Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Brandy, Cognac & Armagnac Basics

Bullet Points:

  • "Brandy" is derived from the Dutch word brandiwijn (brandy-wine), "burnt wine", because brandy is essentially distilled wine.
  • Brandy can be found made out of a variety of fruits. Brandy itself is distilled from grapes, but there is also apple brandy, apricot brandy, cherry brandy and more. These typically unaged, fruit brandies are also known as Eaux de vie (pronounced "OH-de-VEE"), which is French for "water of life."
  • Cognac, refers to a supreme variety of brandy derived from the Cognac region of France. In order for a brandy to be Cognac, it must be distilled only twice in pot stills (alembic), using Ugni Blanc grapes, and aged in French Limousine oak barrels.
  • The categories of Cognac are VS (Very Special), VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), XO (Extra Old), Napoleon, Extra and Hors d'Age. VS is aged at least 2 years in French Oak, VSOP: at least 4 years, XO, Napoleon, Extra and Hors d'Age: at least 6 years. Many premium Cognacs are aged far more than the minimum amount.
  • Armangnac is another historic type of brandy from Southern France. It, like Cognac, is regulated strictly by regional classification, overseen by the Appellation d'origine contrôlée, or AOC, a French agency that grants certificates proving a spirit/wine is of specified origin.
  • Armangnac, unlike Cognac, is triple-distilled, and is not always distilled using a pot still. It is the oldest brandy distilled in France.
Principle Cocktails:
  • Sidecar (Cognac)
  • Brandy Alexander
  • Jack Rose (Apple Brandy)
  • French Connection (Cognac)
  • Corpse Reviver (Cognac & Apple Brandy)
  • Stinger (Cognac)
  • Sangria

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rum and Cachaça Basics

Bullet Points:
  • Rum is distilled from sugarcane and sugarcane by-products. A majority of rums are made from molasses. Rhum Agricole and Cachaça are made from pressing sugarcane and distilling the juice.
  • Styles of rum vary greatly between different countries. Jamaican rums are typically dark and pungent while Cuban and Puerto Rican rums tend to be softer and lighter. When trying rum, the country it was produced in can be a big clue as to what it will likely taste like. This isn't always the case 100% of the time, but it applies to a large percentage of rums.
  •  Cachaça is a clear spirit produced only in Brazil from sugarcane juice (Brazil is the World's largest sugarcane producer). It varies in ages and expressions but tends to be more floral and hotter than other clear rums.
  • The French Islands also use sugarcane juice. Historically, France was getting it's raw sugar from beets so molasses was not an available by-product on the French Islands. Sugarcane juice was distilled into Rhum Agricole or "Agricultural Rum", meaning rum distilled from juice instead of molasses which is known as "Industrial Rum".
Principle Cocktails:
  • Cuba Libre
  • Mai Tai
  • Piña Colada
  • Daiquiri
  • Mojito
  • Caipriniha
  • Dark 'N' Stormy
  • Mary Pickford
Popular Brands:
  • Bacardi: Largest, privately-held spirits company in the World. Founded 1862, it's portfolio has over 200 brands and distributes to more than 150 countries.
  • Captain Morgan: Founded in 1944 by the Seagram Company, Captain Morgan is the second largest spirit in the U.S. by volume. The Original Spiced Rum was introduced to the U.S. in 1984.
  • Cruzan: Produced in Saint Croix, Virgin Islands by Beam Suntory. Founded in 1760 and is part of the American Whiskey Trail along with Bacardi rum.
  • 10 Cane: Produced by Moet Hennessy in Trinidad and introduced in 2005. Made by distilling sugarcane juice and blending with molasses based rums.
  • Gosling's: Founded in 1806 in St. George's, Bermuda by James Gosling. Gosling's originally sealed their bottles with black wax, which people referred to as "The Black Seal Rum", hence their core line of rum. Gosling's also holds the trademark for the Dark 'N' Stormy cocktail and produces a ginger beer for pairing with their rum.
  • Mount Gay: The oldest surviving rum distillery in the world (the earliest deed is dated 1703). A brand that is closely associated with sailors due to the British tradition of rationing drams of rum to Naval personnel. The rum is produced out of Barbados, the Eastern most island of the West Indies.
  • Brugal: A popular rum from the Dominican Republic, founded in 1888. It has three distilleries on the island and is the third largest rum producer. They produce several expressions from mid-tier to ultra-premium.
  • Pyrat: Taking it's name from the English 'pirate', Pyrat rum produces ultra-premium rums from blending of several pot-distilled, barrel-aged, Caribbean rums and then further aging them. It's sister brands are Patron Tequila and Ultimat Vodka. The blending facility is based on the island of Anguilla.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tequila & Mezcal Basics

