Cocktail Wax, an essay by Dustin Newsome of Seven Grand

May 22nd, 2012 — 5:22pm

A Google search of the word “cocktail” yields a number of suggested searches, and not terribly surprising that the word itself is third to ‘cocktail dress’ and ‘cocktail attire’ respectively. This surprising revelation only authenticates the greater implication of this word, an idea that it’s greater than the sum of its letters.

The word ‘cocktail’ seems to evoke a sort of per-determined au fait sense of your own experience, it oozes a sense of rebellion and excitement with just the right amount of nostalgia. It’s sexy, and after all, no woman in history has ever slipped into her favorite ‘drink dress’ to drop jaws around town on a night out. Going out for ‘cocktails’ affords us the opportunity to ever so slightly channel our best Humphrey Bogart or Ingrid Bergman, sipping champagne at Rick’s Cafe American.

The resurgence of the old classic cocktails of that forgotten era tap into that very idea of nostalgic and visceral romance, to the time when men were men, and men drank whiskey. The old fashioned is the original American cocktail and is truly a time capsule in a glass. An old fashioned is an experience which starts with the ever so slight twinge of excitement and anticipation upon deciding to order.

Sitting at the bar, you peer past the cornucopia of specialized tools, bottles of aromatic bitters, thick glass jars filled with bright fresh fruit and mint to see the vested bartender selecting a short and stout glass with a thick base and thin walls. A perfectly square cube of sugar bounces off the bottom of the glass like dice on a craps table and is drowned with dashes of aromatic bitters that mysteriously look like they have been around since the dawn of time. A blunt ended muddler crushes the bitters soaked cube and is methodically dragged around the glass, pestling the granulated sugar until all that remains is a dark sandy paste. The barman with rolled sleeves and solid black tie then reaches for the bourbon, splashing it off the bottom of the conical jigger and then with a sharp motion into the bitters and sugar laden glass, just as you would imagine a century past. Large, perfectly cubed ice fight over one another to bathe in the mysterious elixir as the barman peels generous portions of brilliant lemon and orange peel. A long spoon is selected from one of the two jars filled with craftsman’s tools, and is used to elegantly stir the elixir. The barsmith with back straight and focused expression glides the back of the spoon against the wall of the glass using only the wrist, creating a symphony of ice and your budding cocktail. The bartender then picks up the lemon peel, and with one sharp twist, creates a sudden mist of aromatic citrus oil reflecting off the top like diamonds in a sea of whiskey. Once again with the orange peel.

The old fashioned is the corner stone of our cocktail program here at Seven Grand. Cocktails come and go in trends, but those like the old fashioned that have transcended cool and style over more than 100 years are what help define what we know the word ‘cocktail’ to mean to us. Come and celebrate what it is to experience your cocktail along with the art and care devoted to create it at our bar.

Dustin Newsome, Seven Grand

What We’re Reading: DTLA, wine spritzers, summer cocktails, spiked jams and more

May 21st, 2012 — 9:23pm

Downtown L.A.’s many communities live, work, play side by side – Los Angeles Times
No longer the 9-to-5 area it once was, the city this week hosts NBA and NHL playoffs while small bars and eateries serve new residents who have poured into the community.

For a downtown once famous for emptying out with the evening commute, the raucous scene around Staples Center and L.A. Live as the Lakers, Kings and Clippers compete in playoff games stands as a testament to how much the central city’s fortunes have changed.

Thousands jam sidewalks. Crowded cafes and bars pulsate with music and laughter. The streetscape is so lively that a group of Christian evangelists descends on street corners with free Bible booklets. READ MORE

It’s Time to Update the Wine Spritzer – New York Times
As much as I love gin and whiskey, my go-to drink at the end of most days is wine. More often than not, it’s just decent, honest, even slightly plonky red, drunk from a highball (stemmed glasses can be a bit of a bother, so I reserve those for when I’m having the really good stuff). But sometimes, particularly as the weather warms up, I want my wine transformed into something a little more festive. Beyond the familiar spritzer (and the Bellini, and the mimosa, and sangria), wine can be a surprising, refreshing component in a mixed drink, and not just the fizzy kind.

Creative bartenders in New York and elsewhere recognize what a versatile player wine — red, white, rosé, flat, sparkling — is. It’s easy enough to mix it with soda and add a squeeze of citrus, but there are innumerable other, more delicious possibilities. And galvanized by stronger spirits (even richly flavorful ones like cognac and rum), a wine-based drink packs a far more powerful punch. I can’t help thinking that these cocktails might have cheered up those ladies in the summer of ’79 a little faster than their spritzers. READ MORE

It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere – New York Times
Twelve Summer Cocktails That Taste Like Booze

Those bottles of premade mixes that line the beverage aisles of supermarkets are the Hamburger Helpers of the cocktail industry: you don’t need ’em. Mixing a good drink requires a bit of care, but anyone can do it. Most real cocktails contain little more than fresh citrus and a few other accompaniments like bitters or simple syrup (boil equal parts water and sugar, just until the sugar melts; store in the fridge, forever). Oh, and enough booze so that you can taste it. Most of these use a stiff pour of alcohol, about a quarter cup, about a third more than the average “jigger.” READ MORE

The Booze Crew – Wall Street Journal
These spiked jams are delicious enough to make you dizzy.
UNLESS YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF DEVIANT, you might opt to keep a safe distance when confronted with whiskey marmalade or brandied black-cherry jam. No sense getting drunk off your morning toast or sending your children to school with spiked PB &Js.

