"If one desires good company, one should serve good wine."
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Tenzing Bar Lab
I was invited to bring my bartenders to a bar lab in the city on Monday to The Gage restaurant, sponsored by a new Chicago distributor, Tenzing Wine & Spirits. Let me start by saying there is no better way to start the morning than with Scotch, Cognac, and Armagnac at 11am. Our Tenzing Sales Rep, Augie, was our guide throughout the entire seminar.
With help from local experts (Andrew was our brown spirits guide), Tenzing showcased some of their new products including an amazing Rye Whiskey from Vermont, Whistle Pig. I was surprised that, even at 100 proof, it was smooth and soft, and had some good caramel hints. Don't get me wrong, there was some heat, but it had a sweet characteristic and rye spice that would make it nice on the rocks, or when mixed with Hum, a new spirit produced here in Chicago (and also a major sell from Tenzing), make a killer Manhattan.
Speaking of Hum, we had the privilege to witness Adam Seger, the founder of the botanical spirit, mix up some cool cocktails using his creation. Made from the essence of hibiscus, ginger, cardamom, and lime, infused with organic rum, Hum is a beautiful liqueur that can be enjoyed alone, with sour mix and tea for an adult Arnold Palmer, in cocktail punches, and more. The options are limitless, and with the intense organic and sustainable trends hitting the world today, Hum is a natural answer for organic beverages. You can see the master at work in the video below, making a Hum Colada.
In the video, you'll see a line of mixers from The Perfect Puree; the one on the far left is called Yuzu Luxe Sour. It was incredibly fresh with notes of lemongrass, and was the perfect botanical accessory to the Hum liqueur. There is an entire line of beverage accompaniments, including passion fruit, mango, and a classic sour mix. Their website gives more detail into their cool products. Their product line can be purchased through Sysco.
Another trend in the world of organic food and beverage is tea. Adam uses tea in much of his organic mixology. Taking a strong stand in Chicago's tea market is Rare Tea Cellar. Already popular with The Publican, NAHA, and The Signature Room, Rare Tea Cellars has a unique portfolio. We were introduced to Rodrick, representing the company. He showed us a few of his more popular items, and we used his Blood Orange Pu-ehr tea in some of the cocktails. He had a very interesting item that caught my eye, Ancient Tea Tree Bee Pollen. It was unlike anything I had seen or tasted before; it had a very unique "soft crunch" texture and was sweet, but not like honey, almost semi-sweet... it was also nutty and yes, had a hint of tea. You can eat it alone, in oatmeal, in smoothies, or, when making cocktails, use it to "salt" the rim of your glass. It was great!
After thanking Adam and Rodrick for opening our eyes to the world of organic mixology and tea, we decided to cleanse our palates with some white spirits. Kyle from The Boozehound was our white liquor expert for the day, and took us on a journey through some outstanding vodkas, gins, and tequilas (and a smokey mescal that almost knocked me off my feet... I'm not a tequila guy, and this stuff was strong). On the list were names like Zyr Vodka, G'Vine Gin, and Right Gin. I was at a Right Gin mixology seminar about a year ago, and was very impressed by the smooth, botanical flavor. It is truly an exceptional gin; much sweeter than a London dry, and the floral bouquet and palate give it unique mixability. One of my favorite cocktails was Right with pomegranate juice and a sprig of thyme. It would stand alone very well on the rocks or neat, as well.
After sampling a few more items from Luxardo -- an excellent Amaretto, some fun herbal liqueurs, and gourmet maraschino cherries that melt in your mouth, all from Italy -- and speaking with our host cordial experts, it was time to call it a day and head out for lunch before catching a train back to the North Shore. We had a fantastic time, and received an invaluable understanding of organic spirits and mixers that we will bring back to the club. Thank you Augie and everyone at Tenzing for hosting such a great event, to Adam for going at a coconut with a cleaver (it was awesome!), to The Gage for your hospitality, and to the Chicago experts who volunteered your knowledge of these wonderful products. Cheers!