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Love it or Hate it, Fernet Branca is a Liqueur that’s Here to Stay

P2 - Fernet

Fernet is one of my favorite drinks; it may not be for everyone, but if you like it, chances are you love it.

 

Fernet is an herbaceous and extremely flavorful Italian amaro, usually composed of more than twenty herbs and spices. Fernet-Branca – far and away the most popular producer of the liqueur – claims to use 27 different herbs from four continents to develop their concoction, before aging it in an oak barrel for at least a year. Some of the more prominent ingredients in Fernet include aloe (which gives the drink an invigorating quality), and eucalyptus (which imparts a unique woody flavor). Most famous, however, is Fernet’s prolific use of saffron, the world’s most expensive food per weight. Fernet and saffron are inherently linked, so much so that it is frequently rumored that three-quarters of the world’s saffron supply ultimately ends up in Fernet. That number has been debunked by many, but even if exaggerated, its essence still serves a point: one of Fernet’s defining flavors is one of the world’s most exotic and luxurious ingredients.

 

 

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The Drunken Botanist Book Review

Drunken Botanist

This article includes affiliate links, which means that if you click on a link and make a purchase, A Bar Above receives a small commission. This doesn’t affect your price but it does help us a lot – thanks for your support!

It’s easy to forget that everything we drink behind the bar comes from, well, plants.

Spirits, liqueurs, wines, beers, and most mixers originate as fruit, grain or botanicals that are mashed, cooked, fermented, distilled, infused or juiced and pieced back together into the thousands of beverages we commonly use behind the bar.

Amy Stewart is an author specializing in horticulture (i.e.: plants) and wrote The Drunken Botanist to tell the story of the “the plants that create the world’s great drinks”. The book brings a new perspective to the alchemy of spirits, discussing not just the types of plants and botanicals used, but how they are used and how those processes result in the final taste. One might say she takes the ingredients of the bar back to their “roots.”

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The “Grown Up” Cosmopolitan

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(Originally posted by Julia Tunstall)
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Top Five Bars for a Birthday Celebration: Panama Edition

So you're celebrating a birthday in Panama. With Panama City being as effervescent as it is, it can be difficult to decide on the ideal place for the perfect celebration, when your not at your luxury condominium or the beach. What follows are our top five bars for a birthday celebration in Panama.

Tantalo Rooftop Bar

Tantalo Rooftop Bar offers incredible views of the glowing Panama City skyline and a hip/minimal aesthetic.  Bartenders at Tantalo truly know their craft, as the cocktails served have diverse flavor profile and are well conceived and well prepared.  For those who prefer a lively bar vibe in a gorgeous setting, without the relentless thump of the club scene, Tantalo is an ideal spot for a celebration.

Habana Panama

On the other end of the spectrum, if pure, unadulterated movement is more your thing, Habana Panama is the ideal choice.  As far as bars for dancing—and specifically Salsa dancing—it's hard to beat this place. Herbana Panama is one of the most vibrant and energetic locales in Casco Veijo; it's truly one of those places that is bursting with so much energy, one can't help but be utterly captivated by the colorful atmosphere.  The live music is always thumping, and nearly every last patron is on the dance floor.  Habana Panama is a great place to have some delicious cocktails and dance your heart out.

Barlovento Rooftop Bar

Barlovento Rooftop Bar is more low-key than some of the other options on this list; its the ideal place for more of a high-end and luxurious evening.  The views are gorgeous and expansive, and the cocktails are flavorful and well made. And while the vibe may not be as all-encompassing as others on this list, it can still be quite lively;  Barlovento strikes a delicate balance of loose sophistication that makes the space feel high-end without ever crossing over to the realm of “stuffy” or “pretentious”.  In addition to delicious cocktails and a wonderfully enchanting atmosphere, they offer well prepared food on their Tapas menu as well as Hookah for anyone so inclined. 

Altabar VIP

For a night of all-out unencumbered dancing and partying, Altabar VIP is a great choice.  The two story club has a large dance floor that is always packed and always brimming with energy.  And when/if you need a rest from the mayhem there are private VIP tables and outdoor areas available as well. It's a high-end club that is constantly exciting and unrelentingly vibrant.

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The Martinez

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(Originally posted by Julia Tunstall)
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Listener Questions, Part 3

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(Originally posted by Julia Tunstall)
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Coming Soon: Powdered Alcohol

It’s official, Palcohol (or, “Powdered Alcohol”) has just been approved for legal sale in the United States but will it be available in a store near you?

