Tales of the Cocktail: Wednesday, 7/16/14 – Day 2

Now that Tales has officially started, it’s time to ramp up and have some fun. I’m going to make sure to pace myself as it’s going to be a long and bumpy ride.


First event: Appleton’s Bartender Brunch:

Cane Juice ExtractorThe good people at Appleton’s threw an beautiful pool party at The Country Club and it was amazing!  Arguably my favorite part was that they had a fresh cane juice extractor – and I was fortunate to be able to try fresh pressed cane juice – and it was completely new to me! I always thought that it would be ridiculously sweet and syrupy, but it was much more vegetal with a slight sweetness to it. It reminded me a lot of fresh coconut water as far as the mouth feel and sugar content. If only I had a fresh cane juice extractor and access to fresh cane back home!



Second event: Chartreuse in a Bottle:

Carthusian InsigniaThis was the event that I was most looking forward to. I was extremely lucky to have purchased a ticket to this event as it was limited to around 12 people. We had a chance to talk about Chartreuse as a spirit and also the lore that surrounds the company.

Fun Facts:

  • There are only 2 monks that know the entire recipe, and the job of one monk is to source all of the ingredients (130 of them) for each batch
  • False Myth- there is a rumor running around that they can never be in the same place at the same time, or be on an airplane at the same time—– once again false.
  • There are 2 different distilleries: one in Tarragona Spain and one in Voiron, France. The Spanish distillery is older and is the source of Chartreuse for South America. The French Distillery is newer as they were allowed back into France in the early 1900’s. The French Distillery supplies North America.
  • The biggest difference between the 2 distilleries is that the Chartreuse made in Spain is barrel aged in caves, where the Chartreuse made in France is barrel aged in more modern warehouses.

We will be going into much more detail about Chartreuse in an upcoming video post, so stay tuned.


Third Event: Training Craft Bartenders:

As you all know, I am always interested in better bartender training, and I was extremely excited to attend this seminar focusing on training craft bartenders.

During this seminar, the people at Anvil Bar in Houston, TX laid out their training regiment in great detail.


The outline of the training program focuses on 6 points:

  1. Cocktails: Recipes, Balance and Creation
  2. Tasting: Comprehensive palate development and developing the ability to blind taste ingredients
  3. History & Education: A full immersion into cocktail history and spirits education
  4. Speed & Efficiency: Developing the mechanics of high speed craft bartending
  5. Service &Hospitality: Enhancing the guest experience.
  6. Management & Ownership: Training never ends

The entire program takes around 12 weeks to accomplish and if at any point you fail a week, you have to repeat it.  This results in an incredibly thorough and immersive program, and those who take part are both well trained and extremely loyal to the bar.

I learned a ton in this session, but the key message that came through loud and clear was this:

If you invest in & show loyalty to your people, they will return the favor tenfold.


Julia’s Session: How to Win Cocktail Competitions:

Royal SonestaThis session was led by some of the industry’s most seasoned competition participants and judges: Nic Van TielJim MeehanAli Dedianko, John Lermayer, and Jason Williams.

The session covered a brief history of the cocktail competition and why they are good for the industry before diving into specific tips on how to win.


Update: I subsequently found this Slideshare from Nick van Tiel which is another excellent summary of the presentation.



How to Win Cocktail Competitions:

1. Get Involved
Winning competitions starts long before the application.  Take some time to get familiar with the brand hosting the competition, the people involved (and especially judging) and the overall tone of the competition.  Preparation will be the best way to have a successful entry and get through the first “paper” entry stage.

2. Pre-Game Training

So you were selected to compete – Congrats! Now what?

At this stage your preparation has to get much more tactical.  The speakers recommended great suggestions to get your mind and skills ready for the day of the competition.  They recommended checklists, practice, and taking some time to build your confidence before the main event.  If you aren’t confident your cocktail will win, the judges will see that!

3. The Day of the Competition

Take a deep breath, you’re in!

On the day of, it’s important to be extremely well prepared and rehearsed so you can succeed even if something goes “wrong”.  Know what the judges are looking for, so if you drop a spoon or break a glass you can react accordingly.  (For example: they may not care at all about how you look while making the drink, but time could be extremely important.  In this case, just move on – and quickly!)


4. You Won!  Now what?

Congratulations!  There are a few things to remember before you get to crazy with the celebration.  First, remember that you won but everyone around you lost.  Be gracious and remember that by winning, you have been chosen to represent – your brand, your city, etc.  Stay in touch with the other folks you met – other participants, judges, etc.  They can become great allies and long-time friends!

