Thursday, October 15, 2009

Last Night at Tales

The last night at Tales was something that almost seemed like the party scenes in the last Matrix movie.
Put 100's of bartenders/mixologists in on very open plan building, add outstanding cocktails from multiple bars set up in said building, add music and well... you can see the pictures and videos we shot in both flickr and facebook. Party didn't break up till 4 AM or so officially and then we all dispersed - the more well behaved ones went to their hotels for a little lie down, the rest were loosed on the streets of New Orleans till dawn - yet again.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Disclosure Statement

Below is the disclosure statement I came up with for my various sites (primarily the website).
Everyone feel free to use this. Please cite or credit me as the inspiration if you like and feel free to use it as a template for your own disclosure piece.
In a way it was therapeutic to write it and it clarifies a number of questions about myself and my webpage both to the world and to myself- or at least sets it down in writing.
Samples and Disclosure Statement


As noted in Samples (below) we solicit samples for review. Otherwise we could not afford to do this. Unless otherwise noted assume that someone, somewhere, sent us whatever it is in the hopes we would review it - and hopefully like it. Just because someone sends us something does not mean we will show any mercy. We will do a fair review of whatever is sent but the mere fact it was free does not buy us or even rent us. We review products with objectivity and professionalism wherever and however they were acquired.

We do not currently accept advertising but when we do it will only be for items we feel are of excellent quality and something we are not embarrassed to accept advertising from, endorse , or otherwise be identified with,and nothing we feel would be compromising to our integrity, tastes, or values. Again, we are open to offers in the future but will only accept those of products we liked in the first place. We will not change ratings or enhance them in any way in exchange for money or product. Likewise our endorsements are not paid or for sale - we review a product for free and you can quote us for free - the only condition we do ask is you cite us and/or hyperlink to our page as the source.

We will also happily accept travel expenses to visit a distillery, tasting, or whatever else to cover it for the webpage, blogs or other forms of media and will disclose who paid us if/when that ever happens (hasn't happened yet - but see above on our conditions to accept offers).


I am always looking for new products to review and/or feature on Spirits Review. I will not only sample a product, but any variations or line extensions of the same product. So please feel free to send examples of different bottlings, expressions, etc. Also please send any shelf talkers, literature, or other sales merchandise you feel may be useful.

How to Get Your Product Reviewed

Shipping Instructions/Suggestions:

1. Wrap the items carefully (lots of bubble wrap!).

2. If possible, please send via FedEx (They seem to do the best job) or UPS.

3. Quantities: spirits and wine (minimum 375 ml per item to be reviewed); beer (minimum 2 12-ounce ounces per brew or type to be reviewed). Part of our reviews is on packaging, we like to include drinks as part of the review and we do our own photos/bottle shots this is all difficult with minis. Please see our About page for further details on what we do. Also please send any shelf talkers, literature, or other sales merchandise, POS etc., you think we might find useful.

4. Please email me so I know to look for your samples.

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me via email: Chris(at)

Please forward sample(s) to:

Samples can be sent to:

Christopher Carlsson
86 Nunda Blvd
Rochester, New York 14610


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

"We Don't Have Things Like This In The Third World" III

"Tales crowd is doing its best to kill the night and greet the morning" Around 6 Am or so some stripper from a local club (sorry won't say which) tried selling my English mate some methedrine (his accent marked him as not from around there and unlikely as law enforcement ). He had an outstanding rejoinder (no wonder he gets all the action) No, thank you. I deal in something much more dangerous - alcohol but I do it very responsibly (went on to explain bartending) chatted up the two pneumatic blondes quite nicely for a bit. Finally sometime after the sun rose and before it got to bright we all headed back to the hotel, another night gone and a new day at Tales beginning.

(Apologies for breaking the story up but it seems the only way to be able t0o post the photos Anywhere near where I want them.)

