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December Issue
In this issue
  • The Raven's Caw
  • Understanding Sparkling Wine/Champagne - Wine X Magazine
  • Absolut Alpine Summit
  • Infused, Enthused, and Full of Spirit - by Robert Plotkin
  • Plymout Gin's White Lady
  • Tableside Champagne Bucket and Holder
  • Dear Dan,

    Welcome to the December Bar None Drinks Newsletter.

    Wow, another year has flown by. I hope you have all enjoyed this year of the Bar None Newsletter. Next year looks to be bigger and better than ever.

    I'd like to thank everyone who contributes to the monthly features. I'm also looking forward to new partners to work with in 2007.

    To you, all of our readers, I'd like to say Happy New Year and thanks for supporting us!

    Please be smart, don't drink and drive! Enjoy the following recipes in moderation and take a cab if you need one.

    Please forward this email to a friend who might enjoy our newsletter.

    Cheers!


    Dan Hutchinson

    The Raven's Caw

    Raven's Caw Logo Image

    As the holidays wind down and the new year is upon us, I am reminded of traditions gone by, the relics of our past that we no longer acknowledge. Some of these are forgotten because of disuse or because we can no longer remember why, others still go by the wayside for a lack of money or time. None of these concern me today. No, this day I am getting reminiscent of a tradition that is no longer celebrated because, well, to put is succinctly, it was really, really stupid.

    This story starts back a few years when I was in college. (I hesitate to provide the exact date, mostly because I dont want to admit to myself how long ago it really was.) One of my buddies had, on a recent trip to Disneyland acquired for our bar one of those really tall 4 oz. shot glasses. This particular shot glass was pirate themed, with measurements marked, incorrectly, on the side. I say incorrectly because we tested them, and the glass held about half as much liquid as it said it did. Being a group of hearty young men and women, we all sat and marveled at this new-to-us beverage conveyance and tried to get up the courage to actually use it.

    After much boasting and the like, two of our group (well call them Dave and Jim) agreed to do a full shot. It wasnt me, to be sure; I avoided the prospect by falling back on having to drive. Playing the role of bartender, I cracked a bottle of vodka and poured the first shot. Well, that much alcohol (we still believed it held 8 oz.) can cause even the biggest drinkers to waver, and the rest of us were treated to a few minutes of You go first and No, you go first. Finally, Dave picked the thing up, and after a deep breath, he chugged it. Its amazing how fast four ounces of vodka goes down. After watching the aftermath, Jim tried to back off his commitment to do the shot, which led to many challenges of his courage and manhood, and after some time, I poured Jim his shot and he dutifully drank it down.

    It was the beginning of one of our little bars time honored traditions. After consuming a full shot, Jim and Dave quickly decided that they didnt want to do it again any time soon, but the glass was too good to pass up. Knowing that it wasnt a deadly trick, we contrived to set up the Vodka Challenge. It went like this...As the perennial bartender at our bar, I would be sure to start each party with three bottles of vodka: one empty, one sealed, and one for drinking. The empty bottle was refilled with four ounces of water, just enough to fill the shot glass.

    At some point in every party, especially at ours, where we had a permanent open-door policy, someone with a few beers in them starts getting rowdy, boastful or just generally socially unpleasant; in short, theres bound to be a jerk at the party. When one of our core group (The Hosts) found that we had a jerk in our midst (The Challenger), it wouldnt be long before the call for the Vodka Challenge was heard. It was almost always that Jim issued the challenge, and Dave was set up as the champion.

    Id always pour Daves glass first. Id reach under the bar and pull out a bottle of vodka that had just enough alcohol in it to fill the glass. Dave would make a big show of gathering the courage to do the shot, and for observers not in on the joke, he was rather convincing. After a minute or so, hed pound the shot and replace the glass to the table, convincingly. Id rinse the glass quickly and reach for the bottle, which was of course now empty. The Challenger thought, momentarily, that hed gotten away from the challenge, but then Id pull out the second, sealed bottle from beneath the bar. Id crack the seal and pour our mark a full four ounces of Russias finest (which, in reality was perhaps the worst vodka ever) and wed all stand, expectedly, as the Challenger realized that he had do drink this to save face. Wed always picked our victim so that we could be assured that they wouldnt back down from the challenge, and we were never disappointed.

