Two Breeders Cup-Inspired Jocktails to Down During Friday Night’s Downs After Dark Horse Race

The hats were more subdued, the infield was closed, and the breasts were bundled up (at least from my vantage point). But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any decadence and depravity on display when Louisville’s Churchill Downs hosted the Breeders’ Cup, horse racing’s world championships, and billed as the richest event in sports, Nov. 4-5.

Festivities kicked off that Tuesday night with Jocktails hosted by Grey Goose at Prime Lounge. Rather than working the track’s inside rail, celebrity jockeys worked the bar rail, mixing drinks to a packed invitation-only crowd. All tips benefited the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

Speaking of tips, here are my wagering ones for this Friday’s hip Downs After Dark at Churchill Downs, which are entirely based on the jockeys’ bartending skills. I’m 10 for 88 in cashing winning tickets this year (relax honey, I’m only down $399.17), so picking a horse based on its jockey’s mixological ability makes as much sense as whatever the hell my system is:

  • Julien Leparoux poured a strong Grey Goose Zenyatta (1.25 oz. Grey Goose Le Citron, 2.5 oz. Simply Pink Lemonade, mint sprig garnish), named after the mare who was 19-0 before losing by a head last year in her attempt to repeat as Breeders’ Cup Classic champ. But more significantly, he gave my date a strong hug that left her raving about how ripped he was. Look for Leparoux to do well on a filly.
  • James Graham said the most difficult drink to mix was the signature cocktail of the Breeders’ Cup, Down the Stretch (mix 1.5 parts Grey Goose Le Citron, 3 parts sweetened ice tea, 0.5 part lime juice, 1/3 part sugar syrup and 0.5 part Chambord Raspberry Liquor; shake; strain and serve in a highball glass with ice cubes and garnish with lemon, mint and raspberry). Naturally, that’s what I asked him to make. Don’t mess with a jockey. Graham returned with a strong yet delicious cocktail that had my date ready to call the bar veterinarian to put me down. Look for Graham to do well on a mouthy horse that needs tough love with the whip.

The Grey Goose Zenyatta was sold throughout the weekend in Louisville, with proceeds benefitting the V Foundation, which is helping find a cure for cancer.

Pictured: Jockey Rajiv Maragh shows off his work to an appreciative audience. 

BlackBook Celebrates Outside Insiders Presented by Grey Goose

On Monday night, at the raucous late-night hub MPD, BlackBook and Grey Goose joined forces once again to toast the Grey Goose Outside Insiders.

Complimentary cocktails, aptly named the Grey Goose Signature Sound and Grey Goose Cranberry Sparkler, were served to the swelling crowd, while flavor-packed hors d’oeuvres by Executive Chef Geoff Rudaw were dished out throughout the evening. Sounds were provided by the crafty DJ Louie XIV and the pro shots you can check out in our exclusive gallery, were taken by Julian Cavin, a master of the decisive moment. Special thanks to MPD, Dual Groupe, Ginza Project, and Dubset, without whom none of last night would have been possible.

Grey Goose Outside Insiders: Jillian Balser, Martini Magic

Working behind the bar at a high-end steak house in Midtown Manhattan means satisfying diners who expect perfect cocktails to complement their perfect porterhouses, but Jillian Balser has everything under control. As the bartender at the Capital Grille in Midtown Manhattan, she takes care of the discerning crowds with an inspired menu of cocktails that do more than stand up to the food – they take it to a higher level. Here, Balser discusses her culinary background, the unique way she mixes martinis, and the pleasures of the bespoke cocktail experience.

Tell me a little bit about your background. Where are you from, and how did you get into hospitality? My family is from Massachusetts and they have owned restaurants for nearly 100 years. I started in their business when I was 12. I ended up down in Florida for a while, and then I moved up to New York a little more than a year ago with my husband. Now I work at the Capital Grille, a high-end steak house.

