Diageo World Class Entry:The Traveling Woodsman

For the past two years I’ve been privileged enough to participate in Diageo’s World Class competition here in the United States. The competition has continued to grow larger and more intense each year. The first year you had to submit a video of yourself making a cocktail featuring one of Diageo’s brands, and there was a 1-day competition for 20 lucky competitors. The second year you had to complete several online tests, submit a cocktail again highlighting one of Diageo’s brands and submit a video explaining why you loved bartending and it was two days of challenges that challenged all your skills, your ability to think your feet and your creativity. This is the third year that Diageo has held its World Class competition in the United States and they’ve changed up the game a bit. In addition to completing several learning modules on brand categories such as bourbon and scotch, vodka and gin, tequila and rum, you are also asked to review modules hosted by the 2012 winner Ricky Gomez on hospitality and creating a memorable guest experience as well as reviewing online modules presented by Jeff Bell (of PDT), the 2013 US World Class Winner that covers speed, planning out the most efficient way to make a round of drinks, and setting up your station as efficiently as possible. After all these modules there are several online quizzes to complete. Once this is done you are then asked to submit a cocktail featuring a minimum of one of Diageo’s Reserve brands which include Bulleit Rye and Bourbon, the Johnnie Walker family of scotch whiskies, Ketel One Vodka, Ron Zacapa Rum, Ciroc Vodka and Tanqueray Ten. In addition to creating a cocktail featuring at least one of these brands, you also had to provide the reasons why you felt your cocktail was World Class.

I’ve found in my experience that if there is a story or a bit of interesting knowledge tied to a cocktail it makes for an even more memorable imbibing experience. With that idea in mind I created the “Traveling Woodsman”.

The inspiration behind the name of this cocktail is the story of the spirits themselves. The base of the Traveling Woodsman is split between Bulleit Rye and Johnnie Walker Double Black, two spirits that are both aged in American Oak. In the case of the Bulliet Rye, new unused American oak is utilized to age the rye. In the case of Johnnie Walker Double Black, which is a blended whisky, American oak barrels that were previously used to age American whiskey are re-purposed to age scotch. The story of how a barrel can be used first to age one spirit in America and then re-used to age another spirit in Scotland gave me the idea behind the name of this cocktail.

The Traveling Woodsman. A combination of Bulleit Rye, Johnnie Walker Double Black, Meletti Amaro, Cocchi Americano and Creole Bitters.

The Traveling Woodsman. A combination of Bulleit Rye, Johnnie Walker Double Black, Meletti Amaro, Cocchi Americano and Creole Bitters.

The Traveling Woodsman

1oz Bulleit Rye
1 oz Johnnie Walker Double Black
1/2 oz Meletti Amaro
1/2 oz Cocchi Americano

2 Dashes Bitter Truth Creole Bitters

Directions:Combine Ingredients in mixing glass. Stir with ice.

Strain into coupe.

Garnish with Grapefruit Twist

Year 5:Tales of the Cocktail 2013

Five years attending Tales of the Cocktail, 4 spirited dinners co-hosted, one tour as a Tales of the Cocktail Apprentice (otherwise known as a CAP) in 2010, gallons upon gallons of cocktails batched, numerous seminars attended. How the time goes by.

Each year seems to continue to top the previous year. This was the year that involved an Untouchables themed bar, the largest spirited dinner I’ve ever been involved in, and lots of Cognac.

But let’s rewind a bit and go back to the beginning of the week.

Tuesday July 16th. My flight from New York city lands at Louis Armstrong Airport around 9:30pm. Along with several friends I share a cab to the Monteleone hotel aka main headquarters for Tales of the Cocktail. After dropping of my bags I headed over to the Absinthe House right around the corner from the Monteleone to see what friends might be out and about and to grab a quick drink or two. After running into a few friends from San Francisco, New York and Boston I called it a some what earlier night around 1am.

Wednesday July 15th. I head over to the Jackson Civic Center where I’m scheduled to bartend at The William Grant & Sons Cocktails in Film Festival party, one of the three biggest parties of the entire week. For this year’s party the folks at William Grant had each of their brands paired up with a movie.

The Calm before the storm.

The Calm before the storm.

Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum was being served in a makeshift bowling alley themed area inspired by the movie the “Big Lebowski”.

The Big Lebowski meets Sailor Jerry Rum.

The Big Lebowski meets Sailor Jerry Rum.

The Monkey Shoulder brand amabassador team of Freddy May and Dean Callan were set up in a bar dubbed “Cocktails and Dreams” and were utilizing their flair bartending skills to conjure memories of the movie “Cocktail.” And Balvenie and Glenfiddich were served both neat and in cocktails in an area inspired by the movie the “Untouchables”.

Monkey Shoulder Brand Ambassadors Freddy May and Dean Callahan conjuring memories of the movie "Cocktail".

Monkey Shoulder Brand Ambassadors Freddy May and Dean Callahan conjuring memories of the movie “Cocktail”.

This was the area I had been scheduled to work and for the occasion I created an Untouchables inspired cocktail I dubbed “The Tax Evasion”.

Tax Evasion
2 oz Balvenie 12 Double Wood Scotch Whisky
1/2 oz Lillet Rose
1/2 oz Mathilde Creme Peche
2 Dashes Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Bitters

Directions:Combine ingredients in mixing glass. Stir, strain into coupe. Garnish with grapefruit twist

The Tax Evasion.

The Tax Evasion.

The whisky fueled crew behind the Untouchables bar:Gable Erenzo,Lorne Cousin, Hal Wolin, David Laird,Mitch Bechard, and Jonathan Wingo.

The whisky fueled crew behind the Untouchables bar:Gable Erenzo,Lorne Cousin, Hal Wolin, David Laird,Mitch Bechard, and Jonathan Wingo.

And most memorable of all was watching attendees do lay-backs from a giant Hendricks Gin powered cannon.

Hendricks Gin Cannon

And that brings me to Thursday July 16th, and probably my favorite part of Tales of the Cocktail, the night of the spirited dinners. This year Jonathan Pogash and I teamed up with the always lovely and charming Charlotte Voisey of William Grant and Sons and her partner in crime, Gina Chersevani of Hank’s Oyster bar in Washington Dc. Our theme was Beauty vs. the Beast: Gin vs. Whisky. Jonathan and I took the side of the beast, aka the whisky side, and created cocktails featuring Monkey Shoulder, Hudson whiskies, Balvenie and Glenfiddich.

This year as we have the past few years we worked with the Windsor Court Hotel to host our dinner. The big change this year was that we used the 23rd Floor of the Windsor Court which has one of the best views of New Orleans I’ve ever seen. It also gave us the space to host 120 attendees for the evening.

The view from the 23rd floor of the Windsor Court Hotel.

The view from the 23rd floor of the Windsor Court Hotel.

The menu of Beauty vs. the Beast.

The menu of Beauty vs. the Beast.

Menu

Aperitif Cocktails

The Sasquatch Expedition
By Hal Wolin and Jonathan Pogash
Gibson’s Canadian Whiskey, Byrrh, Mathilde Peche, Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Boker’s Bitters, Lemon Peel, Sugar served Punch Style

Champagne Cobbler
by Gina Chersevani and Charlotte Voisey
Bubbly served with seasonal berries and fresh mint over Lillet Rose cobbled ice

Shrimp Ceviche
Louisiana Citrus, Jalapeno, Fresh Cilantro, Sesame, Petite Mustard Greens
with
Juniper Meadow
by Charlotte Voisey
Hendrick’s Gin with mandarin, strawberry, pineapple, pink peppercorn, fresh lemon and arugula

Poached Halibut Cheeks
Red Quinoa, Garlic Vinaigrette
with
Cheeky Scotsman
By Jonathan Pogash
Glenfiddich 12 Year Old Whisky, pineapple juice, housemade grenadine, Barrett’s Ginger Beer

Roasted Poussin
Parmesan Risotto, English Peas, Sherry Cream, Black Pepper
with
Pleasantly Peasing Soda
By Charlotte Voisey
Hendricks Gin, Pea+Pepper+Basil Elixir, Lemon

Grilled Prime Tenderloin
Potato Butter, Summer Chanterelles, Cherry Tomato, Honey-Bourbon Jus
with
Tender Rosie
By Jonathan Pogash and Hal Wolin
Monkey Shoulder Whisky, Grapefruit Juice, Lillet Rose, The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Bitters, Sparkling Wine

