The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2010

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NOSE-ABLES Empire Statement W hen restaurateur Mark Grossich recreated an Art Déco cocktail lounge in the Empire State Building this spring, he called in an expert who could fashion a drink menu befitting of the historic spot. Luckily, it was a short call. His choice? Master mixologist Jonathan Pogash, Hospitality Holdings’ Director of Cocktail Development and already a veteran of two openings for Grossich’s company. The lounge, aptly named The Empire Room, can thank Pogash for its authentic cocktail vibe. Though only 30 years old, the mixologist has a real feel for things of another era and was keen on bringing both authenticity and modernity to the bar. “This was by far the most chal- lenging to open,” says Pogash. “My main philosophy was that this bar sits in the footprint of the old Astoria-Waldorf building, so I based most of the drinks on that.” “Cocktail Guru” Jonathan Pogash of The Empire Room. Using a historic cocktail recipe book, Pogash modified drinks to suit a modern taste, infusing his own cocktail sensibility. “I wanted something pleasing to the eye and a classic preparation of drinks—stirred cocktails, dry-shaken with eggs, bitters and homemade syrups.” With a focus on gin and rye, the menu bridges the gap between pre- and post-Prohibition and was an intellectual exercise for the mixolo- gist. And in keeping with the streamlined aesthetic of the era, Pogash whittled down his barware to a minimum: egg strainer, cherry muddler and a Boston shaker. “I like to give people an experience—a great classic preparation of flavorful, balanced drinks.” —Lana Bortolot Tippling Texans A pril 29 was a night to explore Continental whiskey in Austin, Texas. Brand ambassadors from some of America’s top producers (which included bourbon, Tennessee, Canadian and rye whiskies) poured for about 150 guests at Opal Divine’s 2nd Annual American Whiskey Festival. “I started off as a bourbon guy,” says Michael Parker, owner of Opal Divine’s and organizer of the festival. Parker has been doing a world single-malt event for years each December; based on that success, he decided last year to feature a strictly “local” take on whiskey. “We like to do this on the Thursday before Derby Day so everyone can pick their favorite bourbon to enjoy with the Kentucky Derby.” In addition to the big boys of whiskey in attendance (including Jack Daniels, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, Woodford, Jim Beam, Bulleit and Crown Royal), there was Balcones Distillery, a micro-distillery in Waco that is selling Texas’s first legal whiskey since Prohibition. Balcones’s head distiller Chip Tate handcrafts Baby Blue to be an exceptionally flavorful spirit. It’s distilled twice and aged in new oak, and once poured there is the distinct aroma and flavor of blue corn meal, along with toasted nuts and chocolate. It was good enough to take Double Gold at this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition and to score 95 points from THE TASTING PANEL’s Editor-in-Chief, Andy Blue. Needless to say, it was the hot spirit at the event. —Anthony Head Maker’s Mark, Red Stag and Old Crow were among the featured products at Opal Divine’s 2nd Annual Whiskey Festival. 84 / the tasting panel / june 2010 PHOTO: LANA BORTOLOT PHOTO: KIRK WEDDLE

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