Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mixology Summit

Happy Holidays from the team at aka wine geek!

For those of you who have attended the now notorious Mixology Summit, or were hoping to finally get there this year, you may be wondering what’s up with the Summit since you haven’t heard anything yet (last year the deadline to apply was...last week!)

Well, we just wanted to be sure you know that the Summit is changing its format just a little bit, beginning this year. In 2010, the formerly annual Mixology Summit will become a series of individual, one-day, Regional Mixology Summit Qualifiers.

That’s right---the team at aka wine geek will be working with our friends at Grand Marnier, just like in years past, but this year we will be taking our show on the road, and bringing the Mixology Summit to YOU!

These regional, one day, “mini summits” will have a similar focus and feel to the Vail Summit----a little education, a lot of fun, fantastic cocktails, and maybe most importantly, a chance to interact and share info with your peers and mentors from within the craft.

The regional summits are also what we are calling qualifying events, at which we will choose the top bartenders from each region to attend the 2011 Summit, which will again return to its now semi-annual, national scope, welcoming the top 100 bartenders in the USA for a gathering for a three day weekend in Vail.

To be considered for the 2011 Summit, you will need to submit your application, just as in the past, but this time you will have to compete with your peers for the right to attend. At the end of January, we will send out another email with dates, locations, and website info where applications are accepted. IF your application is chosen, you will then compete at the regional summit for the right to be one of the guaranteed attendees from each region.

The entire team at aka wine geek is really looking forward to seeing you soon. We are also excited to visit your city, and share our mutual passion, and maybe a cocktail [or three] with you.

Wishing you a joyous and wonderful holiday season, and a rockin’ New Year!
Steve Olson, Andy Seymour and the entire aka wine geek team

aka wine geek
295 greenwich street #376 new york, ny usa 10007 212.766.geek
www.akawinegeek.com / www.beveragealcoholresource.com

Friday, August 7, 2009

The 2009 Sherry Cocktail Competition starts now!

The Vinos de Jerez Cocktail Cocktail Competition is back for 2009!
We are now accepting entries to find America’s best Sherry Cocktail and we’d love to have yours.
The official rules are below so please read on.

You may use any style of Sherry, from any bodega in Jerez.

Please tell us:
the precise recipe
the proper garnish
the ideal glass

You must explain in writing:
why your cocktail is great
when to serve, and how
the exact preparation method and steps of assembly
the perfect [bar] food match (and why?)

You must provide:
a copy of the cocktail menu of the bar/restaurant where the cocktail is placed and being served
a photo of the drink, (digital jpeg is best)

You can submit your recipes at any time, but the deadline for entry is Friday, October 16th, 2009 submissions should be sent via email to winegeek@akawinegeek.com

The winner will receive a cash prize and an all expense paid trip to Jerez, Spain
....as well as loads of press announcing the winner and the recipe on our website and in our blogs.

As always, the early and well prepared barman/woman always gets the best shifts, if you know what I mean!

Good luck!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Manhattan Cocktail Classic

Attention all bartenders, barflies, bootleggers and boozehounds: New York City is finally getting the cocktail event it truly deserves.

The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, a multi-day event celebrating the history, contemporary culture, and artful craft of the cocktail, is holding a two day

Fall Preview this October 3 - 4

in preparation for its big unveiling of

The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, in May, 2010

Part festival, part fete, part conference, part cocktail party, the event will bring together the unparalleled talents and opportunities of the bars, bartenders, and restaurants of New York for two days of activities, both educational and celebratory in nature, championing the common ideals of authenticity, equality, sustainability, service, and pleasure.

The event is the brainchild of thirteen of the world's greatest bartenders, bar owners, writers, educators, critics, consultants, ambassadors, and generally solid folks with whom to share a drink or three.

The all-star advisory board of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic includes: Dale DeGroff, Simon Ford, Doug Frost, Allen Katz, Steven Olson, Paul Pacult, Sasha Petraske, Gary Regan, Julie Reiner, Audrey Saunders, Andy Seymour, Charlotte Voisey, and David Wondrich. Adding organization to their expertise is Lesley Townsend, former director of Astor Center, (who is admittedly far more skilled at consuming cocktails than making them).

