Tag Archives: cure

My Tale of Tales 2012

I can’t quite believe that it’s already been nearly two weeks since I returned from the sticky summer heat of New Orleans!…So much for blogging as I went along!?

I could use the excuse that there was just no time to blog, but lets be honest, I was more often than not far too intoxicated busy to document correctly!  What can I say though, this was the 10 year anniversary of Tales of the Cocktail (TOTC)!

Many of my blogging companions have long since posted there highlights from the trip, but one of the reasons I have taken so long to write this post is because I am almost overwhelmed with where to begin.  There were many more parties, tastings and seminars than I have space to cover here so I am going to give a very brief break down of the events that interested, excited or inspired myself and my darling mixologist boyfriend FutureGreg (FG) in particular. This isn’t to say that there weren’t many more during the week that were great, these are just the ones that stood out and made it to MY tale of Tales.

Lets begin at the beginning…

On the shuttle from Louis Armstrong airport to our hotel in French Quarter we found ourselves stuck in a fair bit of traffic due to the arrival of President Obama, who was visiting for the day. Ok, so this isn’t really all that relevant to TOTC, but come on, what a cool start to have the President wave at some of the World’s best bartenders!

An Absolut Welcome

Event: Absolut Welcome Party       Location: Contemporary Arts Center

First stop was the Absolut Welcome party.  For those of you who read my posts regularly, you might recall I reported on the Absolut Stuga event last month for Tasting Panel Magazine.  In that piece I noted how Absolut had managed to bring Sweden to Hollywood with the placement of small swedish cottages and snowy white trees around the room…fast forward to Wednesday night and I found myself again standing in Sweden, only this time I was in New Orleans.

The Absolut team had done a great job transforming the Contemporary Art Museum in to a Swedish landscape, complete with falling snow. I must mention, the snow was a beautiful touch but proved to be extremely impractical. I think I must have choked on at least 12 bubbly flakes blowing in the air and had many more land in my drinks, which was somewhat annoying and impossible to avoid.

Takafumi Yamada pours the Absolut

The event itself was nicely done though.  Blue lights made the room appear cold and wintery, which was a pleasant change from the humidity outside.  There were drink stations set up representing different areas of the World too. My favorites were Absolut Japan and Absolut Italia.

Hidetsugu Ueno had created the Absolut Diamond Tea drink that used local Japanese Honey and Japanese Tea a long with regular Absolut vodka.  The tea was a prominent flavor, but the drink itself was balanced and had a nice sweetness to it from the honey.  It was served over an ice ball that was skillfully carved in front of us using a Japanese ceramic knife.

Over at Absolut Italia I enjoyed a very different kind of drink, the Coppa Di Fiori.  This was made with Absolut Citron, Cynar, Lemon juice, Mint, Simple syrup and Tonic water. It was certainly bitter, but still very enjoyable….even for my sweet tooth!

Later in the evening Simon Ford, Gary Reagan, Nick Strangeway and Lynnette Marrero performed the song ‘Take a chance” by ABBA which was both hilarious and slightly disturbing! haha

   

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TOTC

Event: William Grant & Sons     Location: New Orleans Museum of Art

Buses courtesy of TOTC shuttled us off to the 10 year Birthday Bash put on by William Grant & Sons.  On the ride we indulged in Hendricks flavored ice creams before arriving at an even grander Art Museum with giant candles lining the drive.

There was so much to see at this party I can only touch on a few of my favorite areas.  The Hendricks Gin spectacle was very peculiar, the bartenders would make drinks at the top of the roof and pour them down to the glasses below.

Inside there were delicious appetizers, desserts and drink selections provided by Glenfiddich and Belvenie.  Outside there was a ‘Slap and tickle village’ (which had bartenders shaking drinks whilst jumping on trampolines), a giant birthday card to sign and burlesque dancers.