    The aftermath was always the same. The Challenger would spend the next half hour or so sitting quietly on the couch while the party went on around him, just feeling the burn of the vodka and noticing that Dave continued on without a problem. Wed wait fifteen minutes or so before wed tell the mark, usually Wow, you handled that vodka almost as well as Dave handled his water! It was a particularly good feeling, to see his face drain as he realized what we meant. About half of our vict...er, Challengers never came back, but some of them actually got the message and actually became good friends.

    Perhaps I wasnt fair, calling it a stupid tradition. It certainly did its job, and provided a small group of people a whole lot of entertainment. In retrospect, Ive found that the technical term for our shot glass is actually bud vase, a contrivance not for imbibing, but rather for dressing up a table. Go figure.

    To everyone reading, I wish a very Happy New Year, and I hope that your adventures bring you many exotic boozes. This is the Raven, signing off in 2006, Ill see you in 2007.


    Stroh's Rum Bottle Image This is where Id usually review a drink, or in some cases a book, but I cannot tell the story of the Vodka Challenge with out at least mentioning our one female challenger. We hadnt called for the challenge because she was being particularly rowdy, but rather because she was drinking everything I could throw at her. If you remember the March 06 issue, I described Strohs rum, 160 proof and enough to floor me with one shot (Im a big guy); she was taking full shots of the stuff. It became a challenge to me to find something that would at least cause her to pause, and the only thing I could come up with was the Challenge.

    Needless to say, it didnt work. At less than 1/3 my size (yeah, you read that right) this girl could drink any person in the bar under the table and not bat an eye. What was worse is that the next day at work she was just as bubbly as ever. Hangover? What hangover? Weve lost touch, but Tricey, my hats off to you.


    About The Raven

    J.T. "Raven" Centonze has been a long time student of the art of alcohol. Initially interested in keeping conversation at parties, his love for alcohol grew to an obsession in college. In between his real job of running a college bookstore or two, he is the part owner/operator of his own winery. He bartends at private parties which allows him the innovation of many new, unique drinks.

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    Understanding Sparkling Wine/Champagne - Wine X Magazine

    Champagne Glass Image

    What's the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine? Well, basically nothing. Then why the different names?

    As a French Chablis is called "Chablis" when it's produced in the Chablis region of France, sparkling wine -- named so because of its effervescence (trapped carbon dioxide) -- is called Champagne when it's produced in the Champagne region in the classic methode champenoise tradition. Like Chablis, which in France is made from the chardonnay grape, the name Champagne has been bastardized around the world. (I guarantee a Chablis made in the United States is anything but a chardonnay!) Sparkling wines, labeled Champagne and made from inferior grapes and through bulk processes, are abundantly sold around the world. These wines, which neglect the true quality and classic method used by winemakers in Champagne, France, are often sweet (to hide defects) and inexpensive. Because most consumers think of any sparkling wine beverage as "Champagne," cheap imitations are often considered quality standards. These standards often prompt adverse reactions -- headaches, product discrimination, etc. -- which is unfortunate, unjustified and the primary reason why sparkling wine isn't a more common table beverage.

    Methode Champenoise

    Of the three methods of producing sparkling wines, methode champenoise is the most costly and labor- intensive.

    In France (and most New World wine-producing countries), the two primary grape varieties used in making sparkling wine are chardonnay and pinot noir. All sparkling wines are harvested at lower sugar content than those picked for typical table (still) wines. This is done for two reasons: first, to obtain a lower alcohol level in the base wine (wine made from the initial fermentation and also called the cuvee). Since sugar is converted to alcohol during fermentation, the lower the sugar level in the juice, the lower the alcohol content in the finished product. Winemakers need this lower alcohol content in the base wine because they induce a second fermentation later in the process, which produces additional alcohol. The second reason for harvesting grapes at lesser sugar levels is to obtain a higher total acidity (and lower pH), which gives the wine its crispness and longevity.