"We Don't Have Things Like This In The Third World" II

Eventually ( as the opening was running late) we were all greeted by Charlotte Voisey - Hendricks Gin Ambassador who, even more so than usual , (given the costume and circumstances), looked like a slumming angel .

Charlotte , who always is a good sport about such things, wore her costume with grace and poise, greeting all of the guests into the darkly lit room beyond the golden doors.

I ran into David Suro ( Of Tequilas Restaurant in Philadelphia and Siembra Azul Tequila) and Dr Rodolfo Fernandez (Noted expert on all things Agave and more) at the burlesque show - Rodolfo had a great line as we were watching the whole spectacle - "We don't have such things in the third world " a pause then, "But we do have American TV which can be similar"

The burlesque show itself was, at turns, amusing and scary, depending on the acts - some of which reminded me of a old saying about prostitutes in Paris but I digress as usual.

Following the Hendricks party I caught a ride with David and Rodolfo to Herbsaint down the street. Bottles of Mezcal somehow appeared from out of a briefcase someone else brought and we are drinking it from the bottle on the sidewalk at the cafe. After getting some more refreshments and a desultory conversation or two we went back to the Monteleone Carousel till it closed down for the night. After that it was off down Royal and somehow ending up at the Erin Rose around 4 AM or so.

The place was unbelievably packed and people of every possible type, persuasion and state of sobriety were there,a major player in the business was there , hooting,raving falling over and having a good time, locals, tales goers of all stripes, it looked like the Meet Cafe from Naked Lunch, some many people of so many different types and enthusiasms were packed in there it was hard to tell who was doing what to me , if they were just being friendly,something more or just trying to let someone else go by. It really didn't matter really, everyone was getting along just fine. We bumped into numerous old friends, made new ones and finally, regretfully, headed down to the Alibi to decompress a bit and await the dawn with a few of a die hard friends.

"We Don't Have Things Like This In The Third World"

Wednesday July 8th Evening - Thursday July 9th Morning

"We Don't Have Things Like This In The Third World "
-Dr Rodolfo Fernandez

The evening started tamely enough and slowly decayed into another another walking into the dawn, "I swear I will never do this Again!", debacle .
Dinner was with the crew from Baddish PR and Remy Cointreau at Mr B's across the street from the Monteleone - surprisingly a number of people in the dinner party were drinking Tourment Vert (the only absinthe/pastis on the menu admittedly) including myself. It really did taste fairly good with lots of ice (OK I was dehydrated and ready to drink almost anything at that point that was cold - but still...).
After a lovely dinner with the crew it was time to go out and see what parties there were on offer for the night- funny the idea of sleep doesn't occur during Tales for most of us it seems...
First there was the Beefeater 24 party at the Roosevelt, a somewhat jarring change from the plush , classy and and low key celebration they held last year for Desmond Payne's Jubilee . This one was full of techno music,suckling pigs, and lots of dancing (in no particular order). The new Beefeater 24 was the spirit of the hour and many different types of drinks were available to showcase this new gin - all of which seemed quite nice and were presented in great profusion to any and all who wished to sample them.

It probably was a particularly bad omen that we were dancing with a mime before 9 PM - dancing with a mime at any hour would have been a bad omen of things to come but before 9 well....
After that lamentable spectacle we proceeded downstairs to await the opening of the Hendricks Burlesques Show, bumping into several luminaries such as Dale DeGroff and Simon Difford. We also knew at this point that if Gary Regan was not here, at this event, he was either dead or seriously MIA.

