LUPEC Seattle Dismantling the Patriarchy…one drink at a time!

Ladies for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails, Seattle Edition!
We try to meet up once a month in the area's best cocktail bars to try tasty libations made of gin, rum, tequila, whiskey, etc.
Occasionally we throw a party and use our power to raise money for local charities.

Follow the fun!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

MurrayAid with House Spirits & Bastille

LUPEC gathered in the near past at Bastille's back bar to drink some House Spirits cocktails and to raise money for Murray Stenson.
The evening started with a Swedish Finn  (Punch featuring House Spirits Distillery's  Krogstad aquavit. Additional ingredients in the punch were lemon, allspice dram, sparkling apple cider  and nutmeg. Bastille served it with the smoked salmon (Pacific Northwest's answer to pickled herring?), arugula and chanterelles. All the drinks that evening were enjoyable, but this was my favorite drink of the night. The punch gave a nod to the season, and the aquavit gave it a nice hint of anise without over powering the blend of flavors.
Next we moved on to a classic Gin Rickey which was made with House Spirits' Aviation Gin.  As a brief aside, you may not know that this gin is named with the Aviation cocktail in mind.  House Spirits' targets a gin with a clean, neutral profile and faintly spicy finish.  It's not a London Dry, it's a new American style.  Bastille served a bruchetta with shaved broccoli, cheese, tomato and house made frommage blanc.
Finally we had a barrel aged cocktail called the Four Saints Cocktail. This cocktail showcased House Spirits White Dog Whiskey. byrrh, cynar and orange bitters rounded out the ingredient list. This was paired with a pumpkin soup with a brioche bun.  Like all barrel aged cocktails the barrel aging rounds out some of the rough edges and was a good presentation for the white dog whiskey.

The drinks, food and comradery of LUPEC may be why we all come out, but for me the best part of this evening was raising money for Murray Stenson. Murray who has been a great ambassador to the cocktail community. Murray has made many of us the first vesion of a classisc cocktail. For me, The first time I had a Liberal, it was served to me by Murry. I am proud to say the we raised $1545 in cash, and Bastille kicked in another $1000 from our bills for a total of $2545! Much of this was due to the LUPEC Queen Bee's, (Wendy Miller)  'force of nature' personality as she asked patrons who came in during and after LUPEC for donations. We hope that Murray is well soon.
A big thank you to House Spirits and Bastille for hosting a lovely evening.

And a big thank you to guest blogger Jen Burch who has been in the group since the very first meeting. Also huge thanks to guest bartender and SF LUPEC lady Brooke Arthur, everyone at House Spirits and everyone at Bastille, these are a fine bunch of generous folks!

LUPEC Seattle really appreciates all the businesses, brands and bartenders who have hosted us over the past year and have helped us when we try to give back to the community. Happy holidays and cheers to a wonderful new year! ~Wendy

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Ladies Lunch

I love telling people:
  1. that I belong to LUPEC and the inevitable
  2. what LUPEC is all about.
I am immediately fancier in these people's eyes...and let's face it's true: belonging to LUPEC is a +10 fancy. Since I am not a fancy person by nature (you've met me, right?), I could use those 10 points. Our October 2012 meeting at Vessel, though? Yeah, we might have to bump that up to +50. Why?

Number One: Ice Program. I know Vessel isn't the only venue with an ice program about town, however, I think it's the only one with the capacity in-house to make 300 lb blocks of beautifully clear chunks of solid water, replete with two (two!) saws - chain and band, if you must know - on hand to carve said ice into manageable bricks, which are then parsed out to the bar for individual carving, crushing, ice picking, or what have you. The lucky ladies that attended got to see one of these blocks lifted from the magic water freezing machine (technical term) and, after its requisite rest, carved up. As you can imagine, it was a delight. Jim Romdall demonstrated and instructed us on the particulars of temperature and technique and the importance of timing.