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There were photo booths, clowns, a fireworks display and plenty of cocktails to be had in amongst the artwork. As fellow blogger Dave Stolte pointed out…

“A Henry Moore statue can also double as an impromptu drinks stand in New Orleans!”

Japanese Whisky, fill me up!

Seminar: Non-Stop to Kyoto     Presented by: Neyah White & Gardner Dunn

The seminar that really stood out to myself and FG on this trip was ‘Non-Stop to Kyoto’ which was put together by Neyah White and Gardner Dunn.  This was a really relaxing experience and a great escape from the craziness of Tales.

The room had been transformed in to a little Japanese hut, with a great selection of some of the best Japanese Whiskies available, ranging from Hibiki 30 year to 1984 Yamazaki Single Malt. We each sat down at our own little table and were given a blending kit with a selection of whiskies in test tubes. Neyah explained that there was no right or wrong way to put together our own drink, it was simply a teaching aid to help understand how master blenders come up with combinations.  I actually really enjoyed my creation, it was a little smoky, a little sweetness and not too hot.

I tried the Yamizaki 1984 and really liked it, it was very smooth with no dramatic heat despite being 96 proof.  It had a slight cinnamon nose which I am told could come from the Japanese Oak it’s aged in. It is named after the year 1984 which was the first time they felt their product was good enough to serve as a single malt, before that date Suntory had only ever produced blended whisky.

Small bites, which included a delicious ‘Scrambled egg on vanilla brioche with bacon caramel’, ‘Banana Mochi’ and ‘Spicy caramel popcorn’ was provided by World famous Chef Michael Mina, as you can imagine the dishes were incredible and I wish there had been more.  The spicy sweet popcorn brought out interesting flavors in the whisky too.

Ooh how that pig packs a punch!

Event: Bon Vivants Pig & Punch    Location: Washington Sq Park

The Pig and Punch party had us drinking a variety of creations out of trash cans, yes you heard correctly, trash cans.  Obviously they were clean and filled to the brim with alcohol and fruits, but it was quite an experience to say the least. The highlight of the event was when 4 men carried the cooked beast in and placed it on a fire pit while a classic New Orleans brass band played bouncy songs as if it were a Jazz funeral.

There was plenty of food on offer.  I had sausages with Templeton rye that were awesome and some incredible sorbets and gelatos created by Luxardo and La Divina Gelateria. My favorite flavor was the peach amaretto sorbet, which was like eating liquid marzipan. Just delicious!

Crawl to the Brawl

Event: Bar Room Brawl   Location: Generations Hall

I have to say, this was a little bit of a cluster f!@k to get in to.  There were long lines and too many people on the guest lists, but once inside it was well worth the wait.  For those who don’t know, the idea behind Bar room brawl is to find the best bar in the US, voted in by the industry.

This year saw no Los Angeles bars nominated so FG and I decided to cheer for The Passenger/Columbia Room of DC.  My review of Washington DC is coming soon, but even if we’d never been or met the incredibly talented Derek Brown we still LOVED all the drinks that this bar produced that night.

Beretta from San Francisco won the title of best bar, and Bar Manager Ryan Fitzgerald collected the trophy.

We weren’t by any means disappointed with this win, it was nice to have a Californian bar take the title even if it wasn’t LA. Having been to Beretta ourselves just this past January, I can attest to the fact that the restaurant and bar program there is truly fantastic.

It was at Beretta that I finally found out I liked brussel sprouts (after Ryan forced me to try them)…it was one of the first times I had been convinced to try something ugly and green! That particular experience was one of the reasons I started the FussyOne blog a month later, to be able to tell others like myself, “it’s ok to try scary green vegetables!”

Tastings

There were several tasting rooms and vans that popped up during the week, below are just a few of the drinks and products I enjoyed the most.

