Sunday, June 30, 2013

How Much Should A Bartender Know

Last week Melvin and I met up at Sazon down in TriBeCa before Alice's going away dinner at Gowgirl Seahorse. Sazon is a Latino/Puerto Rican restaurant that had a nice vibe from the old school salsa playing throughout the place. Now my issue isn't with the restaurant but with the bar. Melvin asked the bartender what kind of Rum they had. Melvin is a rum fiend. The bartender starts to tell us the rum selection in no read order until she says Zacapa. Zacapa is one of Melvin's favorite rums and asks her which Zacapa they were carrying. For those who don't know, Zacapa has two rums they distill. One is the Zacapa 23 and the other is the Zacapa XO. Given that, Melvin's question shouldn't have been difficult.

Instead of an answer of Zacapa 23 or Zacapa XO, we were met with a blank stare and a shrug. We also asked the other bartender if she knew what kind of Zacapa it was and she was even more clueless. Melvin asked if we could see the bottle and bartender number two didn't even know what Zacapa was. After a few minutes of her searching for the elusive Zacapa bottle, it took the barback to bring it over to us. It was indeed the Zacapa 23 (without the distinctive wrapping along the bottle). After all that we finished our Zacapa on the rocks and left. So this brings me to the title of this post: How Much Should A Bartender Know.

I've been a bartender now for a little more than two years so I would never consider myself an expert in spirits. In terms of spirits that we sell at the bar, I try my best to learn about what we stock. My biggest deficiency is with wine. I don't drink wine so it can be hard for me to answer super specific questions but I've taken it upon myself to go online and read up about the wines whenever possible. In terms of a new and unknown spirit, we sell Dorothy Parker American Style Gin which is made by New York Distillery. It is a local gin that unless someone with knowledge of that particular gin and/or distillery people don't know it. So I believe that my job is to try and sell the gin and to do so I need to know more about it aside from it being a gin named after a famous poet, playwright and satirist. Now I'm not expecting a bartender to give me Ms. Parker's bibliography of works but a general knowledge of what you are pouring into someone's glass is sufficient. 

I don't think it's too much to ask to know what kind of rum (or any other spirit) your bar sells. I find that in bars and neighborhood near to where I live in the Bronx, they have bartenders that are fine making a cocktail with one spirit and a mixer (or a Long Island Iced Tea). But ask a question about a specific spirit and you get a reaction similar to the one Melvin and I got. It can be frustrating, especially since we're not asking for Planters Punch or something complex containing shrubs, bitters and obscure spirits. We're just asking for what type of a particular spirit is being carried.

Am I wrong? Am I expecting too much? Is it too much to ask? Please let me know what you think.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Frisco Fog

Its no secret that the Bleecker Street Bar (where I work) has become a de-facto San Francisco bar. Many faithful of the Giants, Niners, Warriors and Sharks have come here in droves since 2010 fueled by many of our staff members being from the Bay Area and cultivating the San Fran/Bay Area clientele. For those of you who don't know, Fernet Branca is one of the most (if not the most) popular spirit in San Francisco. We've even added the staple of San Francisco area drinkers Fernet Branca to the bar. William Bostwick in his article Fernet Branca: A Real San Francisco Treat from the Food Republic website states that:
San Franciscans drink the most Fernet in the U.S. Thirty-five percent of the country's imported bottles are poured out here.
The main demographic who consumes Fernet seems to be bartenders who according to Bostwick:
If you order a shot, the bartender will ask, "Where do you work?" Only bartenders drink it, the thinking goes, because no one else will notice if the bottles get empty.
So based on that line of thinking a favorite way of drinking Fernet in San Francisco is with a chaser of Ginger Ale or Ginger Beer known as a "bartender’s handshake". My good friend and co-worker Ms. Jen Charles decided to take the two staples of a bartender's handshake and make it in the way one would make a Dark 'n Stormy. She's dubbed this cocktail a Frisco Fog:
Frisco Fog
Gosling's Ginger Beer
Fernet Branca

In a glass with ice, fill the glass 2/3 of the way with Ginger Beer and layer the Fernet Branca over the top.
The look of the cocktail is very much how a Dark 'n Stormy looks like. After giving it a quick stir, I decided to give it a try. Now going into this I am not a big fan of Fernet Branca but in this form I actually like it very much. The herbal profile of Fernet Branca (40 ingredients make up Fernet including saffron, aloe, gentian, myrrh, iris, bitter orange and galangal) mixed with the sweet kick of the Ginger Beer makes for a very tasty cocktail. I find that both the Fernet and the Ginger Beer compliment one another very nicely without one overpowering the other. The Ginger Beer isn't too sweet while the Fernet isn't too herbal. This very much tastes like a nice summertime cocktail. Thanks to Jen for the cocktail recommendation.

Give it a taste and let me know what you think.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla


Friday, June 14, 2013

Happy National Bourbon Day

Happy National Bourbon Day courtesy of Basil Hayden Bourbon and a corset full to the brim


Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla

Cherry Kijafa and Jermaine Stewart

Now this is a very obscure post.

I came across the following picture on my online travels and the title caught my eye: "Cherry Kijafa from Denmark: We think the world is ripe for it". Now I'm not sure when the ad is from but it seems from the late 1970's and/or early 1980's. What is Cherry Kijafa?

As per the ad:
Celebrate with Cherry Kijafa. The wine specialty made with Danish cherry wine and delicious natural flavors...Give it to good friends or to yourself
Ok. Can't say I've ever given any cherry wine to my good friends or bad friends for that matter and I sure as hell have never had any of it myself. I searched around for a review on the Cherry Kijafa and came across a post by T&T's Bad Booze Review. In their post for Cherry Kijafa they were brave enough to sample the cherry wine neat, on the rocks and with a assortment of soft drinks. T&T's Bad Booze Review's diva Tucker Cummings describes the Cherry Kijafa as: "It feels very smooth in the mouth." Very Nice.

Here is the video of their review:


Now why do I mention Jermaine Stewart? Well in his only hit song "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off" he describes that they can have a good time without taking their clothes off while dancing all night and drink some cherry wine. I always wondered what in Sam Hill cherry wine was. Now I can cross it off the bucket list. Whew.

Here's the video by Mr. Stewart. Enjoy:


Ever have any Cherry Kijafa? If so, let me know. I wonder if my friend Will Gordon has tried it. If anyone has, he would be the one.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla