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Rye: The resurgence of the other American whiskey

Food Dipso3 1 42t
Photo credit: James Camp/CL File
desc
Photo credit: James Camp/CL File

Anyone with even a third-degree connection to the current climate in cocktail bars has likely noticed: rye whiskey is everywhere. For the past few years, rye has grown in popularity with barkeeps and spirits geeks (aka dipsomaniacs) around the country. Why? What about rye took it from being a dusty, if not altogether unused, inhabitant of the back bar to a prized and increasingly difficult category of spirits to acquire?


While poring through cocktail-recipe history, one finds more references to rye than bourbon. Kind of strange, huh? Prior to Prohibition, rye was already being made and used widely in the northeastern states. Many early cocktail books were written previous to full western settlement, and many of the talented barkeeps that published books abroad during Prohibition came from behind the bars in the rye-soaked Northeast.

The post-Prohibition glorification of the "Port of Bourbon" as the premier shipping location of a softer, sweeter type of American whiskey (a whiskey in which corn replaced rye as the dominant grain) created a powerful vacuum. The name bourbon was synonymous with better. As with all products that have to compete with a name brand, rye's demand slowly waned over time.

When it comes to unraveling the fundamental truths of a spirit trend, your guess is as good as mine. Clearly, though, rye has managed to evolve beyond just trend and has secured its identity as a mainstay spirit. I believe that the first catalyst for this revival was affordability. When I began bartending 13 some odd years ago, rye was an inexpensive yet fairly complex spirit to experiment with. For the same price of a bottle of name-brand bourbon, one could secure two bottles of rye. Rye was generally higher in alcohol as well, leading to a more expedited buzz — not the worst thing in the world. To simplify: good drinks for cheap.

Following the collective realization of dipsos everywhere that rye was pretty affordable and pretty drinkable came the connection to the classic cocktail culture. During the mid to late '90s, when the real champions of the cocktail resurgence set out to celebrate the sacred history and tradition of our forbearers, we began to dust off the few nearly extinct examples of this once great spirit dynasty. Upon doing so, barkeeps started to realize drinks like the Manhattan or the Old-Fashioned actually tasted better with rye. Remember, these recipes were created to work around the distinctive spice and dried fruit austerity of rye, not to blend a sweeter, heavier whiskey (i.e., bourbon) with sugar, rich fortified wines or lush fruit oils. I'm not saying a Manhattan can't be good with bourbon. That would be dishonest, given the number of them I make and enjoy regularly. But I guarantee that revisiting many of the cocktails you know and make with bourbon using rye instead will yield some exciting results.

The rye market is continuing to expand. Craft distillers from left to East Coast are making rye again. Along with many new producers, the resurrection of the recipes and methods of famed former producers aims to preserve the past. From the maverick young distillers of our generation, to the continuously operational Mt. Vernon distillery where George Washington's rye recipe is still being produced, this entire rye revitalization confirms something many of us believe to the core: big things are happening. When one subculture, no matter how small, can incite the entire nation to support the growth of a domestic product with the kind of history and tradition of rye whiskey, then we should all be proud to drink our part.

A few ryes worth trying:

Old Overholt ($12.99) — One of the longest-running producers of rye, this often overlooked and inexpensive choice is perfect for a basic Sazerac, Old-Fashioned or flask drinking.

Rittenhouse 100 proof Bottled in Bond ($20.99) — The Holy Grail rye for cocktail geeks. This increasingly hard to locate whiskey has fantastic complexity and an assertive personality that makes it perfect for every drink.

High West Rendezvous Rye ($47.99) — A shining example of the "nouveau" rye movement. Hailing from Utah, this rye has a great spice and dried citrus pith character. A personality that lends itself to long drinks and sours.

Sergio Leone
This variation of a classic Manhattan inspired by the famed film director is meant to bring spaghetti Western ideology to the cocktail glass.

Ingredients
- 2 and 1/2 ounces Michter's Rye
- 1/2 ounce Disaronno Amaretto
- 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
- 1 large orange peel

Directions
Stir gently over ice until chilled. Strain into a cold, sugar-rimmed cocktail (martini) glass. Garnish by squeezing the oil of the orange peel through a flame over the surface of the drink. Discard peel after flaming.