Giovanni Martinez representing Chivas Regal gave me a cocktail named ‘The Green Room’ which had Carpano Antica Formulae, Clear Creek Pear Liqueur, Miracle Mile Toasted Pecan Bitters, and Chivas 12 yr.  The entire cocktail was aged in glass with oak staves that had originally stored barley wine. The drink itself was served straight up and was really strong, but full of interesting flavors.

  

Ben Davidson, The National Spirits Ambassador for Pernod Ricard Australia had prepared two other cocktails that included Chivas and were barrel-aged. These were also very strong, and tasty.  I find that the new craze of barrel-aging cocktails is a great one, it gives complexity to certain drinks and softens other. I look forward to seeing more barrel-aged cocktails coming to bars in Los Angeles soon.

I tasted the White Montanya Rum for the first time and was pretty impressed by the product as a whole.  It had a slight nuttiness to it and wasn’t at all harsh like most white rums.  I am generally a dark rum drinker but the rep. explained that they age this rum in oak then filter it through coconut husk charcoal so it retains the flavor, but removes the color.  Nice little product.

Nick Strangeway introduced us to his new Absolut Craft line at the Flavor Innovation Workshop, which was held at the creepy historical Pharmacy Museum.  He gave a really interesting talk on how he came up with and created the three new flavors he’s produced with the Absolut vodka brand.  The three flavors he’s created are Smokey Tea, Herbaceous Lemon and Bitter Cherry. 

The Herbaceous Lemon was very interesting, because although it had a strong citric flavor Nick explained it had no actual lemon or citrus in it. He wanted to create a citrus vodka with no citrus, just using citrus flavored herbs.  He certainly achieved this because it tasted like fresh lemon zest was incorporated, but instead he had chosen to use Lemon Mertyl, Lemongrass and Lemon Thyme to create the strong lemon flavor.  It was very original and an interesting concept.

The Bitter Cherry, was indeed bitter and not really my favorite but The Smokey Tea was a really fantastic product.  It had a really nice smokiness to it which we later enjoyed in a pineapple-tini style drink that was probably one of the best drinks we had the entire trip!

All good things must come to an end…

Like I said at the start, this post can only touch on a few of my favorite parts of the trip.  Juniperlooza, The Rum & Reggae pool party, The Macallan Ice Ball plunge and The Pink Pigeon Spirited dinner were all noteworthy events also, but I could go on and on so I have to stop somewhere.

Below I have thrown in a bunch of photos that can touch on the mayhem that I simply don’t have room to write about…

                         

Please note, there were a number of Bars and Restaurants that FG and I visited separate from the Tales debauchery, including Commanders Palace, Cure, Arnauds and The Carousel Bar.  I will be writing a separate post about these soon so be sure to look out for that in coming weeks.

There’s really nothing left to say now, except…

Here’s to another 10 years of Tales! 😀

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A not so bitter talk with Louis Anderman

Name: Louis Anderman

Company: Miracle Mile Bitters Co.

Location: Los Angeles, California

“Making the World a better place, 2-3 dashes at a time”


This week-end I finally got to sit down with the lovely Louis Anderman, the man behind the Miracle Mile Bitters Co.  When I say ‘the man behind the brand’ I am being quite literal when I talk about Louis.  Miracle Mile Bitters aren’t mass produced at all,  they are hand-crafted cocktail bitters made here in Los Angeles (Miracle Mile) by Louis ALONE in his rented studio space.

He is a one man show and therefore produces small batches for local businesses, friends, family and fellow enthusiasts.  As his success has risen in the last year he has had to turn down a few distributing companies already, purely because he is realistic about what he can produce as one person.  He cannot create 400 bottles a week, like the larger competitors (Fee Brothers, Scrappy’s etc). He can however, and does, take a little under a month to create a couple of liters of truly exceptional product. He single handedly proves the point of quality over quantity.

