I missed the New York Rum Fest & Congress which was held on June 18th of this year. It’s the biggest rum festival in the city. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me) it was held on the same day as the Decanter Wine Encounter which was too good of a tasting to miss.
So, I was happy to see that the Brooklyn Rum Festival would be held on August 13th. The event was held at the Brooklyn Monarch, an event space in the outer reaches of Bushwick at 23 Meadow Street.
The great thing about rum is the shear diversity of the styles available. There are white rums, dark rums, flavored rums and rums of various ages. While the industry is concentrated in the Caribbean, rum is made throughout the world, and they were represented here as well.
Every producer poured several versions of their rums and even the mass producers such as Bacardi poured some limited production aged rums.
The event space is a huge warehouse with an outdoor area in the back which had a DJ spinning tunes. There was definitely a “Caribbean” vibe to the event which had about half the number of producers present than in the New York Rum Fest, but there were till more than enough rums to sample that afternoon.
Some of the rums I sample, every producer poured several different.
Hard seltzer has been the newest beverage craze the last couple of years which according to Grand View Research, had a global market of 8.95 billion dollars in 2021. The U. S. market share is 21.7%.
Even the mainstream brands such as Budweiser and Corona to name a couple have gotten into the act.
They are made from carbonated water with the addition of alcohol usually from fermented sugar but sometimes from barley with fruit flavorings and even cannabis. In addition to the hard seltzers at the event there were hard tea, hard lemonade and canned cocktails.
I have to admit there are times when I’m in a situation where I’m looking for something refreshing to drink and I don’t feel like an overpriced Pinot Grigio or a high alcohol cocktail, so I’ve ordered a hard seltzer.
Usually in a bar there are a handful of the same major brands to choose from but at this tasting there were dozens of brands with many flavors that were poured.
The event was held at Belmont Park at 2150 Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont Long Island. It’s a unique venue to have a tasting, the tasting was held on the upper levels of the grandstand overlooking the racetrack. With live racing that day you could have placed a bet on the horses in between sips of seltzer.
RumLab is a website dedicate to rum and to the people involved with it. They sponsor a travelling Rum festival stopping in San Juan, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami Beach and after a year hiatus, in New York City on August 21st.
It was a tasting that featured 100+ rums from several countries in all styles. There were also several seminars throughout the afternoon.
The event was held at the popular event space, the Metropolitan Pavilion at 125 West 18th Street in Manhattan.
Rum is made from molasses or free run sugar cane juice which is then fermented and distilled in either a column still or a pot still. Not surprisingly, production is centered in the Caribbean countries though it’s made worldwide as well. The rum comes out of the still clear and aging (or adding additives like caramel color) adds color to the rum. The various styles of rum include light rum, gold rum, dark rum, black rum and spiced rum.
Personally, I save the white rums for the pina coladas and rum and Coke while I believe that aged rum is one of the most underrated spirits in the world. It’s something you sip neat while watching the sun go down with bonus points if you are smoking a good cigar.
I particularly enjoy the Rum Agricole that are produced in the French West Indies. They generally have more character with earthy and grassy notes and a lighter texture than rums made from molasses.
Last years tour was another victim of the pandemic so a good crowd showed to the event to sample what was offered, though I did notice that there were fewer producers on hand this time around than in previous years.
On July 31st and August 1st, the 11th annual Beer, Bourbon and BBQ festival was held in Brooklyn at the Expo Center, a venue space located at 72 Noble Street in Greenpoint.
It’s a year long traveling BBQ festival with tour dates in Virginia, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland and of course, Brooklyn, New York.
It’s a big party with pitmasters cooking up their specialties with an abundance of whiskey, beer, cider and a lot of hard seltzer which seems to be the new spirit trend in the country this year.
The even was held on Saturday afternoon and evening and on Sunday afternoon. I attended the Saturday afternoon session because the afternoon sessions are usually less crowded and more manageable than the evening sessions and at that time they haven’t run out of any particular spirit.
