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Drink In the Win

October 21, 2011

Congratulations! I feel like we’ve all won, even thought it’s Miriam Johnson who got the prize.

Last night at the Table Hopping Five-Year Blogiversary Bash, Miriam’s Empire State of Mind cocktail triumphed in a head-to-head mix-off against Zack Hutchins’ Candied Ginger Appletini.

There were three judges, one of whom was beloved local journalist Fred LeBrun. I never quite caught the names of the two other panelists. Well, anyhow, they bestowed the victory on Miriam and her skillful blending of local ingredients from some of my favorite producers.

The best part? Harvest Spirits’ Cornelius Applejack and Fee’s Orange Bitters will be on the menu at Taste in downtown Albany. But really, there is even a better part.

Many of you helped to make it happen.

Okay. It probably would have happened anyway. When I asked for your help, the Empire State of Mind had only 27 votes and it was running a distant second. With your support it skyrocketed to a total of 87 votes. At the end, frontrunner Zack’s Appletini was just five votes ahead.

However, the third place drink ended up with a paltry 24 votes. So you could argue that we didn’t accomplish much. The horse we were backing had 27 votes at the start, and surely would have won without our efforts.

Well, maybe and maybe not.

Perhaps some of the buzz that we generated pushed people to give the Empire State of Mind a second look. Perhaps the drink’s growing popularity swayed some who might have otherwise voted for the Chocolate Mint Barnestini (which was the drink that came in third).

What I do know, is that in the last 24 hours of the voting, the Empire State of Mind almost doubled its votes, rising from 44 to 87. And in that same period the Candid Ginger Appletini garnered an additional 8 votes, the Chocolate Mint Barnestini picked up 21, and the Orange Candid brought in 3 more.

You did that. And for that I thank you.

The drink, by the way was delicious. Fred LeBrun shared a sip of his cocktail with me, the Silly Goose, and the Times Union Blog Czar. I thought it was a touch on the sweet side, but I was impressed how all the individual elements really showed themselves off and played well together. Unfortunately, the cocktail could not be properly melded as apparently it’s against the law in New York State to pre-mix a drink. Don’t tell the booze police that places in Manhattan are engaged in producing barrel-aged cocktails. I suppose being closer to the seat of government, local businesses have to take the rules a bit more seriously. You never know which bureaucrat might walk through your door.

I was also more impressed with Zack’s drink than I had anticipated. It was not the sweet and sticky confection it promised to be. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to talk further with him about the effort. However I did spy a bottle of Skyy’s all natural ginger-infused vodka in his corner, which could help explain his cocktail’s strong showing.

This was a great night for cocktails in Albany. A room full of the region’s top chefs were exposed to one of the two best applejacks in the nation, which just happens to be in our backyard, and aromatic cocktail bitters

Cocktails also came up when I was speaking with chef Jason Baker from the Lark Street Wine Bar and the new Capital City Gastropub. He has some exciting plans for the beverage program at the Wine Bar. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

It looks like things are continuing to improve in Albany. Thank you all for your help.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 21, 2011 9:52 am

    “I suppose being closer to the seat of government, local businesses have to take the rules a bit more seriously. You never know which bureaucrat might walk through your door.”

    Sadly, this is correct. That’s exactly what I’ve been told by an Albany bar manager about another matter where New York City similarly plays it loose with the rules.

  2. Ellen Whitby permalink
    October 21, 2011 10:24 am

    What does it mean to “pre-mix” a drink? Why would it be illegal?

    Congratulations on your win. Because you got behind this, I’m sure it must feel somewhat like a personal victory for you. It always amazes me to see the results of online campaigns like this. It takes hardly any effort to support an issue or voice an opinion or to get others on the bandwagon with you.

    I’ll try to go to Taste to try the drink. Empire State of Mind sounds drink. And what a nice reason to out for a meal.

    • Ellen Whitby permalink
      October 21, 2011 10:26 am

      Oops…last paragraph, last two sentences should be…Empire State of Mind sounds like a tasty drink. And what a nice reason to go out for a meal.

  3. October 21, 2011 10:34 am

    Happy it won, I was being completely honest in my Tablehopping comment when I said I’d like to find it on a drink menu. Nice excuse to visit Taste.

  4. zack permalink
    October 21, 2011 11:14 am

    Thanks for the critique Daniel. Would’ve loved to have a conversation with you. Perhaps some other time.

  5. Mirdreams permalink
    October 21, 2011 11:46 am

    Thanks for your support Daniel! And @Ellen Whitby apparently infusing anything into a spirit before you serve it or premixing a cocktail is illegal in NYS. It’s post-prohibition era law that was likely meant to protect people from bathtub gin and other questionable adulterated beverages. Today though it’s getting in the way of some fun cocktail techniques and I know that in bars that are a bit further from the State Liquor Authority it’s being ignored.

    As a result I had to alter my drink a little, so instead I infused the spices in the syrup by steeping allspice berries and cassia sticks (or as most people know it cinnamon sticks) in warm maple syrup before the competition. It was 2 cups of syrup to 1 tbsp berries and four sticks if anyone is really interested. I got the syrup to a pre-boiling temp. Professor, you could use a double boiler but I just used the microwave, less clean up. You can also half the amount of syrup if you want a less sweet drink (so 1.5 tsp instead of .5 oz) but you may need to adjust the amount of bitters, which was deliberately high to balance the maple flavor.

  6. October 21, 2011 12:44 pm

    The other two judges were veteran bartender/New World Bistro Bar guru Kevin Tighe and Blue 82/Capital Region Bartending Academy owner Mike Ripley.

  7. Kate permalink
    October 22, 2011 7:48 pm

    Can you tell me where I can get Fee’s bitters locally? or someplace I can take a road trip to (so I can check out other stuff)? I really don’t want to mail order them (It’s my own little quirk). Thanks

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