Mixers & Shakers: Milton Latrell and Kris Von Dopek

The Windy City was host to one of our most stylish Mixers and Shakers segments as Milton Latrell, the founder and designer of Chicago-based menswear and accessories company Agriculture, got a taste of mixologist Kris Von Dopek’s style—in the form of a custom Stoli Raz-infused cocktail “Raz Royale.” The two chatted about what makes them stand out in their respective fields at Kris’ second home, Anthems.

Check out this original interaction between Kris and Milton and head over to our Mixers and Shakers section for more great cocktails!

Mixers & Shakers: Megan Mair and Laszlo Arany-toth

When we paired mixologist Laszlo Arany-toth with Megan Mair, a graphic designer and creative director at NYC-based creative agency Jeremyville, for our Mixers and Shakers series, we thought we had a true culture clash on our hands: the Hungarian born cocktail connoisseur confessed that he had “never heard of” Australia’s Bondi Beach, from which Megan hails. But to our surprise, Laz and Megan found common ground in their creative methods and pursuits.

Check out this original interaction between Laz and Megan at NYC’s Asellina, over the Stoli Hot-infused custom libation “Arrabbiato,” and be sure to head over to our Mixers and Shakers section for more great cocktails!

Mixers & Shakers: DJ Enferno and Oleg Chursin

Worldly gentlemen DJ Enferno and Oleg Chursin have similarly ventured from country to country, albeit for different reasons. However, both stressed the importance of balance in their work, whether it’s finding the right mixes of music to keep a crowd dancing or the perfect combination of flavors for a new beverage. They shared their collective travelogues while discussing the never-ending desire to be original in all of their professional endeavors at NYC’s Gansevoort Park roof, as Enferno sampled Oleg’s new Stoli Raz-infused “Sweet Life.”

Check out their video interview below, and be sure to head over to our Mixers and Shakers section for more great cocktails!

Jameson and Mount Gay Make Surprise Liquor Cameos on ‘Mad Men’

I have a theory about Mad Men. Actually, I have lots of theories, but my most recent theory is that the horrible mistake from two episodes ago–in which Joan says she has a reservation at Le Cirque, at a time (1968) when Le Cirque wouldn’t have been open yet (it debuted in 1974)–wasn’t a mistake at all. It was a gift to viewers who giddily analyze every frame, and every utterance, for historical accuracy. Something to make them feel good about themselves, a reward for their vigilance. Sure, Matthew Weiner himself said it was an oopsie, but that’s hard to believe. I used to be a fact checker, and there’s no question research went over the script. It’s unlikely they’d miss it, especially in this era of finding answers within 1.3 seconds of entering a query into Google. So, as far as I’m concerned, Mad Men is rock solid in its historical accuracy, which is why it’s so fun for me, a spirits writer, to see what liquor bottles show up on the show. This season (Season 6) has had some great cameos. Let’s review a few.

It’s been long established that Don Draper is a whiskey guy, while Roger Sterling prefers vodka. Different spirit, different glass.

We’ve seen plenty of Draper’s whisky of choice, Canadian Club, which is a light, easy-to-drink, satisfying whiskey from our friends up north who kept us sozzled during Prohibition. When I was a little kid in the ’70s, my parents had an ancient, untouched bottle of Canadian Club in the pantry, so it tugs at my nostalgic side a bit. It’s a fine whiskey, if a bit milder than many of the more aggressive bourbons and Scotches today–perfect to mix with ginger ale in a tall glass with ice.

Sterling’s vodka has oscillated between Smirnoff and Stolichnaya. Similarly, my folks had bottles of both, which they only opened if guests came by. Smirnoff has been around for eons, and despite its very affordable price, it tastes great. I love pointing out to people how it won the New York Times blind taste test back in 2005, and I’ll never forgive Smirnoff for not capitalizing on it until years later. I mean, how can you not take advantage of a gift like that? Insanity. 

The Stolichnaya, or "Stoli," as the cool people call it, is a special case. It wasn’t widely available in the U.S. until 1972, when an agreement was brokered between the U.S. and Soviet Union to trade U.S. distribution rights for Stoli for Soviet distribution rights for Pepsi. But Roger Sterling is a man of influence and connections, and he’s found a way, in 1968, to keep the Stoli flowing in the office. (Initially he had it sent from a friend in Greece.) For those who were alive during this period (I was born in 1970) there was an intriguing "otherness" to Stoli. It came from our Cold War enemies, so it was forbidden fruit, much like Cuban cigars after the fall of Batista. The bottle looked like no other. Still does. 

There are other spirit brands on the show, including Lancers wine from Portugal that Joan was serving her mom and sister at dinner, but it was two other bottles that caught my eye in a recent episode. Joan is pictured at her desk, and over her left shoulder, one can see a collection of bottles that include Jameson Irish Whiskey and Mount Gay Barbados Rum.