Two: Lunch! I struggled with making this number one or two, but I didn't want to make the ladies who couldn't take the afternoon (or day) off of work too jealous. However, I must say, indulging in a weekday afternoon lunch with an adult beverage (or in my case three) is quite nice. Mental health day indeed. Full disclosure: I might have napped when I got home.

Three: Cameo McRoberts. One doesn't expect the aroma of lamb braising when entering a cocktail establishment, but that is exactly what happened. The delicious stylings of Ms. McRoberts, beloved fellow member and chef charmed us all. And yes, I believe we tried everything on the menu from the salads to the aforementioned deliciously smelling Braised Lamb French Dip. My favorite was the Muffulleta Sandwich, which fortunately for everyone involved, I ordered. All this tastiness was topped off with an unexpected surprise: a complimentary Old Fashioned ice cream concoction. YUM.

Four: Did I mention the drinks yet? Ah yes, the drinks. The lunch beverage menu has non-alcoholic beverages (did anyone order one of those?) and as befits our status of endangered cocktail saviors, four quite delicious alcoholic options:
  • Bloody Mary - Mix made from scratch, including but not limited to fresh roasted tomatoes
  • Red Snapper - As above, but with gin
  • Pimm's Cup - Pimm's No. 1, lemon, cucumber, ginger, mint
  • Corpse Reviver #CO2 - Gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, lemon, absinthe, carbonated (pictured below)

Of course one could order off menu, but I didn't find that necessary on this visit.

Overall, with its rotating bartenders and menus (both food and drink); fantastic back bar; and new airy space, Vessel 2.0 was a fantastic LUPEC host and is a delight any day of the week. Highly recommend! And if you see Jim, ask him about the ice!

Huge thanks to Jim, Cameo, and their wonderful teams.

And a big thanks to guest blogger Carolyn Roper for this excellent recap of October's meeting. October is also LUPEC Seattle's 3rd birthday. And I must echo her thank you's to Cameo, Jim, Clark and our fabulous bartender for the afternoon Bryn. ~Wendy

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

LUPEC Seattle teams up with Novo Fogo's Bars on Fire!

For September's gathering, LUPEC Seattle participated in a convivial, combined event at Poquitos with Novo Fogo's established Bars on Fire series.

If you haven't heard of Novo Fogo yet, it's time you learn about them! They produce an excellent line of cachaças, easily available in the Seattle area thanks to the tireless advocacy of one of the owners -- and LUPEC ally -- Dragos Axinte.

Dragos is a welcoming host, and we were all given a special cocktail menu, developed by our two bartenders for the evening: Erik Carlson (pictured left) and Evan Martin (pictured right).

Our cocktail menu:
Nelson's Passage
Evan Martin
Silver Cachaça, passion fruit syrup, cinnamon syrup, lime, mint, I.P.A.

O Melhor
Evan Martin
Barrel-Aged Cachaça, Amontillado sherry, orgeat, Combier Pamplemousse Rose, lime, lavender bitters.

Gaby's Punch #2
Erik Carlson
Silver Cachaça, pistachio orgeat, lime, absinthe, Angostura bitters.

Cane Chopper
Erik Carlson
Barrel-Aged Cachaça, orange curaçao, cane syrup, mole bitters, coffee bitters.

As with any LUPEC event, there was lots of sampling and sharing, and this time with Poquitos' delicious Mexican food available to accompany our cocktails. Our fearless leader stated the O Melhor was her favorite, and another member chimed in that its sherry, orgeat, Pamplemousse Rose and lavender were perfectly-balanced. The Cane Chopper was a light, yet dynamic drink, and Gaby's Punch was punctuated by an unconventional pistachio orgeat. Another at our gathering declared that the Nelson's Passage encapsulated Summer for her --"Summer's either a mint julep or this drink!"

Finally, there was the classic, the caipirinha. These were served in mason jars for drinkers to shake before imbibing. This fun rendition of the definitive cachaça cocktail became a popular choice by night's end.

