Saturday, November 23, 2013

A couple good beers, and cider

Rekorderlig Elderberry Cider. Did I spell that right? Okay, let's never mind that part. This cider is apparently quite the hit, and well, I think it's a good choice for the first drink I'm gonna look at in this article.

So why do I think it's a good first choice? Well, I don't know much about cider, or elderberry. And let's be honest here. It's not really my thing. However, my girlfriend loves it. It's a bit to sweet, and fruity for me. I like personality and depth in my drinks. While that can be interpreted a few ways, my interpretation of the depth of Rekorderlig is that it tastes like those various pricy juices that come in champagne bottles. Which are great in there own right. I guess in some sense, even greater if you add a decent ABV. 

So it's a 7% alcohol content variation of mock champagne. If that's your thing, try it out - you'll probably like it. As they say, it's apparently a hit.

Moving down the list to fruit flavoured craft ale is Longwood Breweries Berried Alive. It's a wheat ale, that's double fermented with raspberries. It's a nice touch from your typical flavoured beers, which are only fermented once, adding flavoured extract. This double fermentation is however, a return to older styles of brewing as craft beers start to make a nice dent in the beer market.

So I'll compare it to a more popular, and local microbrewery's raspberry ale: Granville Island. So the verdict is that it has a stronger raspberry flavour, but does it taste better? In a word. Yes. In a few words... Yes, yes, YES! In this barteder's opinion, Longwood found a better match in choosing a less hoppy blond ale to pair the tart flavor of raspberry with, than Granville Island's choice of using the hoppier, and maltier pale ale. The tart flavor works quite well with the less bitter blond, enabling more raspberry notes to come out for the overall flavour of the beer.

Then there's Ligjtouse's Dark Chocolate Porter. Oh, where to begin! Well, let's start with delightful. The flavor is indeed delightful, having a strong chocolate finish on top of a slightly bitter, crisp porter. The downside here, is that its likely not what you're expecting. The bitter flavor seems to be more of a derivative of the porter, than the cocoa of choice - the result is that it seems more like you had a drink of a regular porter with some chocolate in your mouth.

Okay okay, that description is perhaps a little unjustified, and perhaps makes it sound worse than it is. But I mean think about it. Don't you think you'd like the taste of a nice dark porter, followed with the taste of chocolate? Maybe not, but hopefully so. We've seen dark beers mix well with chocolate before (umm, Guinness cupcakes anyone? Hellooo). And out of the three drinks I tried this evening, I'd rank this as the best. And following the Berried Alive review, that's gotta mean something.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What makes a "Bad" bartender?

Chances are we've all been to 'that' place.  "What place?" you might ask. A most legitimate question, to my vague introduction. 'That' place I'm talking about, is a place with a terrible bartender. Personally, I'd been to that place numerous times before ever realizing exactly how, or why that person is terrible. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that for several years, I had only ever had experienced service from terrible bartenders.

My early few years of being introduced into bar, and alcohol culture, were spent in small town rural Alberta. This is also the place where I would eventually enter the industry, and begin working the wood for the first time. As a kid, I had gone to bars with little to no knowledge of alcohol, tipping, socializing.  I was basically your run-of-the-mill naive kid over 19 who was now able to drink.

My first job as a bartender was also in rural Alberta. My old room mate, and good friend was the head bartender for one of the town's four or five environments for libations. I spent a lot of time there, and when an opening came along, I was a shoe-in for employment. It was the kind of job where you had to learn fast, or be eaten alive. It didn't last, however. A combination of economic decline, competition, and lack of imagination caused the business to do worse and worse as time went on. Knowing what I know now, I know that I could have saved myself a lot of energy in those days and gotten a job elsewhere.

That said. The tips were spot on.

I'd never had to work so little for so much money before.  And well, I think most people would have a hard time finding a job that was as slack as this one. Thinking back, I realize that this sort of environment bread complacency, and is what leads one down the path of being a terrible bartender.

In this position, there was little drive to improve, or learn. It was all too common at this place, that people would not get service while bartenders were on their smoke break - going so far as to completely deny service for up to fifteen minutes, and as much as eight times per shift.

But to return to the question, what makes a bartender "bad"? The easiest indicator for this kind of judgement is what it takes to get service. A bartender who can't provide service for whatever reason, is easily the worst kind of bartender. Don't get me wrong. If you're sitting at the bar being a totally intoxicated jerk, and can't get service, then there's probably good reason.... However, bartenders who are overwhelmed, incapable of switching between tasks, or just self-absorbed "professionals" and because of this can't provide a basic service are... well, at risk of sounding redundant, they're doing no one any service. No one but themselves, at least.

Wait a second? Did I say that was the worst? Well I'm sorry folks. I'm getting waaaaay ahead of myself.

Now. Before I ever came to Vancouver, and started working in casual fine dining, I had already worked with all kinds of drone, goof-off, moron and drug-addict. In addition, you can throw alcoholic on top of any of those former adjectives for a few extra points of extremity. None of those past horrors would ever compare to one bartender I was stuck working with over my first summer in Vancouver, though.

