Monday, January 27, 2014

The Bottle Opener: "Gin-Minded"

Well hey there folks! The third installment of 'The Bottle Opener' is now out for your viewing pleasure!

In this episode, I introduce you to Long Table Distillery's London Dry Gin, which I detailed at a glance in this blog article. With Gin in mind, I wanted to stick to a few of the basics in gin tasting. So of course, this means the Gin and Tonic, and the Martini. Another considered cocktail was the Negroni, but I shied away from that, for two very good reasons.  For starters, I didn't have the campari and sweet vermouth handy, but more importantly, Negronis aren't really about the Gin.  They're more about the Campari.

We also took a look at a long forgotten "classic" (if you can call it that), the Rumba; a gin and rum hybrid. The ideal Rumba is supposedly made with an amber rum, ala Appleton's, but again I went with my beloved Kraken.

Lastly, we took the remnants of the Rumba to create a nameless original cocktail, along with my patented (not really) rose syrup.

Let me know what you guys think, and as always, enjoy!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Suntory to purchase Beam

(The Suntory buyout of Beam will give Suntory an 11% market share in the United States, where they currently hold 1%.)

On Monday, Suntory joined the likes of Diageo and Pernod as the third largest distributor of distilled spirits, with the purchase of Jim Beam, a buyout which not only gives them rights to all Beam products, but also Maker's Mark. There's a lot that can be said for the buyout, in terms of how much the Japanese Suntory has gained, but in favor of keeping it simple, I will just say this; the buyout is huge.

(A Maker's Mark Manhattan, on the rocks; Maker's Mark is another American Bourban product that Suntory will score in it's buyout.)

This buyout will essentially give Suntory the ability to compete with its rivals Diageo and Pernod, who already have strong lines of products in North America. It also means that yet another American spirit product will soon be owned wholly by an overseas interest. Diageo already owns a large number of North American brands, but we also know international companies such as Anheuser-Busch have huge shares in the American beer market, owning both the American Budweiser and Canadian Labatt.

(Giant Suntory's Beam buyout will place Suntory as the third largest spirits distributor in the world.)

These large multinational giants are for the most part in control of the entire market of mass produced spirits. There are a few stragglers however, such as Jack Daniels - which have expressed no interest in a corporate takeover. But aside from that, a lot can be said for the craft revolution. With craft beer making a wave through North America, it should come as no surprise that some beer giants are starting to buy up successful craft breweries. But the same can be said for craft micro-distilleries.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The basics of wine knowledge for new servers

Having a decent understanding of wine can be a big deal for those of us in hospitality. Oftentimes, people applying for jobs in hospitality don't have any experience, or aren't old enough to have been exposed to wine. While beer is the Everyman drink for every occasion, wine is often heralded by a different demographic, or with the intentions of eating a meal. In the case of beer you usually won't have to answer questions beyond 'what do you have for IPA' or 'what's your lightest beer'? Now, those questions can have some intricacies, but generally speaking, knowing a little bit about your beer products can go a long way. With wine, on the other hand, a lot of the time new servers and bartenders have no wine knowledge at all. This article is geared toward equipping those people with the knowledge they need to succeed and make good tips, as well as to the people who are applying for jobs and going into interviews with no knowledge.

Sticking to the very basics, you must realize that wine knowledge at its core is not important to surviving on the job. The first thing to focus on, is which wines the establishment carries. Unfortunately, this can be difficult when dealing with huge wine lists. If you're in a restaurant with thirty, or maybe even fifty... or perhaps they have a whole cellar dedicated to wine, you'd never be expected to know about all of them. A good practice when starting out is to look at the wine list, and pick out a couple of the cheapest wines for the reds and whites. Wines on the cheaper end of the spectrum are what get ordered the most, so knowing these wines is important. As for those people going into interviews, do whatever you can to dig up a wine list. If its not on their website try to get a look at it when you're dropping off your résumé.

Continuing to study the wine list can reveal a lot of different things. Firstly, it can give you information overload. To avoid that, take a step back and consider some other things. Is the wine list separated into flavour categories, such as spicy, bold, or oak? Is it separated by sweet and dry? Are there a lot of say, Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays, but only one or two of the other types of wine? Usually these things are pointers for gathering more information. If there are flavour categories, it could be a good practice to pick one wine out of each category, and the same can be said for wine lists divided by a sweetness scale. And of course, having a lot of cabs on the menu might tell you that a lot of people order cabs.

So now that you've picked out which wines you're going to learn about, how do you learn about them? Well my friend, every wine has its own story, and its own unique character, luckily for you, it's written on the bottles of most wines, and for those it isn't there's Wikipedia. That's right! You don't have to take advanced wine tasting classes to learn all of this information, because wine knowledge has to start off with the basics of product knowledge. And of course, that information can be found on the bottle!