    Grapes, basically, start out as balls of acid. During the ripening process, acids decrease and sugars increase. For still wines, winemakers seek the perfect balance of sugars and acids. For sparkling wines, they're more concerned with sugar levels, which are usually desirable between 17 and 19 percent (brix) at harvest. Table wine sugars are around 22 to 24 brix at harvest.

    After grapes are harvested, the juice is pressed off and sent to containers -- either oak barrels or stainless steel tanks -- for a first fermentation. After the wine has spent the desired time in the vessels, the various lots are blended together to form the assemblage -- the final blend of grape varieties and/or lots for the finished wine.

    At this point the tirage -- a mixture of sugar and yeast -- is added to the base wine. The wine is bottled with a bidule, a small plastic cup that fits in the bottle's neck and into which the sediment eventually settles. A crown cap, like ones on a bottle of beer, secures the opening.

    It's in the bottle that the second fermentation takes place, as the tirage produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. (The reason sparkling wine bottles are thicker than regular wine bottles is because they must withstand the pressure of the carbon dioxide -- up to 90 pounds per square inch.) This process, along with aging that takes place during the second fermentation, is called en tirage. Temperature is very important during second fermentation. The cooler the fermentation, the finer the bubbles in the finished product. So wines en tirage are often stored in very cool cellars.

    After the second fermentation is completed, dead yeast cells break down (a process called autolysis) and settle to the bottom or attach to the side of the bottle. At this point the winemaker determines how long the wine will remain en tirage, or on the yeast. (Extended yeast contact gives wine a "yeasty" characteristic plus added complexity of secondary flavors.) Once the desired time has passed, the sediment must be removed without losing the sparkle, or carbon dioxide. The first step in this process is riddling or remuage.

    In the olden days, riddling was done by hand. Bottles were placed on a pupitre, or riddling rack -- an A- frame device with holes into which the bottles' necks were fitted. Bottles were then placed at a slight angle to start, and a mark was painted on the bottom of each so the riddler -- the person responsible for turning the bottles -- could gauge how far to turn the bottle each day. Each day he gave the bottles a slight turn, increasing the upward angle of the bottles' bottoms so the sediment would collect in the neck (in the bidule) against the crown cap. This process continued until the bottles were almost perpendicular, with the necks facing down.

    Today, riddling is automated. Bottles are placed in large bins that are attached to gyro-pallets, which complete the task more easily and in greater volume. Each day the machines' timers trigger bin rotation, thus increasing the angle. The bottles eventually end up perpendicular.

    To reiterate, the trick is to remove the sediment without losing the sparkle. To do this, the bottles are placed neck down into a freezing brine bath (bac a glace) for a short stint, thus freezing only the bottles' necks. At this point disgorging, the expelling of the frozen plug of sediment and any solids still left in the wine, takes place. With the carbon dioxide trapped inside, the bidule is basically shot out of the bottle from the pressure when the cap is removed. A dosage -- a tiny amount of wine, sugar and/or brandy -- is quickly added to replace the wine expelled during disgorgment, and the bottle is corked and secured with a wire hood.

    The dosage determines the sweetness -- or dryness - - of the sparkling wine. The greater the dosage, the sweeter the wine.

    Transfer Method

    Grape growing and harvesting for this process is identical to the methode champenoise. However, grapes used in making sparkling wines with this method are often lesser quality sparkling wine grapes, such as chenin blanc or riesling.

    As with methode champenoise, the wine is pressed and transferred to containers for fermentation. After the base wine is made, it's transferred to bottles, with sugar and yeast added during the transfer. The second fermentation takes place in the bottle, as with methode champenoise. However, after the second fermentation is complete, the sparkling wine is filtered -- a quicker, less expensive process that often strips the wine of some of its flavor characteristics -- instead of riddled. After filtering, the wine is returned to the bottles, with the dosage being added. It's then secured with a cork and wire hood.