There was an outdoor seating area with vendors, games and a DJ that quickly filled up with people relaxing with their whisky and cigars.
I did attend a seminar for Garrison Brothers whiskey from Texas. At the event there was a nice selection of American whiskey and local beers and as I mentioned, a larger than usual selection of hard seltzer.
If one thing stood out for me at the event was that I was a little disappointed in the food served compare to the last time I went to this event in January of 2020. Maybe some of the pitmasters were still jittery about traveling
The Covid restrictions in New York were finally lifted on June 16th which meant the return of in-person wine and spirit events.
The Whiskey & Barrel Nite tasting event was held on June 17th. It was a night to sample from a choice of dozens of worldwide whiskey though most were American Whiskey which included Rye, Bourbon and blended whiskey. The countries of Scotland, Ireland, France, Australia, Japan and India were represented as well and a handful of brandy, rum, gin and vodka were on hand for those who got tired of whiskey.
The event was held at the Metropolitan Pavilion, a well known event space located at 125 West 18th Street in Manhattan.
To keep people busy while they were sipping on spirits a live Jazz Band was in hand and a buffet to feed the hungry. There was also a separate “VIP Experience” room for VIP ticket holders that poured some extra special spirits.
It was a great night to finally experience a pre pandemic event and the event space was so large that the room never became overcrowded though I have to think that the organizers might have limited thicket sales to keep the crowd down or that many people were still skittish about attending a public event. Probably a little of both.
There was an excellent selection of spirits to try, I’m not a fan of Scotch so I didn’t sample very many of those but I am a fan of Rye so I did sample quite a few of those.
I was able to sample a couple of wheated Bourbon from the cult status Weller, their Full Proof and their Special Reserve which I thought was quite smooth.
Another interesting whisky was a trio of single farm origin Irish whisky from Waterford, Dunmore, Rathclogh and Organic Gaia. They all had uncharacteristic notes of the terroir of where they were produced.
There was a nice limited release Bourbon from Booker’s, some interesting Rye’s from Dad’s Hat, thenice Private Select from Maker’s Mark, and Whistle Pig’s 18 year which were just a few of the whiskey I sampled this evening.
On Saturday afternoon February 29th, Jimmy Carbone’s Food Karma Projects, a producer of food and craft beverage events, held the first ever Bowl of ‘Zole pozole festival. The event was held at Bibi restaurant at 110 Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The event brought together 10 chefs who cooked their versions of Pozole for people to sample and to accompany all that were 50 different Mezcal from 20+ producers.
Pozole is a traditional Mexican soup (stew), associated with special occasions, festivals and family. Traditionally made with pork and hominy, it comes in three versions, blanco (white), rojo (red), and verde (green). It’s Mexican comfort food, something that grandma would cook for you.
Mezcal is an alcoholic spirit from Mexico made from the agave plant. It is similar to tequila and while technically all tequila are mezcal, not all mezcal are tequila. Tequila must use a single varietal of agave (blue agave) and be made in the state of Jalisco, while Mezcal can be made using up to 28 different varieties of agave and mostly produced around the city of Oaxaca put produced in other States as well. With tequila the agave heads are baked in above ground ovens while in Mezcal the agave is cooked in the traditional method in pits dug into the ground. Cooking in those in-ground pits is what gives the Mezcal its smoky flavor profile. The permitted use of many types of agave and wider geographic production area results in a greater variety of styles of the spirit than in tequila. Many are still made in the traditional method at small production family run operations which means that with the exception of a small handful of labels, many of the brands are not widely distributed and were not familiar to me.
I have to admit that this was the first time I had a comprehensive tasting of Pozole as it’s an under the radar Mexican food choice. They are traditionally made with pork but there were versions made with chicken and seafood as well. I was able to sample the different versions of the stew and it was the perfect food choice to have on a chilly Winter Saturday afternoon.