These bitters taste real, they don’t taste like false flavorings. Unlike ‘Fee Brothers’ he never uses glycerine in his product, only organic neutral grain spirit (except in the case of his Toasted Pecan Bitters, where he uses 50/50 the neutral grain and Bourbon).  Demand is greater than production allows right now, and he told me that merely mentioning a flavor concept on his Facebook/website has him receiving countless requests for bottles of a product not yet created!

He is a genuinely nice man to chat with and when speaking about what he’s doing now, (a far cry from the world of Miramax he originated in) you really get a sense of his passion for the products he creates.  He has no formal culinary training, but his keen sense of smell, taste and adventure for playing with new flavors is what sent him on his current path.

He started with the Chocolate/Chili bitters early on which ended up being so successful amongst his friends that Joe Keeper (owner of Barkeeper in Silverlake) said “You really should start selling these at my store”. Soon enough his product was doing so well that he said to himself it’s time to “Go Pro or Go HomeLucky for us, he chose the professional route and Miracle Mile Bitters Co. began it’s journey in to the cocktail community.

A Brief bit about Bitters. (Say that ten times fast!)

Ok, so the bitter truth (pun intended) is that until a few days ago I didn’t even know what they really were. When someone mentioned ‘Bitters’ in a drink, I would usually assume, having such a sweet tooth, i’m not going to like it and therefore not going to order it.  I would have been able to name maybe four flavors I knew of:  Peychauds, Angostura, Chocolate and Orange and although I was aware there were more flavors out there, I had no real desire to discover them. To be honest I had no understanding as to why anyone would even want them in a drink!  The only time i’d tasted them in the past had been when I had an upset tummy and my boyfriend FG would give me bitters in soda which was, quite frankly, disgusting! This always stuck with me and when FG would order a digestiv  of ‘beverage bitters’ like Campari or Cynar, I could never understand it’s appeal. It was like taking medicine.

Technically, that’s exactly what he was doing. Bitters originated as medicines and were used to cure a variety of ailments from headaches to constipation to indigestion.  The recipes for some of theses elixirs date back centuries and were used to help fix a variety of sickness issues.  I could not wrap my head around why bartenders had such a desire to add them to drinks, that is until I tried some of Miracle Miles Bitters co. selection at the Valentines Day Prom at Big Bar and realized how certain bitters can be a background note that enhance a set of new flavors in a drink.

As soon as I tried them and heard about this ‘Cult member of the cocktail community’ (Louis Anderman) I knew I wanted to meet him, but before I did I decided to do a little research.Amongst other books, I found myself reading ‘A SPIRITED HISTORY of a CLASSIC CURE-ALL- BITTERS’ by Brad Thomas Parsons the most.  It is not a hugely complex book, but was perfect to help me understand their origins and uses. So for all of you, like myself, with little/no knowledge of Bitters here’s a few little things to tell you…in layman’s terms!

What exactly are bitters?

Bitters have been described as “Liquid seasoning for drinks and food”, they are to the bartender what salt and pepper is to the Chef.  FG often has a Negroni or bitter tasting aperitif to help prepare his taste buds for dinner, they cleanse the palette and help enhance flavors in the food you eat, and in the cocktail itself.

“Bitters are an aromatic flavoring agent made from infusing roots, barks, fruit peels, seeds, spices, herbs, flowers and botanicals in high proof alcohol.” Page 9 of Parsons Book.

They are used in the creation of cocktails. Incidentally I should mention that the term “cocktail” should technically always have bitters in it.

Our generation throws the word around with little regard for accuracy. There are thousands of “Cocktail Lists” in this city with not one ‘real’ cocktail on it.   A cocktail (by tradition) is a drink consisting of sugar, alcohol, water and bitters. Thats it! None of these ‘Martinis or Cosmos’ are cocktails at all. We use the term incorrectly and it drives the true drink enthusiasts crazy.