For more information, visit the website at www.manhattancocktailclassic.com.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


We recently were approached by Shari Bayer at Bayer Public Relations who is putting together a piece for Food & Beverage Magazine about “Mocktails”. I hate the term but the idea has tons of relevance to any beverage program. Here were some of her questions and our replies…

Shari Bayer: Do you create mocktail menus? If so, can you give a few drink examples and what they cost?
Andy Seymour: At aka wine geek when we create beverage programs, the focus is on creating a beverage service that will apply to anyone who sets foot on that property. So while we don't create "mocktail menus" per se, non alcoholic beverages and cocktails specifically are always a component of what we do. The idea is to make sure something great is available for everyone. If you are not drinking alcohol, you should have excellent options available to you that go beyond bottled water, juices or soda. There are lots of reasons why guests don't drink when they go out and it is our job in the service industry to provide for everyone who comes to our establishment. People go out to be entertained--to enjoy things that they would not or could not make at home, so we make sure to offer those options that will excite them regardless of whether or not they want alcohol.
We create one or two non alcoholic cocktails for a beverage menu, made with fresh ingredients in the same way that we develop alcoholic cocktails. They should be balanced and have great texture to match well with food just as any of our cocktails would. Many of the alcoholic cocktails that we develop for a menu can be made without alcohol by adjusting the proportions of the ingredients. One good example is a Vodka based mint lemonade cocktail can easily be made into a delicious non-alcoholic cocktail by taking the vodka out and extending the lemonade base of the drink. Prepared and served the same way with fresh muddled mint and a beautiful sprig garnish, the drink could be enjoyed by anyone. We work the opposite way as well on occasion, such as at a resort we consult on in Mexico, we created a list of non alcoholic batidas (frozen fruit smoothies) which are delicious by themselves but each recipe has a specific alcohol that can be added if the guest wishes. The idea for all of it is to create great beverages that have flexibility to adjust for your audience at that given moment. That is the essence of what the service industry is about.
Pricing will vary so much depending on location, type of account, ingredients etc. That said, I don't think guests are afraid to spend a bit of money on a well made non alcoholic cocktail. Again, people go out to be entertained and to enjoy, so if you are making an effort and delivering a quality product, you can charge for that and people will step up. For a long time if you didn't want alcohol you were limited to traditional juices or sodas, if you wanted something to make a child feel special during a night out you could get them a Shirley Temple/Roy Rogers which is ginger ale and grenadine. SO if you didn't want to hop your kid up on a potentially meal killing sugar rush, what choice did you have? As I stated earlier, there are lots of reasons guests won't want to drink; kids of course, but if you're driving, have an early morning, or just making a choice to not drink, your options should be diverse and exciting. I think customers have raised expectations for what they should be able to get--they want it. It has to be an area that beverage programs address.
Leo DeGroff: I noticed I made many more non-alcoholic drinks out of the service side of the bar for the dining room. Normally somebody who did not drink would not sit at the bar. We used to charge aroound seven dollars for non-alcoholic drinks. We wouldn't do a menu for them because we would make them up on the spot. We had many homemade syrups and teas that we could use.

SB: Are mocktails an important part of your Beverage Program?
AS: yes, see above
LD: It is important to keep everybody happy and cater to everyone. I personally would have an option for a drink without alcohol but not a list of different drinks. A bartender or waitress should be able to help guide somebody to what they would like to drink alcoholic or non-alcoholic. A staff should be able to interact with a person and figure out what drink would be great for them. Thats part of being a bartender is not just hiding behind a menu.

SB: Do you find that customers are interested in creative non-alcoholic drinks?
AS: above
LD: In a club-like scene there was much less people looking for a non-alcoholic drink but the same fun is put into a well made alcoholic cocktail that their is in a non-alcoholic drink. Outside I felt we made a few more non-alcoholic drinks but we would always want to impress a customers culinary sense's either way.