But now there's another problem. If you've accumulated a list of eight to twelve wines, remembering their names can be hard enough. How can you memorize all of the information on the bottle? I understand that the majority of you don't have a freakishly good memory. It seems I was blessed with a photographic memory, but even still I had difficulty remembering everything about my store's products when I first started. I'll urge you again to take a step back and look at the 'smaller' picture. For starters. If eight to twelve wines are too difficult to remember then start with four, and make a pledge to add one more wine to that list of products you know, until you find that you can suggest a wine for every meal and occasion. You don't have to be the most knowledgeable on your first day, but aim to progress gradually.

As for what to remember, just note that memorization should not be done verbatim.  The four things you should know without question are what the brand name are, what type of wine it is, whether its white or red, and where its from. These are all easy questions, and the first three should be known just from reading the wine list. Where its from, may or may not be on the wine list, but is easy enough to learn by looking at the bottle. Furthermore, you might notice that a lot of old world wines are categorized by what country they're from; id est you find most Rieslings in Germany, most Chiantis come from Italy. New world wines can be more tricky to make this sort of breakthrough with, but nevertheless you'll find that California is known for its Chardonnay, while Argentina is a country of Malbec. This is a good discovery to make when you're trying to transition to that place of having strong wine knowledge.

You can learn a lot more from reading the bottle though. You can learn the story behind the name; always a favourite for guests, which shows you know your stuff. You can also learn the flavours and aromas. With concern to your tasting palette, you may find that all you have to do is know one or two flavours found in the wine in order to sell it. You'll also find pairing suggestions. This is another easy area, as you can often divide things by whether they should be paired with red meat and desert, or everything else. You CAN go the extra step and find more specific pairings, and in fact that's suggested, but if you have trouble, try to stick to either pairing heavy or light wines with heavy or light meals.

What you should try to remember is that its easier to memorize things when you're starting off with a simple foundation. Wine knowledge is an overwhelming concept for a newbie to tackle. The secret to doing well - as with many things - is to simplify.

(A playlist with pronunciation of French, Italian, and German wines.)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Late update: Whistler episode of 'The Bottle Opener'

"Well hey there folks!"
I'm a little late with sharing this update. And well, to be honest, I wasn't originally going to share it on my blog. However, at this time, I have changed my mind and am adding this here for your viewing pleasure.
So what do I go over in this episode? Well, not much really. A brief history of egg nog, including what you can do with the rich tasting milk/egg hybrid. I also say a bit about coffee. And of course, I invent a layered shot. Oh, and let's not forget the awkward guy with white framed glasses who makes a cameo. What's his deal?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A conceptual drink for the 2014 Milestones Western Regional Bev Comp

Releasing information on the concept of a drink I'm making for our company's bev comp could potentially be a big mistake.  Especially two months prior to the event's hosting. However, a few things have occurred to me. Firstly, the prize money isn't what's important to me - it's the legacy I leave when I win. Secondly, I might not even get to go to the bev comp, as I have not only a job opportunity overseas, but a few prospects closer to home as well. And lastly, I don't really want to sit on the chance to reveal my creation to the public. Which is what I'm going to do here, now.

Perhaps the most important ingredient of the cocktail, is the rose. I made a specialty simple syrup using rose water, and rose buds, that is key to the drink's identity. The idea, is that I not only want to give a really good tasting and unique drink to customers, but also something that takes into account the appearance and aroma of the cocktail. The one major difference in regards to the final recipe for the rose syrup is that it's going to require a better source of color than rose buds. Originally I had hoped to use petals, but I had difficulty finding petals that I thought would be safe for consumption. The buds were essentially a stand-in until I can get the product I need.

Regardless of all that, here's the recipe below.

Rose Simple Syrup
  • 1 cup water  
  • 1 cup rose water 
  • 2 cups white sugar 
  • 1/2 cup rose buds 
Add water and rose water to a pot or saucepan. Add sugar once mixture comes to a boil, and let dissolve. Lower temperature to simmer and add rose buds once sugar has completely dissolved. Allow rose buds to transfer colour to mixture and strain after few minutes. Put syrup into a container and let cool in refrigerator.

The biggest downside of using rose buds is that they seem to give the syrup a maroon colour, and the rose buds in the final drink itself have an unpleasant texture. As I mentioned earlier, I didn't get to try the mixture with petals, but I'm assuming that 1/2 a cup should work with that as well.

Now onto the drink itself. The whole thing was a little bit risky and dicey. My first decision was that I wanted to mix two base spirits, with no liqueurs for extra flavoring. I want all the flavor to come directly from the spirits, juice, and spices involved. Making a two spirit cocktail can be quite shady, though, I already decided on the spirits I would try. Gin, and rum.

