L I F E S T Y L E B E YO N D T H E G L A S S
J U LY 8TH through 12TH,20 09
issue number 2
DRINKING IN CYBERSPACE
Drinking In Style
Welcome to the Global Happy Hour By Natalie Bovis-Nelsen, TheLiquidMuse.com
Will Booze Weather the Storm? By John Henion
contents/dipsomania 15 SAN FRANCISCO COCKTAIL WEEK
Intro, Historic Walking Tour, and Schedule
This summer, spirits from around the world will descend on America’s most soulful city as Tales of the Cocktail returns to New Orleans. For tickets, event schedules and accommodations for this year’s soul stirring time, visitwww.TalesoftheCocktail.com.
THREE BARTENDERS WALK INTO A BAR San Francisco’s Place in Cocktail History By H. Joseph Ehrmann
RELAX, IT’S ONLY WINE #2 Digressions of a Sommelier By Gus Vahlkamp
FACT: Dipsomania refers to an abnormal or insatiable craving for alcohol. drink me
drink me magazine is printed on 20% recycled (10% post-consumer waste) paper using only soy based inks. Our printer meets or exceeds all Federal Resource Conservation Act )RCRA) Standards and is a certified member of the Forest Stewardship Council. Please recycle.
ISSUE 2 EDITOR IN CHIEF: Daniel Yaffe ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR: Bethany Lesko DESIGNER: Tia Hopkins ASSISTANT DESIGNER: Grace Li WEB DEVELOPER: Aman Ahuja COPY EDITOR: Sam Devine
BEER BOTTLE GOBLETS
DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS: Pablo Perez MARKET DEVELOPMENT: Travis Valenzuela MARKET RESEARCH: Ian Boldon CLIENT SERVICES: Ali LaRaia DIRECTOR OF CLIENT RELATIONS: Jerry Chang CREATIVE ASSISTANT: Donald Shield
Ever wanted to drink your beer on draft out of a bottle? Now you can with recycled beer bottle goblets. Glassworkers cut off the bottom of the bottle and reattach it to the neck, leaving you with an environmentally friendly glass so you can have your beer and drink it too.
WRITERS: H Ehrmann, Camper English, Natalie Bovis-Nelson, Gus Vahlkamp, John Henion COVER ART: John Benko www.johnbenko.webs.com, firstname.lastname@example.org PUBLISHER: Open Content OpenContent.tv Eriq Wities & Daniel Yaffe THANK YOU: Janell Moore, David Slade, Sitar Mody, Erin Hunt, Debbie Rizzo, Katie Sweeny, 15 Romolo, Sangita Devaskar, Sacha Ferguson, Skylar Werde ADVISORY BOARD: David Nepove, Gus Vahlkamp, H Ehrmann, Hondo Lewis, Carrie Steinberg, Jeremy Cowan, Genevieve Robertson, Dominic Venegas SPECIAL THANKS: Rachel-Anne Palacios, our amazing Henna Artist www.lastresflores.com www.vivafrida.com
drinking in style
VINHO VERDE Although the term Vinho Verde usually refers to a type of Portuguese wine, the designer Viktor Puscsek has taken the term, literally “Green Wine” to name his redesigned wine bottle. It’s an all in one picnic. The wine label is designed to peel off and transform into two on-the-go paper wine cups. We’re all wondering how we can manage to make a corkscrew out of origami.
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Drinking in Cyberspace: Welcome to the Global Happy Hour By Natalie Bovis-Nelsen, TheLiquidMuse.com
“The Aviation cocktail was like a secret handshake into the club,” said David Wondrich, author of several mixology guides. He was discussing the evolution of online cocktail culture and the resurgence of classic cocktails during the prestigious Beverage Alcohol Resource (B.A.R.) spirits accreditation program. But how does sitting alone in front of a computer, mixing concoctions from the annals of history— and then blogging about it—influence modern-day drinking, if at all?
