Los Angeles Veteran Barsmith Joe Brooke Lands at The 86 Co.

Joe Brooke’s Shaker Face. Photo by Caroline on Crack

When I first met Joe Brooke at The Edison, it was a whole seven, maybe even eight, years ago. And though I steer more towards food than cocktails on this blog, I hadn’t so much as written about a Vodka-Red Bull by then. My perception of cocktails, as well as as the entire cocktail scene in Los Angeles, was about to get turned upside down. Joe was one of the first craft bartenders I ever met and is one of the most hospitable.

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Giveaway: Tickets to Table 20 L.A.’s Best Bartender Competition

Video by LASates.com

These are the finals you all have been waiting for. After an exhaustive semi-final round, five finalists have emerged in Table 20’s 2nd Annual L.A.’s Best Bartender Competition. Fortunately, this final round is open to the public, and all are invited to take part.

On Sunday, October 9th from 3:30 – 7:30 PM at Elevate Lounge, you’ll get to do all of the following with your discounted (from $25), $20 admission:

And in case you need a reminder, these are the 5 mixologists and their drinks you can look forward to on Sunday. Get ready to taste some of the best cocktails in L.A.:

  • Joe Brooke, Next Door Lounge – People’s Choice
    “The Spicy Stränder”
  • Justin Pike, Tasting Kitchen – Judges’ Selection
    “Su Novia”
  • Brian Summers, Harvard & Stone – Karlsson’s Cocktail Challenge Winner
    “Blues in Orbit”
  • Devon Tarby, The Varnish – Judges’ Selection
    “Waltz #2”
  • Daniel Zacharczuk, Bar | Kitchen – Karlsson’s Cocktail Challenge Winner
    “Faster Young Fruit”

Judging the competition will be none other than Matt Biancaniello, who won the competition last year; Dale Degroff of “The Craft of The Cocktail;” Jessica Gelt of the L.A. Times; Johnny Iuzzini, pastry chef of Jean Georges; Bricia Lopez of Guelaguetza and Marcos Tello of Liquid Assets.  Some serious star power awaits you at this event!

The Master of Ceremonies, Dan Dunn, The Imbiber, will be on hand to guide you through the best cocktail voting process. You’ll each get one token to be used to vote for their favorite finalist cocktail. Each bartender will receive a prize – but who will get the billboard and trip??

Also, admission to the after-party at Villain’s Tavern is included! It comes with 1 drink ticket and live band entertainment. Awesome.


Even better? I’m giving away 3 pairs of tickets to this event. To enter:

  1. Comment with the name of your favorite contending cocktail. Be sure to include your email (which I won’t share) so I can get in touch with you via email and Twitter.
  2. Tweet: “I want to go to @LABestBartender competition, @estarLA! http://bit.ly/qFaH3S”
  3. “Like”  e*starLA on Facebook

You must do all 3 in order to be eligible. Contest closes at 5 PM on Friday, October 7, 2011. I’ll be contacting you immediately after. No response within 3 hours means I have to pick a new winner or three.

If you’re ready to purchase your tickets, use code “estarlatix” to get $5 off!! Score!!

Good luck!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

3:30 – 7:30 PM

Tickets: $25 $20 (code: estarlatix)

Elevate Lounge
811 Wilshire Blvd.
21st Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90017

The Liquid Muse Cocktail Club Does Absinthe: Don’t Believe The Voodoo

Water is poured onto absinthe to open up the flavor and bouquet

I’m always excited when The Liquid Muse cocktail club meets – there’s always fun people to meet and new things to learn. When I heard, though, that the next meeting would be over absinthe, I was especially ecstatic. I knew nothing of absinthe but the tales and lore of the just recently unbanned liquor. Was I going to turn crazy? Start hallucinating?

Well, I did know that it did resemble licorice, but we won’t exactly call that a head start. My mind was wide open to take the absinthe lesson in. And besides, the event took place at Bar Keeper, one of my top spots for gifting. I have given many a bridal shower, wedding and even birthday gift from the Sunset Junction shop (“break-resistent” glassware for that accident-prone best friend, anyone? Or Paris and Nicole’s faces superimposed on Jesus and Mary on a flask? Space invader-shaped silicone ice cube trays? They got it.).

St. George (American), La Clandestine (Swiss), Lucid (French)
St. George (American), La Clandestine (Swiss), Lucid (French)

The event was sponsored by Lucid – a 124 proof French absinthe that was actually “reverse-engineered” from a formula that is 100 years old. In it, you will get essences of sweet fennel and green anise. And guess what – it will take you 3 bottles of the stuff to hallucinate, contrary to what you may have heard about absinthe. And absinthe is simply achieved by steeping herbs in alcohol distillate – nothing voodoo about that. The irony is that it was once very popular during a very bad draught for the vineyards. People liked absinthe because it didn’t give them the hangover that other spirits did, but when the wine industry “came back” there were a lot of rumors created around absinthe for purposes of eliminating the competition.

The Lucid representative noted that in preparation, a typical pour would be 1 part absinthe to 2 – 2.5 parts water. The water, when poured into the absinthe, opens it up and allows the essences of wormwood, anise, fennel and beets to breathe. The sugar cube laid on the spoon between the water pour and absinthe makes the drink sweeter and a tad easier to put down.

We tried the Lucid, first – and then we got to try La Clandestine, which is actually a Swiss absinthe and instead of the light green that Lucid was, it was clear and 106 proof. It was interesting to see the pour turn from clear to a milky white. After La Clandestine we got to try an American absinthe called St. George – a dark blend of absinthe that I probably liked the least. I could taste a lot more wormwood and some mint; the Lucid rep had said this was a type of “modernized” absinthe.

Absinthe glass with spoon & sugar cube
Absinthe glass with spoon & sugar cube

We were told that the tales of absinthe lore, ironically, come from Czechoslovakia – where you can find the worst quality absinthe in the world. Contrary to what you may have heard about flashy absinthe experiences, you are never to burn the sugar and it is always meant to be enjoyed with water. There are a lot of additives in Czech absinthe as well as distracting flourishes such as the burning of sugar infused into the entire absinthe presentation. Don’t get fooled; absinthe is an enjoyable experience but not one necessarily tied to a whole lot of hocus pocus some might have you believe. There also exists very prominent brands of absinthe *cough* that perhaps shouldn’t be – the hype of which is financiered with an electric green color to match (read: tons of additives). You might also be able to find the bad stuff served on your Virgin America flight. *wink*

But wait – how did (high-quality) absinthe actually make me feel? No – I wasn’t hallucinating and you know, I honestly really enjoyed the lightness drinking absinthe gave me. I wouldn’t even call it a buzz as with alcohol; it was herbal and very lightweight. I would drink “the good stuff” any time, any time of day (ok, almost). Though the herbal taste is not for everyone, I found it delightful once my palate had acclimated.

Further reading:

Absinthe Does Not Make You Crazy – ShopEatSleep

Be sure to sign up for The Liquid Muse Cocktail Club to get the dl on the next tasting!

Bar Keeper
3910 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90029-2242