While many folks associate cachaça exclusively with caipirinhas, thanks to Dragos, Erik, and Evan, we learned again at this month's meeting that it can also be an integral ingredient in other delightful cocktails, too. Thanks to them, all those who participated for another successful LUPEC Seattle night out!

Thanks to this month's guest blogger Rachel Thibodeaux who if off to live in jolly ole London for a bit. Maybe if we are all real nice to her she'll bring us back some special gin in about 6 months! And of course HUGE thanks to Novo Fogo and Poquitos for having us! ~Wendy

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

No Worms Were Harmed

Many thanks to LUPEC Seattle's first member Stevi Deter for tackling the strange and wonderful world of Mezcal and chronicling our journey to Mezcaleria. If you aren't already following her blog, Two at the Most, you really should! And of course thanks to everyone at Mezcaleria for hosting us! ~WM 

A beautiful early August evening found a steady stream of women pouring into Queen Anne, headed for Mezcaleria Oaxaca to learn about agave.
Mezcal is a much maligned, misunderstood liquor. Many mistake it for that awful bottle of vacation rotgut with a worm in it.

But as we learned, mezcal is so much more. Mezcal is any liquor made from a species of the agave plant, so technically all Tequila is mezcal. The agave plant is trimmed, resulting in a heart called the piña, which is roasted for several days, often over a smoky fire which leaves a distinctive flavor in the final distillate.

After roasting, the piñas are crushed, traditionally by large rolling stones pulled by donkeys. The extruded juice is then introduced to yeast and the result is distilled.

Mezcal purists prefer to drink their liquor unaged, believing that aging can hide the aspects of the drink they most enjoy. We tried the Del Maguey Vida, twice distilled from espadin. Like many mezcals, Vida is distilled to proof, meaning it's bottled at the proof it comes off the still, instead of being diluted with water. This means more of the original taste of the source product remains.

The best mezcals are earthy, still hinting of the sweetness of the agave, and smoky from the roasting process. The Vida was soft, sweet, and had a nice astringency at the end.

We also tried the Pierde Almas Dobadaan, which is made from a rarer form of agave. It had lots of pepper and earthy spice to it I quite enjoyed.

While some may disapprove, aging mezcal can add a smoothness and sophistication that's very enjoyable. We tried Ilegal Reposado, also made from espadin, which had a lovely buttery flavor.

The Mezcaleria Oaxaca happily serves its mezcal in traditional copas, made of either ceramic or out of a gourd and beautifully carved. It took a lot of willpower to prevent one of those works of art from finding its way into my purse.

Speaking of works of art, the Mezcaleria features the photography of Spike Mafford, who was on hand to extoll the virtues of his favorite liquor and celebrate his birthday. As a treat, he "raffled" off a print of the airplane photograph that dominates the restaurant's bar. As he gave us all the same raffle number, he solved the problem by tearing the photo into smaller pieces and autographing each one. As a group, LUPEC Seattle now shares in a beautiful photograph.

In addition to an extensive and ever growing list of mezcals to taste, several cocktails were also on offer. I quite enjoyed the Primer Beso, which features pineapple infused mezcal, triple sec, orange juice, and a gusano salt rim. It was well balanced and still let the mezcal sing through.

Plenty of delicious bites from the kitchen, sister to La Carta de Oaxaca in Ballard, were also on offer. I can't wait to go back and have a full dinner.

A huge thanks to the owners of Mezcaleria Oaxaca for hosting us and providing us with an education on this wonderful spirit.

Monday, August 6, 2012

LUPEC Takes on the World!

