Victoria D’Amato-Moran

This is the first of what I hope is an ongoing series on the Underhill-Lounge.

I experimented by asking the bartender at Montgomery Place to make me a Bombay Cocktail No. 2 earlier this year; but, this just seemed to result in a grumpy bartender.

To make it less of a shock, I thought I would contact some local bartenders and give them a choice of one of the 5 of the Savoy Cocktails that might be coming up in the next week.

Surprisingly, some actually seemed game.


Victoria D'Amato-Moran

Victoria Damato-Moran’s Bio:

I was born and raised in San Francisco, North Beach, daughter of a bartender and craftsman.
Dancin’ Danny, they called him, the original bar top dancer !
We had a family bar called Damato’s on Broadway St, back in the 60′s, Dad was always tending bar, so I grew up in the business, watching him make the best Manhattans,
Side Cars, Pink Ladys, Grasshoppers, etc…….
At the age of 21, I thought that my Manhattans should be made in a bar legally, so in 1984,
I was hired by Jeramiah Tower as a cocktail waitress at Stars Restaurant and tend bar once and a while.
I really loved bartending and danced like my Dad, so I continued to work in the restaurant/bar biz.
I enjoy all forms of art, though creating cocktails in my art form now, in my spare time I make jewlery with vintage beads from my collection of beads from around the world.

Chanticler

Chanticle(e)r Cocktail

Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1 Tablespoon of Raspberry Syrup (Victoria made from scratch)
The White of 1 Egg
1 Glass Dry Gin (2 oz Plymouth Gin)

Shake well and strain into medium size glass.

This seems to be a variation on the Breakfast or Pink Lady Cocktail with Raspberry Syrup instead of Grenadine. As Chanticleer is a rather well known rooster, (Nun’s Priest’s Tale from Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”,) I suspect this particular cocktail’s DNA comes from the Breakfast Cocktail. I have to say, even if raspberry syrup makes this a bit girly-er than the Grenadine version, the flavor of the fresh raspberry syrup definitely made this cocktail a keeper. Now if I can only get her to give me the recipe for the syrup…

Champs Elysees

Champs Elysees Cocktail (6 people)

3 Glasses Cognac (3 parts Hennessy Cognac)
1 Glass Chartreuse (1 part Green Chartreuse)
1 1/2 Glasses Sweetened Lemon Juice (A little more than 1 part Sour Mixer)
1 Dash Angostura Bitters

Shake well and strain into cocktail glasses.

There was some discussion here about which Chartreuse to use. Victoria thought yellow would probably make a more attractively colored cocktail with the Cognac. Unfortunately, we only had green on hand. With Green Chartreuse, the herbal character is pretty out front, overshadowing pretty much everything else in the cocktail.

All the same, if you like Green Chartreuse, this isn’t a bad cocktail at all. If you don’t know if you like Green Chartreuse, it may not be the best place to start.

While I was there, she also made me a really tasty tequila and watermelon smash with a touch of cayenne. Mmmmm!

If you’re lucky enough to find Victoria behind the bar from you, ask for one of her original cocktails. She is one of the rare bartenders who brings both the people skills to make anyone feel comfortable on the other side of the bar from her and the taste to make truly outstanding original cocktails like the following Valentino, which won her a bartending competition at Rye.

Valentino

Makes 1 drink

INGREDIENTS:

1 ounce Aperol
1 ounce reposado Tequila
1 ounce rhubarb juice*
1/2 ounce Agave Pomegranate Ginger Syrup**
3 ounces grapefruit juice (Ruby Red or Texas)
1 fresh lime
Splash club soda
Grapefruit and lime garnish

INSTRUCTIONS:

Instructions: Pour the Aperol, Tequila, rhubarb juice, Agave-Pomegranate-Ginger syrup and grapefruit juice into a chilled tumbler. Shake and strain over ice into a chilled double-rocks glass (8 to 9 ounces). Add a slight squeeze of fresh lime juice. Top with a splash of club soda.

*To make rhubarb juice, cut fresh rhubarb into chunks, parboil, then steam, until the rhubarb is tender. Extract the juice by mashing the pulp through a fine-mesh sieve.