SB: What’s the most popular mocktail?
AS: Again, so much is based on account but key is fresh, well thought out, well executed drinks.
LD: As Andy mentioned a mint lemonade is always a winner. People always notice the mint on your bar and you can throw a few twists into that same drink with berries and syrups or pom wonderful was always one of my favorite non-alcoholic ingredients.

SB: Do you see mocktail menus becoming a trend?
AS: Trend would imply that they have a shelf life for their relevance, and it's our belief that they should always play an important part of the program. A good beverage program will be balanced with options for everyone. That will include different types of spirits, and mixers, a variety of wines from diverse and exciting regions, cocktails that apply to all the things a guest could want in that establishment. Without question that must include low alcohol, and non alcoholic offerings.
LD: As far as a menu, you don't really need one. I think a little extra interaction between a bartender and customer is good for everyone. As a fresh juice program increases in every bar which is our mission in the first place so will the popularity of a non-alcoholic drink.

SB: How do you personally feel about serving/creating mocktails? (Is it something you welcome or find tedious?)
AS: As you can probably read from above, creating a non alcoholic drink can and should be as exciting as creating ANY cocktail.
LD: I don't mind making them but that's not what I want to do on a regular basis. I personally specialize in drinks with alcohol in them. Bartenders must and should be well rounded in a great many things. In looking at it from a kitchen view the pastry chef doesn't cook the steaks and the grill guy isn't making banana ice cream.

SB: Anything else you want to add
AS: I am not a fan of the term "mocktail" (you notice I didn't use it at all in my replies) because it kind of implies the trend aspect and we believe all beverage programs should have a way to address a guests needs, whatever those might be. Plus it's a little too cute.
LD: I agree with Andy on the word "mocktail". Maybe Virgin Libations is better.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

2009 Grand Marnier Navan Mixology Summit, Vail, CO - April 4-7, 2009

Wow, what a weekend! Difficult to digest all that went on here in Vail for the 2009 Grand Marnier Navan Mixology Summit but, suffice it to say, it was one of the most amazing experiences any of us has ever had the good fortune to enjoy--and live through (depending on who you ask). Doing my best to recap through the fog of work, Grandma, work, bad pizza, Tobala, chili, work and Grandma--here are some of my key moments from a weekend that will stand the test of time!

Our crew of stalwarts began to touch down in Denver Friday around midday, to bright sunny skies that did not believe the madness of snow flurries (read BLIZZARD) that stood between us and our faithfully appointed rounds in Vail. Myself, Willy Shine, Aisha Sharpe and John Lermeyer met up with Lemon Boy--aka Leo DeGroff—at the Denver airport and commenced our journey. A brief delay and upgrade of the SUV at Hertz from large to mega-jumbo allowed Eric Alperin to catch up with us and the six of us began a slow ride to the mountains. In no hurry, since the pass on I-70 was snowed under and closed for now, we took our time allowing more of the crew-Tad Carducci, Don Lee, and Anthony Alba—to catch up with us as we stopped along the way at a Brew Pub that served chili in a bowl made from bread (why?). We had waited out the road delays and made our way to the Vail Cascade by Friday evening, soon to be our home for five intense days. As the evening wore on Steve Olson and the Mountain Elf himself, Jeff Grdinich emerged from the slopes to join us and later that night when Danny Valdez and Mike Flannery arrived from New Orleans and Miami respectively the aka wine geek team was all aboard. If memory serves, it was Spike Lee’s Radio Raheem character from Do the Right Thing who wore the gigantic ‘JOY’ and ‘PAIN’ rings/brass knuckles as he delivered his cautionary monologues to Mookie about the state of mankind, if not, Rob Base certainly sang loud and proud about how the two can go hand in hand. There would be plenty of joy and a touch of pain here and there over the next few days but, all in the name of the craft, so we were ready to go.