Citrus Salad Pavlova
with
Sour Sipping Cream Soda
By Charlotte Voisey
Hendricks Gin, Yuzu, Vanilla Cream Soda

Smoked Dark Chocolate Cremeux Tart
with
Speyside in Moonlight
By Hal Wolin
The Balvenie 15 Year Single Barrel, The Balvenie 17 Year Peated Cask, Amaro Nonino, Bittermens Mole Bitters

 

 

 

Some behind the scenes shots of what it takes to make a spirited dinner for 120 guests happen.

Jonahtan Pogash and Gina Chersevani batching and shaking up some cocktails.

Jonahtan Pogash and Gina Chersevani batching and shaking up some cocktails.

Charlotte Voisey, Gina Chersevani, Jonathan Pogash, and myself prepping 120 Sour Sipping Cream Sodas for our guests.

Charlotte Voisey, Gina Chersevani, Jonathan Pogash, and myself prepping 120 Sour Sipping Cream Sodas for our guests.

A few of Gina Chersevani's Sour Sipping Sodas ready to be served.

A few of Gina Chersevani’s Sour Sipping Sodas ready to be served.

Gina Chersevani and the WIndsor Court's Assistant Food and Beverage Director/Sommelier Sara Kavanaugh discussing one of the cocktail and food pairings.

Gina Chersevani and the WIndsor Court’s Assistant Food and Beverage Director/Sommelier Sara Kavanaugh discussing one of the cocktail and food pairings.

The final cocktail, "Speyside in Moonlight" being prepped for service.

The final cocktail, “Speyside in Moonlight” being prepped for service.

The final course and cocktail of the evening:Smoked Dark Chocolate Cremeux Tart paired with Speyside in Moonlight.

The final course and cocktail of the evening:Smoked Dark Chocolate Cremeux Tart paired with Speyside in Moonlight.

Your hosts for the evening- Charlotte Voisey, Gina Chersevani, Hal Wolin and Jonathan Pogash.

Your hosts for the evening- Charlotte Voisey, Gina Chersevani, Hal Wolin and Jonathan Pogash.

With that let’s get to Friday July 17th:

And Cognac, lots of Cognac, otherwise known as an event called “Back to the Classics: Revisiting Cognac” which was sponsored by the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (also known as the BNIC). The BNIC is an organization that exists to promote the region of Cognac, France and its growers and producers as well as to educate the consumer and spirits industry.

Attendees at the BNIC tasting room.

Attendees at the BNIC tasting room.

Jonathan Pogash and Casey McMurray sampling attendees on  Frapin Cognac.

Jonathan Pogash and Casey McMurray sampling attendees on Frapin Cognac.

The BNIC tasting room was filled with vintage barware including this 1950s traveling bar kit.

The BNIC tasting room was filled with vintage barware including this 1950s traveling bar kit.

Pierre Ferrand Cognac Juleps, one of the cocktails offered in the BNIC Tasting Room.

Pierre Ferrand Cognac Juleps, one of the cocktails offered in the BNIC Tasting Room.

Lots of Cognac. Just a small sampling of some of the Cognacs being offered to try in the BNIC tasting room.

Lots of Cognac. Just a small sampling of some of the Cognacs being offered to try in the BNIC tasting room.

Like I said a lot of Cognac….

On Saturday, which was also my last day at Tales this year, I managed to catch a very memorable seminar called 60 ideas in 60 minutes seminar.

With presenters such as Jamie Evans of Oxley Gin, Paul Tuennerman, Laura Cullen, Theresa Paopao, Charles Joly of the Aviary, Sean Kenyon of Williams and Graham (and the Mixfits), and Jackson Cannon of Boston Eastern Standard and The Hawthorne, the room was filled with a packed house of bartenders, media and consumers eager to learn.

A packed house at the 60 Ideas in 60 Minutes seminar.

A packed house at the 60 Ideas in 60 Minutes seminar.

During this seminar the presenters shared 60 different ideas and concepts covering everything from menu concept to inventory to tips on hospitality to just name a few.

