Category Archives: BEST BARS IN AMERICA

Combining Coconut Milk & Coconut Water

For the past few days I’ve been working with coconut milk at home, trying to get something worth using in mixed drinks at the bar.

I wrote a post yesterday about experimenting with coconut and wanting to find a substitute for store-bought syrup.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’d seen on Best Bars In America that at least one bar uses a mix of half coconut milk and half coconut water.

That’s half-and-half coconut milk and coconut water on the left, and just reduced coconut milk on the right.

 

I’m not completely sold on either of these. I don’t think they’re the answer. The half-and-half mix doesn’t taste strongly enough like coconut, and it leaves a chalky aftertaste in your mouth. Similarly, the reduced coconut milk doesn’t have enough sweetness and mixed strangely in cocktails.

I also made a simple syrup with the reduced coconut milk — not the half-and-half.

The sugar in the syrup brought the sweetness up a lot, but the milk also thickened when cooled — to the point of pudding and almost like Jello. I added a splash of coconut water and shook it vigorous and it works alright in drinks so far, but I’m not happy with it as a finished product.

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Experimenting With Coconut

Summer is starting to feel like it’s here and now that Negroni Week is over, my mind has started to wander toward tropical rum drinks.

At the bar where I work, we do a big trade in Mojitos every summer. We have a dozen different flavored rums… And we bring in watermelon every summer to muddle with the mint and lime. That’s easily one of our most popular drinks this time of year:

  
One thing which we don’t have at the bar where I work is a blender. Thats’s never really been a problem though. We are not a beach bar. We’re located in the city of Jamestown. And moreover, all those typical neon-colored cocktails served at beach bars are always so sugary and sticky sweet — which I’m guessing comes from all sorts packaged syrups and canned juices.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think there is a proper place and time for all that. One of the best drinks which my wife and I enjoyed on our honeymoon in the Dominican Republic was something called a Miami Vice — which was equal parts piña colada and strawberry daiquiri. It was exactly the sort of thing we wanted at the time, while sitting by the resort pool looking at the ocean.

Aside from that there was a lot of straight rum and a local liquor called Mamajuana.

In the city though, those sorts of beach drinks aren’t an immediate “go-to” for us or any of our customers. We do serve plenty of rum drinks — like daiquiris, Hurricanes, fake Caipirinhas and Dark and Stormy by the ton. But without a blender, we’ve never seen need to bring in any cream of coconut — which is probably why anytime anyone wants anything with coconut flavor, that flavor always ends up coming from Parrot Bay.

So, yeah, that’s where I found myself this past week — with an interest in making tropical drinks that no. 1, aren’t blended and no. 2, don’t use Coco Lopez or any other store-bought syrup or mixer.

Add to all this the fact that a recent episode of Best Bars In America showed a bar which used its own house coconut mix — comprised of equal parts coconut milk and coconut water. 

Seeing that half-and-half blend behind a high-end cocktail bar got me thinking about what I could do to incorporate coconut into our drinks (while still only shaking them and not incorporating a blender).

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Esquire’s ‘Best Bars’ Visits D.C.

Esquire’s show “Best Bars In America” aired its second episode of season two last night.

I wrote a rambling little blog post about the show’s return last week, which is only a few scrolls back but I’ve linked it here for convenience.

This week, Sean and Jay went to Washington, D.C. — a place I’ve been a few times, but never as what I’d call a “curious drinker.”

My trips to Washington, D.C. were early in my college career, and early in the 2000s. I remember specifically feeling pretty badass at the time, as I’d “graduated” from rum-and-Cokes to Jack-and-Cokes.

That phase of my drinking life was relatively shortlived, but still, I can’t help but chuckle — as it’s the first thought that comes back to me when I think about “Drinking In D.C.”

The gentlemen of “Best Bars In America” had a much different experience, which is what we want from the show and what we’ve come to expect.

The episode was as varied as they come, with Sean and Jay visiting a bar that’s stood the test of time, a local brewery’s tasting room, a current hip mixology joint, an Irish pub, a historic distillery and a dive bar just to round things out at at the end of the night.