Bullet Points:
  • Both distilled from the agave plant. There are hundreds of species of agave plants, for Tequila specifically, the spirit must derive from the Blue Weber Agave species in order for it to be defined as Tequila. Think of Tequila as a smaller, sub-genre of Mezcal.
  • The Mexican government regulates the production of Tequila and Mezcal rather strictly. Unfortunately, the U.S. often disregards these regulations, even as the World's number 1 importer of Mexican spirits.
  • There are six types of Tequila/Mezcal:
    • "Joven" meaning "Gold". Contains additives like sweeteners are caramel coloring, and is not 100% Agave.
    • "Mixtos". Tequila that is not made from 100% Agave. According to regulations, it must contain at least 51% Agave and the rest is a mix up other additives. However, as noted before, the U.S. does not always recognize these regulations and often times you will not find these identifiers on the bottle's label.
    • "Blanco" or Silver. 100% Agave Tequila or a "Mixtos" that has been aged no more than 2 months.
    • "Reposado" meaning "rested" is Tequila aged from 2 to 12 months in oak barrels.
    • "Añejo" meaning "aged" is Tequila aged in oak barrels from 1 year to 3 years.
    • "Extra Añejo" is aged more than 3 years.
  •  Tequila was once only produced in the state of Jalisco. Now it is produced in 5 states including Jalisco, along with Michoacan, Guanajuato, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. Mezcal is mostly produced in south Mexica in the state of Oaxaca (pronouced Wah-HA-kah).
  • The Agave plant, although it resembles a cactus, is actually a succulent. On average, it takes 8-10 years before the Agave plant is ready for harvest. The plant is hacked at until you have what is none as the piña which is then cooked or roasted until it is ready to ferment. With Mezcal, the traditional method is to dig a deep fire pit, throw the piñas in let roast for days to weeks before uncovering.
  • Robust Tequilas and Mezcals are distilled in pot stills and sometimes even ancient clay stills, although column distillation is common as well.
  • The misconception of the worm at the bottom of the bottle of mezcal is more of a marketing scheme rather than a sign of authenticity. To read more of the urban myth that is the Mezcal Worm, go to www.mezcal.com/worms.html.

Principle Cocktails:  
  • Margarita
  • Paloma
  • Tequila Sunrise
  • Bloody Maria
  • Tequini
  • Matador
Popular Brands:
  • Jose Cuervo: The best selling tequila in the world. Founded in 1795. They have several expressions including mixtos and 100% agave tequilas along with flavored tequilas.
  • Patron: A pop-culture icon spirit, sold as a premium 100% agave tequila. The original Patron was first created by the Siete Leguas distillery, one of the oldest distillery in Mexico. It was sold to Saint Maarten Spirits in the U.S. where it was then sold as Patron.
  • Don Julio: Founded in 1942, 8th largest spirit brand in the U.S. by volume.
  • Sauza: Founded in 1873, Sauza makes two mixtos and several 100% de agave tequilas including tequila brands Hornitos, Commemortivo, and Tres Generaciones.
  • 7 Leguas: One of the oldest distilleries in Mexico and maker of the original "Patron".

