On Daiquiris and Haircuts

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What the heck just happened?

I am mostly alive.  I am slightly zombie… ish.  I am living a new life.  Since the last time I posted the world has been flipped on its head once again.  Gone are the days of distilling and nights of Amor, now is the time for pork buns and flaming cocktails.  Starting last November I took a position with Momofuku to champion their bar program at Ssam Bar in the East Village.  For the last four months I have been working with the incredible Dave Arnold and a team of amazing bartenders to flesh out a new cocktail bar, Booker & Dax, featuring a craft cocktail menu based around some newfangled and amazing tools created by Dave himself.

This post is not about the bar.  If you want to learn all about the awesome stuff happening at Booker & Dax then I will go into the bar in detail another time.  This is a post about the demands of running and opening a new establishment, about falling off the face of the earth, about sacrifice, success, and shortcomings.

The moment I started at Momofuku it has been a constant slamming of information, research, administration, creation, press, cleaning, hiring, firing, drinking, ordering, inventory, and lots and lots of hours logged.  Never before have I been so immersed in one single all consuming project.  7 days a week, 15 hours a day.

For better and worse, I have been so inundated in Booker & Dax I have not posted a blog post in 4 months, called my friends, been out in the city, been on a date, cleaned my room or washed any laundry; my gym called me yesterday to ask if I still wanted my membership because I hadn’t seen them in 3 months.  There are so may facets to cover when joining a new company, opening a new bar, and then running it that constantly demand all of your attention.  It has left me overwhelmed not a few times.

Why it’s worth it:

{I am entering this blurb post writing this blog post: I didn’t realize that I needed to spew out all of this below, I think the last few months have been so emotionally charged/draining that once you get started you can’t really stop an outpouring as such this is.  So the following is less informational and more… therapeutic}

The people.  There is one thing above all others that makes this constant battle worth it, the people.  Throughout this entire process I have constantly met and enjoyed the company of so many amazing individuals.  First and foremost are a team of bartenders who have such an extreme passion for what they do that they will endure anything just to learn more and be a part of something so great.  Working side by side with these guys has taught me so much about not only bartending, but work ethic, loyalty, creativity, and the unmatched energy that has made Booker & Dax the bar that it is.  I’m constantly blown away by what these people bring to the table everyday and I count my lucky stars I have them to lean on constantly.

Dave Arnold is a mad man with a pension for genius, and has quickly turned into one of my best friends.  Working with this man has educated me on carbonation, the physics of liquid nitrogen, using a rotovap, clarification, dilution, dirty jokes, flavors, interviewing well, and more importantly all about family and friends.  There are very few men on earth who command such loyalty from everyone they encounter.

I am now thoroughly convinced that if you gave me a cardboard box, a couple of pitchers of malt liquor, and a phenomenal caring bar staff that it would millions of times better than the most perfectly crafted well appointed bar with manikin like bartenders.

As this bar only just begins to find its stride and allows for some breathing room, the staff and management can begin to step back and start to unravel everything.  More than any success we have gained has this project illustrated my short comings.  Only when put under such great pressure do you ever see the cracks in the dam, and boy have I ever found a long list of cracks.  What my priorities are do not always seem to coincide with what the bar priorities have to be to make it succeed.  Balancing my time between costing out cocktail prices by dashes of bitters, staffing costs, over time hours, inventory, making sure we have the most cost effective blocks of ice, employees W-4’s are signed, and all of the admin drudgery versus the much more attractive side of my position like creation of recipes, tasting new spirits, events, and normal bartending… is hard.  Also, I make horrendous excel spreadsheets. I’m terrible at scheduling.  Routine, not my strong point.  To answer this all though, I now know this, and am starting to learn how to not necessarily fix these things but rather combat myself.  Once again, without the bartenders, dear god we would be lost at sea.

Bah!

On entirely an entirely different note: I am now 26.  Some years back, I believe in the ever impressionable era of 9th grade, Robby Nelson explained to me that the male body peaks for distance running at age 27, and ever since then I have committed myself to the idea that it is at 27 that a guy is perfect. (also it may just turn out that after 27 I may actually commit to the idea of being a man and not just a guy)  Absurd, I know.  My father, who is ancient, is far fitter than I am and could kick my butt while hog tied… but, none the less this gilded age of 27 has wrung in my head as the epitome of fitness.  While this last year has actually been fairly successful as far as staying healthy goes, this up coming year it the focus.  First step: cut out the daily doses of pork belly… yeah.

There is so much more I want to write, but I am becoming more exhausted just thinking about everything at this point.  So after getting this unorganized mass above out of my brain and on to paper I do believe I could produce a coherent post on the actual bar, cool new things, home bars, eating out at amazing restaurants… the fun side of things. Tomorrow.

Much love to you all.

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Diving Deeper

As the weeks plod on out here, more and more alcoholic work is seeping up through the cracks, and I am taking every chance I get to dive deeper into the stills or take shelter behind a bar.  Most recently I have started bartending at Amor Y Amargo back at home in the East Village.  This awesome, albeit minuscule, bar housed within a complex of other well known bars is a showcase for something near and dear to my heart: bitters.  As a showroom for the Bittermens Bitters and a bar ware general store this space serves multiple purposes, and Saturday nights you will find me behind the narrow bar pouring out drinks stuffed with bitter and complex flavors.  Centering on using Amaros from around the world, and a house made sweet vermouth on tap, we have a great time putting out cocktails to an extremely nice and always intrigued crowd.  I am extremely excited to be part of the team down there, and it has done wonders for breaking me free of the solitude of distilling alone all the time!  There are actually people out in the world to interact with!