I admit I have no issue with the mis use of the term personally, I actually believe it’s ok for the meaning of words to change and adapt over time, but if you are one of those people who believe in accuracy of names and traditions then check out Andrew “The Alchemist” Willet website by clicking HERE. He is a walking ‘drink encyclopedia’ and runs classes and tasting sessions which will blow your mind. (He also just did an article on the ‘Bitters’ book I mentioned, he wasn’t as in favor of it as I am, but have a look at what he said too.)

Bitters are also, as I mentioned before, a form of Medicine.  Louis told me that some of his first recipes and attempts at bitters came from old 19th Century pharmaceutical books he found on the internet “God bless Google Books” he said, when discussing how access to some of these old recipes really helped him create his own, like his very popular Castilian Bitters.

The Forbidden Bitters (Batch # 001) were some of the best he’s ever created, and not that dissimilar from the, now deceased, Abbott’s 19th Century aromatic bitters.  However, in the same way that the Abbott’s are no longer available you also can’t get your hands on this first batch of Forbidden either.  For the same reason too, they are both now ‘Forbidden’ as the recipe called for Tonka Beans (have bitter almond, cacao and vanilla notes) which are not FDA approved.  This is nothing more than a poorly written law and the minuscule amounts used could never cause you harm, but nevertheless, Louis’ current Forbidden Bitters for sale do not include the aromatic Tonka beans at all. They are still excellent however, and I strongly urge you to buy a bottle.

Always one to try new things, he tells me recently he’s been experimenting with Candicap mushrooms, which have a sweet maple syrup aroma.  I asked why no one has thought to use these in bitters before and he replied “They are expensive and the supply chain is irregular” but that’s the beauty of a small operation company, he can play with flavors with a lot less regard for mass production later on down the line.

The majority of his experimentation isn’t for retail either, but limited to ‘on premise’ clients. An example of this would be the savory “Damn you Matt Wallace” bitters he created for Harvard & Stone in Hollywood.  The name intrigues many who hear it, and I was curious as to it’s back story.

Louis told me;

Matt Wallace (Head Bartender at H&S) suggested I try to create a savory bitters. After I started with a tomato base,  I added (amongst other things) some angelic root, pepper, celery and a little citrus for brightness then my savory bitters were born.  They have spice with not too much heat. The idea and the final product ended up being so good I had to say “Damn you Matt Wallace” so that’s what I put on the label of the first bottle.”

The name stuck! ‘Damn you Matt Wallace bitters’ are still on the drink menu at Harvard and Stone exclusively so be sure to check them out there too.

The new ‘Valentines Bitters’ with notes of Strawberry and Rose that were created for Big Bar’s Prom last week, are outstanding. So delicate and floral, they are delightful and having been able to snag a little bottle for my own use I have already been bothered by ‘bartender friends’ who want me to bug Louis about creating more. “Can you see if he’ll make us like 6 bottles?” Seriously, I can only imagine how many calls Louis must get like this after people try his new creations.

The man is gifted and I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next. Miracle Mile Bitters Co. is such a great little company and deserves all the recognition it can get. In my opinion it’s always better to look after the “little guy” and stay away from “big commercial” companies when possible and unlike other bitters production companies in America, Miracle Mile Bitters Co. does have that small batch appeal.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some other fantastic bitters companies out there ‘The Bitter Truth’ is a great example of one.  There are also small batch bitters operations popping up all over the place like ‘Bittermens’ bitters created by Avery Glasser in New York.

Louis isn’t here to step on anyones toes though, when I asked if he started his company because he thought other companies were lacking an element he replied;

 “Not at all. I honestly felt there was room for me too. There is always room for new flavor ideas, for example, no one was making a Castilian or Yuzu bitters at the time”

and for the flavors already out there, like Orange or Chocolate, he says he’s not trying to take over;

“As long as the quality is there, I believe theres room for everyone. I target a smaller audience anyway and often have people who just want to collect the whole set because I make so few bottle in a batch compared to the big brands”

His work ethic and passion for what he does comes across when he talks and his choice of flavors has inspired bartenders across LA and the country to create new and exciting drinks with his products.  He sparks imagination in people and his ‘Venue specific bitters’ are a smart way to help Mixology bars around LA get on the map, if they weren’t already.  The cocktail community in LA is so welcoming and helpful for promoting each other, he has been quite overwhelmed by how much support has come for his little brand.  Having tasted his products and met Louis now in person, I honestly believe his product won’t stay “boutique” for long.  I’m pretty sure Miracle Mile Bitters Co. is about to become a big name brand and will one day be available and sold all over the World.  It deserves every success.

