31.7.12

So you want to be a bartender?

I’ve been missing in action for a lot longer than I wanted to be because I’ve been head down into my job juggle. I recently left my job as a spirits representative in order to cut more teeth on the other side of the bar. I found that I’d rather be using spirits than selling them and I’ve been waiting for the dust to settle. I’ve been bartending a bit at a few places around town and I can tell you that bartending is not just some gig that you can decide to take one day and prosper. If that’s what you really think it is, here are my warnings to you:

1. You will bruise--above the knees where your rail is located and on the palm of your hand if you haven’t learned a proper way to pop a shaker (or you continue to put them on too tight).

2. You will wake up in the morning (I mean afternoon) wondering where your morning went. You will also go to get up and realize you can’t move your biceps or thighs.

3. You’ll have more appreciation for evolution and your opposable thumbs. They hurt especially on small hands when wrapped around Boston shakers.

4. You better learn your difference between a French 75, 76, and 77. Your classic cocktail repertoire better consist of an Aviation, Blood & Sand, Last Word, Vieux Carre, and a Sazerac. If you don’t know what an Old Fashioned is and a proper one at that, you should probably think about doing something else. Oh and yes you’ll be asked for a Mojito or Cosmopolitan on the regular but it’s totally okay if you never remember those recipes.

5. Learn how to like Fernet and beer and learn how to hold it. Two items that I would never have ordered at a bar but you will be offered multiple Fernet shots and sometimes it serves the same purpose as a coffee so you won’t deny it. You also better like beer because you sure as hell will want a drink when you’re done and it sure as hell won’t be wine or a cocktail.

6. Learn how to survive on cold food and snacks but if you don’t even have that, learn how to survive on Fernet and beer.

7. Ladies, manicured nails are done forever. Don’t wear tube tops because reaching for tall glassware causes for inappropriate mishaps. Don’t wear white-you will ruin your favorite lace, white top when you accidentally spray yourself with Peychaud’s mist and not your cocktail.

8. Also ladies, if you’re offended by sexual innuendos or conversations about women’s panties or even the possibility of witnessing blatant pornography through a gap in a wooden fence on the patio of the bar you work in (thank you East 6th street), this might not be the job for you.

On a more serious note, I’m a lucky girl to be surrounded by bartenders who are happy and doing a job they love for a living, who devote themselves to creativity and authenticity, and don’t really care what those around them have to say about their choice to live an alternative lifestyle. I appreciate their dedication to bringing people an experience and I’m happy to be surrounded by my people.

23.3.12

Weather Up

I lived in New York for six years and cannot think of a time I spent in Tribeca. I had no reason to. I lived on the Upper West Side and then Brooklyn, spent a lot of late nights out in the East or West Village, a lot of working on the Upper East Side and well, a lot of shopping and eating in between. I did go to a lot of movies in the quiet theatre of Battery Park and well, Tribeca just got lost. My one memory of Tribeca was a long walk from the Financial District to a diner on West 8th and I ran into people I knew standing outside at a bar there and preceded to smoke with said company on the stoop.

Now two years later, I’m walking from the West Village to Tribeca to purposely find an unassuming bar off of West Broadway. I’m looking for Weather Up, the offshoot of the Prospect Heights-located bar opened up by Kathryn Weatherup. For a Friday night, it’s not crowded. Signage doesn’t exist and when you’re this tucked away in Tribeca, this is certainly speakeasy style. You have to know where you’re going in order to get here. There’s no elbowing, pushing, or fighting for a bartender’s attention. The host greets you at the door and gets you your booth for five within fifteen minutes. The staff is approachable and sweet but can obviously handle their bar crowd and did I mention extremely good-looking?

The back bar is admirable and I’m mesmerized by the cracking of large cubes of ice and the tiny girl in their prep corner spot cutting fresh mint at 8:30pm on a Friday. The interior is made to look the inside of a subway station but the ambiance is far from cold. I’m taking a token of singed hair with me from their well-placed bar candles. Words of advice: it’s not poetic to admire an ice program while your hair’s on fire.


Weather Up pays homage to pre-prohibition and does it without taking any shortcuts. What this place does is take classic recipes, most a little lesser known, with quality ingredients and handles them with care. Recipes are measured, products bought are well-made, and the most admired ice doesn’t bruise the final product. It enhances it with clear color and perfect shape.

Weather Up is known for its intense ice program using a Clinebell machine that produces 300 pound slabs of ice every three to four days. The bar then has someone in the basement chiseling away for the final product.

barbados swizzle- gosling rum, lime, simple syrup, angostura bitters

I don’t know about you but it was exciting to see what they did in Tribeca and Brooklyn. I’m just as excited and curious to see what they can do here in Austin and how these New Yorkers will be received when they open up in just a short time.

