Category Archives: 2015

My Top Cocktails Of 2015

The next few weeks will be full of lists and year-in recaps getting linked on Facebook and every o social media site.

And I’m not going to lie — I love that crap.

Somewhere in all the listicles, recaps and prediction pieces, I’ll inevitably learn something — which makes all the digging around in the dirt worthwhile.

In the meantime though, here’s a quickly-cobbled together recap of five memorable cocktails I was served this past year:

Brazill’s On Main
Westfield, N.Y.


It’s a rare treat to go out and get waited on by someone when most of your nights are spent working in the service industry.

I’ve had two really nice meals at Brazill’s On Main in Westfield, N.Y. — and I’ve had several great drinks! The owner is an older guy and every time I’ve been to the place, he’s been the one behind the bar mixing up drinks.

The Manhattan pictured above was expertly done, and had an extra little kick of flavor — maybe from the (what I assume were) house-made cherries. My father-in-law and I were picking up subtle notes of cinnamon and other flavors. All-in-all an excellent night and a memorable drink.

Mint Julep
Bag & String Wine Merchants
Lakewood, N.Y.


I’m so lucky to have Bag & String in this area.

If you’re new to the blog, I mention them a lot.

This past Derby Day the staff had prepared a pitcher of Mint Juleps to promote the many bourbons available at the shop.

I swung by for a quick sip and also to shoot the above pic, as any reason for a blog post is reason enough! And I’d mentioned to Betsy (pictured) that Jeffrey Morgenthaler had a dynamite recipe for mint syrup… Which can be found online here.

Dill Breaker
Vera Pizzeria
Buffalo, N.Y.


Dill-infused mezcal with ginger syrup and lime. Had this on Halloween. Strange and tasty. Very worthwhile.

Spin The Bottle
Buffalo Proper
Buffalo, N.Y.


Alright, so… Obviously this is a picture of me, but the drink I’m holding is my “Dealer’s Choice” cocktail. You see, on the menu at Buffalo Proper is something called “Spin The Bottle,” where you tell your bartender or waitress what sorts of things you like — and they craft you a drink of their choosing.

For this drink I mentioned amaros (amari?) and even mentioned Fernet-Branca and Campari, but what I got was something black and bitter, but juicy — maybe made with Aperol or Ramazzotti? I’ll never know. But I enjoyed it. Immensely.

Arendell Room
Moorehead City, N.C.


Another “Dealer’s Choice” drink with whiskey and amaro/bitter being the only things I mentioned. 

I’ve made plenty of Boulevardiers for myself in recent years, but sometimes a drink just tastes so much better when someone else is making it for you.

Other Drinks Worth Mentioning 

•A black walnut drink at Cheshire in Rochester made with Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters.
•Old Fashioneds at Good Luck with Robert Simonson.
•Champagne before Phantom of the Opera.

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Negroni Week Kick-Off

Negroni Week has arrived!

Here’s the first portion of our chalkboard at Forte the Restaurant: 

And the 2015 coaster: 

And my 2015 t-shirt:  

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Assessing What’s On Hand

Making Memorial Day Weekend drinks. Assessing what’s on hand and what I can make with the limited ingredients. 

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Filed under 2015, BRANDS, HOLIDAYS

Rochester Cocktail Revival

It was a whirlwind weekend for my wife and I, with the Rochester Cocktail Revival being the focus of my Saturday and Sunday.

The Rochester Cocktail Revival started mid-week, but I wasn’t able to make it to the city until early Saturday morning.

The first event I attended was Robert Simonson’s seminar on the Old Fashioned cocktail. A lot of the hour spent at Good Luck restaurant for the event was Simonson giving an overview of his book about the drink, with all of us mixing our own Old Fadhioned as he spoke.

It was a great way to start my Saturday. Simonson was funny and informative. Dale DeGroff was in attendance. I drank the most delicious Old Fashioned I’ve ever had and I made it myself, for the most part. All the ingredients were laid out for us when we arrived and we just simply had to assemble the drink. I even waited around after the seminar and hassled Simonson for a photo, which he was nice enough to pose for and some fellow RCR-goers took for me.

The full roster of the festival’s events is still online here. Check out what you missed. And a pic from the Old Fashioned seminar is included in the collage below:

After the Old Fashioned session at Good Luck (and my wife’s visit to the Memorial Art Gallery), we headed over to Abode where RCR swag was being sold and the Queen City Shaken & Stirred “pop-up shop” was located.

Abode was by far one of our favorite places of the trip. I bought bitters and browsed the cocktail books by writers who were speaking at the festival. And we bought a vintage piece of artwork they were selling at the shop. Plus it was by far some of the best customer service we got all weekend. The women working at the shop were helpful and pleasant and the shop just generally had a fun and lighthearted sort of energy. 

Afterward we went to the Lilac Festival and then later had drinks at Cheshire — the French 75, Black Walnut Toronto and Cosmopolitan’s Delight.

We spent a short few minutes at Good Luck, but the place was bustling and had a more intense energy level than we were looking for on our Saturday night. I had a shot of Fernet-Branca and a free shot of Mister Katz’s Rock & Rye, which was the brand sponsor of the night.

On Sunday I attended “The Art Atop The Tipple” seminar at Pour Coffee Parlor while my wife was at the George Eastman House. 

All weekend long my family kept asking me: “An hour-and-a-half long seminar on garnishes!?”

Yes, an hour-and-a-half long seminar on garnishes.