If you have an interest in buying any of his current ‘retail’ creations please check out his website, or purchase direct from any of the following locations:

The current bitters he creates in a larger capacity for retail are: Chocolate/Chili Bitters, Gingerbread Bitters, Sour Cherry Bitters, Castilian Bitters, Yuzu Bitters, Forbidden Bitters, Orange Bitters.

I am going to end with a copy of the questionnaire I give all the people I interview. I find this is a fun informal way to learn more about a person and I love to see the different answers .
Here are Louis answers…Enjoy!
*
1. What is your full name?
Louis Z Anderman
2. What city/state were you born in?
Los Angeles, CA
3. What is your official job title? 
Barpothecary.  OK, so I made up that word, but it appears that someone beat me to Bitterati.
4. Are you a fussy eater or picky drinker? If so, what WON’T you try?
Absolutely not.  And, I should add, I see no food hierarchy.  I think that a $1 taco truck taco can be as noble as anything served at any of Thomas Keller’s restaurants, and many of my most memorable meals have been in parking lots, or strip mall dives with a health dept. B in the window.
 5. What is your favorite “Classic” Drink?
Can’t pick one.  Best I can do is my top 5, in no particular order:  Martini, Manhattan, Sazerac, Last Word, Old Fashioned.
6. What is your ‘go-to’ liquor of choice? 
Gin.  Beefeater is usually my house staple, though there are many others I love, depending upon mood and/or finances.
7. What is the most unusual dish or food item you’ve ever tasted?
I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but perhaps shark fin soup with crab roe, in Hong Kong.
8. What is the name of your favorite (current) Mixology bar in LA? and Why?
Can’t do it.  Can’t pick a favorite.
9. Where can you usually be found on a Saturday night?
For the most part, I’m a boring homebody.
10. What is the best thing about what you do?  
Many things.  For one, truly loving what I do.  For the first time in my life, I actually find myself excited about going to work.  The creative satisfaction I get from developing new flavors, and the further satisfaction at a positive reception, and then seeing bartenders creating new drinks with them that I never would have imagined.  All of the lovely, incredibly creative and passionate people I’ve met.  Oh, and the comped drinks don’t hurt, either.
11. What is the Worst thing about what you do?
Dealing with supply shortages (I went through about a two month dry spell on Yuzu peel, until I found a new, more reliable supplier), and the stress of building a new business from the ground up, learning as I go along (and hoping I don’t screw anything up too much!).
12. If you could live anywhere in the World where would it be? and why?
I’m gonna cheat and imagine that I had access to a time machine, and say LA in the 1930’s.  I’m obsessed with looking at pictures of old LA, and I can’t imagine how beautiful this city must have been pre-traffic, with lots of gorgeous Art Deco architecture.
13. If you couldn’t do what you do now, what would you do instead?
Cry. 
14. If you won the $100,000,000 on the lottery what would be the first thing you’d buy?
A fully restored (and with the notoriously dodgy electrics upgraded) series 1.5 Jaguar XKE roadster – silver, with red or black interior – or the Plymouth Gin distillery, just so I’d have ready access to the Navy Strength which, sadly, isn’t imported to the US.
 
Thanks for reading!
(If you would like to be considered for interview or represent a bar/brand you want to bring exposure to on my site, please feel free to contact me direct: pickydrinker@gmail.com)

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