At one point, the duo goes to a whiskey bar which houses a collection of bottles that boggles the mind — literally wrapping the walls of the room. After downing a whisk(e)y a piece, the owner takes Sean and Jay to the speakeasy-style bar that’s housed in the place’s basement.

  

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen bars-within-bars on this show, and I’d wager that this wasn’t the last time we’ll be seeing such bars this season.

Though the concept of “secret speakeasies within other bars” keeps popping up on the show this season (and even last season), the trend has been building for at least a few years.

I bring this up only because I happened to be flipping through an old issue of Market Watch today and right there in the monthly “Bar Talk” section was a feature on “Subterranean Speakeasies.”

BARS WITHIN BARS:

Like so many other bars and restaurants, the place where I work gets sent copies of Market Watch magazine each month. Market Watch is an industry trade magazine which deals with the business side of bars as well as the craft/mixology and service components. 

 

The article I mentioned above was published in the October 2012 issue of Market Watch.

In the piece, the writer, Seth Porges, quotes folks from New York City; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco and Omaha. More specifically, these are the people quoted in the piece and the bars where they work:

  • Justin Koch, of McCoy and Tomoka, in New York City.
  • Derek Brown, of The Passenger Bar and Columbia Room, in Washington, D.C.
  • Erik Rechborn-Kjenerud, of Dalva and The Hideout in San Francisco.
  • John Eric Sanchez, of Sip Bar & Lounge and Hancock Room, in San Francisco.
  • Binoy Feenandez, of Indian Oven and I.O. Speak in Omaha.

The article is interesting from an ownership/management standpoint, as it lists benefits of having a second bar located in a larger bar — it can take pressure off the busy bar, be a weekday moneymaker, allow for field-testing of new drinks and offers the ability to do high-end craft cocktails on a smaller scale than the bigger bar.

On last week’s episode of “Best Bars,” the hosts went to Wilson & Wilson, a speakeasy located within Bourbon & Branch in SanFrancisco. More than just a speakeasy within a bar, Wilson & Wilson has a detective agency theme — which makes me so envious of anyone who has ever gotten to drink there.

More than anything, seeing all these “bars-within-bars” have me dreaming about one day owning a building, not rentingone  — so that I can use the full extent of the space for multiple themes. Until then though… I’ll end this blog post the same way the guys ended the DC episode of “Best Bars,” with a parting shot:

  

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Esquire’s ‘Best Bars In America’ Is Back For Season Two

My Wednesday night ritual of watching “Best Bars” has begun again!

Other shows I can let sit unwatched on the DVR for a week or two, but “Best Bars In America” is something I not only love to watch right when I get out of work on Wednesdays — but also study.

The show is in its second season on the Esquire Network, and the first episode of Season Two aired last night at 9 p.m. — with Jay and Sean visiting San Francisco for the second time.

I’m not going to lie — I’m a sucker for anything booze-related. The same with writers and journalists. Chances are, if you get me started watching a movie about a bartender or reporter — I’ll have to finish it. And in the absence of “Best Bars,” during the recent lull between Season 1 and Season 2, I tried to fill my time with other shows. I caught up on Esquire’s “Brew Dogs,” which I love equally — and I developed a fondness for National Geographic’s travel booze show “Chug,” though that one always leaves me wanting more.

The New York Times wrote this piece a while back about what they called the current “renaissance” of booze-related television programming.

I’m not sure if I’d call it a renaissance exactly. There certainly were a bunch of shows that popped up all at once and while I haven’t watched all of ’em yet, I do have my favorites.

For my money though, “Chug” is pretty decent. I like Zane Lamprey a lot. And the one-off feature on the Smithsonian Channel called “United States Of Drinking” was alright, but doesn’t need to be its own series. I’ve still got all the episodes of the Travel Channel’s “Booze Traveller” to plow through, and this is exactly what I was writing about earlier — other shows will sit unwatched on my DVR for great lengths of time, but “Best Bars In America” is too enjoyable for me not to watch it right away.

I realize this might not be the case for everyone. You’ve gotta like the host or hosts of a travel show to want to stick with it. I felt sort of indifferent to the “United States of Drinking” one-off and stuck with it only because I’m a fiend for such programming.