First Night at Tales - Where All My Troubles Began

This Post was submitted to the to the Blogging Tales crew and never got published there, so I finally decided to publish it here.
O.K. The plan sounded reasonable at first blush, get to Tales early ( by noon from the East Coast ) the day before it all starts (Tuesday ), Yes it did involve getting up at 5 AM , but the thought was , well I'll just have a little lie down before my 6 PM dinner plans with some friends.
That would have worked well if I had gotten more than 3 hours of sleep that night and also if I had not been told upon arrival that my room would not be ready till 4 PM.
Great I thought - all ready sleep deprived and no place to go - back part of the Carousel is shut off and too hot and sunny to sleep in a park.
So I belly up to the Carousel Bar and order an Abita, checking to see if I recognize anyone else.
A few people are already filtering and we have some desultory conversation and look over our paperwork (registration is not open yet either) and try to come up with some plans in lieu of sleep.
The desk staff at the hotel swear they will call me when the room is ready- It's around 4:30 when I get the call.
I retrieve my gear, settle in a bit, have a quick shower, then peruse my maps and contact lists,
I make a few calls and make sure the arrangements for a Fernet Branca 2 pack hung on my doorknob each morning till Sunday is set - there are priorities here.

I met up with the Bartenders Apprentice group - these are the bartenders that do all the heavy lifting , behind the scenes work prepping, and preparing the hundreds of gallons of cocktails for various functions and presentations.They are in a sense similar to the "Black Gang - the workers who shoveled coal into the boilers of steamships - never noticed by anyone but absolutely vital to the operation.

Remy Cointreau has set up an appreciation night for them in advance and I was invited to tag along. First there was some team building games and some competitions - including one that involved guessing the contents of a bag of very disparate items- which later became props for a number of people to wear later in the evening.....

First stop was Arnauds a short distance away for drinks and in some cases cigars. Followed after a bit by the Old Absinthe House then was Tujaques which was a lot further away than many people realized.

A number of us eventually ended up at our usual haunt the Alibi - a place that never closes (Actually they do close for one hour a year for cleaning whether it needs it or not) and is the service industry bar near Bourbon St.

Party breaks up around 4 AM or so with some of us still hanging around till 6 or so.

So much for an early night at the beginning of Tales.

Monday, August 10, 2009

In Praise of Vodka II

Bee Sour
2 oz Bee Vodka
2 oz Fresh lemon Juice
1 oz Simple syrup or agave syrup or 1/2-3/4 oz Honey
1 oz Egg White
2 Dashes Angustora Bitters
Shake vigorously with or without Ice (no ice makes of better foam but chill shaker in freezer)
Pour into Old Fashioned Glass with ice
Garnish with slice of Lemon and Marashino Cherry

This is a drink that is very simple in its ingredients but somehow complex.
It uses a 100% New York State Honey Vodka ( Bee Vodka from Hidden Marsh Distillery ) which has a very distinctive taste and mouthfeel. Floral, citrus, toasty, a dry high proof mead in a sense.
It is a very light frothy kind of drink with a lot of subtle flavors and complexity to it without being overdone. Similar to a Pisco sour but more subtle - and yes you can put the bitters on top of the foam Pisco Sour style as a variation.Refreshing, easy to drink and quenching. Light but not bland.