Deciding on the Gin to use was quite easy, as Diageo sponsors our bev comp events, and they usually have a category for Tanqueray. The first thought for what kind of rum to use was Captain Morgan's Dark, which is also a Diageo product, but I decided to do some more research.  Turns out there is already a gin and rum classic cocktail called the Rumba, and they recommend using an Amber Rum such as Appleton's. The immediate problem here is that Appleton's isn't a Diageo product, but I decided to go with it anyway. The rules for the competition aren't out yet, so there may be a possibility that I can use Appleton, as long as Tanqueray is the primary spirit of the drink; which at equal proportions, should be safe.

So with the spirits decided on, and the aroma of rose being the first concept of the drink, now I had to decide what else would go into it. To be honest, the idea of some sort of Mojito with a twist was on my radar for awhile as well. Especially so, being that Mojitos are a hot item at our location. So along with the Rumba, the Mojito was the other cocktail of inspiration for this, and as such, mint had to be part of the equation. Mojitos have several primary ingredients... rum, lime juice and mint. When you think about it though, Mojitos aren't REALLY about the lime. Moreover, they aren't really about the rum, either. The rum is more of the staple tropical spirit that had to go with it because nothing else would work with it as well as rum. So I decided to take the lime juice out completely, and replace it with a much more benign citrus juice. That being, grapefruit.

So folks, here's the recipe.

  • 1 oz Tanqueray London Dry Gin 
  • 1 oz Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum
  • 3/4 oz Rose Simple Syrup
  • 1 1/2 oz Grapefruit Juice
  • 4 - 8 Mint Leaves (depending on size)
  • 1 oz Rose Buds or 4 - 8 Rose Petals
  • Soda for topping off 
Muddle mint leaves in the base of a tall glass, and add rose buds/rose petals. Fill glass with ice and add Gin and Rum mixture. Continue by adding simple syrup and grapefruit juice, and shake rigorously for 5-10 seconds. Fill glass back up with ice, and top with soda water.

Possible Garnishes are a rose flower, a skewered orange wheel and rose petals.

The drink was spot on for what I envisioned.  Carrying the aromas of rose and mint with the botanical and pungent, juniper heavy gin. The flavor was spot on as well, having the sweet and sour mixture imagined from mixing grapefruit juice, simple syrup and rum. The recap is that two palettes; those of taste and scent, were actualized with this cocktail.

There are a few possible names I've considered for this drink. The first idea was the Rose Rumbito. Which I never really liked, but thought it conveyed the spirit of the drink quite well.  The next was the Rose Rumba, which I KIND of like, but think may be a little obscure. One of the positives is that it does kind of have that tropical, or Caribbean air to it. Another idea, which was a suggestion from a co-worker is the Tommy Bahama. I actually like this one quite a bit, because it's fun, and has my name in it: a good way to leave a legacy. It's also very tropical in its essence, being 'Bahamian' and all. The one flaw with the name is that it doesn't really reveal anything about it. Then again, few casual cocktails do have revealing names such as the Martini.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Long Table London Dry Gin, at a glance

Last night I had the pleasure of picking up a bottle of Long Table's small batch London Dry Gin from the liquor store. Going to visit their distillery directly can be somewhat of a challenge, as their posted hours on Google reveal they're only open two days a week (Friday and Saturday) from 12:00 till 6:00 PM. Not exactly the most opportune hours, but I didn't let this get in my way.

I've been meaning to pick up a bottle so I can start filming an episode of 'The Bottle Opener' for my YouTube channel again, so you can imagine the hours are somewhat problematic, for someone who wants 'the inside scoop'. Nevertheless, their website is always open for reading, and a quick browse of the BC Liquor Stores app for iOS revealed that one could find Long Table's coveted gin at the Davie and Cardero street liquor store, or their vodka at Robson and Bidwell. Davie and Cardero is just a short jaunt from work, so naturally I obliged myself by picking up a bottle.

After opening the bottle, the girlfriend and I did the classic nose test of smelling the cork. The obvious smell of juniper and pine needles struck me immediately. And in tasting it on the rocks, I can report that I didn't have the urge to explore my gag reflex - something that can happen when tasting a new spirit, without any perception of what you're going to taste. Suffice to say, it's what one might expect from a good gin. It's rather palatable and easy to swallow, with classic aromas, as well as a few notable surprises. There's a hint of spice finish over top of the initial blast of Juniper, which blended quite well with the Lavender Scrappy's Bitters.

Thinning Long Table out with tonic revealed a few more flavors that were masked beneath the Juniper as well. There is an essence of perhaps lime, lemon, or grapefruit in there; which I didn't have the opportunity to take many notes of, as I unfortunately only had one glass. The pine needle smell was ever present, but with the addition of tonic, I could find notes of fresh cut grass.

All-in-all, I should say it's quite a good gin. Similar to my tasting of Mare a few months ago, I would say that Long Table can hold it's own and be enjoyed without having to mix it with too much, if anything. I'd lean towards the classics; Martinis, Gin and Tonics, or Gin and Sodas for this one. Stay away from the Negronis, I think, as you might lose out on some of it's botanical essence once you add Campari.
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