Editor’s note: Our Spirits columnist is in New Orleans, reporting (or whatever one calls drinking and writing in Crescent City) from this year’s Tales of the Cocktail conference.
So apparently Ted Lange — a.k.a. Isaac from the “Love Boat” — will make an appearance at Tales of the Cocktail today in the Disaronno tasting room.
Am I alone in finding his recognition at Tales both exciting and long overdue? Outside of Coach and Woody and Sam Malone on “Cheers,” Isaac is probably the most famous fictional bartender in our popular culture. I think of him blending up pina coladas on the lido deck for Charo, asking “What’s your pleasure?” and am reminded of a time when bartending was more about hosting and hospitality than it was about the mixologist’s facial hair and homemade bitters.
But I digress. It has been a whirlwind couple of days at Tales, and I will try to recap some highlights.
On Thursday afternoon, I presented a panel called “Reconsidering the Gin & Tonic,” which jumped off from a column I wrote last year. Joining me on the panel were two bartenders from Spain, Audrey Fort from G’Vine gin, and representing Washington, Adam Bernbach, bar manager at Estadio and Proof. We discussed the sorry state of the G&T in America, and showed off the Spanish-style “gintonic,” which has reached an art form in that country.
Spain is the second largest gin-consuming nation in the world, and 85 percent of the gin there is consumed in gin and tonic — and the average consumers is very demanding about their G&T. No plastic cups and no squirts from the soda gun for them. In Spain, in most bars, you’ll find a selections of dozens of gins, specifically paired with one of a half-dozen tonics, and then garnish that goes beyond the wedge of lime — you’ll find everything from berries and grapes to herbs such as ginger or rosemary, spices such as star anise or saffron. I hope that we gave the audience of bartenders something to think about. A Spanish-style G&T program is such a simple, straightforward way for bars to improve their drink
I also attended a number of other seminars and tasting rooms, including an interesting tasting of beer cocktails, which continue to grow in popularity and which I wrote about a couple years ago. One of the best cocktails I tasted there was actually made with cider, the French Quarter Fling, created by Michelle Peth, a bartender from Fort Collins, Colo.
5 to 6 pink peppercorns
2 grapefruit wedges
1.5 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce hard cider
You muddle the peppercorns with one grapefruit wedge, then shake over ice with the rye and simple syrup; double strain into a rocks glass, then top with the cider and a dash of the celery bitters. Garnish with the other grapefruit wedge. Delicious.
As for new tastes, I did an interesting tasting of with David Nava of Anchor Distilling in San Francisco. Anchor produces Old Potrero rye and Junipero gin, but it also imports a large portfolio of spirits from around the world, including Luxardo marschino, Chinaco tequila and Christian Drouin Calvados. I tasted a new rum from Mauritus, called Pink Pigeon, and the classic Maurin Quina (which inspired the famous cafe poster of the green devil).
But the showstopper of the evening was the Lepanto P.X. Solera Gran Reserva brandy from Jerez, Spain. Aged in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks, the brandy is rich, nutty, big, concentrated and full of dried fruits and toffee. I’ve sung the praises of Spanish brandy before, but this Lepanto bottling was the most unique brandy de Jerez I’ve ever tasted.
I’ll check back in tomorrow with some more highlights. For now, back to drinking . . . I mean, work!