    Charmat Bulk Process

    This is the quickest and least expensive way to make sparkling wine. Once harvested, the grapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks. When the base wine is complete, it's transferred to pressure-secured tanks and the tirage added. These large tanks act as one big bottle, so to speak. Once the second fermentation is over, the now sparkling wine is filtered and bottled, with the dosage being added. (Often the dosage for these wines is sweet, hiding some of the wine's flaws due to inferior grapes used.)

    Terms

    Autolysis - The breakdown of yeast cells inside the sparkling wine bottle after the second fermentation is completed; contributes to wine's complexity and elegance.

    Blanc de Blancs - Wines made primarily from chardonnay or other white grapes.

    Blanc de Noirs - Designates white or slightly blush wine made from red grapes, usually pinot noir; blush color comes from pigments in red grape skins. See rose.

    Bottle Aging - Allowing sparkling wine to acquire complexity, depth and fine texture while in bottle; also known as aging "on the yeast," "sur lattes" or "en tirage."

    Charmat (shar-MOTT) - Also called "bulk" process. Refers to sparkling wines fermented in large tanks.

    Cuvee (kew-VAY) - Bblend of many still wines into a well-balanced sparkling wine.

    Cuvee de prestige - A winery's most thoughtfully conceived, carefully crafted sparkling wine.

    Disgorging or degorgement (day-gorj-MANH) - Process by which sediment collected in sparkling wine bottle neck during riddling (see riddling) is frozen and expelled prior to final corking.

    Dosage (doe-ZAZJ) - Liqueur (sugar dissolved in reserve wine or brandy) added to sparkling wine just before final corking; finishes sparkling wine and determines sweetness level.

    Mousse (moose) - Ring of foam around top of glass of sparkling wine.

    Non-vintage - Refers to sparkling wines with cuvees containing wine from previous vintages.

    Press - Equipment used to gently separate grape juice from grape skins.

    Prise de mousse - French term describing effervescence created in sparkling wine bottle during second fermentation; also called "birth of the champagne."

    Punt - Dome-shaped indentation in bottom of wine bottle.

    Reserve - Term often used to designate special wine.

    Reserve wine - Wine from previous vintages added to cuvee for consistent quality and style.

    Riddling or remuage (reh-mew-AHJZ) - Art of turning and tilting bottles of sparkling wine to ease sediment into bottle necks. See disgorging.

    Rose (row-ZAY) - Champagne or sparkling wine with slight pink tint often coming from addition of red wine to cuvee.

    Still Wine - Wine without bubbles.

    Tirage (ter-RAZJ) - Process of bottling cuvee with addition of active yeast and sugar to induce second fermentation; carbonation produced via second fermentation trapped in bottle, producing effervescence of sparkling wine.

    Vintage (vin-tazj - just kidding) - Year particular grapes are harvested.

    *****

    This article has been submitted by the great people over at Wine X Magazine. Wine-X has agreed to bring you a new article every month from their amazing writers. It was written by Darryl Roberts. If you like living out on the edge and feel the Gen X isn't well represented in the world, have a really good look at Wine X magazine. They've also given us an offer you can't refuse if you're looking to subscribe: $15 for 6 issues. To experience the full magazine, Subscribe Here.

    Absolut Alpine Summit

    Well, what can I say? Our star Absolut contact is leaving the premises. Its last call and she's all out of alcohol.

    Nicole is moving on to greener pastures and won't be able to provide these wonderful recipes.

    I wish Nicole all the best in her new ventures.

    However, all is not lost! I have the name of Nicole's coworker who I hope has the same sized liver. So the recipes should continue!

    Now, on to the December recipe.


    ABSOLUT ALPINE SUMMIT THE ABSOLUT ALPINE SUMMIT Cocktail Image
    • 1 part ABSOLUT CITRON
    • 1 part ABSOLUT MANDRIN
    • 1 part ABSOLUT RUBY RED
    • 1 parts Lime Juice
    • 2 parts Simple Syrup

    Shake all ingredients with ice and pour on the rocks in a tall glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

    Being served this holiday season exclusively at Pre:Post

    Pre:Post
    547 W. 27th Street
    Manhattan

    Search Bar-None's Drink Index for:

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    Infused, Enthused, and Full of Spirit - by Robert Plotkin

    Our latest Rober Plotkin article explores how much you can make by offering house-infusions to your menu. Robert is the founder of BarMedia.com

    For the past 17 years, Robert Plotkin, has been working to provide beverage operators with the right career tools they need to attain success. He has created the best management systems, tools, software and books available in the hospitality industry. His nationally acclaimed products are in the offices and behind the bars of the most successful hotels, nightclubs, restaurants and hot spots worldwide.