More By This Writer

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  string(5106) "There was a time when the question "Could I have a bitters and soda?" meant only one thing: The server or bartender asking was hungover as hell and wanted a gentle respite from the pain. How times have changed. With the emphatic revival of cocktail culture in recent years, we've seen the emergence of supergeeks fixated on all facets of alcoholic esoterica. The world of bitters is a prime example. Once considered nothing more than seasoning, barkeeps now obsess over the flavors and varieties of bitters almost more than the base spirits. Most popular are two types: aromatic, one of the many back-bar eye droppers full of concentrated flavor used a dash at a time, and potable, the drinkable-as-is selections such as amaro (Italian for bitter).

Like most things alcohol-related, bitters started as a medicine. High-proof spirits imbued with the beneficial properties of certain herbs, barks, flowers, and roots were often used in small doses to aid in digestion and treat other maladies of the physical being. Ironically, these same elixirs became the ingredients used to mask intensity and aid in the approachability of other distilled spirits. Add a little sugar and the first cocktail as we know it is born. So it was that bitters became forever tethered to the cocktail world. What we now consider aromatic bitters (Angostura, Peychaud's, Fee Bros., etc.) are literally the salt and pepper of drink making. Working as flavor binders and enhancers, these small bottles of goodness have become an invaluable part of the modern barkeep's arsenal. The varieties and flavors of bitters available commercially number in the hundreds, not to mention the countless proprietary house recipes most self-respecting mixologists produce on their own. From simple flavors like rhubarb and orange to the more outlandish such as chocolate mole, hopped grapefruit, or lavender-hibiscus, the use of a few drops of these potent extractions can make or break a drink. Think of a chef's spice rack. Aromatic bitters are very much the same idea. When working at our Bottle Shop, the first bit of advice I give would-be cocktalians is always, "Buy more bitters." Much less expensive than full bottles of booze, these beauties can be used interchangeably to drastically alter a single recipe again and again. A Manhattan with orange bitters is drier and less spice-forward than one made with Angostura, whereas Peychaud's bitters will bring forward hidden cherry and fruit notes.

Potable bitters are a completely different ball game. Any amaro-swilling barfly can attest to the gastronomical attributes of Picon, Campari, or Montenegro. For hundreds of years, most of Europe has understood the importance of liqueurs fortified with nature's most prominent digestive aids as an invaluable part of the dining experience. There are aperitivo bitters for making you hungry like Aperol and Suze, as well as digestivos, meal closers like Cynar and Fernet Branca — a personal fave. The recent draw around bitters has also inspired award-winning spirits producers here in the States, such as the Leopold Bros. and Breckenridge Distillery, to make their own New World-style bitters, further diversifying the selection. Even Jägermeister, the king spirit of nightclub drinks, is a not-too-distant cousin to the amaro family. Sip an ounce or so of any amaro after Thanksgiving dinner this year and try to argue that it didn't help with your food coma. Potable bitters are wonder drugs. Don't get me wrong, some bitters taste like rosemary charcoal wrapped in Naugahyde, but remember: They're for shooting, not for sipping, and mixing with them is much trickier than with their aromatic relatives.

I'm constantly amazed at the interesting and inspired house bitters selections at my beloved ATL watering holes. Navigating through the choices at Restaurant Eugene's bar or the rail at Leon's Full Service is worth a night at least. It's also resounding proof that the guys and gals of our bar scene are every bit as inventive and engaged as the chefs in Atlanta's most innovative kitchens. Barkeeps citywide are concocting bitters using local ingredients like pecans, sorghum, and kudzu that have begun to define our region as well as our drinks.

More and more, Atlanta is being recognized as a forward-thinking and rapidly evolving food-and-drink haven. I believe our willingness to try new, exciting, and occasionally unnerving options contributes to that reputation. Let's embrace these arcane but time-proven medicinal manifestations. Sometimes it's good to be bitter. 