Yesterday wrapped up a city wide cocktail event here in NY.  The Manhattan Cocktail Classic is a 5 day rampage of learning and drinking; bar tenders and cocktail enthusiasts gather in the city to attend events ranging from stories told by world famous bars or instructional seminars on crafting the ultimate Old Fashioned.  I happened to win tickets to an event that was oddly appropriate, if not a little redundant, to which Jackie and I attended.  The History and Current Landscape of Distilling in NY.  Hosted by two gentlemen opening a distillery not too far from where ours is now.  The lecture itself was actually quite enjoyable and featured in it for a good portion of the presentation was a section solely on Kings County Distillery and the methods and booze we are making.  Almost more importantly the lecture was sponsored by Pernod-Ricard which produces any number of fine spirits, and we were delivered a new and different cocktail to sip on every 10-20 minutes… by the end we had a whole lineup of empty glasses and were in great need of a hearty dinner.  I’m now convinced that all lecture style classes should include servers, bussers, and booze.  Beyond the inspiring libations, it was also a really nice chance to meet the other members in my small and specialized field in NYC.  Gathered all into one room were all of the current distilleries, and being able to see what was coming up is really a neat thing, and finally I see a small community forming around the craft distillery industry in Brooklyn, something I have been looking forward to for quite some time.  More coming up soon about the current evolution of our little distillery into a bigger little distillery.

Pictures?

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Best Bar Just Off of Manhattan.

It is hard to track down.  The doors only open every 30 minutes, and you have to exit and then re-enter every time they do.  It rocks, literally.

In order to save money and yet still go out and have an adventurous time in Manhattan, Tanner, Dan, and I decided to venture out into the world and take a long walk.  We were going to take advantage of of what we had available to us.  First stop: bite to eat at Crif Dogs, quintessential way to start the evening.  It was here that Tanner, obviously fueled by the brain enhancing qualities of a Spicy Redneck (crif specialty hot dog: Bacon wrapped dog, deep fried, topped with chili, coleslaw, and jalepenos) make the bold decision to head south.  So we marched south, to the very tip of Manhattan, and it was from here we headed out into the night aboard the best bar just outside of Manhattan: The Staten Island Ferry.  It is free, it has a bar that serves $3.75 16oz Heineken, it is about 10-20 degrees cooler than anywhere in the city, and it has the most supreme view of the Manhattan skyline I have seen so far.  We rode the ferry across to Staten Island coming within a few meters of the Statue of Liberty, drinking a cold beer on the 30 minute trip over, and let cool salt water sea air cool us off.  Once you are at one end they make you exit and then re-board, and then it was back towards our island, another beer in hand, and the beautiful towering skyline in our sights.  Best Bar Not Quite in Manhattan.

I took quite a few pictures aboard the ferry, but the water was fairly choppy, and the camera settings had to be set to night conditions: blurry pictures abound.  Here are a few of the more recognizable shots.

The night didn’t end here.  After returning to the south end of Manhattan we began our trek home.  In Manhattan even the shortest walk is packed with anything you can imagine, but a long walk makes you feel like you are seeing the world.  First we encountered the beautiful hundreds of years old buildings of the tip of the island, and then passed into the tower and stacked buildings of the financial district.  Huge buildings tower over clean cobble stone streets with blockades strewn across the streets to stop any 4 wheeled traffic.  We skimmed by Wall Street, and all of the other phenomenal structures somewhat in awe of how imposing they look lit up at night.

We traveled through the clean and quieter streets of Downtown, and entered into the sea port area, which turns out is a bustling but quaint little spot in town!   At this point we stumbled onto this beauty which reminded me of of Mr. Tebay: After the sea port we moved up through the deserted and filthy streets of Chinatown.  Didn’t take any pictures here, I was too busy covering my nose from the foul stench of the rotten food that was dumped into the streets.  Not a big fan of Chinatown.  Chinatown connects to the lower east side, connects back into the East Village, which contains home.  Adventure grande. On foot: the only way to see New York.

Ya Vivimos!

It has been some time since my last post!  Shannon and I are still alive and wandering around the East Village.  Lately we have been attempting to find ourselves a semblance of routine, and while we have not yet settled into one we are very much on our way.  We have finally found ourselves both employed and working on a consistent basis, which feels secure and steady.  It’s a huge weight off of our shoulders.  We have finally allowed ourselves to somewhat get into the flow of a normal schedule again, even if we both work bizarre hours.  Crif Dogs is taking off, and business is good!  Shannon’s position at Death & Co keeps getting better and better, and between PDT and Death & Co we certainly have our favorite bars on lock down!  I am officially managing at work now which I find to be really enjoyable, and I am spending a lot of time trying to revamp a ton of systems at work.  I am very much still trying to get abreast of the entire situation at work, but everyday is getting more and more comfortable allowing me to start to dive in to all of the inner workings.

There really isn’t much to report out here right now.  Shannon and I have been working so hard on getting employed and then work itself that we haven’t been spending too much time adventuring.  Soon enough we will have our schedules under control so we can resume finding new and crazy things in New York, but until then we are attempting to lock down any adventuring.

I tried to find some clips on Crif Dogs, but was unable to locate any good ones.  Here is a clip of the bar:

Please Don’t Tell

Anyways, Just plodding along here in New York, doing our thing!  More to come over the next few days!  Here is a little shot of the apartment since I like to put up a picture with the posts!

Home!