Bandwagoneering: White Manhattan

Talking to bartenders, reading blogs, I’ve noticed a trend rising over the last several months: you take a classic whiskey cocktail, such as the Manhattan or the Sazerac, and you swap in an unaged (“white”) whiskey for the brown stuff. If you’re not familiar with white whiskies, they’re nothing more than unaged whiskies that have never seen a barrel. Spirits straight from the still, and cut with water (in most cases). You can say they’re like moonshine, but the key point here is that moonshine by definition is illegal. As my friend Matthew Rowley wrote, “If you can you buy it in liquor stores, it’s not moonshine.” (For more information: Simonson, Clarke, Cecchini, Rowley)

Legal white-dog whiskies, as the unaged stuff is called, aren’t exactly new to the market. I tasted some at Tales of the Cocktail in 2008. But they’ve been slowly gaining ground among bars and consumers since then and started making their way onto cocktail menus. As I mentioned above, one popular way is to replace the brown spirit in a classic whiskey drink with a white. I wanted to riff on this, but instead of using a white dog, I chose Bols Genever. It’s a favorite in our household, a malty botanical spirit that’s the precursor to modern gin. Bols tastes uncannily like whiskey, so I thought it would play well in this type of preparation. I tried a couple of different ideas–one using Carpano Antica vermouth–to re-create the Manhattan cocktail, but this is the one we liked best.

Nieuw Amsterdam

Stir, squeeze on lemon peel, discard peel.

Nieuw Amsterdam

photograph © Jennifer Hess

ToTC 2010: Tentative Schedule

Next week brings the 2010 edition of Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, and I thought I’d run down some of the events I’m planning to attend. My calendar’s booked pretty solid this year, although I have a bit of downtime near the beginning. I booked my sessions back in March, when I was a working bartender, so bear in mind that some of my choice had a lot to do with bringing cocktail ideas back to a restaurant bar. I could be upset about that, but as John Lennon wrote, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Onward. Some of this is subject to change. Most of the seminars are solid, but I might try to move one or two around if I can.

Two years ago, I arrived on Wednesday and left Sunday morning, thus missing one of the seminars I was most interested in, St. John Frizell‘s look at the life of Charles Baker. (He adapted his talk into an article for the Summer 2008 issue of Oxford-American magazine, fortunately, and the text of the piece is online at St. John’s website.) This year, I’m staying through Sunday and leaving Monday morning, also ass-early. Look for my bleary-eyed mug at MSY.


  • Get up ass-early for a 6:30 flight from Providence to O’Hare. After an hour-and-a-half layover, it’s off to Louis Armstrong Airport.
  • Cab to the Hotel Monteleone, where I’ll be crashing out for the week.
  • Probably grab a po-boy and then hit the Tales Tuesday Tasting at d.b.a. that afternoon, which I’m eager to do. I love the d.b.a. bar in New York’s East Village. I would sometimes take an afternoon off work and repair to d.b.a.’s patio with a beer, a good book, and a cigar. I’ve never been to the NOLA d.b.a., and I’m looking forward to it.
  • Then, it’s back to the Quarter for the Tales Blogger reception. Then dinner, somewhere. Not sure yet.


  • First up, one of my working-bartender choices: Liquid Disc Jockey – Controlling the Flow of Any Room. I will probably try to switch out of this, maybe attend Camper English’s seminar on presentations which is at the same time.
  • Next up, the Beefeater Welcome Reception. The 2008 version was off the charts in terms of the amount of food served, so I plan to stuff the heck out of my face.


  • Busy, busy, busy. First up, Botanical Garden, Charlotte Voisey’s look at the use of botanicals in distillation. Another event chosen to enhance my skills behind the bar. This one, though, I’ll keep because it sounds great, even to someone who’s “just” a writer/blogger. Using seasonal herbs and other ingredients in cocktails is my “beat” at Edible Rhody, so I hope to learn a lot that I can bring to the magazine.
  • Then, At Full Sail, the look at overproof spirits with Audrey Saunders and Eric Seed. This one will be popular, I know.
  • After that, Umami in Cocktails, moderated by my friend Darcy O’Neil. Again, a professional-bartender choice, but again, one I’ll keep because I like the topic and it’ll give me writing ideas.
  • Then, another private event, one I hope to be writing about post-Tales.
  • Spirited Dinner will probably follow, although I’ve made neither choice nor reservation.