Some tips and ideas that really stood out for me were:

Build it and they will come: Be a trend setter not a trend follower. Don’t build a bar program based on a trend. Make it your own. –Sean Kenyon

Stage and Guest Bartend: It helps keep you and your bar program relevant and helps everyone in the community learn from each other. –Sean Kenyon

Cradle to the Grave: The taste of a cocktail begins from the customer’s first steps inside the bar until they leave. Make the entire experience the best memorable and the best it can be. –Sean Kenyon

Your staff is as important as your guests. Everyone from the dish washer to your general manager should be treated equally. A happy house(restaurant/bar) makes for a happy and memorable customer experience. –Sean Kenyon

Charles Joly and Sean Kenyon presenting at 60 Ideas in 60 Minutes.

Charles Joly , Jackson Cannon and Sean Kenyon

Bartending should be fun. You make drinks and moments for a living. Stop taking yourself so damn seriously. –Paul G. Tuennerman(aka Mr. Cocktail)

Libraries are for reading, bars are for drinking- Crafting the perfect cocktail menu. Cut the fat on that menu and give me a cocktail.Our guests and our cash drawers will be happier. Trend is cyclical, menus get bigger and bigger, then suddenly, everyone is sick of the bibles and we trim to minimal size. Dead Rabbit and Justice Snow’s are the exceptions to prove the rule. –Charles Joly

Always be aware of who is in the room, who needs help. If you have a packed house and a regular walks in trying to maneuver their way to the bar, have their favorite cocktail waiting when they finally make it to the bar. Go that extra step.- Charles Joly

These are just a few of the “make you think” tidbits of knowledge that were shared with attendees at this seminar. A lot of useful information that with some work can be applied to your bar or restaurant and can help improve both your staffs’ experience and your customers’ experience.

(Please note a few of these quotes were paraphrased)

As an industry we’re always learning, trying to improve ourselves and create memories for our guests. This seminar more than anything brought that message home.

And of course Tales of the Cocktail wouldn’t be complete without a surprise or two. And this seminar had a pretty big one…

Oxley Gin Brand Ambassador took the opportunity to propose to his girlfriend.

Jamie Evans proposing to his girlfriend, Chelsea Pecco.

Jamie Evans proposing to his girlfriend, Chelsea Pecco.

After that surprise ending to an already amazing seminar, I spent the rest of Saturday catching up with friends and seeing the sights in New Orleans.

I’m already looking forward to what Tales of the Cocktail has in store for me in 2014.

[Photos of BNIC Tasting Room and 60 ideas in 60 Seconds courtesy of: Cameron Michael Smith of The Brewer. Some photos of the William Grant and Sons Party courtesy of Jennifer Mitchell Photography. All other photos provided by Hal Wolin.]

Islay Ah Huh cocktail with featuring Johnnie Walker Double Black.

Recently I was working on a few new whisky cocktails and I decided to grab a bottle of Johnnie Walker Double Black to work with.

What’s the difference between Johnie Walker Double Black and Johnnie Walker Black you might ask?

In the case of Johnnie Walker Double Black and Johnnie Walker Black, it’s all about the smoke.

Johnnie Walker Black consists of a blend of malt whiskies with a minimum age of 12 years and grain whisky. You take that same formula and add in some whiskies from the Islay region of Scotland, known for peaty and smoky whiskies and you’ve got Johnie Walker Double Black.

Johnnie Walker Double Black
In creating this cocktail I decided to go with Johnnie Walker Double Black as I wanted a smoky component in the cocktail, In using the Johnnie Walker Double Black I also had notes of allspice, nutmeg, apple, tropical fruit and a touch of bitterness to play off.

Inspired by these flavors I wanted to create a scotch based tiki cocktail that could work in winter and also still work in summer. Continuing the concept of tiki, I named this cocktail “Islay ah huh,” which means “Island of Huh” and is a play on the gaelic word ah which translates to of.

Islay Ah Huh

2 oz Johnnie Double Black
1/2 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz Busnel Calvados
1/2 Campari
1/2 oz Demerara syrup
2 Dashes Bittermens Elemakule Tiki Bitters

Directions: Combine ingredients in shaker tin.Shake with ice. Strain or double strain into coupe or cocktail glass.