Saturday started for some on our team with a trip to the rental shop for ski/board equipment. The dumping that had taken place left many a snow hound panting for fresh powder and Steve led a group into the deep white beyond that would have crushed the mortal. Ok--so many of them were mortal (not Steve and Jeff who took apart the mountain) but since when is that a crime. The rest of the team, the non-mountain folk, took a slower pace. Leo, for instance, went into town looking for sales (nice one, brotha). As midday turned to afternoon, the crew found their way back in various stages of white out. We met up in the Juniper room, which had no way of knowing at the time that it would never smell the same again. Once Anthony began cooking and turning Grandma into powder and fritos, the room stopped being a room, and when the 19 cases of citrus came up from receiving, the Juniper once and for all became our ‘scullery’.

We commenced to prepare for the weekend’s activities, which consisted of many moving parts. Since the first task many of the 100 plus Summit attendees would be tending to upon their arrival Sunday, was to create their drinks in the Mix labs, we got started there. A conference room with three air walls and a long foyer was soon transformed into one of the coolest parts of the weekend. For those that don’t know, each of the attendees at the Summit was a consultant who was ‘hired’ to produce two of four recipes that they had submitted. This cocktail creation and documentation took place at the Mixology labs. What make these labs, and this part of the weekend, so special is that they allow some of the country & world’s best mixologists to show off their passion and creativity and share it with others. It allowed them to meet one another, talk, share ideas, and watch each other work. The thing that made the labs so much better than last year was the community that they fostered. Last year each lab was in a different part of the hotel and that tended to keep everyone moving in different directions, at least when it came to their drink preparation. This year everyone had to come together to sign up and make their drinks. It allowed for a lot of meeting and mind sharing among some of the tops in our game, and that was a lot of fun. So, for our team, we spent most of Saturday evening getting the labs prepared for the impressive group of bartenders that would be descending upon them for the next two days. By the time we left that night we were getting excited.

Sunday began way too early. Literally way too early for me because the clock in my room was an hour fast and I was downstairs, in the scullery at 6:10am wondering why my crack team was so late for their 7am call. Whoops. You know you’re in bad shape when they aren’t even brewing coffee on property yet. At least it was 8 am in NY, so I was able to get going and, before too long, the best ever group of bartenders was joining me to continue our prep for the big weekend. With the Mix Labs essentially up and ready to go, half the team (Tad, Don, John, Eric, Danny and Jeff) were dispatched to get them running at full speed and help the bartenders navigate the maze of spirits, fruits, herbs, spices and bitters. The rest of us set about preparing for the night’s big kickoff—The Summit Welcome Reception. We knew we’d have a bunch of thirsty bartenders coming to our bar at the nearby Donovan Pavillion that evening, so we started squeezing juice and cutting garnishes to have enough cocktails to handle what was sure to be a busy night. Those of us who were at last year’s Grand Marnier Navan Summit remembered how much fun the Welcome Reception was, because it puts us all in the atmosphere that makes us the most comfortable—a busy bar filled with friendly people and in this case friendly bartenders.

We prepped and batched all day, (well, except for Anthony who was dehydrating stuff and making foams and things…) and set up the bar to make some great drinks. The line up featured Smokey Margaritas, Grand Ma 100 Smashes, Decadent Daisy’s (with GM 100 and DJ 1942), Perfect Storms, Aisha’s Sage Martni (with Navan and Tanqueray 10), Eric’s Daisy Duke (with Grandma, Rye, lemon and agave) and of course many F’in Grandma shots (Absinthe with GM 100 and DJ 1942). It was a powerful lineup of cocktails and we knew our audience well - they weren’t afraid to consume. The cocktails were served up with pride as the whole team took their turn behind the bar, more than ably assisted by Josh, Nate(dog) and the fearless crew from Larkspur who rocked it right along side us (while keeping us fully compliant with the liquor laws of the great state of Colorado!) The night flowed perfectly. Our summit attendees filed in by the bus load, beginning a crescendo that didn’t peak until the last song had played. As the evening passed, the DJ-who was that DJ?-got the music rolling and the energy in room was electric. So much fun had in that room that night. Everyone was dancing, from the Grand Marnier team to Monday night’s Chef, Bertrand Bouquin (and his entire team) from the Broadmoor, to a raucous group of bartenders who felt, as I did, that something special was happening. This was only the first night, but the stage had been set for a weekend to remember.