In Praise of Vodka

My friends would politely label or name me as an anomaly . I am many different things and capable of having multiple enthusiasms about disparate issues, causes and substances.
One of these many things is beverage alcohol in it's many splendid and multifarious forms.
Some of my chief enthusiasms for that subtle poison for without which life would become rapidly unbearable are for whisk(e)y, gin, brandies and eau de vies. But I also have dedicated a lot of time and attention to vodka. By last count I have almost 200 of them of every conceivable type from all over the world. They all are interesting (some if only in a bad way or humorous way), different and worthwhile in some way. And yes they even have a sense of terrior , a Russian vodka from the Yaroslavl area is as distinctive from an Estonian vodka as an Islay scotch is from a Highland,
It's just more subtle and in a narrower range of difference. I have Russian friends who can not only tell you what distillery but what shift made the vodka at Russian distilleries. It's a matter of attention to detail. Example:
A cola drink has roughly 50 + flavor notes to it. A lemon /lime clear soda (7 Up, Sprite etc.,) has only about 7 - but of course you can tell 7 UP from Sprite . Same holds for mineral water - the differences between most are quite remarkable , Gerolsteiner tastes nothing like Perrier and so forth.
Vodka can and does have unique differences that make it interesting, subtle yes, but interesting.
As to drinks think of it as a blending or catalyst agent. It is absolutely necessary for the mouthfeel, weight and mixing of some ingredients to make a successful cocktail, but many were you don't necessarily want a extra taste(s). If one were to use only alcohol containing eau de vies in a drink rather than juices or other non alcoholic liquids you would be either making very small drinks or a rapidly mind numbing cocktail. Vodka does serve a vital purpose as something to facilitate blending of ingredients and to give a feel and taste to a drink.
Also it serves a very useful function which I rapidly learned to appreciate while socializing with my Russian friends.
When you are eating a Russian smorgasbord type of meal with friends there are a huge variety of heavy, protein rich, foods that each would cling like grim death to taste-buds interfering greatly with the appreciation of a new item.The only way to clear your palate for the next course (O.K outside of slices of cucumbers , but what fun is that?) is to do a Russian Shot of Vodka - this is not some 1 oz shot or even a 1 1/2 oz jigger but a 4 finger 100 ml (that's 3.38 oz minimum) of vodka to clear and rinse the palate.
Above is a prefilled Russian shot glass - tear off top as you won't need to reseal it (they always unscrew a cap of a liter bottle and throw it over their shoulder too - but that is another story).
Such pieces of glassware -and the vodka to fill- it is an indispensable part of a proper Russian gathering both for the enjoyment of the food, conviviality and comradeship that will break out.
Using any other form of alcohol just does not work, nothing clears a palate like a large shot of clear cold mineraly vodka - leaving the palate refreshed and ready for more. Another point is hangovers - if you are doing things properly and having many toasts , you need something exceedingly clean of any other chemical compounds (the ones that lend color,taste, and mouthfeel in other alcohols) because you are going to do a lot of it - you just can't do them in the same quantities.
As my favorite drink for vodka (or at least the way to drink it) many times it is something my many Russian friends ( Paratroopers, ex Partisans, Chekists,) taught me- just a glass of pure vodka at about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (too cold and it loses too much taste) in a Russian shot glass you clutch it in your hand and bump fists with your friends so you don't alert anyone - (Army Officers, Fascist Invaders of the Motherland, or whoever ) that you are drinking . You are simultaneously celebrating life, relaxing, and getting one over on authority - what could be better?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

World Breastfeeding Week Cocktail
Regan Gin Fizz (Variation on of course Ramos Gin Fizz)
Named after Gary Regan - the ONLY reason being that Gary always tells me I have to much time on my hands when I indulge in strange or pointless projects- no other reasons expressed or implied.

2 oz Aviation Gin
1oz agave syrup,
.5 oz fresh lemon juice,
.5 oz fresh lime juice.
1 egg white
1.5 oz human breast milk (hind milk is best)

Shake madly with ice for 2 minutes.
Read the rest of the story at:

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Lost Entry from 2008 Tales
It's 6 AM,again yes,we said we wouldn't do this again,today, whatever it is, we walked into the dawn again,past the night watchmen,even the prostitutes and beggershave called it a night hours ago.
It all started off innocently enough,full of good intentions,and plans of rest after a quiet night .
After a long day of workshops and networking, we started off at the cocktail hour a broad expanse of cocktails running the gamut from the sublime to the regretable.