This guy, was beyond bad. He was the dictionary definition of terrible. I have it on relatively good authority that this person lied on his resume, but that doesn't even begin to illustrate how bad of a bartender this guy was. Time and time again, I tried to give this guy a helping hand, open up to him, and make him feel like he was part of the team. I did these things, only to be responded by utter incompetence.

Ultimately, this guy was incapable of improvement, and to this day I really can't say why. In terms of skill level, his first day on the job wasn't that much different than his last - which came only three months after being hired. I don't suspect I'll ever work with someone as bad as this guy ever again. I'm not even sure how many people like him can possibly slip through the cracks and get hired with absolutely no knowledge or skill.

If I had to say it was anything at all that made this guy bad, I would have to say it was a lack of passion. With this in mind, when I think back to those experiences in Alberta, I would have to settle on the same idea. Bartenders who don't care about their craft, are the ones to watch out for....

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cocktails at Moxie's

There's a lot of things that can be said about past experiences at Moxie's. Inconsistent. Slow. Awkward... Bad. But every once in awhile expectations aren't just surpassed - they're blown away.

Let me paint the picture for you. Where expectations are concerned, having a good experience once in awhile is okay, but having an experience that leaves your jaw squarely on the floor is another. My latest trip to Moxie's - the first time in a long time - left me "wowed". No, that's not the "woooowzers!" that Inspector
Gadget would say upon confusing Brain as one of Claw's henchmen. This is a genuine good thing.

To say that in non-cartoon speak. It was delightful.

What brought us in was The G.T. Moxie's spin on a double Tanquerray and tonic, adding lime slush and muddled lime leaves. And of course being the Friday night drink special, the price is right. $5.99.

Sentence fragments aside, we were brought in by our love for gin, and our knowledge that Moxie's has THE special for gin and tonics on a Friday night. We decided to take a foray into the dinner menu, as we'd noticed a new executive head chef and his feature menu items were taking over past menu items.

We played it safe and ordered a Parmesan Chicken Sandwich. It was of course very good - how could it be, after all. PARMESAN CHICKEN!? Nuff said.

However, our attention was piqued by a new beer cocktail; The Black Spice Mojito. Black spiced rum, muddled mint and ginger, amber ale, and topped with soda and ginger ale. It was simply put - fantastic. Beer cocktails have been a bit of a thing lately, and I'd definitely rank this one quite high on the list of top 10s. Or even top 5s. Okay, okay. It's actually more like first or second. It's good, and its on special on Monday nights. If you consider yourself a connoisseur of all things alcohol, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Also being fans of Corona, we decided to get a Mexican Bulldog, but with a bad boy sized beer instead of a Coronita. The bartender was kind enough to only charge us for the bad boy beer, which was also on special - how can you go wrong!?

Also I would have to confess that I'd never tried a Mexican Bulldog, but have always had it on my to-do list. And as I expected, it was great.

For those of you who don't know, simply flip a bottle of corona into some margarita. If you like either corona or margaritas, its a nice twist for a few reasons: carbonation is a big one, but the fact that the texture of the drink changes over time is maybe the most pleasing aspect of the drink.

So to recap... Moxie's has left me quite impressed! Check out their daily specials, and go on a night where they're featuring something you'd like to try. The prices, and quality of the drinks have always Ben good; but this time it was spectacular.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Four Seasons wine tasting continued

The highlights of my wine tasting this Tuesday were only touched on in my last entry. Truth be told, I wanted to save the highlights for one post. And this happens to be just that!

The first thing I wanted to mention was Gin Mare. A Mediterranean gin from Spain. The display was original, featuring empty bottles filled with, olives, basil, rosemary and thyme; the infused herbal ingredients that complement the natural juniper flavouring of the spirit.

After doing a but of research on this product, I've learned that its taking off in the gin market of Spain - an area in the Mediterranean that's seeing an explosion of new gin products. Gin Mare is different from a lot of the other products in that its offering a strong alternative flavour - yet still undeniably gin. I agreed with my coworkers that it would make an excellent dry martini, as it needs almost no flavouring at all. And even then, I'm using the word 'need' simply in the context of cocktails. It would be perfectly fine sipping on its own, or on the rocks.

The next big things were holiday inspired flavoured spirits, and liqueurs. Of these I would mention Jack Daniels egg nog and whiskey liqueur as being in the top end of quality. I don't need to do much explanation here; its another product which can be sipped as an aperitif. Chocolate flavoured liqueurs were a thing as well, but one stood out over the rest.

Criollo was supposedly made by women for women. However, knowing this, I would not hesitate to ask for more, despite being a man. It's flavoured with criollo cocoa bean. I'm not sure what this means for the flavour, but having tastes it, if say it must mean a lot. Additionally it's flavoured with sea salt, which balances off the chocolatey goodness quite well.