According to the Palcohol website, powdered alcohol has many beneficial uses and applications, from the obvious commercial uses to the industrial, yet many state governments are concerned over the potential hazards. Since no one in the public sphere has yet tasted Palcohol, it is more likely that dissenters are ill informed, and jumping to drastic conclusions to a potentially useful and delicious product.

 

Note: Since Palcohol isn’t available to the public, that’s not Palcohol in the picture. Can you guess what it is? (hint!)

 

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How to Prepare a New Barrel Before Use

P1 - Barrel Aged Cocktails

We’ve talked about barrel aging cocktails before, but didn’t go into a lot of detail on the barrel preparation process. Today, we’re doing just that!

… and before I forget, a special thanks to Deep South Barrels for sending us the barrel we used in this clip!

 

How to Cure & Clean Your Barrel:

Rinse & Soak your Spigot & Plug:

Rinse your spigot and plug in water, then drop them in a glass of water for about half an hour. I’ll usually put something on top (like a jigger) to make sure they are fully unde water.

 

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Top 5 venues to work from in San Francisco with free WiFi

In a city that is not at a loss for coffee shops or natural co-working environments, the problem isn’t finding a place, it’s choosing which location works best for you. Here’s a top 5 list of San Francisco locations to get you started in various neighborhoods, all equipped with your must-haves for working away from the office: coffee, free WiFi and a beer and wine menu.

Craftsman and Wolves

Study in style at this contemporary patisserie in the Mission District. Open from 7a – 7p on most days, it’s a great place to pull up a chair in the sunny spot and whistle while you work. Sip Highwire coffee all morning, and reward yourself with a pinot noir at the end of your day. The only worrisome distraction with working here is the constant temptation of some of the best hand-crafted pastries in the city.

Precita Park Café

Hunker down for the day and stay for dinner and dessert too at this café and restaurant in Bernal Heights. With an atmosphere that’s modern and warm, you can start your day at 6am with coffee and enjoy the free wifi with your breakfast and lunch. Then at 5pm, the place flips into a full-service restaurant with local cuisines and a unique beer and wine selection. Like the offerings, but looking for a different neighborhood vibe? Check out their sister cafés, Dolores Park Café and Duboce Park Café.

Café Greco

Relax in North Beach at the most authentic Italian café in the city. With award-winning homemade tiramisu, cannoli and gelato, it’s no wonder why you would want to hurry to this location to enjoy your work or study day. Grab a table inside with a cup of Illy coffee, or enjoy a sidewalk table and absorb the feel of the entire neighborhood while you type away.

Java Beach Cafe

You can’t go wrong with a café on the beach. Soak up some sun in this Outer Sunset cafe on Ocean Beach. The food is worth craving and the coffee is served with latte art you almost don’t want to disturb with a sip. And these guys got it right with, ‘location, location, location,’ making it one place you won’t want to leave at the end of your workday.

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Gin and Tonic: Two Ways

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(Originally posted by Julia Tunstall)
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Cocktail Stencils the Easy Way: Bitter Stencils Kickstarter

Bitter Stencils
K.C. & Marcella Daniels, Co-Founders of Bitter Stencils
Bitter Stencils

It wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that I had my first stenciled drink at a craft cocktail bar in San Francisco. Of course, I was immediately delighted to see a flower adorning the foam of my whiskey ginger, and my first thought was, why can’t all of my drinks look like this? Oh wait, they can? If Bitter Stencils raises $4,118 more dollars in the next 15 days, this dream can become reality. K.C. and Marcella Daniels of Las Vegas, NV have been working on this project for almost a year now and could soon see their stencils distributed internationally with just a little help from you.

 

Why Cocktail Stencils

Another lovechild of the craft cocktail resurgence, cocktail stencils add a fun, decorative element to any foamy drink you can come up with. Stenciled cocktails are not something you’re likely to find at your local bar most likely due to the difficulty involved in making the stencils themselves. Anyone wanting to add a bold statement to their drinks through imagery had to hand cut their own stencils, an extremely laborious process which can result in undesired results or inconsistencies in the design. Bitter Stencil’s goal is to provide bartenders (professional or amateur) a way to be able to add a little flair to every concoction in no time, with less effort, and for way less money.

