2008年12月26日 星期五

creative cocktail s

Proof: Drinking Outside the Temple
Devotion to the art of the creative cocktail stretches coast to coast, writes Paul Clarke.

New York is one of the world’s great drinking cities, and I raise a glass of Red Hook Rye that it will always be so. But America grew up as a drinking country, and it was once possible to come across as talented a barkeep in St. Louis, Chicago or Denver as could be found on lower Broadway. While it sometimes seems the country has become one massive expanse of big box stores, chain restaurants and strip malls, it’s reassuring to see that these drinker’s oases are not only surviving, but thriving. New York remains the shining star in America’s mixological firmament, but the clouds are clearing and the glittering expanse of the country’s boozy Milky Way is once more coming into view.

December 25, 2008, 10:00 pm

Drinking Outside the Temple

Everyone has something they do well, along with a place where they learned how to do it. Me, I learned how to drink in New York.

I moved to Manhattan in 1988, a month after my 21st birthday, and in the time between the first welcome-to-New-York Rolling Rock at a forgotten East Village bar, and my farewell pints of Bass at Milano’s on East Houston Street 10 years later, I learned many things about alcohol. Not much about life, of course — I hadn’t figured out how to make a lot of money, or find true happiness, or make a relationship work — but I did learn about drink: how to order it, how to hold it, how to leave it alone, how it could take an everyday occurrence and make it at once absurd and sublime, how to feign sobriety while walking home at 3 a.m., and how if you were at the right bar with the right bartender and the right friends, last call was merely a suggestion and the party could continue until dawn.

One lesson absent from my alcohol education, however, was how to mix a decent drink. My New York drinking years revolved largely around beer, with the occasional scotch thrown in for good measure. It wasn’t until I’d been in Seattle for five years that I finally learned how to mix a proper Manhattan, and the effect was that of a whiskey-fueled satori: the skies cleared, the universe slipped into balance, and for the first time in my life I understood the concept of bibulous beauty. Overblown? Perhaps — but liquor has a tendency to do that.

After that, the pursuit of cocktail wisdom began to consume virtually all my free time. I’d spend hours prowling eBay in pursuit of bartending manuals from the cocktail’s heyday, and began allocating a part of each paycheck to building my liquor collection from a meager couple of bottles of vodka and crème de cassis into a mighty mixological machine replete with dozens of kinds of rum, bottles of obscure liqueurs and every type of bitters I could lay my hands on.

And the drinks! After mangling my first batches of Manhattans in a Pottery Barn cocktail shaker — I suspected they weren’t supposed to have a head on them — I began a more thorough exploration: from the basics of the Sazerac and the whiskey sour to the fragile gaiety of the Ramos Gin Fizz and the delicious obsolescence of the Police Gazette Cocktail, I mixed and sampled my way through the old books. Over time I began adding cocktails to my repertoire that I’d learned about in newspaper columns or online: the Red Hook, the Gansevoort Fizz, the Slope — drinks that had a character and composition that harkened back to the old days, but that had been created only weeks or months before by writers and bartenders now energizing New York’s cocktail scene.

It’s a rote part of America’s drinking history that the art of mixing a well-crafted cocktail — arguably at its prime about a century or so ago — never fully recovered from being kneecapped by Prohibition. My own spirituous experiments as a beginning drinker in the late ‘80s were with the drinks that defined the era: vodka tonics, Long Island Iced Teas, a token Fuzzy Navel and maybe a pitcher of Mudslides for the table. No wonder I usually stuck with beer.

But during that same time, unbeknownst to me, there were still a few artisan bartenders who rose above the tide (or the Mudslide, if you will). Then-Rainbow Room bartender Dale DeGroff was building a reputation for mining liquid gold from vintage bartending manuals and from his own pursuit of cocktail excellence. Dale was promptly joined by successive waves of gin-pouring artisans such as Audrey Saunders and Julie Reiner, and by adventurous bar owners such as Sasha Petraske, who together created an urban empire of classically oriented though modernly ambitious cocktail bars, built on a foundation of esoteric spirits, fresh ingredients, and perfect blocks of Kold Draft ice. This group, which has grown exponentially in the course of just a few years, may have saved the craft of the cocktail in America.