I found this fascinating, because I just learned about the import history of Irish whiskey at a Powers whiskey event at the Dead Rabbit. The reluctance on behalf of the Irish to enter into export contracts with the U.S. until Prohibition was officially repealed gave Scotch producers a big jump on them. It wasn’t until the 1960s that Ireland began a big push into the American market for its whiskey, and it began with Jameson because it had the most name recognition. So that bottle of Jameson on Joan’s cabinet would have been one of the first bottles in the U.S., and her position as a partner in a Madison Avenue advertising agency no doubt put it on her radar.

As for the Mount Gay, I don’t know quite as much about its history as a U.S. consumer product in the late 1960s, but I do know this: Mount Gay is the oldest "official" rum, with a surviving distillery deed from Barbados dating to 1703. So it was certainly around back in the 1960s, and any firm with a connection to Great Britain (RIP Layne Pryce), and thus, Barbados, would know about it. It’s also long been the rum of sailors, so men with sailing as a hobby might have a penchant for the stuff. In any case, I love Mount Gay and was thrilled to see it on one of my favorite shows.

Now I’ve got to know when Mount Gay first started appearing on U.S. liquor store shelves. If it wasn’t the most popular rum in New York in 1968, what was? Give me your informed opinions and reckless speculation in the comments. 

[For New York’s best bars, visit the BlackBook City Guide. Related stories: Canadian Club’s Boardwalk Empire Package Celebrates Prohibition Era; A Humble Old Label Ices its Rivals; Jameson Tries to Reinvent the Beer and a Shot; 310-Year-Old Mount Gay Comes Out With a Spiffy New Rum; Sipping Powers John’s Lane Whiskey at the Dead Rabbit; A Few Observations on the Launch of Bunnahabhain 40-Year-Old Scotch; More by Victor Ozols; Follow me on Twitter]

Midnight Mixologists: Nadia Underwood

If STK in West Hollywood broke the barriers of the traditional steakhouse formula by losing it’s overly masculine vibe, then Nadia Underwood, the peppy gal behind STK’s see-and-be-seen bustling bar is doing the same for the stereotype of the often brooding mixologist. Underwood is like your favorite neighborhood bartender, only with a serious education in mixing alcohol. The easygoing Chicago native (and die hard Bears fan) thinks L.A. is all smiles behind the bar, as long as thirsty customers keep their cool. These things take time, after all.

How did you get into mixology? I had been bartending in clubs and bars in Chicago and soon after moving to L.A. I got hired at STK. There, I was taught under the bar program ran by Pablo Moix. He taught us the basics of mixology, classic cocktails, etc. I couldn’t believe what amazing cocktails I could now make.

What is the difference between a bartender and a mixologist? The difference is a bartender basically just pours drinks and a mixologist takes the time to make handcrafted cocktails using fresh ingredients with precision and creativity.

How do you come up with the name of your cocktails? I may sound like a nerd, but I feel like a cocktail has its own personality, so I try to capture that in its name. It could be based off a reaction a customer had the first time I create a cocktail, or inspired from a ingredient, or even a nickname of someone in my life.

What was your inspiration for the cocktail you created for Stoli? Summertime with a twist.

What’s your favorite go-to ingredient and why? Serrano pepper because I love spice and heat.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received as a mixologist? I was told by someone in the industry that I was among the top 5 mixologists in the country.

How do you know when a customer has ordered and received exactly the right cocktail? When they order their second one right away after receiving the first.

What’s your favorite part of the job? Most annoying part? My favorite part is making people happy with a delicious cocktail. What I hate most is when you are slammed at the bar and customers don’t understand it actually takes a little bit longer to make a handcrafted cocktail then just pour a whiskey and coke.

What does it take to be a great mixologist? Is it a God-given gift, or something you can learn? In order to be a great mixologist you have to be creative, charismatic, patient, educated and eager. I do think you can learn to be a mixologist, but I think how good you are depends on your creativity and talent.

How is your approach to mixology different from everybody else’s? I approach mixology with fun. To me it’s all about making people happy with a good drink and entertaining them. I feel like some other mixologists are too serious and almost nerdy about it. You will always see me with a smile on face.

Read more Midnight Mixologists interviews here.

BlackBook Midnight Mixologists LA Event Presented by Stoli

SBE’s sleek MyStudio was the perfect setting Thursday night as Hollywood came out to toast BlackBook’s Midnight Mixologists and Stoli’s newest flavor, Chocolat Razberi. DJ Lindsay Luv set the tone, dropping everything from Lykke Li to Steve Nicks for the crowd, which included boldface names such as Bridget Marquardt, David Cade, 2 Broke Girls’ Shoshanna Bush, One Tree Hill’s Kate Voegele, America’s Next Top Model winner CariDee English, Amazing Race winner BJ Averell, and more.

