Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Note: Not all recipes are posted. Not because I didn't want to. But because I didn't ask. I always left it up to the bartender to tell me if they wanted to. But, at the very least they told me ingredients. Also, pictures were taken when possible. Even though some are dark, there are still many others that just wouldn't have come out at all without flash. Out of respect for my fellow bartenders and their guests, all pictures were taken without flash. So, I do apologize for some libations and bartenders that I do not have a picture of.

Eighteen Degrees Fahrenheit. Dieciocho. Diciotto. 18.

That's how cold it was when I left BWI airport on January 15th. I know, some of you will say, "oh, when I was your age...I walked 10 miles to school every day of the week, in a blizzard, among Polar Bears, with sandals on, because we couldn't afford shoes, and uphill."

Well buster, you can count me out. I went to school in 70-90 degree weather...and I loved every minute of it. Especially the minutes I didn't spend in school.

So, when I arrived in Miami, Florida and the pilot said it was 74 degrees...I loved it. I really loved it. Actually, I might have shed a tear of joy.

My main goal for this trip was to have fun on my birthday, but I also wanted to have a sneaky side mission and check out Miami's newest cocktail lounge.

We arrived at The Delano a little late. It was 9pm. VERY early by Miami standards, but I did want to talk to the bartenders before they got to busy. As we rushed down the hallway and entered the door we saw something that astounded us...the Florida Room was closed. The very hospitable manager apologized and told us on Thursdays they usually open at 10. I decided to drown my sorrows at the Rose Bar. The Rose Bar is located in the lobby and is a perfect people watching spot. After having two Gin Martini's with blue-cheese stuffed olives. I decided it was time for us to head down to the Main attraction.

At 1055 pm we arrived at the Florida Room. As you enter the basement bar of The Delano, you get a different feel from the "exclusive", Delano Hotel.

Is this is a hotel bar in Miami Beach? Yes. But, there was a surprising number of locals there. So, I felt at home.

Your first view as you walk in the Lenny Kravitz designed lounge, is the beautiful long straight bar in the back of the large open space. There are small oval tables, with big couches, and simple but elegant chairs surrounding them. No stools at the bar, which was fine for me because I like standing when I'm drinking. Besides, this is pretty much the standard in Miami Beach. As I walked straight in and made my heading to the bar, I saw someone walking straight for me from across the room. It was the manager and he said he was glad to see we were back. This is the type of service and attention that makes this hotel great.

I reach the bar and Adam Delgiudice (formerly of Tailor in NYC) is our bartender. My first drink is a:

Caribbean Cleanse
By: John Lermayer
-Capt. Morgans Reserve
-Fresh Lemon Juice
-Maple Syrup
-Apple Cider
-Cayenne Pepper

This is libation is based on the popular "Master Cleanse". It's a refreshing drink with strong apple flavor, that finishes well-balanced with all the other ingredients. I usually pace myself, after all I am doing research, but my first impression of Mr. Lermayer's cocktails is going so well, that I polish that drink off in about 10 minutes. My date has the:

Raspberry Star
By: John Lermayer
-42 Below Passion Fruit Flavored Vodka
-Framboise Lambic
-Fresh Lemon Juice

Fruit Bomb! Explosion of delicious fruitiness. The passion fruit vodka adds complexity to the fruit flavors, but plays nice with the muddled raspberries and lambic. Another triumph for Mr. Lermayer. Unfortunately Mr. Lermayer was busy this weekend and we couldn't meet up. But, honestly it was my fault as I didn't give him enough notice. I promised him I would be back home soon and we could get together. Only next time, I'll give him more notice. I can't wait to meet him, after talking on the phone briefly he seems to have the same passion to bring Miami up in the cocktail world as I do. He also told me he'd show me around some other spots in Miami that are trying new and exciting things. I can't wait.

..and now back to our regularly scheduled program...

Agave 88
By: John Lermayer
-Partida Blanco
-Fresh Lime
-Agave Nectar

Smooth Tequila with a grapefruity flavor. I attribute this to the Aperol having a party on your tongue with the OJ and Agave. Delicious. (psst. I'll tell you a secret..I don't like grapefruits, but I want another one of these.)

Jackie Rose
By: John Lermayer
-Rosemary Infused Jack Daniels
-Fresh Lemon Juice
-Maple Syrup
-Apple Cider
-Rosemary Sprig

I wish I knew the complete proportions of this drink, and how the JD was made. I absolutely love this drink. This might be my favorite J.L. libation so far. Perfectly balanced. All flavors blend well, and you can taste the Rosemary thruout. Fantabulous. Yes, that's a word...and it's mine.

