Booze News is always driven by… you guessed it… the news. Sometimes it’s all over the place – but other times, I see patterns.
Like this month. Whether it’s learning about the cocktail business from the original James Beard Award-winning bartender, or making cocktails influenced by some of the most important figures in pop culture, this Booze News is all about inspiration.
As a major David Bowie fan, I was excited to discover the “David Bowie Is” exhibit in Brooklyn when I was in New York recently. Unfortunately I was there on a day the museum was closed, but I’d already seen the exhibit in Chicago a few years ago.
A couple of bars and restaurants in the area are celebrating the exhibit’s last stop with Bowie-themed dishes and cocktails. Visitors to BKW at Brooklyn Winery can order an Aladdin Sane, Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Thin White Duke, Man Who Fell to Earth, Halloween Jack or Jareth the Goblin King (named forBowie’s villainous lead in the film The Labyrinth). Cocktail Spy is especially intrigued by the Aladdin Sane – a cocktail with rye, aperol, cynar, lemon and egg white.
The Brooklyn restaurant has a lot of choices, but it isn’t the most immersive Bowie drinking experience ever. In 2013, the David Bowie Café popped up in forward-thinking Tokyo to celebrate his album released that year.
By the way, the exhibit runs through mid-July. If you’re in the New York area before then, I highly recommend it for even the most casual fans.
Another Englishman - albeit a fictitious one - influencing the cocktail scene is Bond… James Bond.
It was 65 years ago(!) that, much to the chagrin of bartenders everywhere, the world’s most famous spy first requested his martini shaken, not stirred.
Ian Fleming introduced the world to the Vesper in his novel Casino Royale. The drink was traditionally made with gin, vodka, and Kina Lillet. The latter is no longer in production and so today a Vesper calls instead for lillet blanc (a French aperitif wine).
Fleming purportedly invented the Vesper at Dukes in London. These days, the head bartender there puts his own touches on classic martinis – some inspired by other Bond characters. And a number of bars in London are modernizing classics like the Blood Mary and Cosmopolitan.
It looks like vodka may not be so passe after all!
Of course, drinking has been an alluring activity for as long as cocktails have been around. But serving them? Not so much.
Until the man known as King Cocktail came along. The first bartender to win a James Beard Award turned the profession from seedy to respectable. Bartending at the Rainbow Room in the mid 1980s, he got a lot of attention for using fresh ingredients at a time that that wasn’t the norm.
30 years later, DeGroff points out in this quick interview, every city has a craft cocktail bar.
But bartending isn’t just about what you’re serving. Check out DeGroff’s thoughts on what it takes to be a $100,000 bartender. You can follow him on Twitter at @kingcocktl (I do).
Click here for Cocktail Spy’s drink of the month. Or click below to see Booze News from previous months.