At least, that’s the way it can look when the farthest west you can see is Weehawken. As I enviously observed New York’s bibulous rebirth from afar, I drank closer to my West Coast home. While disappointed that I couldn’t just step into PDT’s phone-booth entrance in Crif Dogs whenever I wanted, I was quickly distracted by what I was finding out West, such as my local bartender, Murray Stenson, a 30-plus-year veteran of the bar now at Zig Zag Café who refuses to be swept up by the sometimes faddish aspects of the cocktail renaissance but who was practicing the principles expounded by David Embury, one of mixology’s high priests, when many of today’s top bartenders were still in diapers.

As I began trying other craft-oriented bars in Seattle and beyond, I saw how the New York cocktail culture that had become legendary among thinking drinkers was mirrored, in its own regionally styled ways, in cities across the country.

Over time I sampled — O.K, drank — cocktails such as the Averna-laced Black Manhattan at Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco, and the concoctions made with house-made amari and smoked ice from Portland, Ore., bartender Daniel Shoemaker, and talked inside baseball — or inside cocktail — with many, many more. As I did, and continue to do, the expanse of the country’s libational landscape began to define itself in broad, general ways.

San Francisco seems to be largely populated with vermouth-making, locavore-oriented Alice Waters-style bartenders who are not only growing in number as fast as those in New York, but are taking a shot at Gotham’s title as the country’s most exciting city for cocktails.

Bartenders in Portland are deploying improvisation and experimentation that is waking up the city’s once-sleepy cocktail culture, and in Los Angeles — where for years the quality cocktail scene was mostly as glossy and devoid of substance as, well, the rest of L.A. — a growing group of die-hards is reintroducing the city to the beauty of a well-made drink, eschewing simple visual dazzle and blatant product placement in favor of drinks made with a deeper culinary comprehension.

And as I talked to bartenders and drink geeks who lived in or had visited places I haven’t in recent years, I saw that this flood of quality drinking was not confined to the West Coast: Boston bartenders are challenging Seattle for the designation of most-vibrant-yet-underappreciated bar scene in the country; a small group of Texas bartenders are preparing to make Houston an unlikely fine-drinking destination; and craft bartenders have established a beachhead in and around Washington, D.C. And in New Orleans — which hosts a convention each year for bartenders and other cocktail geeks like me — bartenders such as Chris Hannah at Arnaud’s are proving that the city’s mixological range extends well beyond Sazeracs and Hurricanes.

2008年12月23日 星期二

mead wine

Arts on the Air | 24.12.2008 | 05:30

Backstage at one of Britain’s most famous Christmas traditions the Pantomime

Christmas time in Scotland - warmed mead wine, yule logs- and pantos.

Pantos - short for pantomime, are musical-comedies usually based on traditional children’s stories adapted for satirical effect. The characters are either very good or very bad. The audience- both young and old- know who they should boo and hiss and who they should cheer and warn from danger. The shows are outlandish, cheeky, and often over the top.

Report: Jodi Breisler


A traditional wine made by fermentation of honey, sometimes flavoured with herbs and spices. One of the oldest alcoholic drinks.

2008年12月18日 星期四


Dear Wine Lover,

If you like wine from smaller, quality obsessed estates, expert advice and first class service, you'll love the Discovery Club from WSJwine. And delivery is direct to your door.

Your special offer introduction is this outstanding 12-bottle case. Normally $189.99 but yours for only $69.99. You'll save over 60% and enjoy powerfully pure California Pinot Noir; fine, authentic Chablis; intense Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc; classy 2005 Bordeaux, smooth, oak-aged Rioja, and much more. See below for valuable free gifts, too.

WSJwine gives you the inside track to the world's best value wines - direct from the vineyard to your door. And the Discovery Club is simply the most convenient way to enjoy them. No fees, no commitment. Just seriously good wine with every bottle guaranteed to please, or your money back.

P.S. We have a limited number of cases available at this exceptionally low price. Don't miss out! Order quickly and you'll also receive a FREE deluxe lever-action corkscrew set in a wooden presentation case (a $49.99 value).