With Esquire’s “Best Bars” though, I not only like the hosts as hosts, but my ideas of funny are in line with their style of comedy. The show is pretty slickly-produced and I enjoy the soundtrack that accompanies the video roll of all the bars they visit, as well as their choices of bars in general. I’ve got a dual love for both shots-and-beer bars as well as high-concept craft cocktail bars. I got into this industry as a barback/DJ at a rock bar in a college town and now tend bar at a fun and eclectic upscale place in Jamestown.

But I’m beating around the bush, blathering about the music and bar selection on the show. What’s really important is the focus they put on people in the industry — whether they be ultra-creative bartenders at craft joints in big cities or people who’ve been working the stick all their lives in watering holes all across America. Despite the differences in what specifically they’re each serving, there’s a commonality between all the bartenders shown — they’re not just serving drinks, they’re all serving people.

Also, this:

And sorry that those aren’t clickable links. That’s just a screen capture I grabbed from Tender’s Twitter post.

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Portland’s Rum Club

My wife just recently returned from visiting her sister in Portland.

While she was there she sent me this picture:

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Yep, during her trip she and her sister made a stop at Portland’s Rum Club — which was especially exciting for because that’s the one episode of Best Bars In America that she’s watched.

As a souvenir she brought me back this:
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Souvenir menu from the Rum Club!

Now to try and recreate one or two for my own consumption here in Western New York!

Visit Rum Club online here!

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Filed under BEST BARS IN AMERICA, COCKTAIL RECIPES, DESTINATION COCKTAILS, ESQUIRE NETWORK, PORTLAND

Whiskey Smash On Esquire Network

I know, I know… I write too much about the show “Best Bars in America” on the Esquire Network.

I said it last time though and once again this week, the show’s cocktails overlapped with what I’m mixing up in my personal life.

Case-in-point: The Whiskey Smash.

I just posted the other day about a smash I’d been making. And last night one of the guys got served a smash at a hotel bar.

Here’s the cocktail as it was served last night at Bemelmans Bar:
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Whiskey Smash
•Maker’s Mark
•Fresh Lime Juice
•Simple Syrup
•Dash of Bitters
•Garnish with Mint

Last night’s episode was focused on hotel bars. The theme of next week’s episode will bedive bars.

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Seelbach On Esquire Network

Another new episode of “Best Bars in America” will air tonight on the Esquire Network.

I’ve written about the show before. In short though, the show follows two comedians (Jay Larson and Sean Patton) as they go from city to city checking out the list of “Best Bars In America” as published by Esquire Magazine.

This was my reaction last week when a Boston bartender served the guys a Seelbach Cocktail:
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Saaaaaayyyyy whhaaaaaaaattt!? Seelbach!?

One of the things I’m starting to love about this show is that every episode there tends to be some cocktail which was recently on my mind.

I first tasted Peychaud’s Bitters last August when a package I ordered from Buffalo Trace arrived. I immediately began making Sazeracs for myself at the bar, but in recent months I stumbled upon the Seelbach Cocktail and the Vieux Carre.

Now, I love the area in which I live. In fact, part of this blog’s focus is to celebrate Western New York. That being said, the only way I ever get to taste any “Classic Cocktails” is by making them for myself.

In the last year or two I’ve really been educating myself on old drinks and the new methods which have sprung up around the classic cocktails revival. So, of course, my research is going to overlap with what people are doing in bigger cities.

It’s no surprise then that a show like “Best Bars” would feature a “Jungle Bird” or a “Seelbach.” Still, I’m just happy to see it. As I said, I’ve only ever gotten to taste these cocktails when I’ve made them for myself, so it’s educational to watch as another bartender constructs them and talks about them.

Here’s the Imbibe recipe:

Seelbach Cocktail
•1 oz. bourbon
•1/2 oz. Cointreau
•7 dashes Angostura bitters
•7 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
•Champagne

Stir ingredients briefly over ice, strain into a chilled champagne flute, top with Champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.

Here’s the cocktail as they served it at Drink in Boston last episode:
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Oh, and I can’t believe I haven’t yet mentioned: 14 dashes of bitters.

New episode tonight on the Esquire Network. I’m not sure of the city, so if you know… Leave me a comment.

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