Naughty as they may sound, though, these jars generally contain only a modest amount of liquor. And by the time the goods are bottled and sealed, most of the alcohol has typically been simmered away, leaving behind only nuanced aromas. “That makes it ‘safe for breakfast!’,” said Rebecca Staffel of artisanal preserves maker Deluxe Foods. Or, put another way, by Jessica Quon of Brooklyn’s the Jam Stand: “Sadly, you can’t get drunk off of our jams.”

If sweet fruit spreads seem an odd place to go looking for heft and complexity, consider marmalade’s tart bite or pepper jelly’s heat. Modern jam makers treat aperitifs and spirits as ingredients like any others, and use them with a reverence and care akin to the most diligent mixologist, said Rachel Saunders of Blue Chair Fruit in Oakland, Calif., who has been known to add everything from sloe gin to Austrian pine-needle digestif to her condiments. “You can get flavors from liquor that you really can’t get many other ways,” Ms. Saunders said.

What boozy flavor remains can range from barely announced to aggressively stiff. Each has its best uses, from weekend breakfast to cheese plate to drink mixer. By treading into savory territory, these liquored-up preserves are perhaps even more versatile than their virgin sisters. They can be painted onto baked hams or rolled into roast pork loin; spooned on a ploughman’s sandwich or shaken into a vinaigrette. And their intense perfume breathes new depth into sweets too: Imagine them piped into jelly doughnuts, layered in trifles and cakes and pooled in thumbprint cookies. And of course, there’s always toast.

Distiller Drops Fight in Rum War – Wall Street Journal
PARIS—Pernod Ricard said it would end its 17-year legal battle to recover control of the Havana Club rum brand in the U.S. and instead create a new label, preparing to tap the U.S. rum market should Washington lifts its embargo on Cuban goods.

The new brand, Havanista, will come from the same Cuban distilleries that produce Havana Club for countries other than the U.S., Pernod Ricard Chief Executive Pierre Pringuet said Monday.

Pernod said it decided to create the new brand after its multimillion-dollar battle for the Havana Club brand reached an impasse.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a lower-court ruling that effectively blocked the French company from renewing the trademark for Havana Club in the U.S. because of a law barring the trademark registration of Cuban brands confiscated by the regime of Fidel Castro.

The legal saga began in 1995 when global rum maker Bacardi International Ltd. adopted the Havana Club name for a rum made in Puerto Rico and sold on a small scale in the U.S.

France’s Pernod sued, triggering more than a decade of courtroom battles over the trademark. Bacardi lobbied successfully in Washington for passage of the so-called Bacardi Bill, which ultimately prevented Pernod from U.S. registration of the Havana Club trademark.

Pernod has distributed Havana Club rum in other countries since 1993. The rum sold 3.8 million cases world-wide last year, up from less than 100,000 in 1993. The company had hoped to keep the trademark for the U.S. market in case the embargo was lifted. With 40 million cases a year, the U.S. rum market is the world’s biggest, accounting for 40% of global sales, Pernod said.

“Some people wanted to deprive us from selling Cuban rum into the U.S.,” said Mr. Pringuet, the Pernod CEO. “Well, sorry gentleman, we’re ready.”

While the Obama administration has loosened travel restrictions and the Cuban government under President Raúl Castro has approved economic overhauls, the five-decade-old embargo remains in place.

Fizz This – Tasting Table
A better way to dry-shake
The key to a good egg-based drink, i.e., proper emulsification, can be hard to achieve.

It is sometimes accomplished with a technique called the dry shake, in which the cocktail is shaken first without ice, then shaken once more with ice added.

Even then, emulsification can take forever, as evidenced by the Ramos Gin Fizz. The directions for this classic egg-white cocktail call for excessive dry-shaking of two or three minutes. Consider it the busy bartender’s nightmare.

So it’s no surprise that enterprising bar folk have found ways to cut corners. Here, two of our favorite tips for making your favorite fizz or flip.

The Cat Toy: At a recent Tales of the Cocktail event in Vancouver, legendary New York bartender Audrey Saunders revealed that she adds an (unused) cat toy to the tin before a dry shake. The toy acts like a whisk, helping coagulate the egg’s proteins. Other bartenders have been known to throw the spring from a Hawthorne strainer into the tin for the same effect.

The Sugar Cube: Instead of using simple syrup in her Ramos Gin Fizz, bartender Karin Stanley of Dutch Kills in New York City adds sugar cubes to her tin before dry-shaking, which helps break up the egg and halves the shaking time. She then uses pellet ice to shake further; the small pellets melt faster, thus creating the dilution that would have occurred from using simple syrup.

Get shakin’.

Hard Core Brewing –

Once as common as water in any part of the country with apple trees, hard cider is now on the rebound. For awhile, I’ve been a fan of Warwick Valley’s Doc’s Draft Hard Ciders—especially the pear, which is slightly dry, earthy and loves to be sipped on a sunny day—and I’m happy to report that they are no longer alone on store shelves. A casual walk through a good shop will reveal a growing collection of interesting bottlings. Here are some of my favorites. READ MORE

Introducing the new Seven Grand menu

May 21st, 2012 — 4:02pm

“Whiskey for the people” is the theme of the new Seven Grand menu, and we hope you people enjoy the new drinks! The menu is broken into the following sections:

Old Fashioneds
Whiskey Flights
Whiskey Info
American Whiskey
Scotch Whisky
Irish Whiskey
International Whisky
Non-Whiskey Spirits

It’s a lot of whiskey to take in, so we have posted the menu online for you to peruse at your own leisure.

Or just come into Seven Grand and ask your bartender to make a recommendation based on your tastes. If you catch our Spirit Guide Pedro at the bar, ask him to recommend a whiskey flight for you.

Let us know which drinks you love — leave a comment below with your favorite selection from the menu at Seven Grand, and you could be selected to win a poker chip good for a complimentary drink at Seven Grand (winners chosen at random).