One Love... for Valentine's Day (and Everyday)

One Love... for Valentine's Day (and Everyday)

One love…

Back in the mid-90s, when I was young and single, I happened to be in New Zealand on Valentine’s day, yet no stores were adorned with red and pink hearts, no bars were holding special events and large heart-shaped boxes of chocolaty goodness were virtually impossible to find. Valentine’s Day may have been big business in America but it’s reach wasn’t entirely international.

These days, Valentine’s Day adornments can get a little out of hand, promoting the term Hallmark holiday, but it truly is more than that. Exchanging mementos of love on February 14th in the United States dates back as far as the 1700s. Love poems, sweets, jewelry and flowers all have the makings of a romantic day.

Before we became parents, my husband would shower me with a beautiful arrangement of flowers and my favorite chocolate and raspberry truffles. We’d plan ahead and go to a nice restaurant for dinner and enjoy our favorite wine, even if the holiday fell during the work week. We both oozed romance.

Then we had kids.

For the most part, romance takes a backseat when you first have children. I attribute it to pure exhaustion. It’s difficult to bring the sexy back when you are so tired you don’t give a damn because you are operating on 2 hours of sleep and drinking your body weight in coffee. Children demand all your time and attention and romantic dinners at places you need to make a reservation are out of the question.

So romance goes by the wayside, but the love remains.

Valentine’s Day with children really becomes all about the chocolate and cut-out paper hearts. And possibly lots of glitter. It’s not overly romantic but it’s love.

My children are older now, though not yet old enough to have a Valentine of their own that’s not a family member, so we still rarely go to restaurants that require reservations, but they are old enough to understand that Valentine’s Day is about more than just candy. My daughter calls it the heart holiday, because that’s really the point behind Valentine’s is a reminder to love.

And this is especially important now, with the disengagement between our previous administration and our current one. Whichever way you lean, the take-away should be unity. We should love all the time, not just because the calendar tells us to.

So this Valentine’s Day, make the reservations, buy the flowers, eat the chocolate but also hold hands, give hugs and kisses, speak kind words and really listen…and carry that practice with you through all the remaining days of the year.

“There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved” ~ George Sand

Drinking in (Almost) Perfect Three Part Harmony: The Suntory Toki Highball

Drinking in (Almost) Perfect Three Part Harmony: The Suntory Toki Highball

“Thanks for coming early,” Johnnie Mundell said, handing us two NEAT glasses with amber whiskey.  Hibiki 17 year old from Suntory of Japan. Hibiki means ‘Harmony’ in Japanese, and the 17 year old is arguably the finest offering from the 93 year old firm.

SeongHa Lee

Harmony, indeed. Mundell, along with Mixologist SeongHa Lee, was presenting a seminar on the latest from Suntory, Whisky Toki, made with a blending process that represents the Suntory organization in an exceptional (and harmonious) product.  Toki is blended from whiskys produced in three of Suntory’s distilleries: Hakushu, Chita and Yamazaki. Each distillery’s offering was sampled before the Toki was tasted.  Hakushu, aged in American White Oak, represent the floral and fruity notes in the blend.  Chita adds viscous filler, while two Yamazaki malts with red oak aging add the bottom spice. Toki is quite different from the more traditional Suntory whiskys, which are generally dependent on Yamazaki ingredients.

Toki is designed primarily for Highball use. Highballs are extremely popular in Japan and generally consist of 3 ingredients: spirit, mixer, and ice.  The term is generally thought to be train related, as ‘highballing’ may be related to steam output or an early railroad signal concerning clear tracks ahead.  Whatever the case, Highballs are generally light and refreshing, and excellent to serve at cocktail parties or meals. Think of drinking and hydrating at the same time.

The Japanese have a strong belief in the beauty of imperfection, or wabi-sabi. The pursuit of perfection is therefore something that is innate in the culture. The presentation from SeongHa Lee exemplified such a pursuit of perfection, allowing participants to make their own Toki-based Highballs using different mixers and ice. The making of a highball changed from bartending to ceremony in an instant.

Ninja Highball

Making a Proper Toki Highball:

The ingredients for the presentation were as follows:

Highball Glass
Ice- Regular Ice vs. Slow Freeze Clear Ice
Mixer- Canada Dry Club Soda vs. Fever-Tree Club Soda

Results: As usual, the maxim of using the best quality ingredients applies.  Maintaining the carbonation of the club soda is directly related to the flavor of the Highball. Better club soda=Better carbonation. Smoother ice-Less loss of carbonation. All of the highballs were quite enjoyable- but the premium highball (clear ice & Fever-Tree Club Soda) was an eye opener. Refreshing, cold, and full-bodied.