The return of cocktail culture over the last decade can be attributed to many factors in pop-culture: snazzier marketing by spirits execs; a desperate need for glamour after the “grunge” fad of the 90s; the Sex and the City gals swigging Cosmos and bagging hot men on TV; not to mention the popularity of a little film called Swingers which resonated with the 20-and-30-somethings and sparked a boom in swing dancing. Over the last 10 years or so, we’ve developed a heightened awareness that the swimming pool sized Apple Pucker Martinis– which left us with pounding heads and florescent green tongues – were neither good tasting, nor Martinis. Meanwhile, the “Web log” craze swelled on the Internet, reaching an expanded demographic that older print publications couldn’t entice. The younger foodies and cocktailians didn’t necessarily follow every issue of Wine Spectator or Gourmet Magazine, but they did subscribe to their favorite blogs. Written by people in their peer group who were passionate about quality eating and drinking, the posts provided an immediate, honest, intimate account of the blogger’s experience and opinions. drink me
In April 2006, I jumped on board and started blogging about the Cocktail Culture Renaissance under the guise of “The Liquid Muse.” My musings began to attract
With more people entertaining at home, cocktail blogs are providing a quick-andeasy crash course as to what to drink and how to drink it.
The way people order is largely influenced by what they read online. Restaurant and bar patrons want the best experience and rely on Web sites to help guide them to it. With more people entertaining at home, cocktail blogs are providing a quick and easy crash course in what to drink and how to drink it. At the end of the day, nothing will replace the experience of enjoying a quality drink made by a skilled bartender in a brickand-mortar bar with friends you can actually reach out and touch. However, for those living in a cultural wasteland, there is a never-ending cocktail party online. As the saying goes, its always five o’clock somewhere.
While some bloggers tend bar, many are merely interested in finding better ways to drink. Marleigh Riggins (Sloshed.com) is a graphic designer by trade. She notes: “People reading our sites who had never considered making anything more than a Gin and Tonic at home are having the same sort of ‘hey, I could do that’ revelation I did when I got my first cocktail book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, [which] completely blew my mind and made me a cocktail disciple.” Craig Mruseck (DrBamboo.com) along with Gabriel Szaszko (Cocktailnerd. com) and Rick Kaiser (KaiserPenguin. com) are a few of the founders of a weekly online cocktail party at Mixoloseum.com. This live chat takes place every Thursday at 7pm EST, with bloggers making drinks and discussing them in real time with some participants as far flung as Europe and Australia. Discussions can also be downloaded
“The spirits industry has begun to embrace cocktail bloggers,” says Ted Haigh (aka: Dr. Cocktail). “In a word, it is working…The benefit to the industry is a more genuine, heartfelt promotion of the product at hand…As a result of the Web, we as individuals get to make skewering commentary on distilled products. This serves to improve the quality of the beverages we get here and now.” The revised edition of Haigh’s book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, includes a section on drink bloggers and their role in digging up the cocktailian past.
and read later. As the hours wear on and several libations have been enjoyed in cyberspace, one can almost hear the occasional slur from the keyboard.
I began to realize that there was an entire community of cocktail bloggers on the Web; it was an arena to glorify or crucify products and trends, and a forum to swap recipes. Paul Clarke (CocktailChronicles.com) kicked off his now infamous Mixology Mondays, inviting a different blog each month to host an online cocktail party to which other bloggers could send recipes and photos. Clarke also heads up the Tales Blog (TalesBlog.com), which chronicles the Tales of the Cocktail festival in New Orleans.
Photo by Robert DeBusschere
a following, and soon national magazines were reaching out to me asking for cocktail-related articles. Spirits companies soon caught on and product samples showed up at my door, accompanied by requests for reviews on my site.
Recession Proof W I L L B O OZ E W E AT H E R T H E S T O R M ?
“Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.”
The trend seems so basic: When I got a raise, I went out with co-workers and drank to celebrate. When I got laid off, I went out and drank with co-workers to commiserate. Alcohol seems recession proof. Digging deeper, the numbers tell a much larger story about the industry’s immunity to recession, a story that suggests a much more complex series of trends.
enio hn H o J y
Alcohol’s durability in a down-turning market cannot be looked at as the sum of all of its parts. Spirits, wine and beer paint very different pictures: Beer seems to be the most recession proof of the three due to its relatively limited price range. The consumer that is accustomed to buying an eight dollar six pack of microbrew isn’t offered enough cost-saving incentive to trade down to a sixer of Pabst. In fact, the cost difference is so minimal that many people are actually trading up on beer, boosting craft and microbrew businesses in this recession. In 2008 alone, craft breweries gained 5.8% of the market share while domestic and import breweries missed their sales goals.