  • My big moment: Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Rookies. Assuming I don’t stroke out first. I get to share a seminar with the Robert Hess who isn’t my father-in-law? Damn.
  • Blair the Bear’s Tiki Now! I think this one’s close to selling out.
  • Paul “The Godfather” Clarke’s Art of the Aperitif. Great topic for Tales.
  • Then, I’ll probably disco-nap prior to the Bartender’s Breakfast at midnight.


  • A light schedule. Dale DeGroff’s Cognac panel to start…
  • Followed by the Sprezzatura Bartender panel. I want to get the cut of Vadrna’s jib.
  • Then probably just a few last drinks at Carousel with any other stragglers.


  • MSY > CLT > PVD > bed for a week.

Seminar Preview: Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Rookies

Rookie. Newbie. Freshman. Dare I say, virgin? Cocktail enthusiasm continues to grow in the United States as more and more people are developing an interest in craft cocktails. Cocktail bars are spreading across the country, and there are even brick-and-mortar stores now that sell cocktail equipment and tools. So, say you’re a bartender and it’s a slow night. You’ve got a patron across from you who’s finishing up her beer and puzzling over your cocktail menu. “I don’t really know much about cocktails,” she says. “What do you recommend?”

So, hotshot. What do you recommend? And if this patron becomes a regular at your bar, diving fully into the cocktail ocean, how do you help her navigate the shoals?

Tales of the Cocktail 2010 represents a first for me: I’ll be moderating a seminar called Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Rookies.” My fellow presenters–Robert (DrinkBoy) Hess, Adam Lantheaume of the Boston Shaker in Somerville, Mass.–and I will lead a discussion of techniques and tips bar professionals can use to teach the world of cocktails to customers. Whether you’re a bartender, bar manager, brand ambassador, spirits writer, or other bar professional, we hope to have ideas you can use to turn a patron into an aficionado.

Robert will discuss his book, The Essential Bartenders Guide, as well as his work at Small Screen Network, producing video tutorials of cocktail recipes and techniques. Adam will describe the classes he teaches in his store and lead a demonstration of a technique he uses in his Bitters class, in which he provides a flight of martinis, each made with different bitters. We’ll all discuss our own journey from novice to knowledge, we’ll talk about cocktail mentors and gurus, and talk about perfect starter cocktails for newbies. And we’ll take questions and ribbing from the audience. It’ll be a good time, so join us.

Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Rookies
SAT, 24 JULY 2010
La Nouvelle Orleans Ballroom, Hotel Monteleone
10:00 AM – 11:30 AM
$40 (advance), $45 (door)


first batch
photograph © Jennifer Hess

Oh, hey. I knew I left a blog laying around here somewhere. I guess I should breathe a little life into the poor thing again.

Things have been slow around here. I grabbed a couple of rent-a-tender shifts over Memorial Day weekend, doing catering-bartending for Brown University’s commencement and alumni-weekend ceremonies. It was mostly beer and wine, but it was fun and I got tipped out well. Mostly, it keeps me fresh and in front of people.

There’s a lot ahead to look forward to, sitting like a jar of tequila in a cool closet consummating a marriage with strawberries, but it’s hard to talk about stuff that hasn’t happened yet. There’s Tales of the Cocktail, and oh yeah, that’s next month already. I’m moderating a panel there, and I’ll preview that, here, soon. (Can I just admit right now that I’m a little–more than a little, in fact–terrified by this?) In addition, I’m working on something for this blog that I hope will be really cool–not Tales related, but still cool.

My honorary cousin Emily, just published her latest column for Providence Monthly, in which she talked tinctures. (It’s not online, unfortunately, or I’d link out to it.) She even obliquely name-checked me; while researching her piece, she asked me for some advice, and I gave her a few words. She closed out the piece thusly:

[M]y honorary cousin M. induced envy, for instance, when he described plans to use leftover celery cuttings for his own tincture experiment. Clever, clever, M. I can taste it in my gin and soda now. Care to organize a trade?