**Agave Pomegranate Ginger Syrup

2 cups agave nectar
1 cup pomegranate juice
1 large finger of ginger, sliced

Instructions: Pour agave nectar and pomegranate juice into a pot. Add ginger. Bring to a boil. Turn off and let steep until cool. Remove the ginger and store in a glass bottle in the refrigerator.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Forbidden Island Field Trip

One of the drinks included in “Food & Wine Cocktails 2008″ is Martin Cate’s version of the classic Trader Vic drink the Fog Cutter

Forbidden Island

Taking the opportunity of a friend’s band (The awesome Project Pimento!) playing at Forbidden Island, I stopped by to try the drink in question.

Fog Cutter

Le Fog Cutter. Tasty! I’d not tried one before. It was fruitier than I expected, with a good amount of the drink’s character coming from the Orgeat. I don’t have the book handy, but it has always struck me as an unlikely combination of ingredients, especially for a Tiki Drink. Most recipes include: Brandy, Gin, Rum, Sherry, Orgeat Syrup, and Orange Juice. Sometimes lemon. Somehow it all works!

Martin & I*

I am such a bartender stalker! Anyway, Martin went on to explain how interesting it is to track the sweetness and different character of the Fog Cutter through the seasons. They’re on late season Navel oranges right now, giving the drink a sweeter character. He said pretty soon they’d be switching to Valencias, which would be quite tart in the early part of the season and then mellow as the summer went on.

FGCUTTR*

Martin even brought in his old FGCUTTR license plate for photographic documentation.

*Humuhumu took these pictures.

Beretta

I was lucky to be invited to the opening party last night for San Francisco’s newest cocktail and food establishment, Beretta.

While I am still puzzling over the connection between Pizza and Cocktails, there is no questioning the mightiness of the cocktail list Thad Vogler has created or impressive array of staff he has assembled to make those cocktails.

Starting with Mr. Vogler, whose resume includes such stellar establishments as The Slanted Door, Presidio Social Club, and Jardiniere, the list of talent includes Todd Smith, (Bourbon and Branch,) Eric Johnson, (Bourbon and Branch, Eastside West,) and Ryan Fitgerald, (Tres Agaves).

The cocktails are based on a fun assortment of mostly New World spirits. Rum, Pisco, Tequila, and Rye Whiskey all make appearances. I was especially taken with the Dolores Park Swizzle, Agricole Mule, Airmail, and Agave Sour.

I’m not sure if the configuration of the restaurant they had for the party was the same as they will have for formal service, but it seems like about 2/3 of the space will be taken up by shared seating, a la NOPA, with only a few tables for proper seating in the back. Definitely a casual, cocktail friendly vibe.

As you may know, I live in Bernal Heights, which is mostly a desert as far as decent cocktails go. It is possible you may get lucky and have a half way decent cocktail at Wild Side West, Stray Bar, Knockout, or Argus, but really the closest place where you can be assured a truly great cocktail is range. It is quite exciting that Beretta is now here, a couple blocks closer than range. I can only hope that the Southwards Progress continues, and one day I will have a tasty cocktail in Bernal Heights that I, or one of my neighbor cocktail enthusiasts, didn’t make. Until then, I am looking forward to getting back to Beretta to try out that mysterious pizza and cocktail combo.

NYC, February 13, 2008

I have met a couple folks via the food and cocktail forums on eGullet over the years.

A couple guys I knew from their foodblogs and cocktail posts were John Deragon and Don Lee. Serious foodies and tech workers who moonlight as bartenders at PDT, I dropped them a note to see if they would be interested in getting together for a few drinks.

I got off my flight, took a cab to the hotel, and gave John a call. He said he and Don would be at Death + Company, and that they would be glad to take me around to a few bars in the East Village.

One interesting thing that Death + Company has been doing lately is a bartender exchange program. A bartender from Death + Company travels to a bar in another city for a week or so and a bartender from the remote bar/city travels to NYC and bartends at Death + Company for a week. The night I was there, Kirk from the Violet Hour in Chicago was behind the bar along with Brian. With Brian busy, I asked Kirk for something aromatic, and he suggested a Chartreuse Swizzle. Composed of, well, a lot of Chartreuse, a house made falernum, and pineapple juice in a tall glass with crushed ice, it also had a spectacular flamed chartreuse float. While Kirk was getting the other ingredients together, he set a shot of chartreuse on fire in a large jigger. Then, after rest of the drink was ready, he poured the still burning chartreuse over the mint sprig garnish, setting it on fire, briefly, like a mini christmas tree. The aroma of the flamed chartreuse and mint was really wonderful, and the drink a nice kick start to a spectacular evening.