    Infused, Enthused, and Full of Spirit Image

    Consider how many other bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and lounges your clientele have to pass before they get to your front door. Are you sure that serving them the same old bill of fare is in your best long-term interests?

    Anyone can make drinks; few make drinks special. Pizzazz behind the bar entails doing something unexpected, something out of the ordinary. The sales axiom Dont sell the steak, sell the sizzle! is especially true at the bar. Infusions are among the hottest trends in the bar business. The secret to their success is that theyre a fun and profitable way to create something exciting, something the competition cant duplicate. When you create a winning infusion, theres only one place to get it.

    The Russians were the first to hit on the notion that vodka tastes better if given a flavor or two. You can turn virtually any spirit into something extraordinary by infusing it with everything from kiwis to sun-dried tomatoes. Steeping spirits is straightforward and uncomplicated. The process involves marinating fresh fruit, among other things, in large containers filled with spirits. In one to four weeks, the fruit will infuse the chosen spirit with flavor, color, aroma and loads of appealing character.

    One of the keys to marketing fruit-infused specialties is to put the jars somewhere conspicuous on the back bar, for example, with big neon arrows dangling overhead. Drawing attention to the containers is part of the mystique. People will naturally be curious and ask questions about it. Anticipation will build such that by the time its ready to debut, there will be more than enough demand.

    Any clean, presentable glass jar, ranging in capacity between 2 quarts and 2 gallons, able to maintain an airtight seal will work. Many establishments use glass jars fitted with a brass spigot near the bottom from which the staff can draw off the precious contents. One option is the Fuzsi, an attractive, acrylic container made by Tooter Promotions. Its specifically designed for infusions, and works exceptionally well.

    It should come as no surprise that the biggest name among the many devotees of steeping is Russian- giant Stolichnaya. Their line of Stolar Fruit-Infused recipes are fabulous and an excellent jumping off point. The Planetary Pineapple is made with 5 freshly cored pineapples and 2 pints of fresh raspberries; Venus Vanilla calls for 4 pounds each of halved and pitted nectarines and peaches, and 2 whole vanilla beans; Stolar Watermelon is made with one, thinly sliced watermelon and 4 pounds of papaya chunks; and the Spice Satellite gets into orbit with 8 pounds of cored and peeled hard apples, 5 sticks of cinnamon and a pound of raisins. Each recipe is steeped with five liters of Stolichnaya vodka, or better yet their lemon-infused Citros.

    Using a spirit that is a minimum of 80-proof will kill any bacteria present in the fruit. It is important, however, to keep the fruit completely submerged in spirits at all times. Once the fruit become discolored, its best to remove it and start afresh. The Roxbury on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, one of the first establishments to make a popular success of steeping, top off their jars of Roxbury Pineapple with vodka nightly and make fresh batches weekly.

    At the Cable Car, an 1890s saloon in Singapore, Manila, and Yokohama, Japan, infusions have caught on in a big way. The two most popular are the Vodka Royale, a blend of Chambord and vodka steeped with red apples, oranges, limes and lemons, and the Rock & Rye, made with fruit, vanilla beans, rock candy, and Old Overholt rye whiskey. This recipe would also work well steeped with Makers Mark bourbon, Jack Daniels, or Canadian Club, to name but a few.

    The possible fruit combinations are limited only by availability. Among the more interesting and exotic selections are mandarin orange, kiwi, star fruit, honeydew, mango, papaya, watermelon, black currants, dried apricots, raspberry, and cranberry.

