Marleigh Riggins is a print production artist and cocktail enthusiast in Los Angeles. She publishes the blog SLOSHED!
Well, Thursday is kind of a blur. Not a drunken blur, but a flurry of activity (and, yes, drinks).The day started at Juniperlooza, the gin panel hosted by Ryan Magerian of Aviation Gin. Also on the panel were Phil Duff, bartender from Holland and our genever expert, Desmond Payne, master distiller for Beefeater, and Simon Ford of Plymouth Gin. We sampled eight various gins, from genever to Old Tom to New Western and everything in-between…plus four cocktails. The Improved Holland Cocktail was first and incorporated genever, followed by the Jasmine Cocktail, a variation of the Pegu Club invented by Paul Harrington, an absolutely delightful Singapore Sling and an Aviation-based cocktail called the Pepper Delicious.
We followed that up with the Cognac and Armagnac tasting, featuring liquors from Jerez, Cognac and Armagnac. The hosts, Edward and Deborah, walked us through tasting nine various liquors in a range of ages and styles. The highlight was tasting the Castarede Blanche, a completely unaged armagnac. Surprisingly (in my brandy ignorance), unaged brandy tastes exactly like pisco. It’s amazing to move through a tasting of the variously aged brandies and see what a few years in an oak barrel can do. Which statement sums up pretty much my fascination with liquor and leads us to the next seminar: Making Your Own Spirits.
Led by Matthew Rowley of San Diego (whom I met by happenstance on Wednesday without having any idea he was leading this panel), Mike McCaw and Ian Smiley joined him in a thorough discussion of the basics of the history and craft of home distilling. Unfortunately we were double booked and missed the Artisan Still Design seminar, but found the discussion of the various legal restrictions on distilling in America very interesting. Did you know you can lose your house for distilling liquor at home, but are allowed to produce up to 300 gallons each of beer and wine every year? Neither did I.The glut of information was followed with a side-by-side tasting of Absolut vodka, Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon moonshine and Bar Sol pisco and the revelation that alcohol can ignite in the absence of oxygen. How that’s physically possible I’m not sure, but who am I to question?
After the last seminar it was off to the Diageo Cocktail Hour with Chuck Taggart and Wes where the David Wondrich made us a drink, then off to dinner with Dr. Bamboo.
After a beer and some delightful food at a little bar called Attiki (with the greatest Bloody Marys ever—no, seriously), we headed to the St. Germain suite to be treated to cocktails made by Marcos Tello and Eric Alperin, great guys and all-star bartenders from Los Angeles…not that I’m biased. Rob Cooper, Mr. St. Germain, even jumped behind the bar with Eric for a bit.After hanging out with friends old and new (and really, really new), I had to pack it in at 2am to be up and at ‘em for this morning’s David Wondrich-Brian Rea-Ted Haigh seminar. More about that tomorrow, as it’s time for lunch and big ol’ Bloody Mary!