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Gin Basics

Bullet Points:

  • Gin is typically distilled twice through a column still and then a final time in a pot still with a myriad of botanicals including juniper, coriander, citrus, anise, cassia, angelica roots and many others. The recipe distillers use are closely guarded secrets.
  • The four styles of gin (with very few exceptions) are London Dry Gin, New Style Gin, Plymouth Gin, and Genever.
  • London Dry is not necessarily made in London but the style was certainly popularized and centralized around Great Britian. Juniper and citrus notes dominate this style. It is the benchmark gin in mixing.
  • New Style Gin or New American Gin is a very diverse and modern style of distilling gin.
  • Plymouth, England is home to a single distillery and distinctive style, called Plymouth Gin. It is lower alcohol content than London Dry but has a rich, earthy style that is unique.
  • Genever or Hollands gin is rarely produced outside of Holland. It has some yellowish color, may be distinctively sweet, in opposition to London Dry and can be powerful and oily. Made mostly from barley wine, it is more herbal and malty/grainy than fruity/spicy.

Principle Cocktails:

  • Dry Gin Martini
  • Aviation
  • Gin & Tonic
  • Martinez
  • Clover Club
  • Tom Collins
  • Gimlet

Popular brands:

  • Hendricks: Founded in 1999 in Ayrshire, Scotland. Uses a 19th century Carter-Head Still to infuse atypical gin ingredients like cucumber and rose petals.
  • Plymouth: A unique style of gin founded in 1793 in Plymouth, England is owned by Black Friars Distillery. The distillery dates back to 1431 when it was built as a monastery. All the of Plymouths gins are distilled using a single pot still.
  • Bols Genever: Founded 1575, Bols has been making genever in Holland since 1664, Genever fell out of style but was reintroduced to America in 2008 and continued to regain popularity amongst bartenders.
  • Martin Miller: An extravagant London Dry gin. Distilled in England and then “married” with Icelandic water for a clean and purely refreshing gin. The Westboro Strength expression yields a higher proof, giving bartenders more dexterity with mixing amazing Gin cocktails.
  • Tanqueray: Founded in 1830 by Charles Tanqueray, distilled in Scotland. According to legend it was Frank Sinatra’s favorite gin. In 2000, the brand released the first super-premium gin: Tanqueray No. 10.
  • Bombay Sapphire: A popular brand of gin, the name's suffix 'sapphire' is credited due to the spirit's popularity in India. A dryer expression called Bombay Dry Gin uses less botanicals (8 rather than 10) and is less seen than the Sapphire expression.
  • Aviation American Gin: A new gin first produced in 2006 out of Portland, Oregon. The brand is unique in that it is the first recognized distiller/bartender partnership in the U.S.
  • Beefeater: A popular London style of dry gin, with history reaching as far back as 1862. Made from "100% grain spirit" and flavored with 9 botanicals. A super-premium expression called Beefeater 24 was introduced in 2009 which contains several more exotic botanicals.

Drink Terminology

“Neat” – The drink is pour and served at room temperature with no ice and no dilution from water (i.e. not shaken, not stirred, not chilled), in a short glass. If it is a delicate sort of spirit like Cognac or a very well aged rum it should be served in a special glass such as a brandy snifter.

“On the rocks” – Simply served over ice in a short glass.

“Up” or “Straight Up” – Almost always refers to a Martini or Manhattan but “up” simply means the drink is either shaken or stirred and served cold WITHOUT ice. For example a “Ketel Up” is a standard Ketel One Vodka Martini, served in a cocktail glass with no ice and an olive (all Martinis will be garnished with an olive unless specified otherwise, i.e “Ketel up with a twist”).

“Over” – As with the order “up”, “over” means the drink is either shaken or stirred but served OVER ice in a short glass. Example is a “Gin Martini, over.”

“_____ Back” – Means they want an additional glass on the side of either water or coke or sprite or pineapple juice or anything else. It’s a chaser for their drink. If a guest asks for a “Whiskey and Water”, that is not the same as a “Whiskey and Water Back”. If you are not sure what your guest is asking, ask for clarification.

“Press” – A drink that is mixed with equal parts Soda water and Sprite/7-Up (i.e. a “Grey Goose Press”).

“Bruised” – To shake a drink rather than stir.

“With a Twist” – Garnished with a twist of citrus peel (usually lemon, some guests prefer lime though).

“Chilled” – Usually refers to a shot that is kept chilled or has been shaken with ice in order to chill it down before the person consumes it.

“Toddy” – A hot drink. The guest may just say “a hot toddy” which most bartenders will default to whisky. The guest could also say “a rum toddy” or “a smoky scotch toddy.”