A few general rules:

  1. Use a highball glass. Make sure all glassware is super clean. Soap residue ruins Highballs.
  2. Chill the glass with ice.  Keeping the glass cold reduces loss of carbonation.
  3. Remove ice. Add clear ice. Allow the ice to warm slightly at room temperature to reduce roughness; bubbles form on rough surfaces resulting in a loss of carbonation.  Ice should fill 25% of the glass.
  4. Add 1.5 oz Toki Whisky (or to taste). Stir 12.5 times. Stirring 13 times will result in disqualification. Maybe.
  5. Add three times spirits volume of mixer (~4.5 oz)  down the side of the glass. Pouring over the ice will result in a loss of carbonation. Stir 2.5 more times.
  6. Enjoy.

Adding a bit more intrigue to the ceremony/process, two styles of Highballs were described. Once again, the emphasis is on maintaining the carbonation of the drink.

KOBE STYLE: No ice used.  All ingredients are chilled and mixed in a chilled glass.
NINJA STYLE: Uses clear ice cubes.  Why ninja? Because the ice is invisible in the glass when mixer is poured.

As Mundell states, “Suntory will spend their entire life in pursuit of perfection.”  Enjoy your pursuit.

Want a proper Highball but can't measure liquids? Momofuku in Las Vegas has proper Suntory Highballs on draft.  I would suggest picking up your own bottle ($36.99 at Total Wine) and do some experimentation. A highball in summertime sounds fantastic.  But why wait?

The Suntory event was part of Xania Woodman's Now Drink This LIVE!, a series of events where hand-selected industry experts immerse attendees in all bottled things great and wonderful. Stay tuned for the announcement of the 2017 schedule.

Über Bar Tools: Bar Wonders from Down Under

Über Bar Tools: Bar Wonders from Down Under

Amusespot is pleased to represent Über Bar Tools, an Australian company specializing in a large selection of Bar Tools for the trade and home. The line is noted not only for its innovation but also its availability of tools is gold, copper, and stainless steel finishes. Additionally, the company stands behind many of its products with registration and guarantee programs. Amusespot recently sat down with co-founder Michael Silvers for a few questions. 
For a limited time take 15% off all Über orders with the code UBERTOOLS. Available here.

Michael Silvers is nothing if not enthusiastic about his Über Bar Tools company.  The energetic Australian says he leaps out of bed each morning, and wears his company’s umlauted “U” logo pendant around his neck.  “It’s the fuel that keeps me going,” he says of the business, which offers professional-quality, bespoke bar tools to both passionate cocktail culturists and bartenders, restaurants and hotels.  “It renews me daily as a business person.”

Silvers launched the company with partner Sam Tam, an industrial designer, in suburban Sydney in 2006–long before the un-umlauted transportation company came onto the scene.  But his fascination with all things bar goes back to his childhood.

“When I was about nine years old, my father built a man cave at home,” explains Silvers, “with a big bar that had about 70 bottles of spirits, beer steins on the wall and an ice machine. My father had a tremendous sense of hospitality, and we always had parties. That always impressed me.”

Years of travel also exposed him to bars and nightclubs around the world, where he observed the cocktail arts.  As a young adult, he and his brother joined his father in a men’s gift business (think decorative items, games, barware).  

In the early 2000s, he had epiphany as he sat in a bar and watched a bartender pour spirits to make drinks. “The generic liquor pouring devices waste a lot of alcohol, much of which winds up on the counter,” he says.  “The measures are inaccurate, so each drink tastes different.  Then and there, I decided to create the world’s best speed pourer–and Über Bar Tools was born.”

But things didn’t exactly flow smoothly at first for the company.  Aiming for a wholesale market, Silvers found that restaurant and hospitality supply companies were indifferent to the product.  Instead, he took the pourer to the end users–the bartenders–who were impressed with the product, gave Silvers input and requested more tools as well.

“Ten years later, we’ve got more than 70 patented items and we’re in more than 30 international markets,” says Silvers.  “We design our own products and oversee every step of the manufacturing process.”

And what are the products?  Shakers, strainers, muddlers, stirrers, ice picks, citrus presses, mugs, tweezers (so you can add those garnishes just so) and bar rolls–a set of bar tools in a roll-up case–so you can take your straight-up cocktail skills on the road. Most are crafted with durable stainless steel, but a few are also available in copper and gold finishes.  While the products are aimed at the professional market, the world’s current cocktail craze has made everyone an aspiring mixologist.

Silvers is always moving the product line forward, with about a dozen new tools in development at any given time. He still seeks inspiration by visiting pubs, bars and nightclubs around the world.

Does he have  a favorite bar or bartender?  Silvers is diplomatic. “I love them all.” He does, however, admit an admiration for Dale DeGroff (aka King Cocktail), the bartender, author and consultant widely credited with reviving the cocktail scene after his stint in New York’s Rainbow Room.  

At the end of the day, Silvers prefers lingering at his own home bar, where he kicks back with his favorite cocktail, a whiskey sour, made, of course, using Über Bar Tools.

Amusespot has a wide selection of Über Bar Tools available, ranging from shakers to fantastic ice picks to professional items like pour test kits and travel bar kits.Take 15% off all Über orders with the code UBERTOOLS
Available at Amusespot.