【明報專訊】在香港當老闆,也許都曾發夢有朝一日成為上市公司主席;正如在法國Bordeaux的釀酒人,都在競逐爭取成為倫敦葡萄 酒期貨市場的一分子。只是當大部分釀酒師或老闆,都在侃侃而談,告訴我他們如何傳統、釀酒何等用心,只有這位Chateau Sérilhan的莊主,三言兩語,坦率地道出了Bordeaux葡萄酒的遊戲規則。

在法國Bordeaux的酒村中,Saint Estèphe的名氣不小,以大家熟悉的電視藝人方式來比喻,應該是一線演員,村內擁有Chateau Cos d'Estournel和Chateau Montrose等列級明星酒莊。

實而不華 平房酒莊

驅 車時經過Chateau Cos d'Estournel那座宏偉並滲入東方色彩的古堡後,我們來到當地一家小酒莊Chateau Sérilhan。相對剛才行注目禮的古堡,Sérilhan的平房有點「簡約」,但當酒莊主人Didier Marcelis,帶我走完由幾幢平房組成的酒莊,便明白這完全是實而不華的組合。從起居飲食、辦公室、試酒室、酒窖到釀酒室,全部都在這組建築物內,連 他在內我全程只見到3部電腦加3名員工,據說股神畢菲特的總部也只有12人,所謂低成本高效率就是這個意思。

得期貨市場 得天下

對 比起以前見過慢條斯理的法國釀酒師,Didier簡直是個另類分子,說話高效率而有幽默感。他在英國取得MBA,曾於IBM位居歐洲市場部副總裁要職,甫 見面便斬釘截鐵道出這門生意之道:「我一接手這生意時,便想着如何才能成功,第一件事,便是打入期貨市場。而這樣必須有兩個條件,首先就是地利,葡萄園必 須位於六大酒村之內,而我們所在的Saint Estèphe,已擁有了這先天優勢。第二是要進入列級之內,當然如果在1855年的列級中榜上無名,那唯有靠Parker Point了。」

也 許大家都知道,Bordeaux酒在倫敦有期貨(En Primeurs)市場,但全區只有約300家酒莊獲此殊榮,能吸引當地酒商買賣你的期貨,才代表有價有市。而1855年的列級酒莊,好比入選恒生指數的 成分股,可惜這個評級制不如恒指般每兩年換馬,百五年來,只改動過一小次。至於Parker Point,就是指Robert Parker的評分,他比股評人陸叔更權威,能左右葡萄酒市場價格。


在 2003年,Didier放棄高薪厚職,從I.T.界返回家族接手這門傳統生意,即時實行他的一連串策略,大刀闊斧改革,從大事如引入比利時財團的資金, 及聘請Chateau Pontet Canet的Bernard Franc作技術總監,到細節如更換酒瓶上新的標籤等。結果他在2003年即獲得傳媒及酒評家的好評,而現在他的Chateau Sérilhan已被放到倫敦的葡萄酒期貨市場去。

Didier不愧為策略高手,酒莊不但在其規劃下取得成功,就連掌握訪問時間也恰到好 處,然後帶我到試酒室試其Chateau Sérilhan 2006。此酒成熟的漿果味道,富橡木的香氣而不浮誇,酒體適中優雅。我回香港後在葡萄酒商店上見到這一瓶酒的其他年份,才實惠地賣200多元,不論酒質 和價錢,都如莊主Didier的為人及其酒莊的風格,一樣踏實。


2008年12月16日 星期二

Anheuser-Busch Loses EU Trademark for Budweiser

Competition | 16.12.2008

Anheuser-Busch Loses EU Trademark for Budweiser

The European battle of the Buds continues as a European Union court annulled an EU-wide trademark for Anheuser-Busch's Bud beer, which has been contested by Czech brewer Budejovicky Budvar.

The Luxembourg-based European Court of First Instance said in its ruling on Tuesday, Dec. 16, that the bloc's trademark registry, the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), made mistakes when rejecting Budvar's complaint against Anheuser-Busch's registration.

Anheuser-Busch, which was taken over by Belgium's InBev earlier this year, can appeal the verdict to the European Court of Justice.

The Czech and the US brewers have waged a worldwide legal battle over Budweiser trademark for more than a century. The disputes have blocked Anheuser-Busch's expansion in Europe.

Budvar is the last Czech beer maker owned by the state and the centre-right government of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek initiated steps to sell the brewer, a tricky legal exercise because of the legal disputes.

But the premier said in July that the firm will not be ready for privatization before his government's term is up in 2010.

DPA news agency (sms)

2008年12月8日 星期一

Boston Beer Company- leading independent brewer

Saturday Interview

It’s All About the Beer, and Independence

Published: December 5, 2008

WHEN Jim Koch, a sixth-generation brewer, started Boston Beer Company in 1984 with an old family recipe, he was one of a few pioneering craft brewers in a field dominated by Miller, Budweiser and Coors.