[Posted with hblogger 2.0]

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

tales test

[Posted with hblogger 2.0]
Testing the remote blogging system using an old Palm Tungsten C - this was long before twitter when this software came out !
Due to the fact my notebook is not only very heavy and of questionable durability I am going to use my palm handheld and a note book instead aong with my camera( I will be posting on both here and flickr)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Drink Up New York Absinthe Tasting April 30th 2009

Drink Up New York held a Absinthe Tasting at the Bourgeois Pig April 30th for a packed crowd of enthusiasts. With over 13 Absinthes and a few gins thrown in for good measure, it was a crowded venue. Along with the enthusiasts there were many of the actual distillers on hand to discuss and share their products with the enthusiastic crowd. Pictures are on flickr are linked HERE - Sorry there are not more but it was hard to drink and photograph at the same time (have to really work on that before Tales again).
For those who would like to see many more and I dare say higher quality photographs please use this link to go to the slide show of the professional photographer who was there Kat Cheng of (who appears next to Joan in a couple photos) .
Ran into quite a few people including Absinthe Ben of the Absinthe Review Network, Lance Winters of St George, Robert Cassell of Philadelphia Distilling (Vieux Carre Absinthe ), Ted Breaux of Nouvelle Orleans and Lucid fame, Gwydion Stone of Marteau Absinthe , among many others.
Will write more after we get some sleep. Been uploading videos from the USBG New York Chapter for far too long!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

USBG Bartenders Cocktail Competition May 1st 2009

Laura Baddish and Jonathan Pogash were kind enough to invite us to the United States Bartenders Guild Cocktail Competition held at the World Bar in (a) Trump Tower (corner of 48st and 1st Ave). It was quite the gathering of mixologists,writers, distillers, and assorted others.Bartenders as far away as Moscow came to watch. The link to the still photos and some of the videos (flickr won't allow us to post one of them as it is too big) is HERE . The YouTube videos are HERE . We will continue to label, edit, and describe the various pieces as we piece together the information for each one. This is a bit of a rushed post to get the pics and video up - we will add more info later on.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Is Absinthe in Danger of Becoming The New Mezcal?

I've been watching Absinthe for a number of years now, and despite what many people perceive as a booming market I am afraid for its future.
Yes , it is now legal in Europe and the United States, Yes, there are all kinds of it being imported now and the variety and quality has never been better.
I'd give it about 2-5 years before it utterly collapses- tops. It will be relegated to a couple cheap brands that only the young and stupid will buy.
Why ?
People think it will make them high. Nobody understands it ( O.K. very few of the general public understand it). It is too much a niche drink. Bartenders hate it. Explanations below:
Too many people think there is some hallucinogenic properties to it (like the worm in mezcal stories- equally untrue) that will cause them to consume too much of it in college (or younger) , wake up in a alley and/or have a experience that will prevent them from drinking it again for at least 20 years or so.
Very few people (in the general public) understand it, it's history,variety, nuances or even what quality absinthe should taste like. There is very little education and outreach among brands to consumers or retailers. Most retailers are content with 2-4 brands max and couldn't tell you the difference between any of them. It's just a product. No one seems to promote it much as a diverse category like a scotch or bourbon, where people are encouraged to explore the differences and and variety of tastes each product brings. The consumers don't ask and just grab whatever bottle is on the shelf. They rarely come back for another one. Unless there is some education, activism, and appreciation for it as a catagory it will wither and die due to sheer indifference and ignorance.
No one serves absinthe cocktails or even remembers them. For absinthe to survive and thrive, it needs cocktails.The industry needs to publish all the extant cocktail recipes from the era when there were such things and develop new ones damn soon. If there is not a menu of cocktails and hopefully some new popular ones soon its use and consumption will go nowhere.
Bartenders hate it because of all the serving headaches inherent with the current absinthe popular culture and the serving options.
Fire, too many people believe you should set it on fire. This is a malignant and stupid rumor that was started by someone (who will remain nameless) who wanted to create a new ritual and hook for Czech Absinthe. Fire in a bar, people looking to get wasted and high, the rum fire lawsuits, Oh yes, great formula for success and acceptance. Serving French style- fragile, easily knocked over, or stolen fountain, slow mixing , just what a bartender wants. Add expensive, fragile glassware, expensive serving spoons ( both easily stealable to) and yes, we have a problem. That and the length of time to prepare each frappe is going to cause a riot on Saturday night.
Many early pieces of absinthe glassware and spoons were heavy, cheap and mass produced. It was meant to be durable and not worth stealing- or if it was - a minimal loss.
The industry needs to start producing heavy duty restaurant grade glassware and spoons to match. Libbey and Oneida spring to mind as possible sources. Bars and restaurants don't use sterling silver and crystal (for the most part) for service, absinthe needs to have serving equipment that is not a headache. Also Absinthe cocktails would help eliminate this problem - no special glasses and spoons.
I think that unless these issues are addressed will relegate absinthe to the level of mezcal - a drink that while it can be wonderful and has a small handful of afficicandos is misunderstood by most of the public and retailers and is a highly niche market except for college students.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Bitters is Out ! (2009 or 3rd Release/Edition)