Monday started with a few tired eyes, but the aka wine geek team battled late night demons and lived to work another (long) day. We started at the labs at 8am where Francesco Lafranconi kicked things off, re-opening a few of those tired eyes with his Chop-Chop (GM with Passion fruit, Angostura, OJ, egg whites and Champagne). By the time Adam Seger unveiled his own personal farmers market to create with, the thoughts of Sunday night had been put on hold, and Monday was in full swing. Myself and the rest of the team set about getting things ready for our three big events of the day—the Seminar, the Gala Reception and Dinner and the After Party/Casino room. There was lots to do as over the next several hours we were going to have to prepare and serve somewhere around 60 gallons of drinks. A daunting task for many, but not for this amazing crew.

The first event of the day, for about forty brave souls, was a little bit of snow tubing. The Grand Marnier team, led by Antoine Gervais and Giles Badin oversaw a raucous group of tubers and Tad was there to prepare some hot drinks. The Grand Marnier Chocolate Bon Bon and the Navan Coffee Cuddler were on hand to fortify any nerves that might have been awaiting the would-be lugers.

Back down the hill we readied for the afternoon’s events which began at 3pm with Steve Olson’s seminar on Grand Marnier and its higher Marques. The theme of the seminar was the cocktail menu. Steve took everyone through a complete tasting of Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge, Cuvee Centenaire, Cuvee Cent Cinquantenaire and Navan. The tasting was amazing and allowed many to see these great products in a new light and in some cases, taste the higher Marques for the first time. It was an amazing tasting, done as only Steve can, but it was just a hint of all the fun that was in store. The guests were treated to two cocktails during the seminar (The Stork Club Cocktail as they arrived, and the GM 150 Crusta as the tasting portion of the seminar concluded.) Steve and I talked a lot about the cocktail menu and how to think about it, structure it, and ways to execute high end cocktails that will blow guests minds-in any type of account. Then as the seminar wrapped up, the guests came around to five stations, each featuring a different aspect of what the cocktail menu can be about and ideas about how to employ the techniques. At the five stations the attendees saw everything from ways to utilize fresh, quality ingredients to make complex, balanced cocktails, to tips on utilizing luxury cocktails on the cocktail menu. They got ideas about historical techniques like fat-washing and utilizing tinctures to make your own bitters. Anthony and Willy even showed everyone how to make a Grand Marnier Sidecar that you could eat like a piled-high cracker. The drinks and ideas flowed freely, giving everyone a chance to add to their Rolodex of drink making.

If the day had stopped right there, it would have been amazing, but as luck would have it, the day, or night, was just getting started. As the seminar wound down, we shifted our efforts to the Gala Reception and Dinner. There was only about ½ hour between the end of the seminar and stations until the beginning of the dinner, so we had to act quickly. As mentioned earlier, the night’s menu was developed and executed by Bertrand Bouquin, Executive Chef of Summit, the featured restaurant on the property of The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. Steve and I have had the pleasure of working with Bertrand since Summit opened in 2006 and are always blown away by his food, so we knew everyone was in for a culinary treat. However, what we probably love most about Bertrand (other than the fact that he is probably the nicest Chef or person you will ever meet) is his passion for cocktails. Bertrand worked with us to not only provide a great menu that we could match to but also helped to prepare many of the ingredients that we used in the dinner cocktails. The menu looked like this:

Grand Marnier Gala Dinner


Isla Rouge
Navan, Tanqueray Ten, hibiscus syrup, fresh lemon juice, Moet White Star

La Vie en Rose
Grand Marnier, raspberry coulis, fresh lemon, Moet Nectar Imperial

Ahi Tuna Tartar, Harissa Relish, Watermelon Radishes, Mint Oil

Way High Hogo
Grand Marnier, Ten Cane, fresh pineapple juice, lime juice, mountain mint, agave nectar

Cocoa Nib Crusted Halibut, Creamy Leeks, Port Reduction

Going LaPostolle
Navan, Don Julio Reposado Tequila, Casa LaPostolle Syrah, fresh pear, lemon juice