Greg Best didn't mean to bartend. The young would-be actor was living in Vegas and working at a restaurant to support himself when serendipity struck during a bar back shift. He quickly learned that everything he wanted in life could be found behind the bar — the ability to create drinks, entertain a captive audience, and full control of the set. He shifted his focus, moved to Atlanta, and is now the co-owner and resident mixologist for Holeman & Finch Public House, the unofficial hub of Southern cocktail culture, as well as H&F Bottle Shop."
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Like most things alcohol-related, bitters started as a medicine. High-proof spirits imbued with the beneficial properties of certain herbs, barks, flowers, and roots were often used in small doses to aid in digestion and treat other maladies of the physical being. Ironically, these same elixirs became the ingredients used to mask intensity and aid in the approachability of other distilled spirits. Add a little sugar and the first cocktail as we know it is born. So it was that bitters became forever tethered to the cocktail world. What we now consider aromatic bitters (Angostura, Peychaud's, Fee Bros., etc.) are literally the salt and pepper of drink making. Working as flavor binders and enhancers, these small bottles of goodness have become an invaluable part of the modern barkeep's arsenal. The varieties and flavors of bitters available commercially number in the hundreds, not to mention the countless proprietary house recipes most self-respecting mixologists produce on their own. From simple flavors like rhubarb and orange to the more outlandish such as chocolate mole, hopped grapefruit, or lavender-hibiscus, the use of a few drops of these potent extractions can make or break a drink. Think of a chef's spice rack. Aromatic bitters are very much the same idea. When working at our Bottle Shop, the first bit of advice I give would-be cocktalians is always, "Buy more bitters." Much less expensive than full bottles of booze, these beauties can be used interchangeably to drastically alter a single recipe again and again. A Manhattan with orange bitters is drier and less spice-forward than one made with Angostura, whereas Peychaud's bitters will bring forward hidden cherry and fruit notes.

Potable bitters are a completely different ball game. Any amaro-swilling barfly can attest to the gastronomical attributes of Picon, Campari, or Montenegro. For hundreds of years, most of Europe has understood the importance of liqueurs fortified with nature's most prominent digestive aids as an invaluable part of the dining experience. There are aperitivo bitters for making you hungry like Aperol and Suze, as well as digestivos, meal closers like Cynar and Fernet Branca — a personal fave. The recent draw around bitters has also inspired award-winning spirits producers here in the States, such as the Leopold Bros. and Breckenridge Distillery, to make their own New World-style bitters, further diversifying the selection. Even Jägermeister, the king spirit of nightclub drinks, is a not-too-distant cousin to the amaro family. Sip an ounce or so of any amaro after Thanksgiving dinner this year and try to argue that it didn't help with your food coma. Potable bitters are wonder drugs. Don't get me wrong, some bitters taste like rosemary charcoal wrapped in Naugahyde, but remember: They're for shooting, not for sipping, and mixing with them is much trickier than with their aromatic relatives.

I'm constantly amazed at the interesting and inspired house bitters selections at my beloved ATL watering holes. Navigating through the choices at Restaurant Eugene's bar or the rail at Leon's Full Service is worth a night at least. It's also resounding proof that the guys and gals of our bar scene are every bit as inventive and engaged as the chefs in Atlanta's most innovative kitchens. Barkeeps citywide are concocting bitters using local ingredients like pecans, sorghum, and kudzu that have begun to define our region as well as our drinks.

More and more, Atlanta is being recognized as a forward-thinking and rapidly evolving food-and-drink haven. I believe our willingness to try new, exciting, and occasionally unnerving options contributes to that reputation. Let's embrace these arcane but time-proven medicinal manifestations. Sometimes it's good to be bitter. 

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Like most things alcohol-related, bitters started as a medicine. High-proof spirits imbued with the beneficial properties of certain herbs, barks, flowers, and roots were often used in small doses to aid in digestion and treat other maladies of the physical being. Ironically, these same elixirs became the ingredients used to mask intensity and aid in the approachability of other distilled spirits. Add a little sugar and the first cocktail as we know it is born. So it was that bitters became forever tethered to the cocktail world. What we now consider aromatic bitters (Angostura, Peychaud's, Fee Bros., etc.) are literally the salt and pepper of drink making. Working as flavor binders and enhancers, these small bottles of goodness have become an invaluable part of the modern barkeep's arsenal. The varieties and flavors of bitters available commercially number in the hundreds, not to mention the countless proprietary house recipes most self-respecting mixologists produce on their own. From simple flavors like rhubarb and orange to the more outlandish such as chocolate mole, hopped grapefruit, or lavender-hibiscus, the use of a few drops of these potent extractions can make or break a drink. Think of a chef's spice rack. Aromatic bitters are very much the same idea. When working at our Bottle Shop, the first bit of advice I give would-be cocktalians is always, "Buy more bitters." Much less expensive than full bottles of booze, these beauties can be used interchangeably to drastically alter a single recipe again and again. A Manhattan with orange bitters is drier and less spice-forward than one made with Angostura, whereas Peychaud's bitters will bring forward hidden cherry and fruit notes.