Kudos to last month's guest blogger Lynne Becker. Lynn writes the fabulous blog Libation Laboratory that you really should be reading, if you aren't already! And of course many thanks to Rocky Yeh, Wine World, Pierre Ferrand and Dante's Dogs for making our July meeting so great! ~WM

Until June 1st of this year, the LUPEC ladies would likely not have met at Wine World and Spirits for our monthly event.  However, passage of Washington State Initiative 1183 changed that.  For the first time in 78 years, liquor sales are no longer exclusive to Washington State liquor stores.  Until May 31, Wine World was just that; a giant world of wine.  However, starting on the first day of June, spirits were added to their shelves and they became Wine World and Spirits (WW&S).  And if you haven’t seen their inventory, you should; it’s impressive.  So, July finds LUPEC in the event space at WW&S.  Our special guests for the evening were the esteemed Rocky Yeh, Portfolio Ambassador for the Proof Collection and Mr. Guillaume Lamy, Vice President of Cognac Ferrand. 

Rocky was preparing the bar as the LUPEC members arrived.  More than several bottles of diverse spirits lined the bar.  Clearly, there were going to be many opportunities for tastings.  Dante’s Dogs had set up shop outside to provide the evening’s nourishment.  While LUPEC members found a seat and visited Dante’s for their dog of choice, Rocky mixed our first drink of the evening; the Seattle Southside1.  This was a cocktail consisting of Citadelle Gin, Mathilde Poire, lemon, and garnished with pear.  It was served on ice with soda water to finish and was a refreshing start to the evening. 

Drinks and dogs acquired, Rocky provided the group with information on the recent liquor privatization initiative.  Washington State has some of the highest liquor taxes in the country and even greater now with passage of I-1183.  However, the upside of I-1183 is a better selection of liquor.  I know the first time I walked into WW&S and observed the diversely stocked liquor section; I thought “this is why I-1183 passed.”  Rocky suggested that our goal as liquor aficionados should be maximum selection at our local liquor stores.  As we’ve all noticed, prices are higher, though this is not completely reflected on the sticker price.  At the checkout, you’ll notice liter tax as well as an additional 27% fee over the sticker price.  The 27% represents a 10% distributor fee and a 17% retail fee.  However, in 2 years the distributor fee will reduce to 5%, saving us some money on our liquid hobby. 

Special guest Mr. Guillaume Lamy from Cognac Ferrand spoke of their impressive portfolio of spirits, including Pierre Ferrand 1840 (which just won at TOTC - Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award winners, Best New Product2) and Pierre Ferrand Ambre, Citadelle Gin, Mathilde Poire Liqueur, Plantation Grand Reserve Rum and Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, all of which were represented at the LUPEC event.

Mr. Lamy eloquently equated the art of distilling cognac to cooking or baking.  In the process he invited us all to Cognac to tour the distillery.  I’m quite sure more than one LUPEC member put Cognac on their travel destination wish list after listening to Mr. Lamy speak of the distillery and the region.  Personally, I’m ready to leave to be an apprentice at the distillery.  Cognac Ferrand is a relatively small operation with 25 people total, 15 of which support the distilling.  The Cognac region of France is essentially a huge vineyard with over 5000 grape producers and 300 distilleries.  Cognac is not made from Champagne, but originates from wine.  Though Pierre Ferrand cognac is called Grand Champagne Cognac, the ‘Champagne’ refers to the region of Cognac and type of soil in which the grapes are grown.  Because cognac starts with wine, with a great diversity of age and taste, blending is required to produce cognac, making it a subjective art form.  Good cognac should taste like wine; much like espresso is to good coffee. 

Cognac Ferrand has a new cognac on the market, the Pierre Ferrand 1840.  The LUPEC group was fortunate to have the opportunity to taste this delicious product.  At the time of the event, there were very few bottles available in Seattle and only 3 on the shelf at WW&S.  Some might have thought a girl-fight would ensue, but the LUPEC ladies are much more civilized than that, especially when Rocky assured us that he had a container landing in Seattle in the next couple of weeks.  Even more exciting is the fact that the 1840 was just awarded ‘Best New Product’ at the 2012 Tales of the Cocktail Convention.   Cognac Ferrand paired with historian David Wondrich to develop the 1840.  Historically, at least a third of all cocktails were made with cognac as a base spirit.  In an effort to recreate historically accurate Cognac, many old bottles of cognac were tasted.  Unlike wine, Cognac’s high alcohol content prevents further aging upon bottling.  Once bottled, Cognac is considered a ‘dead bottle’ and, provided that the bottle was stored correctly, the flavor profile when bottle, even in 1840, is how it will taste today.  After working their way through a number of old bottles of Cognac, the tasting team finally tried a bottle from 1840 that was exceptionally good.  Two centuries ago, vegetal infusions were often used in the making of cognac.  The Ferrand distillers added the old cognac to new distillate to replicate the vegetal infusions and thus creating the award-winning ‘1840’.  The LUPEC group had the opportunity to taste both the 1840 cognac as well as the Ambre cognac. 