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Rioja, Parsley Mashed Potato, Baby Carrots

CXXXIII (sex-y)
Grand Marnier 100th Anniversary, Glenmorangie 18-year, Dry Sack 15-year Oloroso Sherry, orange bitters

Pistachio and Coconut Cake, Macerated Fresh Berries, Ginger-Milk Chocolate Cream

Café Alexandra
Grand Marnier, Pisco, Espresso, cream, brown sugar syrup, topped with Navan whipped cream

The drinks came from the back of the house where the full team went all-in, shaking each drink by hand in a spectacle that had to be seen to be appreciated. The Boston shakers flew back and forth in an assembly line that would be hard to compare with anything normal. Think high volume night club meets high volume five star kitchen. Just enough drama to make it exciting--the process of getting the drinks out for this great audience drove us all. It was fun and inspiring to shake with this team of amazing bartenders and watching us knock out over 1500 drinks in just over an hour was equal parts exhilarating and exhausting, but there was no time to exhale (or eat) as we had one more hurdle to clear.

As dinner wound up it was the right time to offer some thank yous. Steve rightfully gave kudos to the many people who made this weekend happen. The Grand Marnier brand team, led by JC Iglesias, Laurent Cutier, Antoine Gervais and Giles Badin continued an amazing commitment to the trade that flows from the very top. Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle, who once again was in attendance for all parts of the Summit weekend (even shaking a few cocktails--but more on that later). Alexandra and her company’s dedication to the bartender trade is to say the least impressive. To have them put on this event to celebrate all the good that is going on in our industry right now, speaks volumes about where the brand’s loyalties lie, especially in this difficult economy. Special thanks were made (most deservedly) to Virginia Lawson who organized the event from beginning to end and succeeded in making it one of the greatest cocktail events ever produced.

Just after the speeches, we got everyone together for a bartenders group shot that hopefully one day will be held up to show what an amazing group of talent had come to Vail on this weekend. After the pictures clicked the curtains were pulled back to reveal the After Party/Casino Room. The GM team created six gaming tables for gusts to play roulette, craps, black jack and poker with the winners getting cool prizes for their slam dance with lady luck. While the lucky ones sat at the gaming tables the luckier ones milled about the bar, as our team (one more time because they deserve many of the accolades for this weekend: Steve Olson, Andy Seymour, Leo DeGroff, Willy Shine , Aisha Sharpe, Eric Alperin, John Lermeyer, Tad Carducci, Anthony Alba, Don Lee, Mike Flannery, Jeff Grdinich and Danny Valdez) jumped behind the bar one more time to shake Smokey Margaritas, Smashes, Crustas, Fairy Grandmothers and a crack a few well deserved beers for this truly special group in attendance at the 2009 Grand Marnier Navan Mixology Summit. We weren’t alone back there all night as a few guests jumped back there along side the team. One of the highlights of the weekend was when Alexandra herself jumped in with us to shake it up. She stood back there like a pro with us, shaking smashes, margaritas and some chilled Grandma shots! How can you top it when the owner of the brand is back there blasting out shots to a thirsty crowd? You can’t! The room rocked till late night and while it was a huge relief for our team when the lights went up (since it meant we were finally off the clock) it was also a bit of a disappointment that the weekend’s fun was almost over.

Tuesday was a mixed bag as many attendees had to leave to head back to work, while many others stayed to take advantage of the mountain or spa! Everybody looked a little rough at the morning brunch but the feeling in the air was unmistakable—the group had really drawn together. Many of those who came to the Summit knew a few of the others in attendance, but you could see it throughout the weekend, bartenders getting to know each other, talking shop, shooting the breeze, just coming together and having a great time. The energy all over was immensely positive and those of us who had a hand in putting it on felt a true sense of pride that we could make it all go down successfully for these pros. It was an unbelievably hardcore bunch of days for those of us in the back of the house, but we all agreed: you could not have any more fun than we had this weekend. Hopefully if you were there you feel the same way about your time in Vail. If you weren’t there this year, we hope to get you in the mix this time next year. It will be an honor. With love and respect, Andy Seymour.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bon Appetit Culinary and Wine Focus—Beaver Creek, CO Jan 29-31, 2009

Greetings and Happy New Year, everybody!

