A Highly Spirited Week

A Highly Spirited Week

If you’re a lover of the liquor-based libation, you are probably aware that last week was World Cocktail Week, a series of celebrations—many involving master mixologists—held throughout the U.S. (with a few in Australia and Poland as well) to raise money for the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans. Participating cities included Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, St. Louis, San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans, New York City, Washington, D.C., and, internationally, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Warszawa, Poland. Below, Kelly Magyarics reports from a DC event held at the rather aptly named restaurant, Proof.

By Kelly Magyarics

The cocktail may not have been invented here, but the Rickey was. The city’s ingrained and storied role in Prohibition and Repeal is undeniable. And the buzz surrounding its thriving drink scene suggests that Washington, D.C. is significant for more these days than being home to the new residents at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

To celebrate World Cocktail Week, eleven mixers and shakers of the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild recently joined forces at Proof restaurant for a dinner pairing their concoctions with chef Haidar Karoum’s innovative dishes, with proceeds benefiting New Orleans’ Museum of the American Cocktail.  “Unlike many bartenders into the flash and flair, they’re making drinks with culinary integrity, that are grounded in historical and classical approaches to the craft,” the museum’s founding member Phil Greene, a D.C. resident, says about the District’s stars behind the bar.

Take milk punch, for example. Savvy colonialists deliberately curdled milk by heating it and mixing it with spirits and citrus. The strained liquid was thin yet creamy, and most importantly, kept for weeks without refrigeration. Mixologist Justin Guthrie’s refreshing modern version used aromatic Hendrick’s Gin, milk and lime and cucumber juices, evoking complimentary comparisons to a spa treatment product.

Guests were equally bowled over by the floral and citrus notes mingling in Rose’s Bitter Punch. Poste’s resident cocktailian Rico Wisner balanced Italian bitter aperitivo Amaro and grapefruit juice with a slightly sweet rose tea for an alluringly quaffable warm weather beverage.

Proof’s own combination sommelier/cocktail wizard Sebastian Zutant is known to grab the stockpot to whip up housemade vermouth or bitters. For his SebastGIN, Zutant infused vodka with botanicals including citrus, rosemary, coriander and sage. The Eyeball Kid cocktail featured the namesake spirit as well as falernum, Zutant’s rhubarb bitters and an apple cider shrub, and the puckery potable paired effortlessly alongside Chef Karoum’s Abalone “Three Minute Ceviche” with avocado, citrus, cucumber and toasted nori.

“This week allowed us to all get together around the country and showcase our talents and bring attention to our craft,” Guild president Owen Thomson explains. As the haute couture of the cocktail world, some of these drinks employ techniques arguably a bit too involved for the home bartender. But as with fashion, mixology encompasses experimentation and discovery of personal taste. Proof’s spirited guests may have been inspired to try their hand at a shrub, mix with an unfamiliar spirit, or reach more often for a bottle of bitters. And that form of imitation is indeed flattering.
Rose’s Bitter Punch
Courtesy of Rico Wisner, Poste, Washington, D.C.
1 oz. vodka (Wisner uses Below 42 Vodka)
1 oz. Averna Amaro
1 oz. lightly sweetened rose black tea (Chinese black tea, rose petals, longan fruit)
¾ oz.  ruby red grapefruit juice
1 tsp. sugar
1 strip of grapefruit peel (about 2 inches long)
Dehydrated grapefruit slice for garnish. (Use dehydrator or low temperature oven to dehydrate fruit.)

In a cocktail shaker, muddle 1 tsp. sugar and the grapefruit peel. Add ½ oz. water to dissolve sugar. Add remaining ingredients, stir and serve over ice. Garnish with a dehydrated grapefruit slice.

Alice and Vincent
Courtesy of Todd Thrasher, Restaurant Eve and PX in Alexandria, VA
2 oz. beet juice
1 oz. roasted orange juice
¼ oz. beet gastrique (reduce beet pickling liquid)
1 oz. Rhum Clement VSOP
½ oz Clement Créole Shrub
Candied beet (for garnish)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, and stir. Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with a candied beet.
Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.trywine.net.

Published on May 25, 2009
Topics: Cocktail WeekSpirits