Potable bitters are a completely different ball game. Any amaro-swilling barfly can attest to the gastronomical attributes of Picon, Campari, or Montenegro. For hundreds of years, most of Europe has understood the importance of liqueurs fortified with nature's most prominent digestive aids as an invaluable part of the dining experience. There are aperitivo bitters for making you hungry like Aperol and Suze, as well as digestivos, meal closers like Cynar and Fernet Branca — a personal fave. The recent draw around bitters has also inspired award-winning spirits producers here in the States, such as the Leopold Bros. and Breckenridge Distillery, to make their own New World-style bitters, further diversifying the selection. Even Jägermeister, the king spirit of nightclub drinks, is a not-too-distant cousin to the amaro family. Sip an ounce or so of any amaro after Thanksgiving dinner this year and try to argue that it didn't help with your food coma. Potable bitters are wonder drugs. Don't get me wrong, some bitters taste like rosemary charcoal wrapped in Naugahyde, but remember: They're for shooting, not for sipping, and mixing with them is much trickier than with their aromatic relatives.

I'm constantly amazed at the interesting and inspired house bitters selections at my beloved ATL watering holes. Navigating through the choices at Restaurant Eugene's bar or the rail at Leon's Full Service is worth a night at least. It's also resounding proof that the guys and gals of our bar scene are every bit as inventive and engaged as the chefs in Atlanta's most innovative kitchens. Barkeeps citywide are concocting bitters using local ingredients like pecans, sorghum, and kudzu that have begun to define our region as well as our drinks.

More and more, Atlanta is being recognized as a forward-thinking and rapidly evolving food-and-drink haven. I believe our willingness to try new, exciting, and occasionally unnerving options contributes to that reputation. Let's embrace these arcane but time-proven medicinal manifestations. Sometimes it's good to be bitter. 

Greg Best didn't mean to bartend. The young would-be actor was living in Vegas and working at a restaurant to support himself when serendipity struck during a bar back shift. He quickly learned that everything he wanted in life could be found behind the bar — the ability to create drinks, entertain a captive audience, and full control of the set. He shifted his focus, moved to Atlanta, and is now the co-owner and resident mixologist for Holeman & Finch Public House, the unofficial hub of Southern cocktail culture, as well as H&F Bottle Shop.             13070952 6733036                          Food Issue - The bitters reality "
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Article

Thursday October 25, 2012 04:00 am EDT
A dip into the not-so-sweet side of cocktails | more...
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  string(4274) "Last week, I was hanging with a friend who works in a kitchen and we got on the subject of tools. His query of me, delivered while unrolling a never-ending knife bag, went like this: "How come you guys don't have cool tools like we do?"

I was at once astonished and insulted. Didn't he know about the different strainer types I use? What about my requisite three types of bar spoon? Never mind the crackers, muddlers, jiggers and droppers. My realization was that maybe, against all odds, just possibly, there are folks who don't know about this stuff.

Now, I'm the guy who can't walk through a store like Williams-Sonoma without seeing something I "need," but nonetheless, I'm going to attempt to shed some light on the basic necessities one should own to fill a proper cocktail tool kit.

Our initial stop will be in the measuring department. Acquiring a clear liquid measuring cup that holds 2 to 3 cups capacity is a must. This is your vessel for making simple syrup, sour mix, grenadine and bitters, not to mention the party-drink batching potential. Following closely behind is your jigger set. A jigger is an hourglass-shaped device meant for measuring while crafting individual drinks. There are different shapes and sizes of jiggers available and some are even graduated with markings for different fill levels. The highest amount you will ever need in a jigger is 2 ounces, while the lowest amount you would typically need is 1/4 ounce. My one recommendation is that the jiggers you choose are metal and durable. These little devils have a way of jumping out of the hand regularly. Also, keep in mind the most common measurements you see in cocktail books are 1/4 ounce, 1/2 ounce, 3/4 ounce, and 1 ounce.

Next, let's talk shaker sets. There are two basic styles: a Boston shaker, composed of a tin and a mixing glass/cup, or a standard cocktail shaker, which is usually three pieces and sports a built-in strainer. If one elects the Boston shaker, strainers are required. There are two types of strainers, both of which are quite useful. The first and most common is the Hawthorne. The Hawthorne strainer is a plate and metal coil that fits over the open shaker tin. The other strainer (used for pouring from the glass) is a plate that has been curved and perforated, and is known as a Julep strainer. Juleps are great for holding fruit and leaves back when pouring muddled drinks. Oh, and if you really want to geek out, find a sieve or fine strainer. This tool is great for double straining to remove fruit pulp and ice crystals from your drinks.