My business partner at aka wine geek, Andy Seymour, and I just returned from Colorado where we had a great weekend at the Bon Appetit Culinary and Wine Focus. As many of you know, one of my roles is as Wine and Spirits Consultant for Bon Appetit Magazine, and with that, we have become very involved in their events. This weekend is a collection of some of the greatest chefs from around the country, and around the world, putting on a display in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Andy and I kept very busy, making sure there were plenty of delicious libations for all those in attendance.

Here is a little breakdown about how the weekend went:

Thursday Night:
As a way to kick off the weekend, former Supreme, Mary Wilson was on hand to belt out some of their hits. The concert was the official kick off for the weekend’s events, and since Brazil was one of the themes of the event, we blasted out Caipirinhas for 400 of our closest friends. It was quite an experience muddling and mixing for this great group. The biggest problem most of the crowd had was learning how to say “Cachaca” and “Caipirinha”. Most of them just said thanks for the cocktail and moved on then came back later to ask, “What did you say this was called?”

It was a great start to the weekend, always good to get the blood pumping in the mountains with a serious round of muddling!


8:30 AM—Plum-TV
Andy and I took a ride to the Plum-TV studios in nearby Vail to do a spot about the weekend’s activities. In two separate segments with the host Eric, we covered Argentine wine and Brazilian cocktails, which just happened to be the topics of my two seminars during the weekend. Andy jumped in and the three of us shook Caipirinhas, which the crew proceeded to make good use of after we wrapped up the piece. It was a good spot, and a lot of fun for all of us.

12 NOON—Luncheon at the Kelley’s house
One experience that makes this event so unique is that it provides an opportunity for someone to have a world class chef come into their home and make dinner for a small group. On this day, Alex Atala, the amazing Brazilian Chef of NaMesa and D.O.M. came into the home of Tim and Barbara Kelley to cook for a small group of 12. I had the pleasure of helping them all host the lunch and picked the wines we served. We couldn’t do a lunch with this great Brazilian Chef without serving the national drink of Brazil, so Andy whipped up fresh cherry Caipirinas for the guests as they arrived. The meal was a masterpiece, truly displaying Chef Atala’s brilliance.
The menu consisted of:
Welcome Drink
Fresh Cherry Caipirinha

Young Zucchini and Langoustine Salad with Aromatic Pepper Vinaigrette
paired with
Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes 2008, Salta, Argentina

Oysters in Brioche Crust with Marinated Tapioca
paired with
Miolo Chardonnay 2007, Vale dos Vinhedos, Brasil

Liquid Coconut Risotto with Dendê Oil, Mint and Nori
paired with
Quinta do Seival 2004, Castas Portuguesas, Campanha, Brasil

Brasilian Baby Pork Ribs
paired with
Mendel Malbec 2006, Mendoza, Argentina


Priprioca-Scented Flan with Lime Ravioli and Banana Ouro
paired with
Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Solera Especial, 15 Year Old Oloroso, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry, Spain

3:30 PM—Brazilian Cocktail Seminar
Continuing this busy day, I slipped out of the lunch to meet Andy at The Golden Eagle Inn where we were preparing for our Brazilian Cocktail Seminar. The session was our opportunity to highlight some of our favorite cocktails with the indigenous spirits of Brazil. We mixed up three different drinks: a classic Caipirinha with Leblon Cachaca, a fresh mango Caipirinha with Cabana Cachaca, and the Paulistano, which features Oronoco Brazilian Rum shaken with pineapple, lime, Grand Marnier and fresh mint. The guests on hand all enjoyed the drinks and sampled Chef Marshall Blanchard’s food as each cocktail was accompanied by a course of food. You know I could never serve cocktails without food! The seminar was a lot of fun for Andy and me as the crowd got into the Brazilian spirit of things—that is they ate and drank with abandon, and of course, left with their own muddler to share the joy.

