You know, ignoring a blog is a lot of work, especially if it’s a blog you’ve been running for almost five years. First there are the regular posting habits to break, then the Google Analytics reports to not look at, then the comments to ignore. Comments, such as this one left just this past weekend by a reader of a recent post (which went up, oh, two weeks ago, during my ritual observation of Detoxuary): “So you couldn’t at least WRITE about cocktails and/or booze for those of us who are not abstaining?”
Point taken. Y’see, since I’ve been working at home I’ve become so busy-slash-lazy that it’s hard to keep up with ignoring this blog all the time. So, now that January is almost over I thought I’d post about a few things that I successfully ignored in 2009. In no particular order:
* Chocolate booze, apple brandy, beer in cocktails, gin, cask-finished whisky and lots of other stuff that I wrote about elsewhere but not on this blog. Last year I managed to distract myself from posting on The Cocktail Chronicles by writing about spirits & cocktails in other places — some of those stories I’ve mentioned here, but many I haven’t. Hopefully you’re following my stuff over at Serious Eats, where my posts still run on Wednesdays and Fridays (assuming I haven’t screwed up the calendar that week — and if you have a hard time keeping up, my posts are linked in a little widget right over there on the right side of the screen); in addition to that, some favorite pieces I worked on last year were on creative uses of serious chocolate as a cocktail ingredient, in the San Francisco Chronicle; a piece I’ve been wanting to write for a long time, about American-made apple brandy, also in the Chronicle; a big ol’ gin extravaganza, in Imbibe; fun with cask-finished whiskies, once again in the Chronicle; plus a slew of drink and bar coverage that ran in Seattle magazine. And because I’m likely to forget about posting this until my “ThingsI didn’t blog about in 2010” roundup, here’s a story that ran this past weekend in the Chronicle, on drink-related iPhone apps, as well as my feature in the January issue of Imbibe on finding great cocktails in Vancouver.
* Rob Roy, Tavern Law, Sambar, Moshi Moshi, Naga or Barrio. Seattle’s cocktail scene has changed tremendously from the time I started this blog, and these are some of the best places in town (or, in the case of Naga, across the bridge in Bellevue). I’m not a big fan of doing bar reviews — or any types of reviews for that matter; the word “review” makes me shudder with the predictable formulaity of it all — but these are all places that I haven’t really mentioned on this blog (Zig Zag & Vessel have so far sucked up most of my bar-related pixels), but should have because of the serious drink-awesomeness that can be found in them. Drink there.
* Beretta, Range, Heaven’s Dog or Rickhouse. I only made it to San Francisco twice last year — oddly, during the same one-week period — which was a major loss on my part (I blame my empty bank account, but don’t let on I told you — it has one hell of a temper). So, during those few short nights I spent in the city I had plenty of catching up to do on places I’d never previously visited. It would have been great to have blogged about it here, but by the time Ryan Fitzgerald, Brooke Arthur, Erick Castro and the tag-team of bartenders at Heaven’s Dog were done with me, I could barely croak out a Twitter post (please don’t make me say “tweet”), so these excellent bars that you should be drinking at RIGHT NOW did not, unfortunately, make it into the blog in 2009. We regret the hangover.
* BarSmarts Advanced and BarSmarts Wired. I did both last year — hey, I’m twice as smart! Or something. Anyway, this educational session sponsored by Pernod Ricard is really very useful and unexpectedly intense, and is led by some of the most freakishly knowledgeable folks in the industry such as Dale DeGroff, David Wondrich, Doug Frost, Steve Olson and F. Paul Pacult. Should you have any interest in advancing your knowledge of spirits & cocktails on a more formal basis, these programs offer an unparalleled way to do so. If there’s a BarSmarts Advanced in your neighborhood this year — such as the one coming to Seattle this spring, local readers — reserve your seat early and learn all you can; but if you can’t make it, or live too far away from one of the sessions, keep an eye out for the recurring sessions of the online program BarSmarts Wired, such as the one that starts NEXT WEEK — here, check it out and go ahead and sign up. I learned way more than I thought I would.