Alright. Onto muddlers, crackers and spoons (amazing band name!). A muddler is a tool for crushing or muddling fruit and bruising herbs. When selecting a muddler, find one that you are comfortable holding. They range wildly in shape, size and weight, as well as material of make. I recommend a hardwood type. It should be heavy enough that you don't need to apply too much pressure when using it. Crackers are used for cracking particularly large and dense ice chunks into more manageable pieces. Muddlers and single forge (no weld points) spoons will work as crackers if you choose not to spend the coin on a cracking tool. As far as spoons go, this is where the line blurs a bit. A typical bar spoon holds the same as a conventional teaspoon. Sadly, form is overtaking function in this category. They can vary drastically in length and design. Some are fashioned with small weighted ends, some in swizzle stick form, and still others can be found with tridents or other fruit-spearing tools on the opposite end. No matter the style, one's spoon should be close to the correct measure and be long enough to fit inside of your shaker and still present a good amount of handle to manipulate for stirring.

Lastly, grab yourself a great paring knife for cutting fruit and garnishes. In my experience, porcelain blades keep an edge far longer than steel when it comes to regular tussles with citrus. Microplanes and zesters are great additions down the road, but are not immediately critical.

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I was at once astonished and insulted. Didn't he know about the different strainer types I use? What about my requisite three types of bar spoon? Never mind the crackers, muddlers, jiggers and droppers. My realization was that maybe, against all odds, just possibly, there are folks who don't know about this stuff.

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Next, let's talk shaker sets. There are two basic styles: a Boston shaker, composed of a tin and a mixing glass/cup, or a standard cocktail shaker, which is usually three pieces and sports a built-in strainer. If one elects the Boston shaker, strainers are required. There are two types of strainers, both of which are quite useful. The first and most common is the Hawthorne. The Hawthorne strainer is a plate and metal coil that fits over the open shaker tin. The other strainer (used for pouring from the glass) is a plate that has been curved and perforated, and is known as a Julep strainer. Juleps are great for holding fruit and leaves back when pouring muddled drinks. Oh, and if you really want to geek out, find a sieve or fine strainer. This tool is great for double straining to remove fruit pulp and ice crystals from your drinks.

Alright. Onto muddlers, crackers and spoons (amazing band name!). A muddler is a tool for crushing or muddling fruit and bruising herbs. When selecting a muddler, find one that you are comfortable holding. They range wildly in shape, size and weight, as well as material of make. I recommend a hardwood type. It should be heavy enough that you don't need to apply too much pressure when using it. Crackers are used for cracking particularly large and dense ice chunks into more manageable pieces. Muddlers and single forge (no weld points) spoons will work as crackers if you choose not to spend the coin on a cracking tool. As far as spoons go, this is where the line blurs a bit. A typical bar spoon holds the same as a conventional teaspoon. Sadly, form is overtaking function in this category. They can vary drastically in length and design. Some are fashioned with small weighted ends, some in swizzle stick form, and still others can be found with tridents or other fruit-spearing tools on the opposite end. No matter the style, one's spoon should be close to the correct measure and be long enough to fit inside of your shaker and still present a good amount of handle to manipulate for stirring.

Lastly, grab yourself a great paring knife for cutting fruit and garnishes. In my experience, porcelain blades keep an edge far longer than steel when it comes to regular tussles with citrus. Microplanes and zesters are great additions down the road, but are not immediately critical.

These are the basics. It's possible to get lost in Tool Land like my kitchen-dwelling brothers and sisters. In fact, it's fun as hell, so the sooner you've got your basics the sooner you can build your never-ending kit.             13060379 3212188                          The basic hardware for your barware "
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Article

Tuesday May 17, 2011 08:00 am EDT

Last week, I was hanging with a friend who works in a kitchen and we got on the subject of tools. His query of me, delivered while unrolling a never-ending knife bag, went like this: "How come you guys don't have cool tools like we do?"

I was at once astonished and insulted. Didn't he know about the different strainer types I use? What about my requisite three types of bar spoon? Never mind...

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  string(1588) "image-1OK. Here we are. Neck deep in the madness and wondering how to make it out alive. Well, my friends, I've got some ideas. Make no mistake, the next few weeks will take cunning and guile if you want to usher in the New Year with a sound and peaceful mind.