Continuing the collaboration with David Wondrich, Cognac Ferrand decided to rectify the dearth of quality curacaos on the market.  Curacao is the original orange liqueur, and is sometimes also referred to as Triple Sec, which is a descriptive of the distillation process.  However, that ‘Triple Sec’ you see on the bottom shelf of many liquor stores, is not really a French orange liqueur, but rather a neutral grain spirit with flavorings made in Red Creek, WV (ok, I made up the geography part).  Don’t buy it.  Cognac Ferrand resurrected a 19th century recipe for their curacao.  The method includes “three separate distillations of spices and the ‘sec’ or bitter peels of Curacao oranges blended with brandy and Ferrand Cognac3.”  This is a dry curacao with mild sweetness.  Rocky used the curacao very successfully in his version of the El Presidente cocktail consisting of Plantation Grand Reserve Rum, Dry Curacao, Dolin Blanc vermouth and grenadine (Rocky used his very own special recipe grenadine; a lingonberry/honey variety).  As Rocky pointed out, this cocktail contains no citrus and would be an excellent candidate for aging. 

The folks of Cognac Ferrand are a resourceful group, and their portfolio of spirits is representative of this character attribute.  The French AOC (appellation d'origine controlee4) strictly controls the wine and other agricultural products in the French Cognac region.  One of the regulations allows that cognac distillation can only occur between the months of November and March, leaving the pot stills inactive for the remainder of the year.  Cognac Ferrand took advantage of this inactivity by using their copper pot stills to make Citadelle Gin, a London dry-style gin.  Continuing the theme of efficiency, the distillery uses their cognac casks to age rum, producing Plantation Grand Reserve Rum. 

Our last educational opportunity of the evening was to learn about Cognac Ferrand’s line of fruit liqueurs.  [I’ll be honest with you, the quality of my note-taking is inversely proportional to my number of cocktails and taste testing opportunities.  And by this time in the evening, our table-top was filled with glasses.]  Specifically, Mr. Lamy discussed the Mathilde Poire.  This is a relatively sweet (at least 100g sugar per liter as directed by European law), low alcohol content (18%) liqueur with heavy pear notes.  Rocky successfully used the Mathilde Poire in the Seattle Southside with which we started the evening. 

July found us with a unique opportunity to learn more about I-1183, a huge portfolio of interesting and tasty spirits from Cognac Ferrand and try some great cocktails made by the infamous Rocky Yeh; all in a really lovely event space.  And Ladies, Air France will be running big sale this fall, so book your tickets to Cognac.  We’ll be needed at Cognac Ferrand starting in November to kick off the distilling season. 

1Created by Allen Katz

Monday, July 16, 2012

Gunning For Gin At Sun Liquor and Distillery

Sun Liquor’s two Capitol Hill bars are well known by the ladies of LUPEC for their neighborhood vibe and well-crafted cocktails. June’s meeting took us to the Sun Liquor and Distillery, located at 514 E Pine St., which opened in 2008. The moderately sized Pine St. location has an L-shaped bar, blonde wood booths and a large map of the world map mural covering one wall. If the interior reminds you of some place else, it's because owners Mark and Michael Klebeck also own Top Pot Doughnuts. There's a collection of vintage shakers behind the bar, Heywood-Wakefield-style booth design and large picture windows overlooking the street.