Just got back from the Headquarters of Fee Brothers a few minutes ago with a bottle of the 2009 Version ( or 3rd Release in the series depending on how you keep track of such things) of the Whiskey Barrel - Aged Bitters.
Label is virtually the same as last time (earlier version had minor graphical changes) only difference on label this year is annotation of "Oaken Maturity Achieved in 2009" so you can tell it apart from last years - at least if you look closely.
Will have a review and comparison tasting review ( of all three years) up in a bit!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Noilly Prat Dry- The New Versus the Old, or Should I Say, The American Versus The European ?

I recently had the opportunity to try both the old, at least as I define it, meaning the standard American dry Noilly Prat and the new, but some would say traditional, dry Noilly Prat. Most Americans however, would refer to the new Noilly Prat as new despite the fact it is the European version which has been available for decades in Europe. They would do this because there was a uniquely American product also called Noilly Prat Dry but an entirely different product from its European cousin.
This American version, as I will call it, has only been available since about 1970 at least according to some sources, others place it slightly earlier. Whatever the case may be, it is now being phased out in favor of the European dry version much to the consternation of many martini drinkers.

Eric Felten of the Wall Street Journal and author of "How's Your Drink?", summed it up very nicely in a column about three weeks ago ( which can be found on In short form it can be summed up as the coming of the martini apocalypse. As Eric accurately pointed out, martini drinkers are very conservative group by nature, and will by and large probably hate the new version.
Is the new European version as bad as this? Is it dramatically different? No and yes actually, no it's not bad, but yes it is dramatically different. While it has its charms, it is not the old Noilly Prat.
Again as Eric suggested in his column, you need to use about half of the amount of Noilly Prat you would use if you were using the American version. Even then it's not the same, the color is slightly different, the new formulation and the wood notes are striking ( but not necessarily unpleasant), and there is even a different mouthfeel to the martini itself.
We will shortly be posting reviews on both the American and European versions on our website Spirits with impressions of each. In the interim we wish to express our mystification as to the motives of Noilly Prat and why they would choose to abandon a iconic classic and alienate its market share to pursue a new crowd in the hopes of selling their new version or European version as an Apertif. If you wish to make a more or less traditional martini using the new European version, you need to use about half the vermouth you normally would this of course means that people will be using half the vermouth they normally use to mix their martinis. This effectively cuts their consumption by half, and that that is only the people who choose to stay with Noilly Prat, as opposed to those who may be forced to choose other vermouths altogether. So the logic of alienating all of their faithful drinkers in the hopes of chasing new ones, and even if they retain their faithful ones makes no sense to us whatsoever. Adding the new or European version is a line extension however, would make sense, and possibly spur additional sales for people looking for something new. One would hope the Noilly Prat would look to Coca-Cola and the new Coke as an object lesson. While the new version may have its charms and certainly does, abandoning their faithful customers does not to us seem a wise move. Offering these customers more choice, however, certainly seems more diplomatic and positive. We can only hope that the executives of Noilly Prat have a moment of clarity and decide to add the European version, possibly with a slightly different name such as Noilly Prat Amer to their current offerings to offer more, rather than less choice.