When it comes to jobs sipping rum and jotting notes is good work if you can get it. Even if it may be easier to get in bed than get out of it after all that rum. San Antonio Cocktail conference reached it’s peak last night with more classes, delicious food, and a blowout cocktail filled concert. As we woke and roused with a soda we made our way to the Hotel Havana. A beautiful old hotel with fine vintage fixtures and a wonderful classic feel.
It was in this picturesque abode we met with Ministry of Rum’s Ed Hamilton for a Rum Master Class. I was excited for this class, but never knew Dale Degroff would be there as well to attend and learn. Ed’s spent a lot of his life talking to distiller’s and even running a bit of rum. I’m not sure anyone knows more than him about the business. The class focused on caramel coloring and how it affects the flavor of alcohol. Interestingly when added to water the caramel colorings really didn’t affect the taste only the body. When added to the alcohol however it made a huge difference. In fact two different caramel colors made one rum taste like two different bottlings. Caramel coloring is added to rums often to make a consistent product. Personally so long as the rum tastes right and works in my cocktails I have no problem with a little added color. The flavors it brought to the rum were tasty and gave an appropriate feel to match it’s appearance. Ed’s new Jamaican rums hit the market in October, and if you don’t see them on your store shelves I encourage you to ask for them by name. Then we’ll toast a planter’s together in thanks.
After a very quick lunch at Ocho we ran down a few streets and ducked into the Sheraton for a seminar brought by Pilar rum. Phillip Greene was there presenting his book “To have and have Another”. Though I haven’t read any Hemingway myself, I’m just not much for fiction novels, I of course new about him and his love of the sauce. While I personally tend to agree more with Jeff Berry when it comes to Hemingway I must say the presentation was informative and very funny. The quotes can easily be used to make a social mixer alight with laughter. “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” Surely Hemingway knew something of every imbiber when he said that. I’m looking forward to reading Mr. Greene’s book and playing with the recipes inside. They may need some sugar or balancing since Hemingway liked them strong and was terrified of becoming a diabetic. I would recommend the Green Issac Special a mixture of gin, green coconut water, lime, and angostura then shake and strain over ice.
Our final class of the day was brought to us by local Treaty Oak distilling a wonderful group of folks who we’ve had fun getting to know during our time here. This class was all about honey, a diverse ingredient that can be a great asset to bartenders. The easiest way to use honey is to pour one part of hot -but not boiling- water over two parts of honey and stir to combine. We learned the pitfalls and high points of commercial and craft beekeeping, as well as the threat China’s tainted honey has on our market even today. More interesting were the flavors of lovely varietal honey brought to us to sample as you see above. Light and sweet clover honey is what we use in our syrup mostly. The second was a funky wildflower honey blend from Round Rock which we were given a bottle to take home. Tupelo, an endangered honey was next. It was immaculate, rich, and slightly orangey in flavor. Oddly enough Tupelo honey does not crystallize like other honeys. Buckwheat was rich in coffee, toffee, and chocolate flavors and begs to be added to rum punches. Finally we tasted a Manuka honey which had the texture of a creamed honey but a sweet, herbal, chewy, slightly mineral flavor. Varietal honey can be very complex, we look forward to using more in syrups.
Once out of classes we had some time to enjoy the river before Houston Street was alive with jazz bands and delicious food tables. Jumbo shrimp and spicy salsa at the Sheraton was followed by Clement Rum Punch and sliced steak sandwiches with English mustard at Bohanan’s. It was a few more drink stands later when we made our way past glitteringly lit trees and smiling crowds to Luke’s. Spicy beef stew, High West Rye, Tullamore Dew cocktails and a few Hemingway daiquiri’s filled people’s lips. What turned my head however was a dish of charred paneer, fresh cilantro, miso gravy, and tater tots from an Asian restaurant soon to open in the area. I will be trying to clone “Tater Tot Chat” when I get home. Well we have one last day of fun before we’re homeward bound cocktail fans. We hope you have enjoyed our coverage and thanks again to the staff here and all our USBG friends back in Birmingham. Until next time…
“You Get Hammered America” – JFL