Gin tasting with Kevin Diedrich



One of the perks of working for a large hospitality company is having access to talent across the network. In this case, Kevin Diedrich, the bar manager and lauded bartender of Jasper’s Corner Tap and Kitchen. If you’ve met him, you know that Kevin is the nicest guy in the world and an expert in the field, so I was very excited when I found out he was going to be doing a gin tasting at Grand Cafe. Here is what I learned.
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An Enthusiasts guide to cocktails: Negroni


I’ve had a love affair with the Negroni for a few months now. Hailing from Italy, this is the seminal drink involving Campari. The more popular legend has it that one day in 1919 Count Camillo Negroni, living and drinking in Florence, asked his bartender, Fosco Scarcelli, to give his usual Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth and soda water) a little extra kick. Fosco obligingly substituted gin for the soda, and an eternal classic was born. The less popular legend is that the French general Pascal Olivier Count de Negroni invented the drink “to aid digestion.”
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An Enthusiast’s Guide to Cocktails: the White Russian


To tell the story of the the White Russian we need to look back a few years to the origin of vodka cocktails in general. The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) is considered one of the first U.S. publications to include recipes using vodka. At that time, vodka was primarily a Russian export (and the country is widely believed to have been responsible for its origin). It should come as no surprise then, that one of these early vodka cocktails in the Savoy book was known simply as the “Russian” (vodka, gin and crème de cacao). The similarities to it’s progeny should be apparent. Read more »


Strange bedfellows: A Vegas adventure


Ah, Vegas, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways… Of course, I can’t tell you exactly what happened on each trip, I was sworn to secrecy upon arrival at McCarran International Airport by a scruffy man who approached me in the men’s room and assured me that “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” In retrospect, I probably should have told an adult, but hey, IT’S VEGAS!

Forget the family-friendly image Vegas has been trying to push lately; Sin City is all about indulging your vices. And mine happens to be over-enthusing to my heart’s content.  Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that Vegas is not for everyone, but every alcohol-blooded, booze fan should think of it as Mecca: a holy place that every Enthusiast should pilgrimage to at least once in their lifetime—preferably once a year.
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An Enthusiast’s guide to cocktails: the Ramos Gin Fizz


Yesterday was Fat Tuesday, the culmination of all that is Mardi Gras. In honor of (the day after) this auspicious drinking occasion we wanted to share a classic New Orleans cocktail, the Ramos Gin Fizz. Not to be confused with standard Gin Fizzes, the Ramos is a unique pleasure that was originated down in the Big Easy back in 1888 by a man named Henry C. Ramos.

At the time it was simply called the “New Orleans Fizz” and was so popular that Ramos had to hire a crew of “shaker boys” during busy times just to keep up with demand. In recent years the cocktail’s popularity has dwindled (likely due, in part, to a specific and essential ingredient that is rather hard to come by). Although I personally grew up drinking them with my family every year on Christmas morning.
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It’s for charity


There is one call to arms (and I am by no means implying there is ONLY one … but I am sure you will agree that this one has earned a particular gravitas over the years) that no Enthusiast can resist, regardless of their age, social standing, and even their level of comprehension of the greater cause. This reason for revelry, this justification for joviality—dare I say it, this Excuse for Enthusiasm (not that one needs an excuse)—has all but dragged people from their deathbeds.

So what is it? Only that inherent belief in the simple phrase: “it’s for charity.”

Sometimes there is the prerequisite of a small investment in the “charity of choice,” but sometimes there is not. All that is required of you is to show up, drink up and try not to throw up.

The traditional staging of these affairs opens with the arrival of a hoard of glamorous, young whipper-snappers, and a dappling of elegant, seasoned antiques at a venue quite unsuitable for those at either end of the age spectrum. This provokes a chorus of “oohs,” “aaahs,” and “wows” accompanied by a wave of theatrical expressions of surprise, wonderment and humble gratitude. Niceties over with, the focus turns to the proximity of the bar, and an enthusiastic urgency ensues. The hardened drinkers on the circuit hit the scotch, those tortured by an inner conflict between wanting to appear cultured while secretly wishing for an intravenous delivery system head for the gin mixers, and the floozies who skipped dinner giggle their way towards the champagne (or the closest thing on offer).

Some of these occasions even call for dancing in honor of charitable giving and this will inevitably be to a soundtrack of covers of the shockers your parents used to get their funk on to, and take place on a waxed wooden surface that is just aching to get its revenge on your stilettos; simultaneously offering you a view of the ceiling—while giving everyone else a view of your nether regions.

But dare you complain? No, it is for charity, and if that charity is asking you to party and imbibe, and party and imbibe … then a dedicated Enthusiast will follow that gospel.

As the evening wears on, however, and the open bar begins to claim it first victims; the illusion wears off, things disintegrate. Come home-time, the rag-bag crowd that stumbles out bears an uncanny resemblance to the crumpled, disheveled, sartorially oblivious exhibitionists seen ejected from an underage gathering on New Years.

This slithering descent from glittering superiority to infantile subservience can be blamed entirely on that simple phrase, “it’s for charity.”

I mean, if someone offers you a beverage in the name of Breast Cancer Research, who are you to turn down libations so loaded with altruism and generosity? If your very presence at the bar is going to lead to a breakthrough in genetic science, is it your decision as to how long to stay? Has vodka ever tasted better than when it is laced with pure, organic self-satisfaction?

And the best thing about benevolent drinking has to be the fact that no matter how late you show up to work the next day, how much like a distillery you may smell and how green a complexion you may have … a simple utterance of that invaluable phrase—the pained whisper of just four harmless little words, “it was for charity”—will instantly relieve you of any guilt, any remorse and any strenuous activities.


Bottles photo courtesy of  de la Ronde, flickr.
Bucket photo courtesy of tray, flickr.