18.3.12

Absinthe

There has undoubtedly been a resurgence in eating weird and bizarre foods. Everyone that has dreamed of world tours alongside Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain wants to be able to eat pig intestine, duck embryos, and cow’s blood without a wince. I applaud your adventurous nature while I skate the line myself between sparing my own gag reflex and preaching my own sentiment by being as fearless an eater as possible.

Why are these types of foods considered so out there? Why do we have aversions to these in the first place? Taste aversion or having a simple association between a certain food and one singular nauseous experience is circumstantial. It’s not a fear. Is it just simply stepping out of our comfort zones? Why is it the same with alcohol? We have aversions but why are we simply afraid of certain spirits? Why does absinthe get a “bizarre” spirit reputation?

We are just as likely to get sick from an E. Coli breakout in spinach than we are a grasshopper. We’re just as likely to get the same drunk hangover from too many navy-strength rums or gin than we are absinthe. Is it merely the society we live in? Possibly. With so much of today’s society obsessed with the idea of a counterculture or this adventurous foodie syndrome, why are drinks taking a back burner? Why do we dive right in to beef tongue and brains while absinthe still gets drunk in bar spoons, dashes, and in a general fear of the green fairy?

The original absinthe recipe was based on green anise and fennel flavors and used for medicinal purposes. This was done very similarly to juniper concoctions that eventually translated into our contemporary genevers and gins. In the middle of the 1800’s, French troops were given absinthe to subside malaria poisoning and then brought the taste for it back to their home country. It was drunk by all classes as it proved to be a cheap spirit and at one point, more liters were drunk than wine in France. Absinthe was in popular culture to be the drink of choice to bohemians and artists including Edgar Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, and most famously, Ernest Hemingway. Absinthe eventually made its way to the US and gained a place in its own Belle Epoque in the city of New Orleans. This time period famously instituted The Old Absinthe House and the classic cocktail, the Sazerac.

rye whiskey, peychaud's bitters, sugar cube, absinthe or herbsaint.

Where did all these bans and bad raps come from? Similar to prohibition in the U.S. in the 1920’s, Europe found their own temperance movements taking form at the end of the 1800’s where radical conservatives outcried against drunken debauchery. Hallucinogenic portrayals of the drink in art as well as certain scientific studies on rats perpetuated the arguments. In a scientific study, it was concluded that wormwood, a major ingredient in absinthe, had a chemical called thujone and when ingested in large amounts caused absinthe’s undesired effects. The tipping point occurred when a Swiss farmer named Jean Lafray murdered his wife and two children in 1905 after a heavy day of drinking. Although seven glasses of wine, six glasses of cognac, two glasses of creme de menthe, and two coffees laced with brandy were involved, the two glasses of absinthe got the blame. What ensued were formal petitions and the banning of absinthe in Switzerland and then the other European countries followed suit.

In 1912, the US banned any import of absinthe and close to 100 years later lifted the ban in 2007 to allow the distillation and import of absinthe. The FDA will only allow absinthes with a thujone level of 10 mg/kg or lower but it allows some lenience for a lot of imported absinthes.

Officially, the ban has been lifted and we can now import another interesting and bizarre spirit to the market but how do you lift the certain stigma it’s carried?

Luckily for us, we have dedicated scientists and fellow spirits nerds searching for what all the fuss used to be about. People like Ted Breaux who have used their knowledge of science and spirits have compared older obscure absinthes to the kinds that tainted absinthe’s reputation. There were many laced with chemical tastes and the others were full, well-crafted, herbal, and balanced. Nowadays, the absinthes among us are made more with care rather than with older crude techniques. The art of “louching” is what we’ve seen in vintage posters. This is where water drips over sugar cubes placed on a slotted spoon over a glass of absinthe to create a milky effect. Because of better crafted-spirits, this is less needed nowadays as absinthe has become more approachable. St. George in California has even begun distilling their own absinthe here in the U.S. and Tenneyson brings their proof down to 100 to compete with gins and more popular spirits.

chrysanthemum- benedictine, french vermouth, absinthe

In order to begin dispelling your fear, know that drinking a couple bottles of absinthe is just as bad as a couple bottles of cognac. Know that you’re enjoying a spirit of authenticity, history, and a flavor profile that rivals very few other spirits. To be fairly honest, I live in hallucinations of sipping on absinthe at a tiny French cafe in 1890’s with writers and painters of the time but those hallucinations aren’t absinthe-induced, I promise. You might actually have to use your imagination and step out of your comfort zone. For those of you interested in the bizarre, the strange, and drinking alongside the counterculture, this spirit is for you. With all the flannel and thick-rimmed glasses I see, I don’t see why this drink isn’t more popular.