Most importantly, be grateful.  You didn’t win on your own.  Thank the judges, the barbacks, and the guy in a suit at the back of the room – he’s probably the brand’s marketing guy who approved the massive budget for the competition and gave you this opportunity.

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Here’s the PDF with detailed notes:

Detailed Notes


Click on the icon to view or right-click to download.



Evening Events: Absolut Welcome Reception & Around the World with Charles H. Baker

Medicine Bottle ShotsAbsolut and St. John Frizell and William Grant and Sons threw two great parties in the evening and we were very lucky and grateful to be invited.  These brands did a great job of displaying the many ways their spirits can shine in cocktails while having a great time doing it! (Take a look at one of the more creative cocktail presentations from Absolut!)


We Survived Day 2!

That’s a wrap!  Check out the drinks tally below – Chris is running away with this one (is anyone surprised?)  Tomorrow we have a couple more great seminars coming, like “Class to Glass” about bar education outside the bar, and an exclusive spirits tasting called “Rare and Defining Spirits”.  Stay tuned!


Drink Tally:

Note: Most drinks are tastings or small pours – don’t try this at home!

Chris: 24

Julia: 10


Schwag Giveaway:

We are getting some amazing swag from Tales & want to share!

Swag PhotoHere’s what we got today:

  • Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur Cell Phone Recharger
  • Beefeater London Hardbound Notebook
  • Beefeater Gin USB Thumb Drive (unknown size)


Win it all!

Comment on Posts in the “Tales of the Cocktail 2014” series to enter!

(Day 1Day 3 & Day 4)

You can comment once per post and each is a new entry – we’ll pick someone randomly on Monday, July 21st August 4th! (Extended!) We’ll announce the winner here and mail them all the swag!

Congratulations to Sharon!

You won the drawing – we’ll email you to send you the schwag!

The ultimate guide to cocktail shakers


Ah, the Cocktail Shaker.

It’s the quintessential image of a bartender: Cocktail shaker in one hand and bar towel in the other. But what is the story behind this fairly specific bar tool, and how do you choose the best cocktail shaker for you? This guide will give you all the information you need to get started.

Check out the links below if you want to jump ahead, or read on!


The Basics: What’s a Cocktail Shaker?

While we’ve probably all seen a picture of what a cocktail shaker looks like, (if not – you’re in luck, there are a lot of those images in this post!), it’s worth taking a second to go over the basics. A cocktail shaker is a special tool designed to do two things very well and very quickly:


Thoroughly Mix Cold Beverages:

If you’ve ever tried mixing sugar into your iced tea, you’ve probably noticed you had to stir for-ev-er before it’d finally dissolve. That’s a problem bartenders face all the time – cold ingredients take more effort to mix together. The cocktail shaker evolved as a great tool to expedite the stirring process behind the bar and (let’s not forget) look pretty awesome while doing it.

The reason? All of that ice in the shaker acts a bit like a “blender ball”. As a result, your liquid moves around a whole lot more than it would with just a spoon. More movement results in faster mixing.


Chill a Drink Super Fast:

While you’re stirring away on your iced tea, that bartender has already finished three cocktails and probably cleaned the bar as well. Cocktail shakers are extremely good at making lukewarm ingredients (like booze) really cold and really fast.

Why? While that ice is acting as a blender ball to help mix ingredients together, it’s also chilling down the ingredients as they pass by. Shaking the cocktail makes the ingredients pass over the ice much more frequently and the ice breaks into smaller pieces, offering more cold surface area. The result? One very cold drink, and very quickly!


Dilute the Drink

Wait, what? Like, on purpose?  Yep, it’s a little known fact that cocktails actually need to be diluted in order to taste right. In fact if you followed a cocktail recipe exactly and excluded the ice, mixed it all together really thoroughly and put it in the fridge to cool down, you’d find it probably tastes much too strong.

That’s because every cocktail recipe assumes 25-40% water dilution as a result of shaking. (Note: it’s actually more complicated than that and if you’re into nerdy cocktail science, you should totally read this.)



A Brief History of the Cocktail Shaker

The concept of the cocktail shaker is fairly simple: it’s a special container that’s


How to Choose the Best Cocktail Shaker for You



How to Shake a Cocktail

Yes, it is possible to shake a cocktail without looking ridiculous. And yeah, it can take some practice. (But really, looking ridiculous is half the fun!) Here’s a brief intro to shaking a cocktail, thanks to our lovely model (and experienced bartender) Chris.

1. Add your Ingredients



2. Close Your Shaker



3. Hold on Tight!



4. Shake shake shake!



5. Open it up


Cocktail Shaker Alternatives: How to Improvise if you don’t own a shaker



FAQs: Troubleshooting your Shaker & your shaken Cocktail