6:00 PM—Master Chef Challenge
As the chefs gathered in the Vilar center, preparing to compete for the Master Chef Challenge, we poured a selection of Trapiche’s wine—their Extra Brut Sparkling, along with a Torrontes and a Malbec—for the audience who were gathering for the big chef showdown. We plied the group with some great Argentine wine then slipped inside to watch some of the best in the business compete for the title of Master Chef. The competition took place in an ‘Iron Chef’ format with the breakdown of the rounds as follows:

Round One: Marc Murphy (The Landmarc, New York) and Steven Topple (Beano’s Cabin, Beaver Creek) vs. Richard Sandoval (Zengo, Denver) and Marshall Blanchard (Golden Eagle Inn, Beaver Creek)

Round Two: Joey Campanaro (Little Owl, New York) and Daniel Joly (Mirabelle, Beaver Creek) vs. Richard Chamberlain (Chamberlain’s Steak and Chop House, Texas) and Jay McCarthy (Beaver Creek Chop House, Beaver Creek)

Round Three: Cookoff

Judges: Barbara Fairchild, Kyle MacLachlan and Donatella Arpaia

Congratulations to Joey Campanaro for representing New York so well as he and Beaver Creek’s Daniel Joly teamed up to take the top prize. I have to say that, when pressed on live TV that morning, I had predicted that they were going to win this one before the competition even started. I wish I’d had them in the Master Chef pool…


11 AM—Celebrity Ski Race
One of the highlights of the weekend for many is this event, where all the chefs and the gang from Bon Appetit—including Andy and me—hit the slopes for a little friendly competition down the Beaver Creek downhill race course. Everybody took two runs down the course and the fastest time for each group of four took the prizes. I was all geared up for the backcountry, with my fat skis and AT bindings, which is kind like trying to drag race in a Jeep Wrangler, but I still managed to help my team take 2nd place. It was a lot of fun, especially for people like Andy who have never raced, and the mood was great, continuing on into lunch at the nearby Chophouse.

3 PM—Argentine Wine Seminar
My last big event of the weekend was conducting a session about one of my favorite topics, Argentine Wine. We did the event at Spago at The Ritz Carlton and I was joined by their great young sommelier, Sean Razee, MS. Sean and I forced our guests to suffer through some of the best wines coming out of Argentina today, and the room (which we oversold twice and had to add 15 additional seats at the last minute) was full of thirsty attendees anxious to drink in all they could about one of the world’s great countries for wine. Anyone who knows me, knows I have been a champion of these wines for sometime, so it was a pleasure to share my passion for Argentina with a great group. Here is what we poured:

Trapiche Sparkling, Extra Brut NV, Mendoza
Michel Torino Torrontes Don David 2007, Cafayate, Salta
BenMarco Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Mendoza
Luca Syrah 2006, Mendoza
Mapema Primera Zona 2002, Mendoza
Tikal Patriota 2006, Mendoza
Susana Balbo Malbec 2007, Mendoza
Mendel Malbec 2006, Mendoza
Trapiche Single Vineyard Malbec Viña Fausto Orellana 2005, Mendoza

I had the pleasure of working with Sean last year at the Telluride Wine Festival, and already knew what a great sommelier he is, so it came as no surprise when his crew there at Spago did an amazing job of running things start to finish—including adding fifteen seats with eight glasses each, twenty minutes before we were set to begin! It was a fantastic seminar to be a part of, and I was happy to hear that many in the room had caught the fever for these great wines.

That was the extent of my ‘work’ for the weekend, and you really must use the term loosely in a setting like this. That night, my wife Melissa joined me at the Grand Tasting, which featured food from all the weekend’s chefs, plus a great selection of wines and beer and spirits---a tremendous way to wind up a very successful weekend!

Of course, the weekend cocktail theme had to continue into the next day, which just happened to be Super Bowl Sunday, where I whipped up a few more Caipirinhas…this time for my party, as we watched the big game with a little Brazilian flavor.

Next stop is the South Beach Food and Wine Fest…until then—Sante!