Conversely, high-end spirits and wine are feeling the pinch because the difference in price between a good bottle of scotch or wine and an average bottle is sometimes as much as twenty or thirty dollars. The price difference gives downtrodden wine and spirit drinkers the incentive to lower their standards, and/or trade down so they will have enough money left at the end of the month to pay their electric bill. Some more than others – I’m back to the shelves of $4 wines at Trader Joes… As much as trading down may seem like common sense, it is a surprising role reversal for many consumers. During the economic slumps of the 1970s and ‘80s, and in our current
recession, some Americans actually trade up because alcohol is considered an affordable luxury. While people respond to hard times by sacrificing their vacation or new car, they can compensate for these losses by treating themselves nicer bottles of alcohol. Look at this trend in relation to the floundering financial institutions and you may find the recently laid off investment banker who drinks his pains away with a $2,500 bottle of Dom Pérignon that’s been delivered to his table with sparklers. Where people choose to drink is also an important part of the equation. Sales in the hospitality industry are actually decreasing, despite being one of the only areas reporting job growth in the nation. New hires are earning less, thanks to smaller tips from frightened wallets, while “customer retention” programs – like longer happy hours and drink specials – are keeping butts on barstools but chipping away at an establishment’s bottom line. These cheaper drink specials also work against the high-end wine and spirits makers who rely heavily on restaurants and bars to not only sell their products, but market them as well.
As much as trading down may seem like common sense, it is a surprising role reversal for many consumers. Although many pieces of the industry are in decline, the sheer volume of alcohol consumed has stayed the course. And at the end of the day, there hasn’t been news of massive layoffs in the California wine industry or the Kentucky bourbon business and I doubt there will be anytime soon. Even with the down-trading phenomena, top shelf wine and spirits are weathering the storm remarkably well. However, if the economy continues spiraling down, I’m going to start making my own moonshine.
As for drinking at home, according to a June 2008 Nielsen’s survey, the declining economy has only had a “mild impact” on American take-home beer, wine, and liquor sales. Only 14% reported that the economic downturn
has had a significant impact on their alcohol purchases, 37% say it’s only had a slight impact, while 48% said they’re habits have not changed at all. Though this change is subtle, during the fourth quarter of 2008, take-home sales of alcoholic beverages plummeted more than 9.3 percent – the largest recorded drop in take-home sales since the U.S. Department of Commerce began compiling data half a century ago.
Websites to drink to: Woot.com is a popular online store and discussion forum featuring a unique offering: they sell just one item a day until it's sold out or replaced with the next day's item. Lesser known Wine.woot.com sells something we got a little more excited about. Every day, the website sells one kind of wine. Some days it's a few varietals from the same vineyards, and other days it's six of the same bottle—always for decent prices. Shipping is $5, no matter how many bottles…but buy quickly. As soon as they run out, you’re out of luck…until the next day, that is.
A string walked into a bar By Sophy Tuttle
A string walked into a bar and orders a drink. "Sorry, we don't serve strings," said the barman.
Craft Beer Tavern
• 24 Taps & 100 Bottles • Hand Crafted Beers • Great Wines • Kitchen Open ‘til 1 am • Gourmet Pub Fare with Beer Pairings
"What? That's discrimination," said the string. So the string walked into the bathroom and tied himself in a knot and messed up his end. He came back out and approached the bar and again attempted to order a drink. "Aren't you that string I just refused to serve?" asked the barman.
"No. I'm a frayed knot."
3141 16th St., at the corner of Albion, San Francisco, CA between Valencia & Guerrero www.monkskettle.com
The San Francisco Style— What Makes Drinks Different Here?