“Dry” – Refers to the amount of vermouth used in a Martini or sometimes Manhattan. When a guest requests a Martini to be dry, they are asking for LESS vermouth, not more.

“Wet” – The opposite of “Dry”, use more dry vermouth.

"Burnt" - The guest would like a small dash of smoky scotch added to their martini.

"Gibson" - Garnish the martini with a pickled/cocktail onion rather than an olive.

“Dirty” – Add olive juice to a Martini to make it “dirty”

“Filthy” – Add A LOT of olive juice!

“Perfect” – Again refers to Martinis and Manhattans. “Perfect” means to use equal amounts of Dry and Sweet vermouth in the cocktail.

For more info on styles of cocktails see Styles of Classic Cocktails.

Vodka Basics

Bullet Points:
  • Vodka is a neutral spirit, distilled to such a high proof that very few congeners, aromas and flavors remain and bottled at around 80 proof.
  • Vodka can be made virtually anywhere and from virtually anything. It is usually clear and colorless although few exceptions exist.
  • The raw materials that can be used to create vodka is almost limitless. Most are made using common grains such as wheat, corn, rye and barely. Others use vegetables like potatoes and sugar beets or fruits like grapes.
  • Vodka became popular amongst Americans in the mid-1950’s due to successful marketing campaigns. By 1976, Vodka had become the number one consumed spirit in America.

Principle Cocktails:
  • Moscow Mule
  • Bloody Mary
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Screwdriver
  • Vodka Martini
  • Vodka and Tonic
  • Vesper Martini
  • Bay Breeze/Sea Breeze/Madras

Popular brands:
  • Grey Goose: French, created in 1997, premium French wheat, filtered through Champagne limestone, distilled in Cognac, France.
  • Ketel One: Netherlands, founded 1983, Dutch for “Pot Still One”, 100% Wheat, filtered over loose charcoal, aged in a tile lined tank.
  • Tito’s: Austin, Texas, created 1995 by Tito Beveridge, the brand was awarded Texas’ first distilling license, distilled six times using yellow corn in pot stills making it a very labor intensive product.
  • Square One: Founded 2006, distilled in Rigby, Idaho using 100% organic rye from the Teton Range in Wyoming, the label is even made from paper-free blend of bamboo, sugarcane and cotton and 25% of the distillery’s power is provided by local wind farms.
  • Purity: A well awarded premium vodka with great depth and character. It is from Ellinge Castle in South Sweden. It is distilled a whopping 34 times! It is made from an all organic blend of Winter Wheat and Malted Barley and is certified organic. Extremely labor intensive!
  • Boyd & Blair: Distilled in Glenshaw, Pennsylvania using mostly local potatoes, created in 2005 and reaching large market shares around 2009, in June 2011, Spirit Journal ranked Boyd & Blair the 22nd-ranked liquor on the planet and the highest-ranked vodka on the list.
  • Smirnoff: Founded in the 1860's by Pyotr Arsenievich Smirnov in Moscow. It is said to be the world's most distributed vodka, with distilleries in India, Ireland, Italy, the U.S. and the U.K. distributing to 130 countries.
  • Absolut: Another Swedish vodka. It is the third most consumed spirit in the world next to Bacardi and Smirnoff. Founded in 1879, it did not become a global spirit until 1979 and is now sold in 126 countries. It is made from 100% winter wheat.
  • Stolichnaya: A Russian spirit but bottled and distributed internationally from Latvia. It was introduced in 1901 and is made from wheat and rye grains.

I asked a bunch of bartenders...