Now my attention turns toward my new friend Adam. He grew up with Leo DeGroff and has been in the cocktail community the entire time. He's a wealth of knowledge, and a constant professional. But, you won't hear him say that. Adam is a very humble person with tons of personality. He's so easy to talk to that we hit it off immediately. This is a true student of the game. After chit-chatting about how he got to Miami, and his experiences at Tailor, we discuss some of his original recipes and I can't wait to try them. I convince him that upon my return, I'd like to have a few cocktails with him and talk some shop. He insists that I return on Sunday, as they will be open due to the MLK holiday. Ofcourse I will, after all Sunday is my birthday.

Where's The Romance
By: Adam Delgiudice
-Hendricks Gin
-Grapefruit Bitters
-Yellow Chartreuse
-Flamed Orange Peel

A great drink..maybe as an aperitif? I got used to bitter drinks as an aperitif when I lived and worked in Italy. Actually, this drink takes me back...like it tastes like Italy. Weird, I know. But, I love it when cocktails remind me of a great experience. This one reminds me off the fall or spring in Sardinia...no...wait.. Firenze. Yes, definitely Florence. Complex, yet simple. Old, and new ingredients in the blend probably make this possible. Thanks for the stroll thru memory lane Adam.

The BlackJack
By: Adam Delgiudice
-Jack Daniels
-Heavy Angostura
-3 Lemon Wedges
-6 Blackberries
-Simple Syrup

If the Jackie Rose was my favorite drink by Mr. L., then The BlackJack was my favorite drink by Adam. Again, a wonderfully balanced drink where the contrast of the heavy dose of Angostura, coupled with the whiskey, and slight tartness of the fresh blackberries, and lemons goes together like peas and carrots. I will have one more of these before I leave. We thank everyone for their hospitality and I vow to return on Sunday.

On Sunday, we arrived at the Florida Room around 10pm. The band Blackalicious was playing. I had heard about these guys last time I was here. They are amazing. It's one guy on a keyboard, who also does vocals, and another guy doing beatbox! Yeah, I know you wish you were there. You can check them out on Tuesdays at the Florida Room.

After having a BlackJack, and a Jackie Rose, I had two shots of some great tequila that the bar was promoting ,can't remember which brand, but I should find out..this stuff was really good, especially the reposado. Adam was telling me about the B.A.R. class he attended last year and how I should go also. I've actually been dying to go, but I'm waiting for this year when I separate from the Navy.

At this point I met Gabriel Orta. Gabriel is co-founder of Bar-Lab, a beverage consulting service that specializes in cocktail menu creation and cocktail program implementation. So, Gabriel honored me by switching positions on the bar with Adam and made the following for us:

Pepper Collins
By: Gabriel Orta
-Muddled Red Pepper
-Fresh Lemon Juice
-St. Germain
-Slice of Red Pepper

I love Peppers, in anything and this first drink was outrageously good! I can't wait for more. The cocktail ofcourse has a strong Red Pepper taste, with a hint of the other ingredients..but it's perfect. Really.

Mexican Sunrise
By: Gabriel Orta
-Muddled Cucumber
-Passion Fruit Puree
-Tequila Blanco
-Cayenne Pepper
-Fresh Lime Juice

The Cucumbers are there, but not overpowering, they add a little sweetness. The puree and the tequila play very well together. Also, the cayenne adds depth and complexity to this cocktail. Another winner for Bar-Lab. The garnish by the way, is a slice of lime dusted with Cayenne.

No Tiene Nombre ( no name yet)
By: Gabriel Orta
-Muddled Cucumber
-Pomegranate Juice
-Tequila Blanco
-Agave Nectar

Another well balanced cocktail. You can definitely taste every ingredient, and they play nicely together.
After watching Gabriel make these three libations, I begin to see his focus on technique and precision. You can truly see his culinary background come out in his cocktails and especially his technique. Where Adam has perfect free-pouring technique and his own way of shaking, Gabriel has a very deliberate recipe he's trying to follow. All is measured using a jigger and he actually tasted one of the pre-sliced cucumbers. He must've not liked them because he excused himself to go get a fresh whole cucumber. I'm not here to debate whether one technique is better than another. But, I am here to say that I enjoy both schools of thought. Muchas gracias Senor Orta. Usted es un maestro.

Maybe it's my Caribbean roots or the aromatics and intense flavors of these cocktails, maybe it's the nightlife, maybe it's the caliber of bartenders that have changed the way Miami drinks, maybe it's the weather, but I miss home. I miss the bold flavors and expression of culture thru a glass. I'll be home again soon, before I move up north....hmmm...I wonder if Mr. Lermayer or Bar-Lab is looking for another bartender/apprentice?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Update: New Trip!!

Ok, so my birthday's coming up soon and I've decided to go home for the weekend and investigate the cocktail scene for possible additions to the book. Check back next week, I'll be recording my findings.

For some reason, I think this will be an eye-opener of a trip.