Some of the Pozole I sampled:
La Esquina chef Gonzalo Rivera: Vuelve a la Vida Pozole, Maine lobster, mussels, clams, organic hominy, fennel, toasted sesame, & chile de arbol oil, smoky hoja santa broth.
Balvanera chef Fernando Navas: Pozole rojo with radishes, avocado and fresh oregano.
Bacado chef Ivy Stark: Pozole rojo with braised short rib.
Hotel Indigo chef Chai Trivedi Kitsch: Rojo, matzo ball Pozole.
Mesa Coyoacan chef Ivan Garcia: Shredded pork, hominy, guajillo, ancho chile broth, radish, oregano.
Toloache chef Julian Medina: Pozole verde, heirloom hominy, green curry, coconut milk broth, thai basi, lemongrass, salsa macha, been sprouts.
While Mezcal can be made from several types of agave, the “workhorse” is the Espadin varietal and many of the spirits on hand were made from that type of agave. I tried to sample as many made from agave other than Espadin.
I go to a lot of wine/spirit/cocktail events and I have different expectations for every event I go to. There are the events that are geared for industry professionals and non industry enthusiasts. They usually serve the higher end and eclectic spirits. Many are open to consumers and spirit neophytes and those tend to focus on quantity more than quality. But they are a good way for the neophyte to learn more about wine ands spirits and they usually make for a fun party. I’ve had my expectations met, I’ve had them exceeded and sometimes the event did not live up to my expectations.
I recently attended an event that was more the latter than the former. It was a “Best Of” beer and food event in Brooklyn. Buying a ticket gained you entrance into a spartan, bare bones industrial floor space with a handful of beer vendors and food vendors that you had to purchase food to sample. It didn’t keep my interest peaked for too long and I spent less time at the event than on the commute to get there.
Fortunately the event was held at Industry City located at 36th Street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Industry Center is a complex of commercial buildings dating from the 1890’s that has been repurposed as a retail and commercial space. You can easily spend that day shopping, eating and drinking and when the weather is nice, relaxing in the outdoor spaces. It’s also home to breweries and distilleries.
The Craft New York Act of 2014 eased the regulations for opening a brewery or distillery in New York State which has resulted in a boom of those businesses in the state especially if they use local agriculture to make their products. Distilleries and Breweries have opened once again in New York City.
In Industry City if you walk over to building 5/6 you’ll find a few and since I didn’t spend too much time at the beer and food event, I stopped by a couple to sample a few spirits.
Standard Wormwood Distillery
This distillery produces sprits and liquors using New York State grown ingredients particularly wormwood as a base. Wormwood was a formally banned ingredient traditionally use in the production of Absinthe. I had a flight of spirits/liquor which included a Rye, an Agave, an Amaro, an Apertivo and a Wermut (vermouth).
This is the State’s first Sake brewery. They make several craft Sake and serve them on tap in their minimalist tasting room complete with a view of the brewing vats in the background.
I had a glass of the Bluedoor Junmai which was described as “umani laden, rich, clean”.
Next door to the Sake bar, they have the largest selection of New York spirits in the city, in fact those are the only spirits they are allowed to serve. I had a craft old fashioned.
The 10th annual Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival was held on Saturday January 18th. It was a change of venue this year with the event moving from The Tunnel in Manhattan to the Brooklyn Expo Center at 72 Noble Street in Greenpoint.
The motto of the festival was “Brew it. Taste it. Sip it. Pork it”. It was an all afternoon event of “southern fried good time” consisting of whiskey, beer and BBQ. At the event there was a “Beast Cage” serving exotic meats and a “Shrine to Swine” for whole pork worship. Various seminars were held throughout the afternoon.
Since this is one of the only real BBQ events in the city, the impending snowstorm didn’t stop the barbecue connoisseurs from lining up outside the venue to get in. I was able to sample a wide range of ‘cue including ribs, brisket, pastrami, wings and pulled pork sliders.
