen in New York.  We headed uptown again to a place called Moco.  With its modern lounge-y atmosphere it did not look at all like a place to get good, traditional ramen, but Shingo told me that the chef will occasionally make top-notch ramen.  The all-Japanese staff should have been another clue.  We started with teba gyoza, or chicken wings stuffed like a dumpling, and quickly moved on to big, steaming bowls of shio ramen.  Perhaps it was simply the hunger speaking, but it really was some of the best ramen I have ever had.  Rich, meaty broth, toothsome noodles with good bite, tender charsiu and other delicious toppings.  Washing it all down with shochu, I could have called it a night then and there.

While I did have to part ways with Shingo, I had one more destination before the conclusion of this epic trip.  Hopping onto the 4 train into Brooklyn, where I had never ventured before, I found myself outside the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building at One Hanson Place.  Had it not been for the stream of people entering, I would have thought that I was at the wrong place.  Incidentally, I ran into Justin, a fellow Classic volunteer, outside, so I knew for certain we were at the right place.  Entering the main room with its high, vaulted ceilings, arches and art deco mosaics, the space was quite impressive and overwhelming.  This was the Anti-Gala, the closing party for the Classic, which brought together all the volunteers, bar fellows, liquor reps and organizers that had put the whole weekend together.  It was an opportunity to let of steam, relax and just party.  As a result, there were no cocktails, just beer and shots.  Mind you, though, the shots were certainly not trivial.  I remember rounds of Michael Collins single malt and Hibiki 12, but there were others as well.  Oh, there was also absinthe and brûlée ice cream.

Final drink tally for that Monday:
Hendrick's seminar
-Cucumber collins
-Sample of 13 botanical cocktails
Astor Center main bar
-Devil Point
-Yamazaki, cointreau, tarragon, lemon
Tanqueray Lounge
-Tanqueray and Tonic (2x)

B Flat-Jack Rose


-Shots of whisky (4x)
-Dos Equis (2x)

 Lastly, I would like to thank again all the people who made this trip such a wonderful experience.  In no particular order: Shingo, Angus, Ted, Jamie, Kristen, Tim, Justin, Elizabeth, Robert, Rich, Ali, David, Henrik, Jake, Jaimie, Georgia, Monica, Stephan, Allison, and many more I'm sure I'm forgetting.  A special thank you to Pat who let me stay so graciously at her apartment and being such a bother, especially since I visited just before boards!

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