During the event I tasted champagne which the bartenders running the seminar had turned into a solid, gelatinous form resembling the size and shape of caviar.

It was an interesting event that was definitely worth attending, and the four speakers talked about traditional garnishes, artsy flourishes, molecular mixology, herbs, plants, growing seasons, simple syrup, shrubs and more. There was even an ISI Whip demonstration.

Afterward, my wife and I ate brunch on Park Ave. and then went to the “Farm To Shaker” tasting event at Black Button Distillery.


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Things To Drink In 2015

I’m a sucker for gimmicks and I have a tendency to get over eager about new products and flavors and quirky packaging among other things. What can I say, I’m an easy mark.

The House of Angostura Amaro di AngosturaAll that aside though, there are a number of new boozes to be released this year which I’m going to make it a point to try.

There were surely new things I tried in 2014, but there was also a whole lot I missed out on — such as Angostura’s new amaro and that Canadian Club rye which was only released in Canada.IMG_6924

There were plenty of others for sure, but those are just the first two which came to mind. But enough about the past, I’ve got my eyes set on tasting these following bottles in the near future — and by all accounts, they’re surely more attainable goals. At least, I won’t have to travel to Canada to taste any of them!

I love Woodford Reserve. And I love rye! So this news about the new Woodford Reserve Rye really set me off. Truthfully, I’d heard a little bit about it some months back when I was at a competition in Pittsburgh, but the January announcement of the new product means it should soon be on store shelves.

Woodford’s rye will be$38 for a 750-ml. and will initially launch in 15 U.S. markets. The rye will be 45.2% abv and will be the third permanent extension in the company’s Portfolio.

Jim Beam has two new boozes about to be released, a rye and a bonded bourbon.


The rye is a relaunch, reformulating the brand’s Jim Beam Rye as Jim Beam Pre-Prohibition Style Rye. The rye will be 90-proof and will offer “a bolder, spicier taste profile,”according to the company.

Jim Beam Pre-Prohibition Style Rye will cost around $23 for a 750-ml.

IMG_6925Similarly priced, Jim Beam Bonded will be a 100-proof Bourbon aged four years, and made in accordance with the “Bottled in Bond Act” of 1897.

Jim Beam Bonded will be produced in a single distillery season at a single distillery and is said to to feature spicy oak notes with a background of vanilla and caramel.

What is “Bonded” booze?

The phrase “Bottled In Bond” is something I saw on several bottles of liquor for a long time before I finally went and looked up exactly what it meant.

As with so much else in the realm of whisk(e)y, “Bonded” booze is simply a set of requirements which a producer must follow in order to earn the term.

Bonded booze must come from a single producer in single season at a single distillery. It must be aged in a Federally-bonded warehouse and it must be bottled at 100 proof. There’s more to it than that though, so give the phrase a Google and read on:

•History of the Bottled-in-Bond Act•

One purpose of the Bottled-in-Bond Act was to create a standard of quality for Bourbon whiskey. Prior to the Act’s passage, much of the whiskey sold as straight whiskey was anything but. So much of it was adulterated out of greed — flavored and colored with iodine, tobacco, and other substances — that some perceived a need for verifiable quality assurance.

The practice was also connected to tax law, which provided the primary incentive for distilleries to participate. Distilleries were allowed to delay payment of the excise tax on the stored whiskey until the aging of the whiskey was completed (and the supervision of the warehouse ensured proper accounting and the eventual collection of the tax).

This combination of advantages led a group of whiskey distillers, led by Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. (creator of Old Taylor bourbon), joined with then Secretary of the Treasury John G. Carlisle to fight for the Bottled-in-Bond Act. To ensure compliance, Treasury agents were assigned to control access to so-called bonded warehouses at the distilleries.

IMG_6930It seems like there’s barely a week that goes by without some new flavored being launched by one brand or another. That said, Svedka piqued my interest with the announcement of its new grapefruit jalapeno flavor — which will cost $12.99 for a 750 ml. The flavor is intended to capitalize on consumer interest in fusing sweet and spicy flavors.

The company is also launching a new 100-proof variant, which will cost around $15.35 a 750-ml.

Shanken Daily News and Good Spirits News are where I first saw these new boozes reported, and they’re where I took all the above info for this post. The images came from a Google images search.

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Predicting The Future: Booze In 2015

The nail is in the coffin! The year 2014 is dead — dead, dead, dead!IMG_6110

But before it was buried and put to rest though, a number of sites online took a minute out from writing retrospectives to look ahead at what we might see in the coming year.

What will be the big trends of 2015? I’ve got a half-dozen links posted below. And there is some overlap of ideas between them, especially when it comes to simply pointing out the extension of trends which already hit the ground running in 2014.

Still, there are quite a few interesting ideas proposed in these lists:

• — Link
•Details — Link
•TechTimes — Link
• — Link
•The Spirits Business — Link

And then there’s this
• International Food & Restaurant Consultants — Baum & Whiteman Report

I separated the above link from the others because it is largely a report about food. That said, there is also a lot in the report about bars and booze. It’s a 19-page document, not a web list like all the other lists. And there’s a lot of interesting ideas and predictions proposed.

Can’t handle 19 pages? Here’s an article about the report:
•Gothamist — Food Trends In 2015

Everyone wants to be ahead of the curve.

Me? I can’t wait to be completely blindsided by something awesome this coming year, whether it’s just a new flavor, product, brand or technique — or whether it’s something that turns the whole industry on its ear.


Filed under 2015, LISTS, TRENDS