My first recommendation would be to avoid drinking and shopping. Many will tell you it's easier to shop with a couple drinks in you, but they're wrong. It's hard enough for me to remember the girlfriend's sizing, the one kind of cologne dad likes and the exact f*#king Barbie iteration the niece is dying to have. Besides which, having a loose tongue and a few ounces of liquid courage coursing through the body on those tedious lines surrounded by zombies and their phones rarely ends well. Instead, try rewarding yourself after shopping with a boozy cure to mellow and relax. My picks — Rye Manhattan up with a twist, Champagne Cocktail, or a Dunlop Cocktail (sherry, rum and bitters).

Then there are the parties. Nothing is truly as rewarding/horrifying than a party with friends and family or co-workers during this most merry and joyous time. Punch is dangerous. Rarely crafted by an experienced hand, punch tends to be the unassuming time bomb in plain view. Have a glass to toast and continue on to safer sipping. That being said ... you know that pain in the ass from down the hall? Easily dealt with for years to come by assuring them of the virtues of the brightly colored beverage while continuously offering to refill their cup! The sun has never been brighter than to a person suffering a punch-drunk hangover."
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My first recommendation would be to avoid drinking and shopping. Many will tell you it's easier to shop with a couple drinks in you, but they're wrong. It's hard enough for me to remember the girlfriend's sizing, the one kind of cologne dad likes and the exact f*#king Barbie iteration the niece is dying to have. Besides which, having a loose tongue and a few ounces of liquid courage coursing through the body on those tedious lines surrounded by zombies and their phones rarely ends well. Instead, try rewarding yourself after shopping with a boozy cure to mellow and relax. My picks — Rye Manhattan up with a twist, Champagne Cocktail, or a Dunlop Cocktail (sherry, rum and bitters).

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Article

Tuesday December 14, 2010 09:00 am EST

image-1OK. Here we are. Neck deep in the madness and wondering how to make it out alive. Well, my friends, I've got some ideas. Make no mistake, the next few weeks will take cunning and guile if you want to usher in the New Year with a sound and peaceful mind.

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Just a short year ago, one could count Atlanta's cocktail-driven establishments on one hand. Sure, there were promising barkeeps popping up here and there, but like Ronin searching for an honorable family to hire their services, much shuffling took place and many of them departed our city in search of opportunities elsewhere. Still, plenty of these guys and gals decided to make it happen right here. For the record, I should mention that there is no training institution or culinary school classes to teach what these folks have learned, so trying to convince a restaurant to hire you is a leap of faith for both parties. Hats off to the restaurateurs who took that leap ... it was worth it.

We can all agree that part of what makes Atlanta so special is our myriad neighborhoods with their individual microcosms of culture and flavor. I can honestly say that whether you are in the Westside, Downtown, Buckhead, Decatur, Virginia-Highland, Inman Park, the Old Fourth Ward, Midtown, hell even Alpharetta, you can get a craft cocktail made right. These barkeeps don't just excel in making tasty drinks, either; they serve as Sherpas on your quest through the spirit world in general.

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There are few individuals in our lives that can do what a good bartender can. We fill the role of an unlicensed and practicing shrink, attorney, physician, comedian and confidante. I am extremely proud to work among such stellar folks. Let's keep the demand alive and burning for our fellow dipsomaniacs behind the bar. Belly up, ATL! "
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Just a short year ago, one could count Atlanta's cocktail-driven establishments on one hand. Sure, there were promising barkeeps popping up here and there, but like Ronin searching for an honorable family to hire their services, much shuffling took place and many of them departed our city in search of opportunities elsewhere. Still, plenty of these guys and gals decided to make it happen right here. For the record, I should mention that there is no training institution or culinary school classes to teach what these folks have learned, so trying to convince a restaurant to hire you is a leap of faith for both parties. Hats off to the restaurateurs who took that leap ... it was worth it.

We can all agree that part of what makes Atlanta so special is our myriad neighborhoods with their individual microcosms of culture and flavor. I can honestly say that whether you are in the Westside, Downtown, Buckhead, Decatur, Virginia-Highland, Inman Park, the Old Fourth Ward, Midtown, hell even Alpharetta, you can get a craft cocktail made right. These barkeeps don't just excel in making tasty drinks, either; they serve as Sherpas on your quest through the spirit world in general.

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Just a short year ago, one could count Atlanta's cocktail-driven establishments on one hand. Sure, there were promising barkeeps popping up here and there, but like Ronin searching for an honorable family to hire their services, much shuffling took place and many of them departed our city in search of opportunities elsewhere. Still, plenty of these guys and gals decided to make it happen right here. For the record, I should mention that there is no training institution or culinary school classes to teach what these folks have learned, so trying to convince a restaurant to hire you is a leap of faith for both parties. Hats off to the restaurateurs who took that leap ... it was worth it.