By Camper English
For years it has been easy to sum up the San Francisco style of cocktails: farm fresh. Mixologists in SF and wine country shop at farmers’ markets before their shifts and grow their own herbs, putting freshness front and center in their cocktail creations. Along with this comes a set of specialty skills employed at venues including Cantina, Elixir, and Range: changing drinks to follow fresh produce by the season, month, or day, tasting each cocktail to ensure consistent drinks with varying produce, and even adjusting the sweet-to-sour ratio in drinks as citrus dries out over the course of a shift. But new directions in drink philosophy have shifted the style of local cocktails. At restaurants like Absinthe and Nopa, bartenders employ techniques traditionally found in a gourmet kitchen. Using gastriques and reductions, they are incorporating unusual ingredients
Barbary Flip Official Cocktail of San Francisco Cocktail Week:
1 oz .75 oz .5 oz 1 oz 1
Sagatiba Velha Cachaca SKYY Infusions Pineapple Benedictine Fresh Lime Juice egg white
like vinegar, black pepper, and bacon into drinks. And the mad scientists at venues like the Alembic, 15 Romolo, and Bourbon & Branch go so far as to make their own tonic water and bitters. At bars like Beretta and Heaven’s Dog, mixologists are creating drinks inspired by classic cocktails, mixing Western ingredients like tequila, rum, and pisco, with simple sweeteners like honey, orgeat, and marmalade. There are other stand-alone programs that add to the variety of drink styles available throughout the city. Conduit presents exemplary cocktail and food pairings, while Clock Bar offers unexpected flavor combinations like cognac and pineapple for example But separating bars into competing schools of thought discounts something important about the local cocktail scene: nearly all the top bartenders visit each other’s venues, share information, value education, and collaborate on projects. There may no longer be one easy-todefine San Francisco-style of cocktail, but San Francisco still stands out among top cocktail cities for how closely bartenders from across the board work with each other.
San Francisco Cocktail Week! A Week In Honor of San Francisco’s Vibrant Cocktail Culture, May 11–18
San Francisco Cocktail Week celebrates the dynamic beverage culture of the City by the Bay. Join in the third annual celebration during a week filled with cocktail parties, farmers’ market cocktail demonstrations, one-of-a-kind educational sessions, and a history-filled bar crawl.
Event Highlights Monday, May 11: Kickoff Party hosted at Le Colonial 6–9 pm Tuesday May, 12: The 2009 United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) National Cocktail Competition at Harry Denton’s Starlight Room 5:30–8pm Wednesday, May 13: World Cocktail Day Cocktail Demos Showcasing SF bartenders at CUESA Kitchen at the Ferry Building, 5:30–8:30 pm Wednesday, May 13: After party with special guest bartenders at Elixir, 9 pm–2 am Thursday, May 14: Bar School—A Day of Education. Various seminars across the city taught by industry gurus—Jeff Hollinger, H. Ehrmann, Duggan McDonnell, Neyah White, Dominic Venegas, Jordan Mackay, and others. Learn to make party drinks at Elixir and homemade drink ingredients at Absinthe, find out about Latin libations at Cantina, or attend seminars on gin,
Barbary Coast cocktails, bartending basics, distillation, and more! Please refer to the website for schedule and costs. Friday, May 15: National Cocktail Week Happy Hour at Epic Roasthouse 5–8 pm Saturday, May 16: San Francisco Historical Cocktail Crawl 6pm–close. Take a self-guided tour or follow along with Marcia Gagliardi from Tablehopper. Sunday, May 17: Bay to Breakers. Please party responsibly. Sunday, May 17: Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic with Erik Ellestad, 6 pm–close Monday, May 18: Closing Gala at Jardiniere, 6–9 pm For additional information, a complete schedule, maps for the cocktail tour, and tickets to all events, please visit SFCocktailWeek.com
San Francisco Cocktail Week is sponsored in part by:
You must be 21+ to attend any and all events
Shake all, strain into a champagne coupe, and garnish with three thin-sliced Driscoll Farm Strawberries doused in Angostura Bitters, and serve.