At this LUPEC meeting, the ladies enjoyed cocktails featuring Sun’s house-distilled spirits: Hedge Trimmer gin, Unxld vodka and Gun Club gin. We were also treated to a tour of distillery, where Erik Chapman cranks out about 400 bottles of day. The bar is now able to sell bottles out of this location, which you can pick up for just $32 each.

Behind the bar, Missy mixed up drinks, while Derek worked the tables. The five cocktails Missy created or selected for the special LUPEC menu that evening each featured Sun Liquor's products:
  • Bramble: Hedge Trimmer gin, raspberry preserves and lemon juice
  • Palm Beach Special: Hedge Trimmer gin, grapefruit juice, and Italian vermouth
  • Ford Cocktail: Gun Club gin, dry vermouth, Benedictine, and housemade orange bitters
  • Have a Heart: Gun Club gin, Swedish Punsch, lime juice, and housemade grenadine
  • Italian Bathing Suit: Unxld vodka, grapefruit juice, Aperol, and St. Germain, topped with Champagne
  • Peach Buck: Unxld vodka, lemon juice and housemade peach shrub, topped with ginger beer
The Ford Cocktail--which I kept wanting to call the Tom Ford--was a crowd favorite among our booze-loving ladies. Served up, in a martini glass, the Ford was the type of spirits-forward drink most of us love. Missy said they’re lucky to have a quality neutral grain spirit at their disposal at Sun Liquor for making bitters in house, and their orange bitters added a nice depth of flavor to the Ford.

After enjoying a round or two of drinks, ladies joined Erik in the distillery in small groups of 8 to 10. Erik explained the 11-hour process for creating Sun’s signature products in their 100-gallon copper still. They distill it 3 times to remove impurities, reducing it from 100 to about 45 gallons, before adding about 30 gallons of water.
The Gun Club gin is currently Sun’s most popular product. This so-called “naval strength” style gin is so named because gunpowder can still ignite it. I don’t recall the exact ABV, but most naval strength gins are upwards of 50%. Both the Gun Club gin and Sun’s London Dry style gin--Hedge Trimmer--are distilled from organic Washington wheat and include a variety of herbs: juniper, coriander, angelica root, cassia, ginseng, birch, fresh orange and lemon, and sassafras. While Chapman wouldn’t divulge which herbs were used exactly in each gin, he did say that sassafras plays a large role in the Gun Club, and that he uses twice as much citrus as most other distillers.

In addition to the big still, Chapman also runs test batches on a smaller 25-gallon still. They’ve been experimenting with brandies, as well as an aged gin that is currently stored in barrels aging at a facility in Eastern Washington. Hopefully LUPEC ladies will be sampling that very soon.

Thanks Erik, Missy & Derek. Cheers to you from LUPEC!

Many thanks to Sonja Groset, this month's volunteer blogger. Sonja gets paid to write over at the Seattle Weekly, and also has her own blog that you can follow here. She's been a valuable part of LUPEC since way back when and has great taste in all things delicious! ~Wendy

Monday, May 14, 2012

A is for Absinthe...Drinking Lessons at the Sorrento

Big thanks to guest blogger Janice Wilson Vaché for covering our May meeting. This is Janice's 1 year anniversary of being in LUPEC (or close to I think)! Janice has a great blog IceClinkDrink which you should all take a peek at. Thanks to Andrew, Kerri Benecke and the Sorrento for putting on our private class, I think the it was a big success and even those of us with a good knowledge of absinthe came away with some new info. ~Wendy 

If the adage that “practice makes perfect” is true, then LUPEC members certainly need no lessons in drinking – we are already very, very good at it. But we love to learn (to get perfect-er?) and were eager students at the special Sorrento Drinking Lessons held just for our May 1st meeting. Not even May Day protesters (or at least the traffic of those fleeing them) could keep us from learning all about absinthe from Andrew Bohrer, bartender, cocktail history buff and Spirits Portfolio Manager for Vinum distributors.