We can all agree that part of what makes Atlanta so special is our myriad neighborhoods with their individual microcosms of culture and flavor. I can honestly say that whether you are in the Westside, Downtown, Buckhead, Decatur, Virginia-Highland, Inman Park, the Old Fourth Ward, Midtown, hell even Alpharetta, you can get a craft cocktail made right. These barkeeps don't just excel in making tasty drinks, either; they serve as Sherpas on your quest through the spirit world in general.

Now that our city has healthy, growing bar talent to support and brag about, let's cover some basic rules of engagement. The cocktail menu at a great bar or restaurant is a look into the personality of the bar staff working there. It's important to taste drinks from different places to be able to understand the stylistic differences as well as the strengths of each particular house. Remember that cocktail menus are just references or jumping off points. Don't feel limited by what's offered in print. One of the traits of a good barkeep is an ability to craft something to fit your mood or taste preference. Not recognizing items on a back bar is not a bad thing. Chances are the bartender is working hard to offer a different experience for his or her guests, so ask questions. Believe it or not, we like talking about booze! Get to know the barkeeps at the restaurants you love. Our community is still small, so they can most likely guide you to another great spot you may not be familiar with.

There are few individuals in our lives that can do what a good bartender can. We fill the role of an unlicensed and practicing shrink, attorney, physician, comedian and confidante. I am extremely proud to work among such stellar folks. Let's keep the demand alive and burning for our fellow dipsomaniacs behind the bar. Belly up, ATL!              13056139 2260501                          Where to find a craft cocktail made right "
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Article

Tuesday October 26, 2010 09:00 am EDT
A reason to drink more than you already do | more...
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  string(3025) "Can you feel it? The season is on the verge of changing! I'm sure that as this is printed, Atlanta is at a nice cool 93 degrees, but the fact remains that fall is swiftly coming upon us. At this time we can shift gears and prepare ourselves for the unique spectrum of autumn flavors.

One of the simplest cocktail ideas for the upcoming season is to start infusing some spirits with autumnal and winter spices. Around this time every year, I'll grab a bottle of bourbon or rye that has somehow eluded the hard-drinking brigade and throw in a cinnamon stick or two, a pinch of cloves, and some slivers of fresh ginger. In two or three weeks' time (depending on how often you agitate the blend), the spiced whiskey will be primed for toddies and cider drinks.

Dark rums also take well to this sort of influence. Rum can be a little more forgiving with the drier, more intense spices, due to its round mouthfeel and traces of residual sweetness. One of my favorite concoctions is a five-spice infusion of blackstrap* rum, which makes amazing tiki-style drinks and that works especially well with hot black teas. The only rule I have when infusing is to complement your base spirit rather than choosing ingredients that will overpower or wash out its flavor.

The season for many regional fruits wanes as well. Take advantage of the figs, Muscadines, and scuppernongs while they last by using them in purées and shrub syrups. Apples and pears are an exciting part of the next season, but anything can be overused. By preserving summer fruits, you'll have some flexibility at all of those not-so-distant holiday parties. Fortunately for us, citrus is pretty much always available, so keep some of those peels around. When dried they can make great aromatic components for infusions, and candied lemon and orange peels make fantastic garnishes, too.

Spiritually speaking, start leaning a little heavier on the full-bodied booze for your back bar. I've mentioned whiskey and dark rum already, but there are some great value "small house" cognac brandies aching to be used in cocktails. Maison Prunier V.S.O.P. and Landy V.S. are a couple of labels that I use all the time. Brandy is tremendously underutilized in drinks. It has a lighter body than other brown spirits, allowing compounds with bolder ingredients while preserving balance and giving it great versatility. As far as liqueurs are concerned, try playing with a few of the "herbier" classics such as Green Chartreuse and Benedictine. Don't forget to experiment with what's at home already. With seasonal twists, your favorite summer spirit can segue nicely into fall.

The world we inhabit may be preparing to sleep again for the year, but I assure you through our diligent drinking we'll be alert and ready to toast the resurrection party! 

*Blackstrap refers to a molasses that has been thrice boiled during the process of turning sugar cane into sugar. This surprisingly nutritious blackstrap molasses is used to make some rums and is usually denoted on the label."
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One of the simplest cocktail ideas for the upcoming season is to start infusing some spirits with autumnal and winter spices. Around this time every year, I'll grab a bottle of bourbon or rye that has somehow eluded the hard-drinking brigade and throw in a cinnamon stick or two, a pinch of cloves, and some slivers of fresh ginger. In two or three weeks' time (depending on how often you agitate the blend), the spiced whiskey will be primed for toddies and cider drinks.

