My friend Colleen asked me to craft some interesting cocktails for the Tsunami Artist Market that she hosted today. I of course said yes because I love helping out friends & I love playing with spirits. My first thought was "what am I going to do?" Then my mind went wild & in all kinds of directions from savory to sweet & in between.
Here is what I crafted for the Artist Market:
Garnished with a flamed lemon peel
Xmas in Manhattan
-Maker's Mark Bourbon
-Martini & Rossi Rouge Vermouth
-St Elizabeth's Allspice Dram
-Homemade Benton Bacon bitters
-Regan's Orange bitters
garnished with a clove studded orange peel
The Naughty List
-Persimmons cooked with vanilla vodka & vanilla sugar
-Homemade ginger bitters
-Homemade ginger simple syrup
I think the Naughty List won...
Me: "Is there anything else you need help with?"
Guy: "Oh, shoot I forgot vermouth."
Me: "Follow me it's right over here."
Guy: "Cool, I need some for Manhattans."
Me: "Ok great, I love Manhattans. We have a few sweet vermouths to choose from."
Guy: "No I want some dry vermouth not red."
Me: "Well that's not a Manhattan."
Guy: "Yeah it is I just use dry vermouth & no bitters."
Me: "Uhh a Manhattan needs bitters. Don't let anyone tell you differently."
Guy: "Well I like my Manhattans with dry vermouth."
Me: "Then call it something else because it's not a Manhattan. Manhattans use red sweet vermouth. Call it a Brooklyn or a Staten Island or something."
Behold! What you have above is my latest concoction.
Fresh squeezed persimmon from my friend's yard
Garnished with a flamed meyer lemon peel & a skewer of rum-meyer lemon zest cured blueberries.
Spicy, herbaceous, bitter, hints of sweetness. Absolutely delicious.
The opening of Alchemy has caused a lot of buzz around Memphis. I got to see the space before it opened & it truly was stunning. I was shocked by how much space there was! When Au Fond & Grace were in that space it was so cramped. Seeing this space made it even more evident of how poorly that space had been used. But I digress. I was incredibly excited about Alchemy for a number of different reasons but specifically because of the cocktail program. I mean "cocktails" are in the name on the awning so they are going to be serious right? I also heard that they had hired a "mixologist" from New York so it was obvious they were going the extra mile & the cocktail program was going to be serious. Or so I thought. Kelly & I went with some friends this past Monday on one of the first nights they were open. The restaurant has a distinctive lounge vibe that was very alive & filled with people. Its always exciting to see a restaurant full on a Monday. That energetic, electric vibe ended when I took a look at the drinks list. I was very disappointed to see only 4 cocktails. Just 4?? Where was the focus on specialty "New York" style unique drinks. I was told that they hadn't nailed down that part of the program & they weren't comfortable putting out a full list yet. I sampled 2 of them that friends had ordered. They seemed a bit simple & didn't have anything hand crafted or house made in them. For $11 I was expecting quite a bit more. I understand there are always kinks to be worked out when a restaurant is opened so perhaps that is something that will get worked out as well. Hopefully. One thing that I couldn't get passed was the service. From beginning to end it seemed harried, disjointed & just plain clueless. After waiting for quite sometime at the bar I finally was asked if I needed help.
Well sort of:
Bartender: Have you been helped?
Bartender: So do you need help?
Me: I was wondering if you could make me a Negroni.
Bartender: I don't know what that is
Nearby Bartender: I don't know what's in that
They both walked away.
Seriously. Just walked away without getting me another drink or asking me if they could get me anything at all.
That is not an opening kink that is a service issue. Service issues, if not nipped in the bud, will fester & grow & will cause serious problems. They could easily cause diners to never return.
We were seated in a booth in the back & after another seriously long wait we finally got a server, got a bottle of wine & settled in.
The food was another story. Aside from the very long ticket times that caused us to wait for a very long time for our food...it was delicious.
The food was very good, except for the fish tacos which were too heavy with mayonnaise & fairly bland. The food really saved the day. I tasted the camembert fritters, beef, & lamb ribs. All were absolutely wonderful. Especially the lamb ribs. Lamb ribs, yep I said lamb ribs. My friend Jaime said they were like the best part of a gyro. That outside crusty part of the gyro that is filled with spice is what every bite of that rib tasted like.
I want this place to succeed not only for the good of Cooper-Young but for the good of the Memphis food scene in general. But the service has to improve in a serious way. I can't wait to go back & see an extensive, unique & handcrafted cocktail list & significantly elevated, knowledgeable & friendly service. I hope.
