Every now and then I like to head off and play a couple hours of blackjack. Besides the fact that I like the thrill of a good gamble and matching skills and statistical universes against each other casinos also have one very important thing. Free drinks. We all know the routine, sit at a table or machine and eventually you’ll be offered a free cocktail or beer. Lately though, I’ve also noticed that more casinos have added an option to pay a deeply discounted price for your drink in order to upgrade to a better spirit or microbrew.
It’s hard to beat free, but you know what, the longer I live and the longer I sell booze, I realise something. Life’s for enjoying, and if I can make my life more enjoyable for a pretty nominal fee, I’m going to be pretty tempted. Hell with tempted, seize the opportunity with both hands. Now you may ask why not just stay home and play in an online casino and drink my own considerable stash of booze? I like the interaction with other players. I like being able to smack the idiot next to me who can’t play and is screwing it up for the table. I also like the other temptations that casinos have added to their offerings to separate me from my money.
In the last few years, the addition of cigar and cocktail lounges with ambitious menus and programs have started to pop up. Not just in Las Vegas either where every form of excess is lit up and put on display. Regional and tribal casinos have realised that people like to enjoy themselves and once having made the decision to go to a casino why not make a night of it and go all out, especially if they’ve had good luck. After all, they may have won it at the tables, but that cash doesn’t actually have to leave the building.
Consider the Petrossian Bar at the Bellagio, probably the first bar in Vegas where I felt that things were starting to turn around. I can say that I have spent far more time at the Bellagio over the years because of that bar than I would otherwise have. I think that this is a trend to be encouraged and I think I’m going to have to start compiling a serious list of casinos where the drinking experience has been elevated. Time to ante up and order a drink.
Filed under Bars, Booze, Travel
My All You Can Jet travels would begin in San Francisco. Taboo Absinthe in hand, it was nice to visit a familiar city that I had been to many times in the past to kick off the long trek. I visited a multitude of bars by day hawking my hooch, and then visiting even more by night for “research” purposes. I would get a lot of “research” done over the course of the month, a lot of research. Familiar places and new, there had been some really great new openings in San Francisco in the recent past.
One of the ones I was most excited about was Bar Agricole. Rum is my first love among all spirits and rhum agricole is first in my heart among r(h)um. Bar Agricole if you can’t tell from the name makes an especial emphasis on rhum agricole, making my heart leap with joy and anticipation. There is a phenomenal patio out front, exactly the most perfect place possible to have a refreshing beverage on a late summer night. I knew I’d be spending many visits here in the future.
Photo courtesy of Bittermelon a Flickr
A voyage comes to an end. Vessel will be closing for the final time this week. Vessel has been my school, my inspiration, my anchor for the last few years. It’s where I was able to really start learning the craft of bartending. I shook my first Ramos Gin Fizz and stirred my first Sazerac for someone who was paying for it for the first time there. Without Vessel and the family that came together there I would not have my life as it is today.
Filed under Bars, Booze, Seattle
Tales of the Cocktail 2010 Day Three, at least I’m pretty sure it’s day three. It’s starting to blur together. This morning is my turn to be a bit lost to the world. I am in a bit of a towel induced fugue, I miss a tasting room or two, maybe it was three, who knows anymore. I slowly pry myself out of bed and sit in the shower for a good 15 minutes, very thankful that I have a stock of water, Gatorade, and 5-Hour Energy in my room. I fortify myself, grab a slug of rum and then make my way to Antoine’s for a lunch hosted by Bulleit Bourbon. Into my haze comes the bright whirlwind of awesome called Hollis Bulleit. Remember the song Jump in the Line made famous by Harry Belafonte in Bettlejuice? She’s definitely a hurricane in all kinds of weather, she sweeps into a room and instantly the energy level is turned up to eleven.
Tales of the Cocktail 2010, let the madness, sleep deprivation, gluttony, learning, and competitive toasting begin. Technically it wasn’t officially Tales yet. Tuesday is Tales Day -1, but this is when the majority of attendees start to arrive. Arriving on the train that morning from Houston, as soon as we passed into city limits Mindy Kucan, John Hearns, and I all promptly took shot of Fernet Branca to toast our arrival. After all, we must be cliché as bartenders and cocktail geeks and suck down some of the dark stuff.
By the way, there is nothing like train travel, it’s decadent, relaxing, lets you do nothing but kick back, perhaps have a drink or three, sleep, and in general just pause for a little bit because you are not going anywhere else. I absolutely recommend train travel whenever possible.
Most people who go to Tales of the Cocktail know that nearly a week of excess and debauchery with your fellow spirits minded and swilling friends is plenty of fun for anyone. I am apparently not that smart. I decided that two days before I went in to New Orleans for Tales 2010 I would have the brilliant idea of going to Houston and see some friends and visit Anvil Bar & Refuge. After all, what better way to get ready for all that excess than with a few extra nights of excess?
I had been wanting to visit Anvil ever since my friend Chuck Taggart waxed poetic about it. I then got to meet one of the owners and the mastermind behind the bar Bobby Heugel and one of his extraordinary bartenders Mindy Kucan. That pretty much sealed the deal, I had to go as soon as possible. As I sat there one evening booking my travel plans for Tales I realized that I would have to change airplanes in Houston anyways. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for an extra drink or 20, off to Houston I went.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I love rum. I mean, I really love rum. I also love Tiki. Not as much as some of the tiki nuts out there, but I do enjoy my tiki a lot. I love the kitsch, the toys, the crazy glassware, the funky clothes, and the crazy over the top drinks. On top of all of that, is the reliance and enthusiasm for rum that comes with it. One of the latest temples of rum and tiki opened in the last year in San Francisco. Smuggler’s Cove is a wonderful dark cave of rum and libations, tucked behind an unassuming door, walking in the door is like stepping into some wild idealization of a fevered rum dream, and rum there is.