What is your job title there, and what are some of your responsibilities? I am a bartender and a certified trainer for them. When they open a store, I am sent with a team on location to help them open up and set a high standard, with a little bit of fun mixed in. As far as bartending goes, I do a lot of mixing of drinks, a lot of chitchat, inventory, things like that.

What kinds of drinks are popular at the Capital Grille? We are huge on martinis, which go so well with steaks, as well as wine. The martinis are all vodka at this point – it’s been months since I’ve had an order for a gin martini.

I love vodka martinis, but they’ve got to be made right – super cold. I have little system to make martinis. Instead of having a large tin shaker and topping it with a pint glass, I use two tin shakers – one large and one small – and shake for minimum of 30 seconds. The shaker gets so cold that it’s hard to hold, and gets frost on it so it looks like a snow cone. Then I pour it so little ice crystals cover the top of the cocktail. A proper martini has to have those ice crystals.

I completely agree. What other kinds of drinks are popular? Grey Goose is a significant staple at every bar, we stock it as well as everything else. I always carry standard Grey Goose, as well as pear (Grey Goose La Poire), lemon (Grey Goose Le Citron), and orange (Grey Goose L’Orange). A lot of people like it on the rocks, but we have something we call the Wooly Bully, which is Grey Goose L’Orange with soda and a thick orange slice.

Do people gravitate toward different cocktails depending on the season? You do see a huge difference in what people order. We’re starting to stock up on cold weather drinks. People like coffee drinks, and, martini-wise, I’m starting to see creamier drinks.

If a customer can’t decide what cocktail to order, how do you help them? I like mixing stuff up, so I always ask them whether they’re into fruity or savory flavors. It’s the same with food, people have a category they like. I’m like a chef, I know what flavor profiles go well together. Do you like orange, citrus, pear? You mix things together that go well with the flavors they like. They usually respond well to that, like they’re having a bespoke cocktail experience.

What do you like to do when you have a day off? Any hobbies or leisure activities that keep you balanced? I’m an aspiring writer, and I like history – it’s actually one of the reasons I moved to New York – so when I have time I like to explore the city and experience what it has to offer.

Grey Goose Outside Insiders: Ric Addison, Dreamy Drinks

Ric Addison knows all about pleasing the hard to please. As the owner of three upscale Manhattan lounges, Ava Penthouse Lounge and Rm. Fifty5 at the Dream hotel, and Inc. Lounge at the Time hotel, his clients tend to be well heeled, well traveled, and familiar with high-end cocktails. He was made for the challenge, presiding over cocktail menus that satisfy and stimulate the palate in equal measure. Here, Addison talks about his background, the changing of the (cocktail) seasons, and the effect of an open sky on drink orders.

What kind of background do you have in hospitality? I worked with (hospitality legends) Rande Gerber and Ian Schrager for years and learned a lot from them before I opened my own venues.

How are your cocktail menus structured? I have the menu separated by individual spirits, and I stay on top of the trends and feature the best cocktails in each section. We provide a little bit of everything for everybody, because our customers come from all over the place: upscale world travelers and high-end clientele such as bankers and entertainers.

What’s popular these days? Flavored vodkas are very trendy. All of the Grey Goose flavors are very popular within my establishments. We work a lot with Grey Goose L’Orange. It goes well in so many cocktails.

Does your cocktail menu change with the seasons? It does. I change our menu twice a year, spring/summer and fall/winter. We keep it light for summer, with refreshing flavors such as cucumber. Winter brings out the brown sugar, cinnamon, things like that. Our fall/winter 2011-2012 cocktail menu was introduced last week and we’ve had great feedback so far.

So you’re into fresh, natural ingredients for your cocktails? Absolutely. We try to use locally-sourced, organic ingredients whenever possible. For example, we always used fresh-squeezed juices.

Since your venues boast outdoor space, have you found that people order different kinds of cocktails when they’re under the sun or stars? When people are outside, they tend to order more tropical-style drinks, like mojitos and punches and things like that. Citrus flavors are big.