D OA O-
S EN OW T S
S. VAN NES CAP
ALAMEDA ST AV 15TH ST
(DESIGN DISTRICT) RR Y
The Old Ship Saloon 298 Pacific Ave. In 1849 a hole was cut into the side of a beached ship to convert it into a bar. It is the oldest site of a continuously operating saloon in SF.
MISSION ROCK ST
8. The Redwood Room in the Clift Hotel. 495 Geary St. The glammed-up bar still showcases gorgeous wood paneling and a long bar reportedly carved from a single redwood tree.
SOUTH OF MARKET ST (SOMA) 6 M O
4. Hotaling’s Whisky Hotaling Alley at Jackson Street. Read the historic plaque here with SF’s most famous blasphemous post-earthquake rhyme.
6. Maxfield’s Pied Piper Bar at the Palace Hotel. 2 New Montgomery St. The Maxfield Parrish mural behind the bar was commissioned for the 1909 hotel reopening after fires from the 1906 quake gutted the building.
3. Buena Vista Cafe 2765 Hyde St. The Irish Coffee was introduced to America here in 1952, and it’s still the best place to get one.
5. House of Shields 39 New Montgomery St. This venue opened in 1908 with a gorgeous wooden bar that was originally intended for the nearby Pied Piper.
N2N SO D
EM E ON T
A M 8T H
Justin Herman Plaza
GRANT 0 ON STOCKT
MC COPPIN ST
2. Bank Exchange Saloon (now the Transamerica Pyramid). 600 Montgomery St. Pay homage to the site of the invention of the Pisco Punch (available nearby at Taverna Aventine, 582 Washington St.), San Francisco’s most famous drink for about 50 years.
9 10 15 14 11
Anchor Brewing 1705 Mariposa St. This beer and brand dates back to 1896. Sign up for the brewery tour here or enjoy it at your favorite bar.
R BA EM E TH Y B AT T E R E SANSOM
L E AVE N
A Sampling of Historic Drinking Locations in San Francisco
© stockmaps.com/GeoNova Publishing, Inc.
ON BEACH POINT NORTH BAY
The Saloon 1232 Grant Ave. The oldest bar in San Francisco dates back to 1861. Come for the history or to hear live blues played inside.
11. Specs 12 Adler Museum 12 William Saroyan Place. This late 60’s Bohemian activist hangout showcases walrus genitalia and other quirky nautical decoration.
10. San Francisco Brewing Company 155 Columbus Ave. The restored interior of this 1907 saloon includes a urination trench beneath the bar and a 1916 vertical ceiling fan.
F =KL&)1)* @ G J L @ : = 9 ;
12. Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant 5929 Geary St. Here tequila expert Julio Bermejo popularized the Tommy’s Margarita, now known throughout the world. 13. The Tonga Room in the Fairmont Hotel. 950 Mason Street. This grand palace of tiki kitsch opened in 1945 with a lagoon in the middle of the restaurant that was once the hotel pool. 14. Tosca Cafe 242 Columbus Ave. This iconic 1940’s style bar (not actually a cafe) is unlike any other in the city with hot chocolate and brandy as a specialty drink, opera on the jukebox, and diner-style furniture. 15. Vesuvio 255 Columbus Ave. The famous Beat poet hangout next door to City Lights bookstore always feels warm and friendly. 16. Washington Square Bar & Grill 1707 Powell St. This recently reopened home of SF’s political and social power players was beloved by writer Herb Caen.
For more information on these and other historic bars in San Francisco, please visit SFCocktailWeek.com.
Craft cocktails, carnival foOd and an eclectic jukebox seven nights a weEk 15 Romolo Place, San Francisco, 415.398.1359
It’s not just an adDresS.
