A bit more on bitters


Brooklyn Bitters is in the process of locating a new production spot (And, said Mark “It’s a pretty boring process behind the scenes – the excitement starts when you start drinking it!”

Hella Bitters started in Williamsburg, but it recently made the jump to Long Island City. I wandered through an industrial stretch of the neighborhood to meet the founders and check out their spot, which was filled floor to ceiling with spices and other aromatics.

hellabitters1 hellabitters2

Hella Bitters is currently running a Kickstarter for its “Craft Your Own Bitters” kit. It ends in 21 hours (I really should have finished this earlier), so move quick if you want one!

In other news, the bar “Extra Fancy” in Williamsburg also has drinks made with both kinds of bitters!

Hella Bitters: hellabitters.com.

Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters: www.brooklynbitters.com.

Noormans Kil. 609 Grand St., between Lorimer Street and Leonard Street in Williamsburg.  (347) 384-2526, noormanskil.com/.

Biblio. 149 N. 6th St., between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street in Williamsburg, (718) 384-8200, bibliobrooklyn.com

Extra Fancy. 302 Metropolitan Ave., at Roebling Street. (347) 524-0939. http://www.extrafancybklyn.com/

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MCC2014: Vermouth!

I don’t like vermouth. I like some drinks that contain vermouth, but… it’s kind of like salt. It can be an ingredient, but you’d never consume it on its own.

But there are some people who disagree with me (I know! I was shocked too!), and so I went to the panel “Great American Vermouth Revival: Elevating Classic and Modern Cocktails”, in hopes that learning more about it would increase my appreciation.

The first tid-bit, from vermouth maker Adam Ford of Atsby Vermouth, is that the FDA definition of vermouth is:

“an aromatized, fortified wine with the characteristic flavor of vermouth.”

In other words:


Obviously, that leaves a lot of leeway when it comes to flavor. Generally vermouth is divided into “sweet” (Italian) or “dry” (French), but American vermouth makers have been developing a unique take on it. Franky Marshall, bartender at the Dead Rabbit, said:


Also, the name comes from the German word for “wormwood.” Neat.

The panel also spent some time discussion the martini. Some of the oldest recipes call for 2-to-1 vermouth-to-gin, but today it’s usually 1-to-3 – and mid-20th Century drinkers changed that to 1-to-7, 1-to-15, or even less. Let’s face it, every story you’ve ever heard about the martini is about how little vermouth people can put in it.

But the ultra-dry martini is a mistake that’s become a bit of folklore. Amy Zavatto, from Edible Manhtattan, said:


Another reason for the public’s aversion to vermouth: It goes bad. Vermouth is a wine, so once the bottle opens, it’s going to turn sour and bad in a few weeks. Most people’s first experience with vermouth is a dusty bottle from the back of the liquor cabinet that’s half-turned to vinegar.

Bianca Miraglia, founder of Uncouth Vermouth, gets frustrated when people ask exactly how long a bottle of vermouth will last if kept in the fridge:



Several repeats of this experiment established that vermouth is just not the drink for me.

But at least I learned enough to toss out my parents’ ancient, opened bottles of vermouth when I went to visit last week. And I’ll get some fresh stuff for my next Manhattan!

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The Adirondack


The Adirondack. 1241 Prospect Ave. at Reeve Place in Windsor Terrace. F/G train to Fort Hamilton Parkway. (718) 871–0100. Open Mon–Thu, 3 pm–2 am; Fri, 3 pm–4 am; Sat, noon–4 am; Sun, noon–2 am.

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Brookvin. 381 Seventh Ave. between 11th and 12th streets in Park Slope. F/G train to Seventh Ave. (718) 768–9463. www.brookvin.com. Open Mon–Thu, 5 pm–midnight; Fri, 5 pm–1 am; Sat, noon–1 am; Sun, noon–midnight.

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Croxley Abbey


Croxley Abbey. 63 Grand St. between Kent and Wythe avenues in Williamsburg. (718) 387–4290. www.croxley.com/brooklyn.html. Open daily, 11 am–2 am.

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MCC2014: The Tasting Room

A brief glimpse of the Industry Invitational tasting room (there were about 25 booths – this is just a portion):



One of the more interesting tables was the Old Spirits Company:


Owner Edgar Harden visits estate sales and private collectors to get old-school bottles of liquor. Because recipes have changed over time, an Overholt Rye from 1950 is going to taste different than one bottled today. So if you’ve discovered a recipe from 1920 and you really want to know how it tasted, you should track down liquor from that time!

However, says Harden, the taste won’t be exact because the liquors age in the bottle, much like wine, generally getting mellower and lighter in alcohol.

Also, those vintage bottles look pretty cool:



Next: Vermouth!



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Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club


Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club. 514 Union St. between Nevins Street and Third Avenue in Gowanus. R train to Union, or F/G train to Carroll. (347) 223–4410. www.royalpalmsshuffle.com. Open Monday–Wednesday, 6 pm–midnight; Thursday and Friday, 6 pm–2 am; Saturday, noon–2 am; Sunday, noon–midnight.

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Brooklyn Night Bazaar


Brooklyn Night Bazaar. 165 Banker St. at Norman Avenue in Greenpoint. G train to Nassau. www.bkbazaar.com. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 pm–1 am.

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MCC2014: Your own personal martini



So I checked out the seminar “The Martini – The World’s Most Personal Drink” in hopes of changing my mind. It started out well:


The Gypsy Queen, invented at the Russian Tea Room, is pretty simple:

  • 2 parts vodka
  • 1 part Benedictine
  • dash of bitters

Then Joe McCanta, bar chef and ambassador for Grey Goose Vodka, introduced the thesis of his talk:


Basically, the martini has been through a lot of variations over the last 130 years or so – it’s been made with gin and vodka, sweet and dry vermouth, shaken, stirred, and garnished with a cherry, olive, onion, and a lemon twist.

But at basically every stage, recipes noted that some customers would want it a little different, from the Martinez in 1887, described in “Jerry Thomas’s Bar Tenders Guide” with the note “if the guest prefers it very sweet, add two dashes of gum syrup” to the Stork Club Bar Book in 1946, which drily says: “Bar practice at the Stork favors the noncontroversial stirring … but the management will oblige by having them compounded in a cement mixer or butter churn if that is what the customer wants.”

McCanta’s conclusion was: “The history of the martini is about discovering what you personally like, and drinking that.”

So I’m going to invest some time in exploring martini variants to see if there’s one I’ll care for. I tried a Martinez at Tooker Alley the other night, and… not bad.

Next: back to the tasting room!






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MCC2014: Industry Invitational

My second day of the Cocktail Classic was all about the Industry Invitational, a series of lectures, workshops, and seminars for people “in the industry” – e.g. bartenders, distillers, and journalists.

First stop: “The Art of Ice and Tastes of Ginger Beer”

Betsy Andrews and Camper English discussed the role of ice in drinks, and demonstrated how to carve it for a cocktail:


I missed most of the ginger beer discussion (running late), but they noted that ginger beer has a classic cocktail for every major spirit:

  • Vodka – Moscow Mule
  • Rum – Dark & Stormy
  • Cognac – Horse’s Neck
  • Tequila – El Diablo
  • Gin – Foghorn or Gin Buck
  • Bourbon – Kentucky Buck (relatively recent, but hitting classic status)
  • Scotch – Presbyterian

(The event was sponsored by new magazine Saveur Drink. They had some preview copies available, and I’m really excited about it.)

Then I wandered off to a tasting room, where many, many different liquor companies wanted me to try their products. It wound up like this:





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