Suppose a customer has a basic idea of what they like, but needs some guidance in what to order. How would you help them? All of our bartenders are very well trained, and if somebody needs help in deciding what to order, we’ll ask them about what kinds of flavors they like. The bartender will always put together something special.

Grey Goose Outside Insiders: Armando Cantalapiedra, Cocktail Captain

As beverage director of Victor’s Cafe, an upscale Cuban restaurant in New York, Armando Cantalapiedra has a lot to stay on top of. The Midtown Manhattan eatery is hugely popular, not only with visitors to nearby Broadway theaters, but to longtime patrons who have been enjoying the restaurant’s menu of classic and contemporary Cuban dishes since it first opened its doors in 1963. Cantalapiedra relishes the responsibility, going out of his way to ensure that every guest is having a great time and enjoying the creative and delicious cocktails from the bar. Here, he discusses his background, the most popular cocktails, and the secret to great hospitality.

What’s your background, and how did you wind up working at Victor’s Cafe? It’s really a long story, but the gist of it was that I was in school in Argentina in the ’80s when I decided to come to the United States. I started out modestly, with a job at Blimpie, where I did pretty much everything. I took some courses in Johnson & Wales University (the prestigious culinary institute) to better myself, and now I’m at this amazing restaurant.

How long have you been at Victor’s Cafe? I’ve been working at Victor’s for 10 years now. It’s a great place to be.

What’s your job title, and what are some of your responsibilities? I’m the beverage director. I keep control of every single thing that’s behind the bar and I’m the captain of the floor. I do orders, inventory, work on the menu. You name it.

What kind of cocktails are popular at Victor’s? We’re a Cuban restaurant, so mojitos are quite popular, but people love our vodka drinks as well. We work with several different flavors of Grey Goose vodka, and there are so many great cocktails you can make with each one. The Peartini (Grey Goose La Poire, Disaronno liqueur, simple syrup, lemon juice, pear slice) is always a big hit. Victor’s has a beautiful dining room with a glass ceiling, making people feel like they’re dining outdoors year-round. How do people respond to it? They love it. It’s especially nice in the wintertime when it’s snowing – guests like to watch the snowflakes coming down. And they seem to order more refreshing drinks when they’re out there in the open space, clear cocktails, or drinks with citrus.

In a city with such a high turnover, Victor’s Cafe is a longtime favorite, having operated for nearly 50 years. To what do you attribute its longevity? It’s run by a really great family who cares so much about the food, drinks, and customers. We always use top quality products, and give people whatever they want. We always make sure the staff is properly trained, and offer seminars to keep our skills sharp and current.

Suppose somebody has an idea of what they want to drink, but wants some guidance finding the right cocktail. How do you help them? It starts with really listening to them, finding out what ingredients and flavors they like. We’ll spend a few minutes at the table listening and explaining to them what we can do. Our goal is to take them where they want to go.

What do you do in your spare time to relax? Spare time? I work so much that I don’t have much of that. But when I have a day off, I just want to rest. I enjoy sleeping, cooking, and reading. I’m a big fan of magazines, and read things like Wine Spectator.

BlackBook & Grey Goose Celebrate the Outside Insiders at STK Rooftop

Last night, while an anaconda of humanity snaked around the block on Little West 12th Street in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, a lucky few were actually able to make to the rooftop of STK. There, BlackBook and Grey Goose were celebrating the Outside Insiders, a small brigade of bartenders selected for their ability to sling drinks under the sun.

Statuesque waitresses paraded around the premises, with trays featuring the three Goosed-up cocktails of the evening: the punchy Fresh Berry Lemonade, the soothing Grey Goose L’Orange Summer Tea, and our personal favorite, the fiery STK Green Intensity. But what are drinks without some decent nosh to soak them in? Anticipating this basic human need, the good people at STK provided some top-notch grub–ribs, shrimp, and lobster roll included–, courtesy of chef Humberto Leon and pastry chef Ashley Palma. For the full visual effect of what exactly went down, check out our exclusive gallery, courtesy of photographer Jason Malihan. Special shout out to the One Group, for making nights like this possible.