Three Bartenders Walk Into a Bar By H. Joseph Ehrmann Proprietor of Elixir & Co-Founder of San Francisco Cocktail Week
Jerry Thomas, Duncan Nicol and Marco Dionysos walk into a bar and Marco says, “Is this a joke?” It is a joke and probably not too funny unless you’ve followed San Francisco Cocktail Culture for the last 150 years. The fact of the matter is that these three gentlemen lived in different eras, but all played important roles in the development of our fair city’s dominant footprint on the global map of mixology magic. Fortunately for all of us in modern day San Francisco, their cocktail legacies are still alive. Today Thomas’ nineteenth century cocktail, the Blue Blazer, can still be found lighting up the night. Nicol’s infamous Pisco Punch – first poured in the early 1900s in his Bank Exchange Saloon, where the Transamerica building now sits – is spun a new way every night in bars across the city. Dionysos, however, can actually be found several days a week carefully crafting his famed “Ginger Rogers” at The Clock Bar.
Back in the earliest days of pioneer history in California, adventuring souls brought spirits from faraway lands like Russia, England, Peru and the Monongahela Valley of Pennsylvania; eventually filling the saloons, brothels and courthouses with cups, punches, juleps, cobblers, crustas, fizzes and flips. The extravagance of the Gold Rush brought many an opulent way to this rough and tumble town, perhaps setting the course for a tradition of culinary perfection and debauchery that we just couldn’t quit. In his recently published book Imbibe, historian David Wondrich quotes Hinton Helper’s observations from a mid-1850s stint in San Francisco:
“I have seen purer liquors, better segars [cigars], finer tobacco, truer guns and pistols, larger dirks and bowie knives, and prettier courtesans here, than in any other place I have ever visited; and it is my unbiased opinion that California can and does furnish the best bad things that are obtainable in America.” Whether you call us publicans (favored by the many Irish who came this way), mixologists (popular in the pre-prohibition heyday), or bartenders (preferred by most today), the spirit, dedication and creativity of the person
The deep roots and recent revival of San Francisco’s boozalogical influence on the world are what we celebrate during San Francisco Cocktail Week. And I’m proud to be an active member of a community of culinary professionals that inspires, entertains and learns from the broader pool of bartending professionals around the world. I’m also inexplicably honored to be the eleventh saloonkeeper at Elixir over the spot’s 151-year history.. San Franciscans were taking their tipples on our corner at the
Original Blueprints of Elixir, San Francisco
same time that Jerry Tomas dazzled the crowds at the Occidental Hotel in 1863, while Duncan Nicol took his Pisco Punch recipe to the grave in 1926, and as Boothby took over the Olympic Club during its 1933 Prohibition transition to a “soft drink parlor” (as Elixir did in those dark days). I am proud to carry a torch of community, customer and cocktail service that is so brilliantly passed amongst our city’s finest bartenders on a daily basis. I hope you’ll join me and my cocktailian comrades for Cocktail Week and beyond by attending an event or two, sharing a few cocktails with your friends and having a good chat with a few of the good people “behind the stick” who keep San Francisco at the forefront of a global cocktail renaissance. drink me
Photo by Camper English
Can I get a “Harumph!”?
behind the bar you lean on is as important to what San Francisco is today as just about any other artisan, politician or healer in town; because we are all three in one. We can look to our own turn-of-the-previouscentury celebrity mixologist, “Cocktail Bill” Boothby, as an example. This proud barman worked at the Palace Hotel (amongst others around the Bay Area), served the state legislature, and published the second edition of the quintessential San Francisco cocktail tome American Bar-Tender in 1900. Cocktail Bill was posthumously honored in an August 7, 1930 San Francisco Chronicle article as a key figure in our city’s cocktail fame: “And many were there who had stood face to face with ‘Cocktail Bill’, as they delighted to call Boothby, while his deft hands stirred those ingredients that made San Francisco the Mecca for connoisseurs.”
What whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for. Irish Proverb
Created by Scott Brody & Camber Lay @ Epic Roasthouse 3/4 oz 3/4 oz 3/4 oz
Domaine de Canton Fernet Branca Carpano Antica sweet vermouth Squeeze of Lemon Ginger Beer
Mix all ingredients (except Ginger Beer), shake to chill, strain over and top with the Ginger Beer
Created by David Nepove, Aka Mr. Mojito
Tres Generations AĂąejo Tequila Licor 43 (if unavailable use 1/2 oz Grand wMarnier) Jalapeno 1/4 inch thick lime juice Agave Syrup
Muddle jalapenos in syrup and lime juice, add spirits, ice and shake well. Fine strain over fresh ice in a tall glass.
