AYCJ Creole

When I first started looking at this whole whirlwind around the country the ting that decided me was the ability to go to St Lucia and Martinique.  For the rhum obsessed like me it was my golden chance to go visit the mother ship.  Islands rising out of an azure sea, full rigged ships plying the waves, lush jungles, and most importantly cask upon cask of rhum as far as the eye could see, as soon as that image sprang to mind clicking the button to buy the ticket was pretty much a foregone conclusion.  Crossing the continent again and then heading for points south, I swear I could smell the rhum in the air as the plane got closer and closer to St St Lucia AYCJ 01 Continue reading

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AYCJ Texas – Gawd it’s big

Everything really is bigger in Texas, especially the amounts of excess you can indulge in.  I mean, one of my mottoes in life is ‘Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.’  Texas seems to embrace that ideal.  Everything is just as you know it, just carried to the nth degree.  For example, during my stay in Austin one of the days was a Saturday during college football season, so I needed to find a bar in which to watch my Huskies play.  I looked up a few likely candidates and went to check them out.  I knew I had found the right bar for me when I walked in, went up to the bar and amidst all of the requisite sports bar fixtures found Zwack, on tap.  Let me say that again, Zwack, on tap.

I imagine the conversation that resulted in that decision probably went something along these lines.

“You know, Jäger on tap is everywhere, and I like daring people to take shots of black, herbally, bitter things.  What’ll make us stand out?”

“Yeah, shots on a dare are great!”

“Let’s go to the liquor store and get one of everything from the shelf that Jäger is on and try them all!”

Time passes, many bottles, shots, and beers later…….

“Holy hell what was that last one?!”

“I think it says Zwack or something, you should have seen your face pucker!”

“That’s the one!  Let’s put it on tap, and not some weak ass cooler machine, it gets a tap!”

For me though, it was a nirvana moment.  Clouds parted, hosannas were sung, and I had found my home for the next several hours.  That Zwack handle became my friend as the need to dull the pain grew more and more acute as my team sucked it up.  We were terrible that day, and ice cold amaro dispensed in volume made it so much better.

I’d also like to take this moment to thank the genius who invented breakfast tacos.  You sir, or madam, need one of those Bud Light Real Men of Genius commercials, except not ironic.  In this wonderful time we live in of combining two things that are great into one awesome mashup, this has to be one of the most successful ever.  Breakfast food, good.  Tacos, good.  Place one in the other and enjoy, what’s not to like?  Thank you Texas. Continue reading

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AYCJ California Adventure

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.

Eater Inside: Bar Agricole

Photo courtesy of Bittermelon a Flickr

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All You Can Couch Surf

Carpe vitae!  Every now and then an opportunity presents itself that you know you will kick yourself forever if you turn it down.  So, why turn it down?  One night sitting on the internet a message came through, Jet Blue was doing their All You Can Jet pass again. Visions of flitting from place to place sprang to mind, seeing old friends and new, eating and drinking in exciting new places, and in distant favourites that had faded in the mists of memory.  Bars to visit, spirits to try, stupid things to do, and promises to fulfil, all these bloomed in my mind tantalizing me with possibilities.  I found myself credit card in hand buying a ticket, and the reality that this was going to happen set in.

TOTC10 007

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Farewell to a Lady and Friend

As I sat in a bar in Miami tonight I received a terrible phone call.  I learned that a dear friend and maternal figure in my life had passed.  Kim Ricketts of Kim Ricketts Book Events had passed earlier in the evening and the impact was immediately palpable to me.  Besides being someone who I am honoured to call my friend she was a great influence on my life like many other people.  Full of energy and love for all things wonderful and delicious in life she gave to me the opportunity to meet many people I would otherwise never would have.  I first met Kim nigh on 12 years ago now, she was hosting a dinner and book signing where I would first meet one of the culinary writing heroes of my until then young life.

On that night I also got to really meet many people whom I will consider lifelong friends.  This was the power of Kim and her gift to us all.  She brought people together, gave them to them the opportunity to expand their worlds and to learn something new, rub shoulders with those we held in high esteem, and made communities of people who might never have met in person.  I sit here not knowing what to say.  She meant to so much to so many people and I will forever be in her debt for giving me the opportunity to stretch my wings and explore a whole new world of possibilities.

Tonight I sit bereft, though certainly no more so than her family whom she nurtured and loved.  To you, I can only imagine your loss and hurt as a pillar of your lives has been borne away.  The sole tribute I can give is that besides all of the tangible things that Kim gave us, more importantly she left lasting and indelible impressions upon all who were lucky enough to encounter her, we are all the poorer for her passing.  If Valhalla exists she will be there, to the right of Guthlaf, cup in hand, pen in the other, and all shall be welcomed into her heart.  This world will be less bright without you.  I miss you and always will.

Mitch Albom 08

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A Final Voyage

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.

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Tales of the Cocktail 2010 Day Five – Make it Stop!

Tales of the Cocktail 2010 Day Five, please make it stop.  Today, I go home. but not before one more round of booze breakfast, tasting rooms, classes, a last ride at The Carousel, and a run to Cochon Butcher.  Seriously, who the hell invented mornings?  They need to be wrung through one of those ridiculous mangling machines you see in the movies, you know, the ones with flamethrowers, pneumatic crushy things, rollers with spikes, giant swinging scythes, and probably sharks with frickin’ lasers.  I need this booze in my coffee like I need another hole in the head, but, but you don’t see it stopping me, or anyone else here.

Today’s class is on how to use social media to build and manage your brand, whether that’s your bar, spirit, or yourself. Yes, I said yourself.  I know that it sounds like the height of pretension, ego-tripping, and douche-baggery to say that you need to manage yourself as a brand.  The reality is that in today’s connected world where we keep up with each other via Facebook and Twitter, we have a closer connection to each other and give credence to an establishment, brand, or service based on what we know of each other and the reputations that we have built for ourselves.  Like it or not, once having achieved a certain level of visibility we are brands unto ourselves, and like any other brand, you want to safeguard your image.

This is not to say that we should overly spin ourselves, you’ll just as quickly get called out for peddling bullshit.  It’s also easy to see when someone is overly managing their online persona.  I can understand needing multiple personae, but the one that’s supposed to be you, if it’s over managed, it just rings false and you better believe people can tell.  Anyways, that’s the practical stuff.   Remember when you were in grade school and you and all those around you were passing notes around?  Yeah, via the magic of Twitter, that’s what part of this session devolved into.  It was like we were all in 2nd grade again offering up a real time peanut gallery that we could all take part in.  Props to Paul Clarke and Lindsey Johnson taking it all in stride and making it a part of the class.  Oh, and there was booze, duh. Continue reading

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