This Thursday from 5 - 7 pm join me at Joe's Wines & Liquors for a tasting of wines from Milbrandt Vineyards. Buck Milbrandt will be on hand to discuss their unique vineyard sites. The Milbrandt family owns some of the most sought after sites in all of Washington & source to some of the top producers such as Charles Smith, K, Bunnell & Efeste. Come taste some of the best Washington has to offer. The tasting is free & we will be offering special discounts.
This Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Majestic Grille come sample some innovative drinks at "Cocktails In The Round". This "Chopped-Top Chef" style cocktail competition will feature a specific liquor along with secret ingredients that will be revealed to the competitors on Saturday. This unique competition will showcase local cocktail innovators at their best. Cost to attend is $15. This admission fee gets the attendees a sample of each competitors drink & the chance to vote on the winner. The event will begin with a demonstration of their modern twist on the art of the shot by Deni Reilly (owner, Majestic Grille) & Mark Cumberland (bartender, Majestic Grille). This will be an ongoing series of cocktail competition events held throughout Memphis. Yours truly will be showing my shaker skills & hopefully taking another win home after "Iron Shaker". Come join me for a fun, exciting & tasty event!
Last night I did a test run on a really cool cocktail idea that I've been kicking around lately: a Negroni. I know I know, a Negroni is so well known & it's not that unique or a cool idea even anymore. But I've been dreaming about a white Negroni, or as I named it: Negroni Bianco. For my Negroni Bianco I used 1.5 oz Corsair Gin, 1 oz Cocchi Americano & 1 oz Dolin Vermouth Blanc. I stirred it about 40 times so as not to bruise it too much, poured it over a large cube which wouldn't dilute it quickly. I then peeled a lemon with a vegetable peeler took a 1.5 inch long strip of lemon peel & flamed it over the cocktail. It was bittersweet, pungent but mellow & absolutely delicious. Sorry, no pic.
My other cocktail idea that has been haunting me is a spiced Manhattan which I think is very holiday-esque. So, here we go. Pour into a shaker 2 oz Bourbon (either Eagle Rare, Bulleit or Buffalo Trace) with 1 oz Punt e Mes or Dolin Rouge vermouth & 1 oz St Elizabeth's Allspice Dram. I then added 2 dashes of my homemade Allen Benton Bacon Bitter's & one dash of Angostura Bitter's. Shake or stir to chill & pour into a cocktail glass. You can either serve it up or, as I did here, over a large ice cube. I also skewered some of my homemade bourbon & cherry liqueur poached cherries.
I give you the the Spiced Manhattan. Delicious.
Back in September Joe's Wines & Liquors hosted a wine dinner at Sweetgrass with David O'Reilly of Owen Roe Winery. The menu, as always, was paired perfectly with David's distinctive, expressive & bold wines. We began the evening with a trio of oysters paired with O'Reilly's Pinot Gris 2009 Columbia Valley. Each oyster preparation brought out a different flavor & texture in the wine. My favorite was definitely the raw oyster with mignonette. I guess I'm just a traditionalist that way. Next up was a Delta Sol Farms "Chile Relleno" stuffed with housemade chorizo, queso fresco & served over fennel cream with sriracha.
This unique spin on classic Mexican was paired with Corvidae Wine Co "The Keeper" Cabernet Franc 2009 Columbia Valley. The fennel cream amplified the fennel aroma & flavor in the wine while the spice played off the pepper & dried spice notes. Then we moved on to Confit Duck leg with squash & goat cheese flan with plum glaze paired with two special wines. Both Owen Roe Abbot's Table & Owen Roe Ex Umbris were a lovely match for the earthy duck & tangy goat's cheese. The Abbot's is a unique bottle comprised of zinfandel, sangiovese, blaufrankish, malbec, syrah, merlot. Quite interesting no? Initially I think some people might think it's just the leftovers. In fact O'Reilly & his team are meticulous in their blending of this. It's as if they are using the pantry & all the contents of the spice rack to create a perfect dish. The Ex Umbris is a syrah that initially was a result of a wildfire. The smoky style of this bold red is an ode to the that first "roasted-smoked" vintage. We ended on a superb note. Chef Ryan Trimm & his talented team paired up a Hangar Steak au Poivre with truffled pomme frites, fresh pea shoots, 63° Donnell Farms Egg & Honey Thyme Reduction with Owen Roe Yakima Valley Red Blend.
This gripping, earthy, sensual, heart grabbing red blend acted as a knife through the gorgeously toothsome hangar steak which is my favorite cut of beef.
Everything came together beautifully. Chef Trimm's dishes are always delicious but the way in which they were paired was superb. David O'Reilly's wines were absolutely stupendous & just as cool as he is.