Julienne of jalapeno
Painting by Nicholas Liebrecht
1 1/2 oz 3/4 oz 1 slice 1 1/2 oz 1/2 oz
Relax, Its Only Wine
By Gus Vahlkamp
Iâ€™ve a friend, another wine service professional, who loves to tell this story and tells it so often, in fact, that some of you have probably heard it, and more than once. I tell it to help educate staff about wine service and, when applicable, to poke fun at New Yorkers. The setting is a crusty, stuffy French restaurant in Manhattan where my friendâ€™s father is taking him to dinner in celebration of his recent baccalaureate (the WASP-y equivalent of the Native American vision quest, without the peyote and its attendant anthropomorphosis). As they sip predinner highballs, the sommelier appears, an imperious figure clinching a monocle in the socket of his good eye, and offers the hidebound wine list to the father, who solemnly passes it to the son, this being the occasion of his ascendancy. drink me
By Donald Gruener drink me
After my friend makes his selection — a fine old bottle of Chateau Gravitas — the sommelier wheels it tableside upon a brass cart, and briskly sets about his craft. He presents the bottle, cuts the foil capsule, removes the cork, and pours a taste for the younger man.
Having seen his father perform the same ritual since his childhood, my friend smells the cork, makes a face (because all corks smell the same: unpleasant), swirls the wine, sniffs it, and tastes. By Aaron Rutten
“Thank you. I like this wine very much,” he says to the expressionless sommelier, who pours for both of them and returns to his lair. Later, his dinner concluded, my friend encounters the sommelier in the hallway outside the men’s washroom. “Excuse me, young man, but allow us to offer you some advice,” he begins, his monocle bulging with refracted condescension. “When we offer you an initial taste of your wine selection, whether or not you like it is none of our concern. The function of such a small pour is only for you to ascertain the integrity of your choice. After you have judged the wine to be sound and free of taint, we serve it to your guests. As for liking it, well, you ordered it. We assume that you like it.” And off he went. Meanwhile, back in the present day and on the opposite coast, such is how my friend still approaches his service, and I fear it will be the stammering end of him.
Bay Area restaurant patrons more often send wine back because they don’t like it than because they find it flawed or tainted.
Sometimes, even, they confuse the two: because I don’t like this wine, there must be something wrong with it. I’ve learned with some difficulty over the years that this notion is foolish to try and dislodge, and those individuals who share it are best treated like sleeping dogs and left alone.
is not only drinkable but is in fact extraordinarily delicious, what then? Therein lies the difference between wine service on the West Coast and pretty much everywhere else. In New York, London, and especially Paris, they'll wonder “If you don’t like this wine, why did you order it?”
So, is it acceptable for you to send back a bottle in a restaurant? If you think you’ve been served a wine that is unsound, you should bring it to someone’s attention; if you’re correct, we’ll replace the bottle with a fresh, untainted one. But, if that someone determines that you are mistaken and the wine you have been served
On our coast, however, if for some reason you don’t like your perfectly tasty wine, we’ll still take it back and find you something more enjoyable. We may try to sell the returned bottle by the glass, but most likely we’ll just drink it, probably while we’re complaining about you to our colleagues. But not too loudly.
Artist's Statement: JOHN BENKO
"My paintings and drawings evolve from automatic applications of color into very cognitive pieces of work. The lines begin to take shape; the shapes begin to take form, sometimes living between the worlds of abstract and surreal. I like to think that I paint how 'nature' would paint itself...with the freedom to evolve and the ability to evolve effectively."
2009 United States Bartenders Guild (USBG)
COMPETITION Watch the USBG’s top bartenders compete for the best Tres Gen cocktail. The Winner will represent the USA at the World finals in Berlin 2009.
Tuesday, April 12th 5-8pm Come at 11am to see local bartenders compete Harry Denton’s Starlight Room atop the Sir Francis Drake Hotel (Powell and Sutter)
Published on May 20, 2009