Oh, what’s this “honorary cousin” business? Just one of the most fun coincidences I’ve ever experienced in my life. Emily, you see, is also a spirits and cocktail columnist in Rhode Island. The odds of this small state having two writers in this niche are already pretty daunting, but here’s what makes it better: Emily, you see, is Emily Dietsch.

And although we’ve both fielded questions about whether we’re related, we aren’t, and in fact have never even met in person. What’s especially remarkable about this is how rare the Dietsch name is in the United States: out of every 1 million people in the U.S., only 30 of us are Dietsches. So to have two of us writing in the same niche, in the same city? You’re more likely to be struck by lightning at the exact moment you contract salmonella poisoning while climbing a tree in Death Valley.

Year Five

Pepe et femmeWith another February sneaking slowly out the door, we’ve reached another milestone at A Dash of Bitters–our fourth anniversary–and with it comes another look back and forward.

Looking Back

When we last celebrated an anniversary, I was feeling a little glum. Unemployment had cruelly struck and I was lamenting my limited prospects for the future. Well, year four turned out rather better than I was expecting it to. No, I didn’t make it to Tales of the Cocktail, but that wound up really the only bleak part of my cocktail calendar. I made three trips to NYC for cocktail events and racked up a lot of Amtrak miles in the process. In April, I participated in the Beefeater 24 Thursday Drink Night at Quarter Bar in Brooklyn (special guests Dan Warner and David Wondrich); in November, I made it down for the Live portion of the Bar Smarts Advanced certification; and in December, I participated in Junior Merino’s Liquid Lab.

I was a judge for Rhode Island’s statewide IronTender competition, which introduced me to some … well, interesting drinks but more importantly to some great new friends. Ted Haigh included me along with some great vintage friends in the latest edition of his Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. Then came the Foodbuzz nomination, which still surprises me.

I became a published cocktail/spirits writer during this last year, with a regular column in Edible Rhody magazine. (Locals should look for the Spring issue to–yes, I’m going there–bloom around March 20.) Speaking of print media, this past year also saw Jen’s mug gracing the New York Times (which has fuck-all to do with me, but hey, I’m still proud of and stunned by that.)

Jen’s burst of fame came as a direct result of her participation in the Food52 website and cookbook project. And just this week, I was startled to see a familiar face in Food52’s Cook Spotlight feature. (Which reminds me, I should post more cocktail recipes to that site.)

Sooooo, yeah, it wound up being a very good year.

Looking Forward

But it’s Year Five that excites me even more: I’ll be moderating a panel at Tales of the Cocktail and editing the official Tales blog this year. (Which reminds me, I should arrange my flight and hotel soon.) And of course, there’s this baby:

cook and brown logo

And some of you may be wanting another update. We’ve been very busy, I can tell you that much.

We’re planning to open in mid-March; the date right now depends a lot on the contractor because we’re mostly set. Our DIY demolition work is finished and we’re ready for the contractor’s team to come in and rebuild the bar and dining room. Nemo and Jenny have hired pretty much the entire staff–cooks, servers, and dishwasher–and our first staff meeting is tomorrow afternoon. We have a preliminary menu and a full cocktail menu for both brunch and dinner. (The food is preliminary because Nemo’s cooking is ultra-seasonal. If he’s planning a braised lamb shank and it’s suddenly 60º out, there’s no sense in having announced braised lamb three weeks in advance.)

On the beverage front, I’m putting together a list of spirits and barware that we’ll need to order. Adam Mir, our sous chef is in charge of the beer list. We’re talking with beer distributors and hope to have a fun announcement to make, soon, regarding our beer program. Nemo’s fronting the wine program; we’ve been tasting wines all week and have another tasting tomorrow, so we should have our list of Old World wines ready next week. We’ve tasted coffees from New Harvest Coffee Roasters in Pawtucket. And finally, I’ve been in touch with a local soda bottler, Yacht Club Beverage, and we hope to speak to them soon about supplying our soft drinks.

DISCLAIMER: I am no longer a part of Cook and Brown.

