StarChefs.com at the 2010 Manhattan Cocktail Classic

by Katherine Martinelli with Zac Overman and Emily Bell
Vicky Wasik
July 2010

Table of Contents

Drink Punch and Be Merry
Dave Wondrich

Hotel Bars and the Men and Women Behind Them
Elayne Duke, Charlotte Voisey, Joel Medrington, Brian Van Flandern, and Cameron Bogue

When It’s Cocktail Time in Cuba
Phil Greene and Charlotte Voisey

Glasses & Tools: How Do You Choose the Right Glass for a Drink?
Dale DeGroff

Cocktail Royalty: The Martini Family
Angus Winchester

Spice: The Fennel Frontier
Tad Carducci and Paul Tanguay, the Tippling Bros.

Booze Biz 2.0 - Beyond Slinging Drinks
Jason Littrell, James Moreland, Gianfranco Verga, and Dushan Zaric

Mastering the Art of Bartending: Everything you Need to Know Before Even Picking up a Bottle
Simon Ford, TJ Lynch, Aisha Sharpe, Gary Regan, and Dushan Zaric

The 50+ workshops, seminars, and tastings at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic were the place to be this May for any libations-loving mixologist, dedicated cocktail-consumer, or educated oenophile. The sessions offered cocktail aficionados a taste of everything from interactive workshops to history lessons, with a whole lot of sampling and sipping in between. StarChefs.com couldn’t make it to all 50 events, but we did our best to damage our livers and absorb the knowledge, advice, and history on offer. Here, a glimpse at the highlights.

Drink Punch and Be Merry

with Dave Wondrich

From hot to cold and sweet to spicy, mixology guru and historian Dave Wondrich led participants through the history of punch with some refreshingly illustrative and drinkable examples along the way. While punch began as an upper class drink in the 1700s, by the end of the century the lower classes—who were then in the habit of drinking gin straight—discovered that their favorite spirit tasted remarkably better mixed with other ingredients. And so the punch trend was born. By the end of the 18th century, the punch repertoire expanded to include whisky, rum, gin, cognac, champagne, and even milk. Wondrich pointed out that punch was never supposed to be a cocktail; it was designed as a large-portion, low alcohol, smooth, easy-drinking beverage. And of course the classic decorative punch bowl didn’t come until later, when punch of all varieties became a staple drink at special occasions.

Image FiveHotel Bars and the Men and Women Behind Them

with Cameron Bogue, Elayne Duke, Joey Medrington, Sean Muldoon, Brian Van Flandern, and Charlotte Voisey

Representing hotel bars from around the world, this session’s panelists went through the fascinating history of famous hotel bars and the innovations that made them shine. They demonstrated some of these techniques, like The Dorchester’s method of “throwing” a martini in which a cocktail is poured at a great height from one tin to the other to get aeration and a velvety mouthfeel. Among other highlights and historical tidbits was Sean Muldoon’s tale of discovering the last bottle of the 17-year-old Wray and Nephew Jamaican rum that Trader Vic used for his initial Mai Tai at The Merchant Hotel in Belfast. Muldoon and co. mixed the long-shelved spirits into Mai Tais using the original recipe and sold them for £750!

Image TwoWhen It’s Cocktail Time in Cuba

with Phil Greene and Charlotte Voisey

Maybe it’s the fact that the country is political forbidden fruit for Americans, but we tend to have an idealized, nostalgic view of Cuba from its pre-Cold War heyday as an exotic, vibrant vacation land brimming with refreshing cocktails (not to mention great jazz and banned cigars). In this session, Charlotte Voisey relieved attendees of any such misconceptions with a realistic portrait of Cuba in its nitty gritty actuality. Voisey and Phil Greene touched on the history of Ernest Hemingway and the daquiri in Cuba and shared rum-based recipes from the country that continue to influence mixologists today. 2010 Los Angeles San Diego Rising Star Mixologist Eric Alperin even made a cameo to offer his two cents on the ongoing and often misunderstood legacy of Cuban culture and its cocktail history.

Glasses & Tools: How Do You Choose the Right Glass for a Drink?

with Dale DeGroff

In this packed seminar mixology godfather Dale DeGroff covered the history of glassware, from the Phoenecians to the Venetians. The King of Cocktails even brought his personal glassware collection to demonstrate the appropriate glasses for martinis, daiquiris, old fashioneds, highballs, and Irish coffees. Following his history lesson, DeGroff brought up volunteers to mix classic drinks from his repertoire, including the Blood and Sand, Whiskey Sour, Pisco Sour, Martini, and Irish Coffee. History class never tasted so good.

Image ThreeCocktail Royalty: The Martini Family

with Angus Winchester

In this informative session, martini maven Angus Winchester explained in thorough detail what a martini is and is not. Drink of choice for super-spies like James Bond and liquid-lunchers alike, the martini is a cocktail for over and under-achievers of all stripes and salaries. But with an increasing array of bastardizations and sugary departures from its pure roots in vodka or gin and vermouth, the martini may be at risk of losing its footing among the classic cocktails of pure mixology. Using a family tree graphic and Power Point, Winchester came to the rescue, going through the history of the martini and identify its most popular variations—both shaken and stirred.

Spice: The Fennel Frontier

with Tad Carducci and the Tippling Bros.

The promise of spice has spurred some of the world’s great explorers to push the boundaries of the known world. And whether we were discovering them, hiding them, or exploiting them with imperialist abandon, the resulting spice routes have been the cause of great cultural and historical upheaval. So it’s no surprise that Tad Carducci and the Tippling Bros. started with a history of these divisive, decisive spice routes before delving more deeply into the role of spice in the world of spirits and mixology specifically. Especially in bitters-and-liqueur-happy modern mixology, where fresh ground black pepper or nutmeg (once more valuable than gold) are seasoning staples, spice couldn’t be more important to the craft of drink making—and the varieties of spices behind the bar is only expanding.

Image FourBooze Biz 2.0 - Beyond Slinging Drinks

with Jason Littrell, James Moreland, Gianfranco Verga, and Dushan Zaric

Although mixologists may not always want to focus on the über practical (read: dry) details of running a business, this thorough, information-packed session highlighted the dos and don’ts of a successful bar. From building relationships with distributers and calculating the best ratio of liquor cost per drink (it should be 20-25%) to the necessity of maintaining a PR budget, exploiting the power of social media, and encouraging good service among employees, the panel of seasoned professionals shared enough advice to get any serious mixologist on the right track.

Mastering the Art of Bartending: Everything you Need to Know Before Even Picking up a Bottle

with Simon Ford, TJ Lynch, Aisha Sharpe, Gary Regan, and Dushan Zaric

The main takeaway from Mastering the Art of Bartending was that a bartender’s number one job is to make people happy, not tipsy. This may seem obvious, but it’s something a few too many bartenders overlook. Gary Regan pointed out that it’s all about intention, and that, to a certain extent, guests trust their bartenders to look after them. The panel also emphasized that there’s a difference between confidence and ego behind the bar and it’s an important distinction to maintain. The days of shaker-juggling, “Cocktail”-style hot dogging are long gone, and it was really only charming when Tom Cruise did it anyway. Empathy, and not showmanship, is key, the panel said. Notice the details about your guests, like what time of day it is when they tend to come in, what their posture is on a given day, and who they’re with—especially if they’re alone. Noticing details like this will enable you to be attentive to their needs and earn the kind of friendly trust—and heavy tipping—that makes life behind the bar so worthwhile.