* The metric buttload of booze that showed up on my doorstep. Oh, yes, the unsolicited samples. Considering the types of spirits I receive as samples, many of the oversights can be chalked up to charity on my part for not pointing out how execrable they are. But then, there are the good ones, which would look right at home here if I were in the habit of doing reviews. Which I’m not, as I mentioned earlier. Having said that, though, there are some bottles that have come in (and some that I’ve purchased) that do merit a few words of recognition and appreciation (and yes, PR folks from The Balvenie, you’re on the list, you can knock it off with the nagging e-mails); to that end, I plan to expand my tasting notes section starting in February, which coincides with a personal project I’m working on that … oh, I’ll get to that later.
* Drinking Lessons at the Sorrento. Since August, the Sorrento Hotel here in Seattle has been turning over their gorgeous bar every coupla three weeks to a little program called Drinking Lessons. It’s intimate, it’s fun, and it features some of the best bartenders who make their way through this town, ranging from locals like Erik Hakkinen and Murray Stenson from Zig Zag to out-of-towners such as Alex Day, now formerly from Death & Co., and Toby Cecchini, formerly from Passerby. I attended the session held by Alex & Toby, and it was devastatingly good (assuming I don’t keep ignoring this blog, I’ll post a couple of the recipes they trotted out during the evening). Of course afterward I wound up accompanying them to Zig Zag, which after drinking my way through their session probably wasn’t the best idea, as I think I wound up blathering away like an idiot in the bar and in the cab, but hey — nobody can claim I didn’t have an enjoyable evening. Anyway, the Drinking Lessons continue this year, with Neyah White and Duggan McDonnell coming up from San Francisco on February 21 & 22, and a bunch of other people in the months to come.
* The Analog Bar Institute with Stanislav Vradna. Okay, this was actually pretty intense and can’t just be wrapped up in a smarmy paragraph, so I am planning on putting together something more comprehensive soon. Yes, really.
* The Books. I got to some of these at Serious Eats, but I somehow totally avoided blogging here about a number of great additions to my drinks library that appeared in 2009. Gary Regan’s the bartender’s GIN compendium, Ted Haigh’s new edition of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, Kara Newman’s Spice & Ice, A.J. Rathbun’s Dark Spirits, Jill DeGroff’s Lush Life; Portraits from the Bar, and Bill Owens’ The Art of Distilling Whiskey and Other Spirits, not to mention the latest round of vintage-book reprints from Mud Puddle Books (such as Cocktails: How to Mix Them by Robert Vermeire, with the introduction by yours truly), all debuted in 2009 and were treasured in my hands and my bookshelves, but not, oddly, on my blog. There are others which I’ve no doubt doubly insulted by not mentioning in my tardy roundup, but what can I say? I’m a bad, bad man…..
* That goofy event at Rob Roy where Charles Munat had me and a bunch of Seattle’s best bartenders mix drinks with white dog, weird booze, peanut butter, mung beans and all kinds of things — including some nice spirits that were kindly expressed out to us by DrinkupNY.com — and which Charles pestered me to post about until he left the country in frustration. There, Charles — happy now? Oh, and Murray’s birthday party, too. Better?
* A bunch of people I met and things I learned in bars. As usual, the best part of having kept up this blog, and of writing about booze for a paycheck, is meeting folks when I’m out or at an event like Tales of the Cocktail, and hearing the things they’ve liked, or not liked, and the things they’d like me to write about. I’m especially thankful for all the bartenders who continue to bring out new drinks they’re working on, or new spirits that have come in, or house preparations they’ve made, and give me a chance to try them. I’m humbled and honored every single time, so thanks again.
And all that other stuff I forgot
Actually, looking over this list, I wonder why I blog at all — why don’t I just write roundups once a year and get it all out in one fell swoop? I guess because it took me the better part of a month to get it together enough to write this; anyway, upward and onward, and stay tuned for more drinks, tasting notes and other folderol and blather. I promise.