Worth mentioning, at the same table there was also a gingerbread flavoured Khalua. Not my thing, really, but I can definitely see the possibilities in the match-up of flavours. If I were a little bit more adventurous, I might buy a bottle to mix with different coffees and hot chocolates.

The last of the highlights was a table of Korean products. Now, unfortunately did not take photos and had trouble with a lot of the names, but this table opened my eyes to the possibility of Korean beverages. The table featured sake, blackberry wine, shochu and of course the beloved beer: Cass. Needless to say, I was blown away by the table, and I'm going to have to do more research into what I drank at that table. It was all delicious, and well... Worth a blog article for another day.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Industry wine tasting at Four Seasons

As it so happens, I'd never been to a wine tasting before. That is, before today. A couple of colleagues and I attended a wine tasting at the Four Seasons in downtown Vancouver today, and I found the event to be somewhat educational.

I didn't take notes nearly as diligently as a blogger might be expected to - and that was perhaps a mistake. I didn't remember to start taking photos until quite late in the tasting, but not all was lost! I did get to taste several different products, for one, and had the opportunity to wrap my brain around these types of events, as well.

What I mean by that last comment, is that I realized these types of events are mainly intended for people with purchasing power. BUT, there are some other sides to it. By going, I received the chance to try several higher price point wines that we carry at Milestones, which I can now compare to our other products with confidence. The best example of this that I can give was our tasting of the Oyster Bay Chardonnay. None in our group had ever tried it despite it being on the menu - but only by the bottle. I was taken aback to find that the New Zealand Chardonnay was not oaky in the least. Much less dry than some of our other Chardonnays that I'm more familiar with. Now, in the future if I'm asked about our less oaky products, I can give a more complete answer. And that wasn't the only product which I had the chance to educate myself on either...

But stepping away from work related education, I've also been taking it upon myself to learn about all other types of libations that I'm unfamiliar with. I've been putting it on my to-do-list to explore the world of tequila and mescal. Okay okay, I know what you're thinking, and I want to dispel those thoughts. We all know how great tequila can be in a margarita, and some of us have had tequila sunrises as well. But there's so much more to it than that. Tequila and its less popular cousin can be comparable to rums or whiskers in their diversity, and that's something I want to learn more about.

So the skinny of that last mini-quest is that I tried mescal for the first time. I found it more bearable in taste than tequila, but the strong after taste made it clear that it was no aperitif. As a sipping spirit, I would compare it to scotch, but in my mind, I'm trying to imagine how one could turn it into a classic-inspired cocktail, taking notes from the Manhattan, Martini, or Old-Fashioned.

Mescal was not the end of it, though... And unfortunately I will not be getting into further details into what things were tasted until....

Next time! 

But here's a spoiler:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Status of the blog - part deux

A couple of months ago I made a post on the blog stating the new post schedule for blog updates. It seems that I was a little preemptive in making the announcement, as I've had a few creative hurdles to clear.

First of all time. A few things came up - not the least of which, the fact that I had to move - which got in the way of my planned updates. Okay, okay. I put the blog on hold for awhile, and now plan on making a comeback.

Next up, the vision for my blog. When I started this blog in the summer, the idea was to give myself a voice in the industry of professional bartending. Again, time became a thing, and I started focusing on restaraunt reviews. It was an idea I liked at the time, but all-in-all, I'm no food critic. I'm a bartender, and that's what people are supposed to gather.

Lastly, its all in a name. The name of this blog is generic, boring, and safe. I need something that characterizes who I am. This is why I'm in the process of thinking up a new title for the blog. I'm open to suggestions, and it should be bartender-centric!

And before we part ways, enjoy this photo of Guu's own brand of pale ale!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Rain city sling - Round one

It's been awhile since I've shared a new drink on my blog (oh who am I kidding; its been awhile since I've shared anything). My blog is undergoing a few changes, and restructuring, which I'll get around to explaining more in the future. For now, I have a new cocktail idea to share.

What you're looking at is the first version of the 'Rain City Sling'. I wanted to capture the essence of a well known classic - the Singapore Sling - and give it a Vancouver twist. So here's the basic idea, a gin and citrus cocktail, that plays off of other established Vancouver trends, yet still noticeably a classic.

Here's what round one has come down to:

-Bombay Sapphire
-Soho Lychee Liqueur
-Grapefruit Juice

Shaken and strained on ice. And then topped with Bellini slush mix, and cherry brandy.

The hope was to mimic the image of both the slushed Bellini (a well known Vancouver cocktail, hailing from Milestones Grill + Bar), and the Singapore Sling. The mistakes were that the Bellini and cherry brandy did not float as intended. A minor setback; I'll have to take more care while layering in future versions. Another mistake was that the lychee overpowered the choices of citrus juices, which is another problem I've already thought about - I'll simply have to use a stronger tasting fruit juice, such as lime, and perhaps consider using less lychee.

The taste and structure are, however, solid concepts. They mixed well, and the appearance was "Oh so close" to hitting the nail on the head. Expect round two, very shortly!

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