The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2012

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Page 114 of 132

CRAFT GETS IN ON THE ACT At the "Brunch with an Italian Twist" tasting, Cocktail Guru Tony Abou-Ganim, Liquid Kitchen's Kathy Casey and Southern Wine and Spirits' Francesco Lafranconi were reunited to enjoy some of Italy's favorite spirits. AN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIR While many U.S. bartenders and brands were happy to reunite, it was also a chance for the international community to come together in celebration of the world's greatest spirits. From Japanese bartenders hand-carving ice balls at the ABSOLUT reception, to a fascinating luncheon presenting favorite Chinese liquor Moutai ("the most popular spirit you've never heard of," according to Zhan Jicheng of China Agricultural University), Tales served as an opportu- nity for the industry to taste new spirits from around the world, and make international friends while they're at it. In a room filled with multi-national voices for the Brunch with an Italian Twist, hosted by Francesco Lafranconi, Southern Wine & Spirits' Corporate Director of Mixology and Spirits Education, seven all-Italian brands (and their all-Italian bartenders) served up beautifully brunchy cocktails with a side of education, includ- ing a highly-entertaining PowerPoint presentation created by Lafranconi that sings the praise of the Italian favorite, amaro. Moutai, a rice-based dis- tilled spirit, is typically consumed in tiny shots as a communal toast. Tales of the Cocktail offered great opportunities for craft distillers to shine—from the Craft Distillers tasting room, where 24 brands had the chance to meet one-on-one with some of the industry's top decision-makers, to brand-specific tasting rooms like the one sponsored by Purity Vodka, which allowed bartenders hands-on experi- ence with the newest technique pioneered by the brand, Rapid Infusions. "The bartenders want to explore up-and-coming brands and find something they love to take Thomas Kuuttanen, Master Distiller of Purity Vodka, joined us at the Monteleone's famous Carousel Bar. to infuse vodka with a fresh flavor-of-choice in only three minutes. "We want to give them the tools to try the infusions on their own instead of just handing them a cocktail," explained Kuuttanen. back to their bars," said Thomas Kuuttanen, Master Distiller at Purity, "and it's been so rewarding to meet so many bartenders who already love this vodka." Purity's Rapid Infusion process uses an N2 O canister COMPETITIVE COCKTAILS With so many industry powerhouses in one place, it's no wonder there were some epic mixology throwdowns. From the "Beantown vs. Barbary Coast" competition that challenged Boston and San Francisco bartenders to make their best quaff from the Anchor Distilling portfolio, to the finale of the Tequila Ocho "Viva Sangrita!" competition, everyone brought their A-game. With a Family Feud flare, Pernod Ricard's BarSmarts program hosted Battle of the BarSmarters "East vs. West," which put BarSmart graduates to the test in an epic coastal challenge that included questions like "Things bartenders wear" (answer: vests, bowties, splashes of bitters) and a one-hand-tied-back lemon squeeze-off. 114 / the tasting panel / september 2012 PHOTO: RACHEL BURKONS PHOTO: RACHEL BURKONS PHOTO: RACHEL BUKONS

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