    Sugar, simple syrup, or sweetened fruit juice is most frequently used to sweeten infusions, the amount of which is dictated by taste and personal preference. Expect the fruit to also add a natural sweetness to the spirit. In addition, raisins are maraschino cherries act as natural sweeteners. Steeping tart citrus frequently requires the use of a sweetener.

    Exercising Freedom of Choice
    Theres no reason to limit yourself to using fruit to infuse spirits with unrivaled flavors. A Sonoran Spittoon is made by steeping six liters of gold tequila with a dozen each of jalapeo peppers and Serrano chilies. Red and green chilies can also be used. The infused-tequila is then mixed with horseradish-laced Bloody Mary mix and served with a scallion and fresh shrimp garnish. The Bloody Mary La Verdi, a featured specialty at the Allegria Restaurant in New York, is made with Finlandia vodka infused with sun- dried tomatoes, jalapeos, lemons and a helping of horseradish.

    Tucsons Caf Terra Cotta promotes a fabulous signature drink dubbed 110 In The Shade, a fiery blend of jalapeo-infused vodka and iced Modelo Especial Mexican beer. Popular at London hotspot, Dog House, is the Prairie Oyster, a specialty made with chili-infused vodka, Tabasco and oyster sauce. Down the road at Sohos Garlic & Shots, the featured attraction is a concoction made with garlic-infused vodka.

    One of the highlights of any trip to Santa Fe is dinner at the Coyote Cafe, where one of the specialties of the house is the Brazilian Daiquiri. The drink is superb, and the only place you can get it is the Coyote Cafe. The heart of the signature drink is a dreamy infusion made from Bacardi light, dark, and Select rums steeped with pineapple, vanilla, and brown sugar.

    Your choice of spirits is as broad as your back bar. Rum is the featured spirit in the Barrier Reef, an infusion made with pineapple, melon and maraschino cherries. Also experiment steeping rum with vanilla, kiwi, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon or a mix of papaya and mango.

    Another delicious infusion is the Lemoneater, which is made with gin, lemons and limes. Gin also tastes great infused with oranges or mint. Aside from steeping tequila with chilies and peppers, try infusing it with citrus fruit, such as oranges, lemons or limes. Bourbon marries well with the flavor of peaches, apricots and cherries (include the cracked pits), and brandy is compatible with nearly every aforementioned flavor.

    The creative possibilities of infusions are boundless. As further evidence consider the Alien Secretion, made with Midori, Malibu rum, and cored pineapples, the Canadian Reach Blossom, a blend of peach schnapps, Canadian Club, oranges and peaches, and the Beefeater Deli Gin, an innovative infusion made with Beefeater Gin, sun-dried tomatoes, large olives, fresh garlic and dill, and large red onions.

    Need more convincing that featuring a house-infusion makes good business sense? Infusions are highly profitable, yielding profit margins between 88-92%, just slightly lower if premium spirits are used.

    High demand at great margins its an unbeatable combination.


    Original Guide to American Cocktails and Drinks

    The professional bartender's first choice in drink guides!

    This new edition spans the breadth of mixology, including all the classic cocktails, infusions, the hottest Cosmopolitans, colorful and refreshing tropical drinks and ice cream drinks, Martinis and Manhattans, coffee drinks, plus much more. It also includes a great index, plus reviews of the hottest liquors and liqueurs on the market today. Improving since 1998, now in its 5th edition.

    Plymout Gin's White Lady

    A great New Years Cocktail created around 1929 at Harrys New York Bar in Paris.


    Plymouth Gin White Lady Cocktail Image White Lady

    • 25 ml Lemon Juice
    • 1tbsp Egg White
    • 50 ml Plymouth Gin
    • 25 ml Cointreau

    Fill mixing glass with ice. Add the Plymouth Gin, Cointreau, lemon juice (freshly squeezed) and egg white (optional). Shake well and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with Lemon Zest.

    
    
    
    

    Tableside Champagne Bucket and Holder

    Tableside Wine/Champagne
    Bucket and Holder TWCBH

    $32.95
    Classy stainless steel, wine/champagne bucket and holder offers space saving convenience and tableside beauty.Designed to quickly and easily hook onto all tables with or without tablecloths.Price include both the bucket and holder.

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