Grey Goose Outside Insiders: Ashley Williamson, Revel with a Cause

The scene at Revel in New York’s Meatpacking District really heats up in the summer, but mixologist Ashley Williamson never loses her cool. The former ballerina knows all about grace under pressure, always remaining focused on making guests feel comfortable with every aspect of the nightlife experience. “You’ve got to provide them with all the amenities they can’t — or don’t think to — give themselves,” says the North Carolina native. “That includes music, lighting, and mind reading.” We chatted with Williamson to get the lowdown on entertaining under the stars in one of the most welcoming open-air spots in Manhattan.

BlackBook: Where are you from? I was born in South Florida, and grew up in North Carolina, where I did the usual kid stuff – cow tipping, tractor riding, tobacco spitting, making moonshine in the bathtub. (Kidding!) What kinds of jobs did you have prior to working at Revel, and how did you end up there? I was a ballerina for many years, and I worked bartending and waitressing jobs to supplement my income when I moved to the city. Eventually, I fell out of love with dance and in love with the restaurant industry. The job here at Revel was by chance, really. I spoke with one of the former managers and she instantly decided that here is where I needed to be. I couldn’t argue — the space is stunning. Revel has one of the best outdoor spaces in New York. What’s it like working there on a beautiful summer day or night? After some time you definitely take it for granted. Then, you have this really long day in the office and you walk upstairs and it’s just getting dark, the tree is lit, and there’s this romantic, early evening buzz. That’s when it always hits me. It’s a great place to work. A permanent vacation job. How is it different outside than inside? Because most of the space is outside, people tend to just let go and have fun. They are relaxed, but it is definitely loud and lively. It’s a garden party every night, which, in this city, is treasured ground. And drink orders are directly reflective of the weather. Light and refreshing in the summer, warm and cozy in the winter. What are your tips for making sure people are having a good time? You have to become as knowledgable as possible. When a guest says “I don’t know what I want,” you know what questions to ask and where the answers will lead you. How about entertaining at home. Do you have any tips for making your guests feel comfortable and have fun? 1. Don’t obsess! No one cares if you have 10 different types of glassware for the same cocktail. 2. Get innovative. You don’t need a million bucks to throw a good party. Roast a pig on your roof. Have a projector playing ’70s porn, or Planet Earth. Theme your pot luck something other than “Mexican.” 3. And have fun. Once you relax, your guests will, too. What do you do to relax when you’re off the clock? When I’m not working, I do a lot of yoga, play with my puppy, and frequent my favorite restaurants/cocktail spots in Brooklyn. Especially ones with great outdoor seating.

What cocktail can you recommend for keeping cool and feeling good on a summer evening? The French Poire Fizz: 1 1/2 oz Grey Goose La Poire vodka, 1/2 oz St. Germain, and a splash of fresh lime juice. It’s topped with prosecco and served up. It’s an easy drink to serve pitcher style for parties as well, and it tastes like heaven.

Grey Goose Outside Insiders: Kelsey Mathes, Bar Maven

As a full-time bartender at the lively MePa hotspot Brass Monkey, Kelsey Mathes is involved in every aspect of crafting perfect cocktails for her customers. After working in local restaurants in her hometown of Rochester, she transplanted to NYC a few years ago and landed a gig at Brass Monkey almost immediately. As rooftop season in NYC gets into full swing, Mathes is serving up a fresh batch of summer concoctions.