Absinthe has a rich and varied history, from toast of the town in the 1800’s to modern-day bootleg production in dorm bathrooms. Andrew took us through the developments – such as the use of wormwood and herbs as additives -- in spirit production that eventually led to the creation of absinthe in 1797. By 1840 it was the most popular non-wine spirit around, and vintage cocktail books reflect its use in many, many cocktails. An entire drinking ritual was created for it, and while drinks like the Moscow Mule may have their own special serving glass, absinthe boasts a range of apparatus (take that, vodka!) like the fountain and slotted spoon.

A victim of misunderstanding about its ingredients, blamed for psychotic incidents and later slandered by threatened wineries, “the Green Fairy” was banned in the United States and elsewhere for up to 90 years. Fortunately for us, the bans have ended and an explosion of absinthe producers gives us many choices for enjoying the spirit and using it in cocktails. With the help of Alex mixing and Jen and Molly serving, Andrew treated LUPEC members to three samples of absinthe and three absinthe-laced cocktails.  

A Test for Our Tastebuds
Our glasses of Lucid, Trillium and Pacifique absinthes were served in the customary manner, with a bit of sugar and a ratio of 1 part absinthe to 3-5 parts water. Andrew explained that the cloudiness in the liquid is called the louche and results from the water separating the essential oils locked in during the two-step distillation and maceration process that defines absinthe production. Its green – vert – shade comes from the chlorophyll of its ingredients. While most absinthes use the herbs absinthium (wormwood), anise and fennel during distillation, more variation is used among brands in flavoring the secondary maceration and that results in a range of distinctive tastes.

Could we taste the differences among the three absinthes? Indeed we could. The LUPEC consensus was that the Trillium (not unexpectedly discontinued) was too cloying, especially compared to the softer, more complex Pacifique (which Wendy compared to beloved Good & Plenty candies). The Lucid, with a beet base, showed that the spirit can evolve and still remain true to its roots.

Comparing their bottles, Andrew also explained some practicalities about absinthe: because it is a very high proof spirit, it is susceptible (i.e. explosive) to heat. Therefore, Trillium’s narrow necked bottle was a detriment as it trapped heat; for us home bartenders, that means we must not store any absinthe near the stove!
While absorbed in the nuances of each absinthe, we were also excited to sample them in cocktails. In keeping with the theme of absinthe history, Andrew served us up three classic cocktails (recipes below) with absinthe as a key player: the Corpse Reviver #2, the Chrysanthemum, and the Sazerac. Andrew’s parting advice on the last is that to make a Sazerac New-Orleans-style, you must add the absinthe to an empty glass and then toss it in the air to provide the proper rinse. This is better advice for the first drink of the night than the last, if you value your glassware.
  • Corpse Reviver #2: gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, absinthe – shake with ice
  • Chrysanthemum: dry vermouth, Benedictine, absinthe – stir
  • Sazerac: rye whiskey, sugar cube, Peychaud’s bitters, absinthe, steady hands for tossing glass – stir
Absinthe graduates

Class is Dismissed
Having gained knowledge, excellent drinks and a delicious meal provided by our hosts at the Sorrento, we LUPEC members mingled in the plush Fireside Room. There were no diplomas touting our expertise in the Field of Absinthe, but – even better! – we were treated to parting favors:  a tasty “to-go cocktail” of the Clipper Ship (Voyager gin, Pur Blossom liqueur, lime juice and Pacifique Absinthe), plus an atomizer of absinthe for our home bars.  We thank Andrew Bohrer, the Sorrento Hotel, Alex, Molly and Jen for their great help in presenting another informative, tasty LUPEC meeting. 