Now, a wave of consolidation has radically altered the brewing landscape. In November, shareholders of Anheuser-Busch agreed to a $52 billion acquisition by the Belgium-based InBev, creating the world’s largest beer maker (now called Anheuser-Busch InBev). That follows the merger in July of the United States operations of SABMiller, with roots in South Africa, with Molson Coors Brewing Company (itself a merger of Molson Inc. of Canada and Adolph Coors Company of Colorado), into a new entity called MillerCoors.

With less than 1 percent of beer sales in the United States, Boston Beer is now the nation’s leading independent brewer.

In addition to its signature Sam Adams lager, Boston Beer produces more than 21 types of beer, including seasonal ales, Chocolate Bock and Utopias, a beer aged in oak barrels that sells for $140 for a 24-ounce bottle. Still, the company has struggled in recent months to manage a voluntary recall because of defects in bottles from one of its suppliers, the acquisition of a new brewery and a broadening economic slowdown.

Mr. Koch recently discussed the beer market.

Q. It’s an interesting time in the beer market, wouldn’t you say?

A. There has probably been more change in the last four months than at any time since Prohibition. Ninety-five percent of the beer made in the United States is controlled by two companies, one based in Belgium and one in South Africa. It’s stunning.

Q. How does it feel to be the country’s largest independent brewer?

A. It’s bizarre and sad. It’s a little like your kid’s Little League team winning the World Series because no one else showed up.

Q. How have things changed since the early days of the craft brew movement?

A. For years, craft beers were a largely ignored curiosity in American beer. When I started Sam Adams, beer drinkers had two choices: mass-produced domestic beer that was consistent and well made — the equiv of fast food — or imports. The mentality of beer was completely different. No one thought about beer as having quality differences.

Over time, Sam Adams and the whole craft movement began to slowly change the way Americans think about their own beer. Today, the center of creativity and quality in brewing has migrated from Europe to the United States.

Q. And now, there are 1,400 craft brewers in the United States?

A. Yes. Roughly 1,000 of those are brew pubs, while others are making some of the most interesting beer around.

Q. Does the competition worry you?

A. No. Beer is where wine was 25 years ago. We are at the beginning of an explosion in interest in beer. There’s a generation of beer drinkers who have grown up expecting to get great beer. They are really driving the market. Sam Adams is starting to become available in places that it was never was, like convenience stores. We are growing in Wal-Mart.

Q. When you’re the No. 1 brewer, and you’re in Wal-Mart, do you worry that that takes away from your pioneer craft beer image?

A. There will always be people looking for novelty and obscurity. I’m not trying to be obscure. I’m trying to change the way Americans think about beer.

Q. Boston Beer reported worse-than-expected third-quarter results and lowered the outlook for 2009. What happened?

A. Sales were actually a little better than expected. We had a number of accounting charges. One of them was some residual charges from the recall back in April. We thought we closed the books on it and then we got the last bit of beer back from our wholesalers. And we had to accelerate the shortfall fees we pay to other breweries as we ramped up our new brewery in Pennsylvania, and there were some things with the tax rate.

The thing that I’m most worried about is what we call depletions — the beer that got shipped out of wholesalers to retailers. It’s the closest proxy we have to how much beer people drink. That was up 12 percent, compared to 10 percent last quarter. But it’s really more a continuation of the trend.

Q. Consumers have been cutting back on all kinds of discretionary spending. Has that included beer?

A. We haven’t seen that happening yet. Beer as a category is recession-resistant — nothing’s recession-proof. A quality beer is a very affordable luxury. People will cut back on a lot of things before they give up on something that’s so affordable. But we don’t know. We’re looking week by week at whether the economic situation is going to affect our drinkers. I was at an account in Philadelphia the other day. He said what’s really been hurt is the high-end margarita. They’re not buying the luxury vodkas.

Q. Are people buying more beer at the store and drinking it at home?

A. You bet. And that kind of benefits Sam Adams. That’s one of the very democratic things about beer. If you are a wine connoisseur and want to experience a world-class wine, it’s going to cost you around $100.

Q. There’s a lot of experimentation in brewing lately. Tell me about your extreme beer.

A. Extreme beer was a term I coined back in 1994 to describe a beer we had invented called Triple Bock. It was the beer equivalent of extreme sports: 35 proof, 17 percent alcohol. At that level of alcohol, there’s no longer carbonation. It didn’t taste like a beer. It tastes like a tawny port, maybe with some old sherry notes, and a bit of that savory character came from the yeast. It has evolved into Utopias. The boundaries of beer are much farther out than people realize. Extreme beer is brewers’ way of pushing those boundaries.

2008年12月5日 星期五