It was an all-American whiskey list with most producers pouring a Bourbon and a Rye though I felt not as many as in past events. Craft beers and hard ciders rounded out the beverage list. I was able to attend the Bulleit seminar. My favorite whiskey of the afternoon was Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye, it was bold and smooth.
This past weekend of December 7-8th I was able to attend a couple of Holiday beverage events.
On Saturday afternoon I attended the Brooklyn Whiskey and Spirits Festival which was held at the Brooklyn Expo Center at 72 Noble Street in Greenpoint Brooklyn. The event offered over 100 styles of whiskey and spirits.
I have to admit, that these spirits events are more or less cookie cutter events with many of the same purveyors in attendance, I’m getting to recognize many of the people pouring (and they’re recognize me!). I have to say though that this event had a better selection of spirits than the last whiskey fest I attended a couple of weeks ago.
Most American whiskey producers make several styles of whiskey including Bourbon, Rye and Blends. At this tasting I decided to focus on Rye whiskey for the afternoon and was able to sample a few nice ones. As an outlier I tasted a few aged rums which I enjoy. I particularly enjoyed the X.O. and V.S.O.P. rhum agrigole from Clement Rhum in Martinique. Rhum agricole is made from fresh cane juice instead of from molasses and makes for a more polished drink, the type that you sip on its own.
On Sunday afternoon I attended the Fruit & Grain beer and cider festival. The event was a benefit for Raices, a nonprofit agency and was held at the Second event space at 849 6th Avenue in midtown Manhattan.
The theme of the room was 1960’s “Flower Power” complete with the requisite groovy, psychedelic art poster. They poured mostly local craft beer from 30+ brewers, ciders from 12+ New York State cideries and a handful of spirits. My focus this afternoon was on ciders and they had some familiar labels as well as ciders from small, “mom & pop” cideries. An interesting outlier was a local distillery based in Brooklyn, St. Agrestis that makes amaros and a prepackaged Negroni.
Whiskey Fest Rye
Catoctin Creek Rye 80°, 92°
Pinhook Rye Humor Cask Strength 97°
Taconic Distillery Straight Rye 95°
Uncle Nearest 1856 100°
Deadwood Rye 83°
Minor Case Straight Rye 90°
Coppersea Straight Malt Rye 96°
Koval Single Barrel Rye 80°
Cutwater Whiskey American Rye 90°
Duke Founders Reserve Rye 98°
Sagamore Spirit Double Oaked Straight Rye 112°
Fruit & Grain Cider
Sündtrom Cider: Sauer, Sponti
Wildarc Farms: Blackbird, Kitchen Sink
Eve’s Cidery: Albee hill ’18, Darling Creek ’18, Beckhorn Hollow ’18
Bad Seed: Old Elmer Barrel Aged, Bourbon Barrel Aged
Metal House Cider: Ammir, Arista
Angry Orchard: Magril
Floral Torrantes: Suburban Maraines
Descendant Cider Co.: Succesion
Rootstock Cider Works: Dry, Original, Dry Hopped
Graft Cidery: Farm Flor, Forest & Flor, Amber City
On November 16th I attended the New York Whisky Festival. This was one of the many spirit-centric festivals that are taking place around the New York area at this time of year.
The festival was held at The Tunnel at 269 11th Avenue on the West side of Manhattan. It’s a former indoor rail terminal that has been used as a nightclub, event venue and commercial space.
There are many such festivals held around this time of year and like most things some are better than others. Some of the festivals are geared toward the experienced drinker who are looking to experience some high end and esoteric spirits while other festivals are geared more to the novice drinkers that are looking for more of a party with some spirits thrown in. The latter tend to showcase 2nd tier or unknown labels for the spirits. This festival was more of the latter than the former. In my opinion, the most interesting whisky at the event were the single malt French whisky from Rozelieures, while solid stalwarts such as Taconic Distillery, Koval and Slaughter House were on hand to pour some quality spirits. I attended the afternoon session and the crowd on hand were enjoying themselves.