What are your responsibilities as a bartender at Brass Monkey? I’m a full-time bartender so during day shifts my responsibilities include setting up the entire restaurant, often working alone, or only with one other bartender or busboy. When I’m working solo; I’m the bartender, waitress, bidder, and runner all in one. Otherwise, we all pitch in and work as a team to make sure that every position is covered and things are running smoothly. How did you land your first hospitality gig? I started checking coats at my hometown vineyard and party rental facility. From there I made bagels, and even worked as a substitute cook. My first front-of-house restaurant job was at an Applebees when I was 17-years-old. The manager liked my personality—and they had a server opening—so they put me right on the floor. What’s are the most fulfilling and challenging parts of your job? I have a lot of close friendships with the regulars and with my co-workers at the bar, which is one of my favorite parts of working here. It’s like having a second home in the city. I started working at Brass Monkey very soon after I moved to NYC and it’s been a very big part of learning what the city is all about. One of my biggest challenges is going from zero to slammed in the span of 15 minutes. You get used to chatting and being relaxed and then you really have to make a 180 degree turn in a very short time. It’s important to recognize that change. Has your job taught you any important tips for at-home entertaining? We get a little bit of every kind of drinker at Brass Monkey and they enjoy many different types of cocktails and drinks. Because of that I’ve developed a wide range of tastes when it comes to entertaining, and I like to make a variety of cocktails available to my guests. How does the warm weather change the flow at work? Summer brings a lot of people into NYC, so you get to talk with people who are traveling from all over the place.

How hectic does Brass Monkey’s rooftop get during the summer? In the summer the rooftop fills up after 3pm each day and basically stays full all night. It’s nice because it overlooks the Hudson River and you can just grab a table and hang out all night. It’s a really relaxed vibe.

What’s your favorite summer cocktail this season? Brass Monkey Lemonade: 2oz Grey Goose Citron ½ oz. agave sweetener 1/2oz. Fresh lime juice 3 squeezed lemons Shake Top with a splash of club soda.

Grey Goose Outside Insiders: Devon Mosley, Singular Sensation

As National Director of Marketing for The One Group, Devon Mosley might find himself on New York’s Gansevoort Park Rooftop one night and on site at the brand’s latest venue, STK Atlanta, on the next. After working as a publicist in Los Angeles for One Sunset restaurant, Mosley accepted a New York-based position handling marketing for The One Group’s nightlife destinations, which are located in New York, LA, Las Vegas, Miami, and Turks & Caicos.

Your job regularly takes you to different cities, but where did you begin your hospitality career? I got my start in Los Angeles as a restaurant publicist. I worked with dozens of restaurants, nightclubs, and chefs around the country. It was there that I met The One Group team when I represented their first West Coast restaurant, One Sunset. I actually went to school for hospitality because I love this industry; I’m a foodie and die for travel.

What venues will The One Group launch in the coming months? I oversee the marketing and PR for our venues in NYC, LA, Las Vegas, Miami, Turks & Caicos. And right now we’re gearing up for the opening of STK Atlanta this fall, and then London the following year. I’m part of a great team with lots of very dedicated people.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? We throw a party every night. The time zones are the most difficult part of the job because we’re turning the music down in one city just as it’s going up in the next. There’s just this high-on-life feeling you get from doing what you love every day. Working a red carpet is a pretty good high every tine and there have been so many crazy nights and wild experiences to even call out the most memorable one.

What is the key to entertaining guests at home? If your guest always has a drink in their hand, it makes them your biggest fan. And have there’s no shame in starting the dance party yourself!

How does summer nightlife in New York compare to the other seasons? Are you kidding? It’s incomparable. There’s such fresh energy in the warmer months. You’re going to find me on a rooftop overlooking Gotham every night of the week.

What is your favorite summer cocktail this year? The One Group has such a stellar cocktail program; we use fresh fruits, bitters, and bubbles in cool ways. On the rooftop of the Gansevoort Park Hotel this summer, guests can enjoy STK’s signature Green Intensity cocktail.

Green Intensity: 2 ½ oz. Grey Goose Vodka ¾ oz. lime juice ¾ oz. simple syrup 5 basil leaves 1 Serrano chili pepper