What would be the best advice you could give all the aspiring bartenders out there and here's what they had to say...

from /u/-kenny-:
"When I first started bartending an old school bartender gave me the best advice... Don't let the animals run the zoo."

from /u/GravityRides:
  1. Learn and research on the most common cocktails/shots that are popular today.
  2. Learn about bar terminology, tools, how to cut garnishes, and glasses.
  3. Be confident, responsible, and be fun. It will increase your tips and you will earn more respect from your customers and co-workers.

from /u/meeegan:
  1. Bartending classes are, for the most part, bullshit. (Barsmarts Wired is the only one I have heard of that is not. And I highly recommend taking it if you work in a cocktail bar type place.)
  2. Learn to build rounds of drinks, not just one at a time. Take as many orders as you can when you are busy and fill them efficiently. People will wait for their order to be made, but they hate waiting to have their order taken.
  3. Bartending is like dancing, you need to be smooth and have rhythm for it to work. And smiling makes it look so much better.

from /u/izzyreal: 
    1. Stay calm. What ever is happening will go so much smoother if you are calm about it, customers can smell panic and will push you as far as they think they can. 
    2. Learn. A new drink, a customers name, a better way to slice your fruit... Make it a goal to learn something EVERY shift. Even the little things can make your life smoother. Use what you learn as soon as you can, and often, memory through repetition works wonders.

from /u/Boobs_Make_Milk:
"don't assume that the person in front of you is an asshole. I'm sure there are a few people in this world that love that person and maybe his way of going out and drinking is different from yours. that doesn't make him a bad person it makes you bad at your job that you can't give him what he wants in a way that fits your establishment.
never cut a corner. it hurts the craft. it hurts your wallet and it makes you look like a fool when your end product is less than your absolute best.
if you find yourself dreading work remember that there are people that go to bed at eight and wake up at six am just to drive in traffic to their everyday lifeless desk job. you have a chance to bring happiness to someone each time you look across that bar. countless people have done it before you and you owe it to the bartending community to give your best every time. have fun."

from /u/dazhealy:
  1. SMILE. Be miserable, tired, cranky, whatever, on your own time. When your at work, your professional AND fun. Every single person, every single order, smile at them.
  2. Stick to the rules, your own and the bar/states/countys/countrys. Don't break the rules for anyone, and if that means you make a rule for yourself that you don't sleep with customers, or you only drink after work one night a week, or whatever, stick with it. You can lose yourself very quickly behind a bar, away from normal people and a normal life.
  3. Don't ever leave a full spirit bottle on the counter. I watched a brand new bartender do this one night, bottle was taken and I had to trail the guy through a capacity nite club to get it back. Rookie didn't last long after that.

from /u/jpgonzo24:
  1. As soon as you find yourself dreading going to work, it's time to move on.
  2. Don't get drunk behind the bar.
  3. Engage your patrons.

from /u/atomicspin:
    1. Mis en place
    2. The person on the other side of the bar may have just gotten fired, lost a kid on the operating table, or a mom 10 seconds away from drowning her kids. Your job is to get them to walk out of there feeling way better than they walked in
    3. Leave your baggage at the door

from /u/Jboogie90:
    1. Be confident! In any walk of life, confidence shines. 
    2. Don't let your customers control you. You're taking the orders but you're setting the rules.
    3. Always hustle! No one likes a slow bartender...

from /u/vegandread:
    1. Be efficient in your movements: pour two beers at one time, pour your liquor and mixer at the same time, etc...
    2. Always keep learning and recognize the fact that you'll never know it all.
    3. Keep your workplace clean. If you're slow--clean. Things get sticky and funky real quick-like, so do your part...

from /u/redsox716:
  1. If you want to bartend for the long haul, find a place that is popular, well-respected, and seems like somewhere you want to work. Get a job as a barback and don't waste any time letting your boss know you want to learn how to bartend. Show up early, leave late, and work your butt off. Pay attention to the other bartenders. Give it some time and if you picked the right place you will eventually be given a shot. Often it's unplanned and you will get thrown into the mix with no warning. Don't fuck it up.
  2. If you have to cut someone off, don't avoid the situation. They wont go away. Just get it over with. Do it quietly and with respect and usually they wont cause a scene.
  3. Don't let a bad tip ruin your night. Track your tips and focus on what you make all week/month/year. Everything balances out.

from /u/bhoops13:
  1. keep calm. As with any service job. Panic is the worst thing to have behind the bar. 
  2. know your shit. 
  3. if you don't know your shit, get good at faking it. Especially in high volume.

from /u/satori1289:
"All I have is always keep your head, whether you're three deep or someone's threatening to shit on your chest."