 

 

Marquardt held court with friends at one of MyStudio’s booths overlooking a center bar, while guests sipped specialty cocktails made with Stoli’s freshly debuted Chocolat Razberi, the latest addition to their suite of flavored vodkas. The second annual Midnight Mixologists program once again crowned the most spirited mistresses and masters of mixology nationwide. Be sure to check out the full suite of Midnight Mixologists videos, interviews, recipes, and toplists.

This year’s star class of Midnight Mixologists include Justin Anderson (and his Majorelle Blue), Brad Bolt (and his Eskimo Brothers), Cricket Nelson (and her Not Yer Gran-Ma’s Lemonade), Camille Austin (and her Stoli Chinois Elitist), Joseph Brooke (and his Vanil Brasil), Beate Kiser (and her Apples to Oranges), and Charles Hardwick (and his Stoli Apparatchik). As if that weren’t enough, lucky guests were treated to some Stoli Chocolat Razberi creations including the Stoli Chocolat Raz Nectar, the Stoli Choco Raz Vanilla Creme, the Stoli Chocolate Raz Mango Fizz, and the Stoli Choco Raz Mixed Berry Sour.

Of course, a soiree of this magnitude requires many genius creators. Thanks of course to DJ Lindsay Luv for the mad beats; listen to her complete set from the event exclusively at DUBSET.com. Succulent photography came courtesy Kelly Bruce and Mary Gray, while fancy moving pictures were recorded by Anthony Chirco. Special thanks go out to SBE, MyStudio, and Fingerprint Communications.

BlackBook Magazine & Stoli event @ MyStudio from Anthony Chirco on Vimeo.

Midnight Mixologists: Joseph Brooke and His Favorite LA Bars

Joseph Brooke, who slings drinks at a sophisticated Hollywood speakeasy, takes his job very seriously — just don’t expect him to show it. Here is the easygoing Brooke on naming his drinks, the important lesson he’s learned on the job, and what separates him from the competition. Also, see below for his eight favorite LA hot spots.

How did you get into mixology?
When I realized that wanting to be the center of attention at all times wasn’t going to be enough, I started learning about the impressive art of giving good service and executing proper cocktails with correct techniques.
 
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Making that connection with the guest, knowing the exact point when you’ve gained their trust and are now able to help guide their night, drinks-wise.
 
How do you name the drinks you create?
Nothing too kitschy or direct, and nothing political or religious (unless it really is that good). The names come from a direct connection to the ingredients or place of origin of the spirit, made ambiguous enough so that you don’t feel clubbed over the head with the meaning.
 
How is your approach to mixology different from everybody else’s?
I take it extremely seriously, but I won’t let anyone ever see that.
 
What was your inspiration for the cocktail you created for Stoli® ?
Summer in Santa Monica was the initial inspiration, as it can get pretty hot out there during the day. Simple, balanced, and about as poolside-appropriate as a whistle-twirling lifeguard.
 
What’s your idea of the absolute perfect setting in which to enjoy a cocktail?
Depends on the cocktail, and also where your head’s at. Before dinner? At your own wedding? Poolside?
 
What does it take to be a great mixologist? Is it a God-given gift, or something you can learn?
Anybody can become proficient if they pay attention well enough. [You’ll need] the ability to be hospitable, attentive, positive, reasonable, full of love, but also possess the ability to be firm when needed.
 
What’s the most important lesson about mixology you’ve learned in your years on the job?
Shame on you if you make a customer feel bad for ordering something they like and want. There is no difference between a bartender being a judgmental snob and a teacher using fear and intimidation to get their point across.
 
What nightlife trend rubs you the wrong way?
Everybody wearing the same clothes! T-shirts, raccoon eyes, spiky hair, bleached blonde, Brazilian God-knows-what, colognes and perfumes, all of that garbage. That whole scene is like 400,000 dogs chasing each other’s tails in one massive, man-scaped circle. Boooo-ring.
 
What’s the secret to running a great bar?
Make sure to maintain the integrity and standards of your program, but give the people what they want (within reason). Also, free snacks at the bar. I’m not above the bribery of guests.
 
Who is your ideal customer?
Someone who has an open mind and hip dysplasia from how huge their wallet is.
 
What do you love most about Los Angeles at night?
It has perfect top-down weather that makes everyone much happier around town.
 
What personal innovations have you brought to the nightlife game?
A shake that is equal parts self-humiliating and tip-increasing. I never ask why people laugh.
 
What’s your go-to ingredient to make a great cocktail?
If it’s a sour, then it’s fresh, seasonal, and locally produced. No exceptions. If it’s an aromatic, then ice and a supple wrist.
 