Dark rums also take well to this sort of influence. Rum can be a little more forgiving with the drier, more intense spices, due to its round mouthfeel and traces of residual sweetness. One of my favorite concoctions is a five-spice infusion of blackstrap* rum, which makes amazing tiki-style drinks and that works especially well with hot black teas. The only rule I have when infusing is to complement your base spirit rather than choosing ingredients that will overpower or wash out its flavor.

The season for many regional fruits wanes as well. Take advantage of the figs, Muscadines, and scuppernongs while they last by using them in purées and shrub syrups. Apples and pears are an exciting part of the next season, but anything can be overused. By preserving summer fruits, you'll have some flexibility at all of those not-so-distant holiday parties. Fortunately for us, citrus is pretty much always available, so keep some of those peels around. When dried they can make great aromatic components for infusions, and candied lemon and orange peels make fantastic garnishes, too.

Spiritually speaking, start leaning a little heavier on the full-bodied booze for your back bar. I've mentioned whiskey and dark rum already, but there are some great value "small house" cognac brandies aching to be used in cocktails. Maison Prunier V.S.O.P. and Landy V.S. are a couple of labels that I use all the time. Brandy is tremendously underutilized in drinks. It has a lighter body than other brown spirits, allowing compounds with bolder ingredients while preserving balance and giving it great versatility. As far as liqueurs are concerned, try playing with a few of the "herbier" classics such as Green Chartreuse and Benedictine. Don't forget to experiment with what's at home already. With seasonal twists, your favorite summer spirit can segue nicely into fall.

The world we inhabit may be preparing to sleep again for the year, but I assure you through our diligent drinking we'll be alert and ready to toast the resurrection party! 

''*Blackstrap refers to a molasses that has been thrice boiled during the process of turning sugar cane into sugar. This surprisingly nutritious blackstrap molasses is used to make some rums and is usually denoted on the label.''"
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Dark rums also take well to this sort of influence. Rum can be a little more forgiving with the drier, more intense spices, due to its round mouthfeel and traces of residual sweetness. One of my favorite concoctions is a five-spice infusion of blackstrap* rum, which makes amazing tiki-style drinks and that works especially well with hot black teas. The only rule I have when infusing is to complement your base spirit rather than choosing ingredients that will overpower or wash out its flavor.

The season for many regional fruits wanes as well. Take advantage of the figs, Muscadines, and scuppernongs while they last by using them in purées and shrub syrups. Apples and pears are an exciting part of the next season, but anything can be overused. By preserving summer fruits, you'll have some flexibility at all of those not-so-distant holiday parties. Fortunately for us, citrus is pretty much always available, so keep some of those peels around. When dried they can make great aromatic components for infusions, and candied lemon and orange peels make fantastic garnishes, too.

Spiritually speaking, start leaning a little heavier on the full-bodied booze for your back bar. I've mentioned whiskey and dark rum already, but there are some great value "small house" cognac brandies aching to be used in cocktails. Maison Prunier V.S.O.P. and Landy V.S. are a couple of labels that I use all the time. Brandy is tremendously underutilized in drinks. It has a lighter body than other brown spirits, allowing compounds with bolder ingredients while preserving balance and giving it great versatility. As far as liqueurs are concerned, try playing with a few of the "herbier" classics such as Green Chartreuse and Benedictine. Don't forget to experiment with what's at home already. With seasonal twists, your favorite summer spirit can segue nicely into fall.

The world we inhabit may be preparing to sleep again for the year, but I assure you through our diligent drinking we'll be alert and ready to toast the resurrection party! 

*Blackstrap refers to a molasses that has been thrice boiled during the process of turning sugar cane into sugar. This surprisingly nutritious blackstrap molasses is used to make some rums and is usually denoted on the label.             13055419 2140297                          Fall into autumn cocktails "
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Article

Tuesday September 28, 2010 09:00 am EDT

Can you feel it? The season is on the verge of changing! I'm sure that as this is printed, Atlanta is at a nice cool 93 degrees, but the fact remains that fall is swiftly coming upon us. At this time we can shift gears and prepare ourselves for the unique spectrum of autumn flavors.

One of the simplest cocktail ideas for the upcoming season is to start infusing some spirits with autumnal and...

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