from /u/WookieSex:
"If you've time to lean you've time to clean. Learn to read your customers and their mannerisms. Don't be afraid to cut someone off (regular or not). Run the show, be outgoing and make people be confident in you. Personality goes a long way."

from /u/NoTimeForInfinity:
"Empathy is an art. One you should work at. Yes it helps with tips, but it's truly a matter of self care. It's been said other ways in this thread... Boundaries are important when you're selling a drug that makes people forget they have any. Some people push and push because they define their lives by the boundaries outside themselves. (children, etc.) Some people are waiting for you to say no. These same people are often more relaxed when you do. Saying no is an art. Interest. So many things flow from this: drink knowledge, communication efficiency, people skills etc. If you're not interested you're probably not interesting. Ask good questions. Answers will vary. I had a nuclear physicist in last night. I would would have pegged him for a trucker. Interest is the fuel of learning. Sometimes fuel runs thin. You have to do what it takes to keep gas in the tank. It's difficult to retain information you're not interested in, so find something interesting about you're surrounding life and build on future interest to be reaped by future you."

from /u/1nspect_Her_Gadget:
"As an instructor with National Bartenders School, my best advice is this, "Know your shit, or know you're shit." Its one of my personal favorites, but there are of course better pieces of more specific advice though. Be friendly, always be humble and willing to learn from those who know what they're doing. Ask questions, and talk A LOT. and finally, another personal favorite, 'The customer is always right, but the bartender decides when people are no longer customers.'"

from /u/ELUsyv:
    1. Remember most high volume bars should have the specs for drinks in the POS!
    2. for a long time, you will realize, you know nowhere near as much as your customers do. But thats ok! fake it till you make it.
    3. Be sure to taste EVERYTHING. make sure to taste the limes, lemons, lemon juice, lime juice, oranges, raspberries, pineapple, lychees, strawberries. you name it, all fresh ingredients, ill taste, so i know what flavour profile you will be working with because there will be inconsistencies throughout the week, and when it comes to volume, you want your drinks to be consistent.
    4. Dont spend too much time garnishing.
    5. practice your freepouring! you can shave so much time freepouring, and it comes down to shaving those seconds. If you jigger a drink with 5-6 ingredients, its going to take you longer than walking to the back bar, grabbing whatever spirits + liquers you need, and pouring 4 bottles at once, your fingers will build strength over time.
    6. Dont be afraid to admit you dont know something, if you get stuck, ask or check the POS. *If the customer orders a drink you have never heard of, ask them if they know whats in it, because sometimes the customer had a drink at a bar up the road, and their specs will be different to yours, then you can ask your fellow bartenders/bar manager what the house specs are.
    7. CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN! Keep your work space tidy, wipe down the bar top between drink orders, will only take you a second.
    8. Add ice last, if the bar you will be at is anything like the bar im at, add spirits, then ice. Do wine, then cocktails, then standard drinks, then beers. if you are making a round of shaken and stirred drinks, you can leave the stirred drinks to sit in the ice without stiring, it will dilute itself and save you the time, then when you are done shaking your 2 or 3 cocktails, go back to your 2 stirred down drinks, give it a taste, then a quick 2 second stir, then another taste, if its fine, strain it out. if not, let it sit for another 5-6 seconds while you strain out one of the shaken cocktails. Sequence of service is everything!
    9. Be nice to your barback, dont bark orders at him, manners dont cost anything. Plus, he will know where everything goes in the bar.
    10. Identify your weaknesses, let this be known to your employer, they will show you the ropes.
    11. Dont be scared to take multiple orders at the same time, most venues serve 60% vodka, so 2 out of the 3 orders will be vodka, if you ask 3 different people what they want, you might get like 6 vodkas, a g&t and a scotch and soda, and of that each person wanted 2 vodka lime sodas, it'll save you so much time.
    12. work smarter not harder, need to make an old fashioned? is your bar 5 deep? use a bar spoon of sugar syrup instead of muddling that fucking sugar cube with some soda, that shit can fuck right off.
    13. Smile, it makes people more comfortable :)

from /u/b717:
"Save your money. It's super tempting to throw cash around, but put that shit away for at least six months. You never know when you might be looking for the next job or just find yourself in a position that would be easier to get out of if you had a few grand put aside."