 

 

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Is Bartending Bad for your Health?

P1 - Bartending Injuries
P3 - Bartending Injuries
P4 - Bartending Injuries

Bartenders have been suffering from repetitive stress injuries for as long as bartending has been a profession. The constant use of your hands for pouring, shaking, chopping, muddling and tapping can create a lot of stress in your tendons and joints. Avoid repetitive stress injuries with a few helpful tips that should hopefully keep you out of the doctor’s office and behind the bar.

 

Disclaimer:

These tips are based on my own research and are not from a doctor. If you think you’re at risk for an RSI or already have one, it’s important to speak with a medical professional.

 

Repetitive stress injuries (RSI) include injuries like bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. These injuries are common when a person performs the same movement over and over again. Most people think of these injuries as a risk for people who work at computers – but they are absolutely a threat to bartenders as well. There are over 25 bones in the human hand connected to nerves, muscles and tendons. When the hand performs a repetitive movement, the movement can put stress on the tendons and joints. Some of these afflictions are better known by their nicknames, “trigger finger” and (perhaps most common for bartenders) “tennis elbow”.

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Springtime in Warsaw

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Original author: Julia Tunstall
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Campari Crush

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(Originally posted by Julia Tunstall)
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Which came First: The Cocktail or the Egg?

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(Originally posted by Julia Tunstall)
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Harry Craddock and The Last Legal Cocktail in The United States

“The last legal cocktail in America is reputed to have been mixed at the old Holland House on Fifth Avenue by a Harry Craddock. Word drifts back from London that Craddock is now frosting the shakers at the Savoy. He took a boat the next morning pouting and has never returned.”
Marion Herald, 1927

Harry Craddock was said to have been many things. An Englishman. An American. A bartender. The bartender. He invented the Dry Martini. He mixed the last legal drink in America before Prohibition. Prohibition pushed him to London, where he became a pioneer of the American Bar.

 

“American Bar” was the name of the cocktail movement sweeping London. At it’s simplest, it was cocktails with ice. But it was also complex concoctions that Londoners couldn’t stop drinking. And it all came at a time when Americans could not get a legal drink. Some wealthy Americans refused to live in such dry conditions and joined the London social scene. The Savoy’s hotel bar was even named ‘American Bar.’

Craddock quickly ousted Ada Coleman from her spot on top at the Savoy. She, banished to the flower shop and he, the new Head Bartender. (Source) People came to drink, but they also came to see him, the skilled American, the ‘Dean of Shakers.’ Never mind that he was born in Gloucestershire. (Source)

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Quick Tip: Keeping Your Bar Tidy

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(Originally posted by Chris Tunstall)
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The White Lady

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(Originally posted by Julia Tunstall)
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Visual Cues of a Craft Cocktail Bar

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(Originally posted by Julia Tunstall)
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All About Agave

P1 - Agave
P2 - Agave

 

To the casual imbiber, agave is simply the main component behind that magical drink we call tequila.  But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that this unique succulent is not only a diverse ingredient, but one of the most influential plants in alcohol’s fascinating history.

The use of agave as a beverage dates back thousands of years, in the form of pulque, a fresh drink made from the plant’s sap, which would ferment almost instantly upon extraction.  While pulque is still available (and not entirely uncommon in Mexico), it has taken a backseat to the glorious specimen that is tequila.  Ironically, though, while pulque got the ball rolling with agave-driven alcohol, tequila not only uses a different part of the plant, but a different species of agave as well.

The process of turning agave into tequila is a fascinating one. When the plants are about to bloom (which can take in excess of ten years to occur), they are stripped of their primordial-looking limbs, until the heart (called a piña) of the plant is reached.  The piñas – which bear a striking aesthetic resemblance to pineapples – are then slowly roasted over the course of a few days, and mashed until they ooze a rich and sweet juice.  The juice is distilled twice, and just like that a funny-looking plant has become a staple of any home bar.

Of course, it doesn’t always end there: bottle the agave’s roasted juice straight from the distillery and you have blanco (often referred to as silver in America) tequila.  But more commonly, the clear spirit is locked up in a white oak or French oak barrel, where it absorbs the rich flavors and sultry hues of oak, and has its sharp intensity softened considerably.  Three months in such a barrel makes for reposado, one year makes for añejo, and three years makes for extra añejo, a once-in-a-lifetime, all-inclusive trip to paradise for your taste buds.
 

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