Haigh’s pioneering champions, part 1

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago. Ted Haigh’s seminal cocktail guide, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, entered into a new edition this week, and I’m honored and humbled to have a small part to play in the book. I’m part of an appendix to the book, called “Pioneering Champions of the Forgotten Cocktail,” in which Ted profiles 25 people he terms the “most influential online cocktail pioneers.”

In his introduction to the appendix, Ted explains that the forgotten cocktail is about more than just the drink itself, it’s also about those who mixed, drank, and popularized them in the media. Ted’s first edition profiled many of the bartenders, bon vivants, and scribblers who contributed to the birth and growth of cocktaliana.

Cocktail writing online has blossomed in the years since that first edition; I’ve seen it expand manifold in the three years I’ve been doing it, and Ted says that we have “influenced recipes, bartending, and even the spirits industry.” I’m honestly surprised to think of my blog playing such a role, but if Ted says it, I won’t dispute it. Ted wanted to ensure that we too have our place in the historic record.

The company is humbling, I must say. I have long respected everyone on this list; it’s a bit like finding yourself up for a James Beard award. Ted has them in chronological order by the date the Internet forum, discussion board, or weblog was established, and that’s the order I present them. Where the site in question still exists or is actively maintained by its founder, I’ve provided a link. If my site merits your attention, the others do all the more so.

Here’s the first batch; the remainder will follow later this week or early next:

  • Craig Goldwyn: America Online Food & Drink Network. Goldwyn appears to be no longer associated with the network he founded.
  • Paul Loberg: The web design may appear dated, but the message boards are very active and peopled by influential bartenders and other cocktail experts.
  • Paul Harrington, Laura Moorhead, and Graham Clarke: Owned and formerly operated by Wired magazine, this site is unfortunately defunct. Harrington tells Ted that he and his partners tried to buy the rights from Wired and revive the site, but were shot down. Harrington also wrote a book, Cocktail, that is out of print and now somewhat expensive to purchase.
  • Chuck Taggart, A New Orleans native now living in California, Chuck’s the first of many in this appendix whom I’m honored to call a personal friend. Like me, he’s not a spirits professional, just an aficionado. His blog is excellent, and he has personally helped revive one of the finest cocktails around, the Vieux Carré–rye, cognac, vermouth, Benedictine, and bitters. I’ll be pouring one tonight and toasting Chuck. UPDATE: Looka just turned 10; amazing work, Chuck!
  • Robert Hess, Defunct. Never fear, though, Robert’s still active at, the Chanticleer Society (where you’ll also find me), and the Cocktail Spirit series of video podcasts. Robert, incidentally, shares a name with my father in law, but I don’t hold that against either of them.
  • Hanford Lemoore, I’m not much of a tiki drinker, so I’ve never spent much time here, but the forums are poppin’!
  • Jamie Boudreau, Another friend, Jamie tends bar in Seattle, and he has an Amer Picon replica I’ve been threatening to make for over a year now.
  • Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Two things you need to know about Morgenthaler: 1) He loves Aquaman, 2) He’s an avid vodka collector, 3) He’s one hell of a juggler. Wait, that’s three things. Damn, that Vieux Carre is smoove. Jeff tends bar in Portland, Oregon, and we learned recently that we have a mutual friend, someone I met in NYC who later returned home to Oregon. Small world.
  • Jimmy Patrick, I’ve never met Jimmy, but his was among the first cocktail sites in my blogroll. A direct inspiration for ADOB.
  • Paul Clarke, Like Jimmy, Paul’s was another direct inspiration for this blog. When I chose to start a blog, I hit Google and started searching for other blogs. Paul’s, Jimmy’s, and Jamie’s were among the first I found. Paul’s a helluva guy and one of the most prolific cocktail writers on the scene. You can find his work in Imbibe magazine; the San Francisco Chronicle; the New York Times‘s Proof blog (currently on hiatus); the website Serious Eats; and the Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen. If Paul’s writing career in any way sucks, it’s because he has too much to do.
  • Erik Ellestad, Egullet’s cocktail forum, Erik’s a busy guy. Between posting at the Egullet forum (his nick’s EJE; mine’s Dietsch), and writing up his epic Stomping Through the Savoy posts for his own blog, Erik holds down a day job and also guest-bartends every week. I don’t know how he does it. It can’t hurt that he has a charming and patient wife.

More to come.