8.3.12

Simply done

I’ll admit it. I've been slacking on the blogger front but not slacking from drinking and eating my way around Austin for the past month and a half thanks to New Job. Because of this, I’m getting to know my taste buds on an extremely personal level. I’ve come of age and feel like I can finally start to differentiate the dishes and drinks that impress me, the ones I can appreciate, and the ones that make me more comfortable in the art of criticism.

I’m a purist. I’ve come to realize that more than anything I appreciate a singularly fantastic ingredient- something from the ground turned into something fabulous because it was made well with care. Then, I can appreciate a person who can take that ingredient and complement it with simple but other singularly fantastic ingredents. I like one dish or drink composed with a fair few flavors that all enhance and not overpower one another. I've lately been overenthusiastic about the art of simple balance. Here have been some of my favorite examples:


Goat @ Taco More

Chicken @ Taco More

Salt & Pepper Flounder @ T&S
Chocolate Cream Pie @ Sugar Mama's
Margarita by Bobby Heugel- tequila, lime, combier, agave for TIP @ The Tigress


16.2.12

Solitude

This week was a solitary week. I’ve spent eleven years in customer service and seven in restaurants. When you live this lifestyle, people surround you at all times from the clientele to your co-workers. Some interactions can be unpleasant, maddening, and appalling. Some can leave you smiling and can even change your perspective on life. Maybe sometimes if you’re lucky, you can return the favor and blow their minds with dry sherry.

I miss it. I’ve been craving social interaction more than I have chocolate ice cream this week. Not that I’ve been hibernating, I’ve been taking walks with my best and her babe, seeing old friends at the coffee shop, and meeting some of my favorite professional colleagues for cocktails but it is surely not the same.

Now I spend a lot of time writing, reading, cold-calling, tasting with strangers, driving my car, running, planning, budgeting, brainstorming, guitar-picking, book-browsing, and sleeping. I know this sounds fantastic and idealistic but it is comforting going to the same space five days a week and seeing your co-workers who you spend more time with than you do your own family. Then you leave the lifestyle and your friends who are in the restaurant industry work... when you don’t.

As I transition to this new life of solitude which I’m sure I will love in a week or so, I’ve had to find comforts in other things. One of them has been getting back into the kitchen and rather than snacking on cheese, marcona almonds, and the quick hamburger, I’ve been varying things up and mainly with a little help from my friends:

5.2.12

Nostalgia

I was looking for the right word recently to describe how nostalgic I can be. Nostalgia isn’t quite the word as I don’t yearn to be somewhere in the past, I just tend to be sentimental about my position in time and space. For instance, I love when a couple years down the road in a relationship, lovers are finally able to talk about the agonizing first dates or the previous unrequited love. Or realizing that someone you know well now was having a conversation with your best friend’s husband halfway across the country before you even knew them. I tend to over-think things but I recently went through my old blog and was reading some posts I wrote over a year ago when I first moved to Austin. I wrote this one after I bought my first book on classic cocktails:


After this past week, I can’t help but laugh after reading that post not having any idea I would have a job representing the most interesting and unique liquor portfolio in Texas. I also laugh at the last line not having any idea what I would actually mean when I said I was beginning my foray into heavy drinking. Although I did have a hard time transitioning, this past week, the work and the perks made me realize how lucky I am as my current job requires me to be at places like the San Antonio Cocktail Conference and requires me to taste some damn good liquors with their importers and distillers.

Tasting through Bittermens line of bitter liqueurs at Haddington's with Janet and Avery themselves. I'm a sucker for the citron sauvage myself:


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Getting to watch Eric Seed’s under 17% sales pitch. It’s not difficult when the line-up looks like this. Heavy drinking means zucca and tonics at 11 am and that’s okay:


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The Mezcal Mule at Esquire Tavern was my first drink of the conference and the first drink of my royal rookie mistake. My advice is not to drink too much on night one of a cocktail conference…
 

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…especially when you have to stand around at the Virtuoso tasting tables for eight hours at nine am the next day:
 


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Tasting and loitering with David Suro of Siembra Azul when it’s all said and done:
 


I really wasn't lying about the heavy drinking.

26.1.12

Calm


I’ve been putting off a new blog post. I don’t like excuses but I’ve been quite busy getting well-acquainted with my new job, new car, and trying to come to terms with the Fino afterlife.

I had some trouble adjusting to new sleeping and eating schedules and I missed my co-workers. Luckily, I quickly came to the realization that sometimes my new job just might require me to eat and drink better than I have before. I've also maintained the friendships after all of the information overload and mourning. I still also managed to snap a couple pictures here and there when I've remembered that I have a blog and that I enjoy writing for it.

Visiting Houston at Contigo:

mm, mezcal in the texecutioner
mm, meatballs
 Catching up with girl-friends over lunch at Kome:

sashimi lunch
sake cheesecake

Still not giving up on your 1am dates with your guy-friends:

eel buns! chicken skin buns! pho buns!
 There will be plenty more where that come from.