Brooke’s Favorite LA Hot Spots
  1. Jones Hollywood
  2. The Roger Room
  3. Bar Marmont
  4. Tiki Ti
  5. Blipsy Barcade
  6. Copa D’Oro
  7. Big Bar at Alcove Cafè
  8. Seven Grand

Read more interviews with Midnight Mixologists here.

BlackBook Chicago Mixers & Shakers Event Presented By Stoli

Last night in Chicago, BlackBook and Stoli kicked off the first of the #Mixersandshakers event series, featuring  cocktails by expert Mixologist Kris Von Dopek and a fashion showcase by Chicago’s own Milton Latrell. A stylish and flavorful group of tastemakers flocked to Epic Lounge to get down to the one-and-only,  “DJ Yours Truly”. The first of four amazing @Stoli events!

Check it all out at Mixers & Shakers!

The Three Faces of Beaumarchais

Behind every good bar and drink is a talented, charismatic, and profoundly good-looking bartender who steers you toward the most delicious, refreshing, (and potent) tipple they have to offer, sending you on your way to a very good night. At renowned weekend brunch and day club/ nightly dinner spot Beaumarchais, there are three: Giuseppe Cavallo, Adrien Lefort, and William Pacot.

Just like the French Riviera-inspired Beaumarchais itself is unique (where else can you experience the best weekend of your life in a matter of four hours, in one place?), so are these guys who have established such a following, they’ve garnered their own respective titles: The Entertainer, The Mixologist, and The Personality.

And with last week’s opening of Beaumarchais in East Hampton, and the New York location consistently packed with champagne, eggs Benedict, and people dancing on tables – it’s time we meet the guys who are behind it all.

Giuseppe Cavallo: The Entertainer

Specialty: Adding a touch of flair with your stiff drink
First trick learned: “How to throw a bottle behind my back.”
Best-received trick: “Whatever looks hard and theatrical. People don’t want to see something that looks easy.”
Brunch vs. Dinner: “Brunch is CRAZY. The atmosphere, people are going nuts. Flairing adds excitement to the day, keeps the energy up.”
Any accidents?: “It’s actually more common to accidentally hit someone than break a bottle! I rarely drop one but I have hit my fellow bartenders. While working in my hometown In Italy I accidentally missed a bottle and it hit my co-workers knee, hurt him pretty bad. Oops.”
Win any awards?: “I used to do a lot of competitions with Red Bull, Campari, and Sky Vodka- participating and hosting their competitions on the beaches in Italy. There’s a big subset of flair bartenders worldwide. Italy, France, London, and Vegas are big hotspots. New York’s is small in comparison.”
Partier or health nut?: “Hardcore partier, drinker, and I drive over the limit for fun! No, I am a vegan and avid rock climber and runner.”

Adrien Lefort: The Mixologist

Specialty: Creating, mixing, and shaking addictive cocktails
Most popular cocktails: “Martinis.”
The nightly routine: “People usually start with their favorite cocktail, switch to wine with the meal, then highball drinks (a mix of two products in a highball glass, ex. vodka soda). After they have finished their meal, they often move to shots, particularly during our “clubby” hours at brunch. Saturdays are good cocktail nights. We have a more refined crowd on Saturday nights.”
Least favorite drink to make: “Besides mojitos, which are universally hated by bartenders, nothing! It’s my job. I love it!
Never-fail drinks: "Passion fruit puree vodka shots or a shot of Don Julio.  For girls, passion fruit and Stoli Vanilla go well together, as well as a glass of white wine. For guys, a glass of red.”
Entered any contests?: “Three.  One of them was the Coupe Scott- a contest for bartenders under 27 years of age. I finished sixth. I won a trip to Scotland and visited the Glenfiddich distillery!”
Favorite drink: "Rum and coke."

William Pacot: The Personality

Specialty: Being so charismatic, you can’t help but order 10 drinks from him
Best job perk: “I can talk to a lawyer and then a construction guy but you can’t tell the difference because they are all dressed alike at Beaumarchais (blazers, nice shirts). That is cool! You don’t know someone’s background until you speak with them."
Least-enjoyable people: “Fake people. We’re all the same at the end of the day! The people who are extra friendly and fake at the bar when you are giving them drinks but then won’t say anything to you the next day when you cross the street- no one likes those people.”
What NOT to say to the bartender: “’What is that?’ or ‘I want the same.’ You don’t even know what’s in it! How do you know you want it?!”
The bar is like…: “My playground. It’s like a stage; you’re here, everyone is expecting something from you, and you can transfer your energy to the crowd in front of you.”
How to cut off an irritating guest: “Always with a big smile, so that they only have two options: leave or be quiet. Always be polite.”
Random fact: “I don’t like French fries served as a side, only as a snack, and my favorite food is pasta.”

 

Photo Courtesy of Angela Bruno Photography