Other cocktails were drunk, there was the usual bartender shop talk. Some demonstration of stirring technique. I learned that Philip Ward from Death + Company will be bartending at Alembic in San Francisco, while Thomas Waugh and Daniel Hyatt pull stints at Death + Company. Then we decided we should get out of the way at Death + Company and headed to PDT.

At PDT, the boys were off to deal with separate crises, and left me at the bar to fend for myself. I started with a nice Brooklyn Pilsner, to get myself more on an even keel after the potent drinks at Death + Company. I chatted with Jane at the bar and asked her advice on a rye drink. She suggested something that may have been called a Rattlesnake or Snakebite. It was basically a rye sour with egg white, and pastis instead of bitters. She even topped it off with a bit of champagne. Quite delicious. Don was nice enough to get me a couple of Crif Dog’s famous hot dogs, the eponomous John Deragon dog, with cream cheese and avocado over a deep fried bacon wrapped hot dog, and a Chang Dog, which involved kimchi and a bacon wrapped deep fried hot dog. I have to admit my lack of fondness for dairy, left me in favor of the Chang dog.

Eventually, we moved to a table where Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewing, was sitting with a friend. More conversation, cocktails involving bacon infused bourbon, and things began to get a bit blurry.

Eventually, Don and John packed me into a car with a few of their friends and sent me back to my hotel.

Quite an evening!

Thanks to everyone who I met that evening for a whirlwind of amazing drinks, conversation, and fun!

Knockin’ on Death’s Door

Last year some Wisconsin friends sent me an article about a new vodka from a company called Death’s Door Spirits. I was intrigued, mostly because it sounded like the company was distilling the base for its vodka themselves from locally grown wheat.

Later we found out that Death’s Door was also going to produce a gin.

I was even more intrigued at that point and sent them a note asking if they were also distilling the base for their gin from wheat.

The answer was even more interesting.

It turns out, Death’s Door is the brainchild of a couple of sustainable agriculture geeks. The whole point of their enterprise, along with making enough money for a living, is to keep sustainable agriculture alive on a small island in Lake Michigan called, “Washington Island.”

Initially thinking of producing a line of gourmet flours and grains, they hit upon the brainstorm of instead turning the particular grain grown on Washington Island into Beer and Vodka.

Their first product, Island Wheat, brewed by Capital Brewery in Madison, Wisconsin, was a smashing success. “Local” plays big in Wisconsin, and the beer is a fine, accessible wheat beer.

They then turned their attention to spirits. They brew a flat wheat beer at Capital Brewing, then ship it to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where it is distilled into Vodka. This again was a success, with them barely able to keep up with demand for the product. Their second spirits venture, Death’s Door Gin, not only sources the wheat from Washington Island, but also many of the botanicals used to flavor the gin. Interestingly, it was created with the help of the chef at the Washington Island Hotel, Restaurant, and Culinary School. It is a mild flavored, traditional style Gin. I would compare it to a Jonge Genever, though the wheat base gives it a much different character than the malted barley used to make Genever. The gin has also been a success, with them, surprisingly, shipping nearly as much Gin to their outlets as vodka.

Their newest venture, a single malt unaged wheat whiskey has a lot of people talking. They have begun sending out samples, and hope to get it to market later this year. I’ve no idea what to expect from an unaged Wheat Whiskey, but can’t wait to try it. They are also working on opening a second distillery in Madison, Wisconsin, so they can call their Whiskey,Vodka, and Gin 100% Wisconsin-made products.

Given the small size of the operation, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll run across any of the Death’s Door products any time in the very near future, but if you do get to Wisconsin or Illinois, be sure to check them out. It’s a cool company run by a group of decent, sincere idealists, who are producing some very interesting products and at the same time making a real difference by supporting local, sustainable agriculture.