Cheers to you all!
Janice Wilson Vaché (

(A Necessary Diversion)
While steeped in absinthe (almost literally), the opportunity to ask a distributor about the state of liquor availability was too irresistible. Where and when will cherished brands return to shelves? What should we stock up on before June 1?  Andrew said that Voyager gin and Pacifique Absinthe will be stocked next month at Fred Meyer and likely at Metropolitan Market, QFC and independent stores as well.  Andrew will post availability on the LUPEC Facebook page to keep us updated. Those not wanting to run dry on smaller Italian liqueurs should stock up; many of their producers are not prepared for the changes in distribution.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bastille: Une Soirée Très Agréable! *

 All our LUPEC meeting venues welcome us graciously, but LUPEC ladies who walked in the door of Bastille’s Back Bar for our April meeting may have felt a little extra special. It was a delightful surprise to see three large tables decked out with black tablecloths, cloth napkins, cocktail plates, drink and dinner menus, and (the always important) water glasses. But maybe I should have expected that from a bar with a gigantic Illuminated chandelier as its central decoration.

I was immediately drawn to the two barrel aged cocktails featured on the menu: Barrel Aged Primrose Hill Cocktail (gin, dry vermouth, maraschino, fernet branca) and the Barrel Aged White Point (white dog whiskey, punt e mes, yellow chartreuse, angostura & orange bitters). I have been reading about barrel aged cocktails, even seen a few featured in online cocktail menus, but thus far, hadn’t had the chance to try one. Always a sucker for Punt e Mes and generally preferring whiskey over gin, I selected the White Point. In traditional LUPEC manner, my cocktail was passed around for tasting by the ladies at my end of the table. I am happy to report that even those that aren’t white dog fans agreed it was very tasty, and a few ordered the White Point for themselves.
By the next round of drinks large platters of cured meats, bowls of olives, crostini and mustard arrived to help sustain us through the lively evening.

Throughout the evening I had the delightful opportunity to taste several cocktails from the menu, including: Bankhead Cocktail, Saint-Marc Daiquiri, and Trinidad Buck. However, my favorite was the Pinfire Cocktail—basically a double old fashioned, but with some house coffee bitters and one of Bar Manager, Erik Carlson’s signature hand-chipped ice cubes. It was an appealing presentation, lovely flavor, and a smooth coffee finish that I didn’t expect, but was truly delightful. I was so pleased with this drink that I am determined to make some coffee bitters for my next liquor project.
Some other LUPEC members chose to let our bartenders get creative, so I got to taste some funky rhum agricole-based drinks as well. I will definitely be expanding my rum horizons and the number of rums in my liquor cabinet as a result.

This meeting reminded me why I enjoy LUPEC so much. Sometimes there is a formal educational element or structured tasting. But more often than not, I’m just socializing and learning about cocktails and ingredients from my fellow LUPEC members. Some of my favorite LUPEC things:
  • I can taste at least three cocktails before ordering my own.
  • Everyone understands eye contact with them may be sketchy until you place your first drink order.
  • Having a passion for trying new drinks and owning more than five types of sweet vermouth is not viewed as a “problem”.
  • I go to bars I never would have gone to and taste drinks I never would have ordered on my own.
  • The more meetings I go to, the more welcome hugs I get from the fabulous ladies I get to know better every month.
Who wouldn’t like that?
A big LUPEC thanks to Bar Manager, Erik Carlson, and all the delightful Bastille staff for the great service, tasty bites, and of course, the delicious cocktails. À votre santé! **

* A delightful evening
** Cheers! (more literally "to your health")

April's guest blog post is brought to you by Karen Kenyon, a true enthusiast and connoisseur of fine cocktails. Thank you so much Karen for a very well  written account of our meetings, I couldn't agree more! And big thanks and kudos to Bastille's bar manager Erik and his team for treating us all so well. And of course for making such fine cocktails. ~Wendy

Saturday, April 14, 2012


As you know, LUPEC isn't just about lovely gatherings and well made cocktails. We are also an organization that nationwide strives to help our communities by getting involved in charitable organizations and events. Sometimes we hold them ourselves. This time we got involved in the Eat.Run.Hope Food and 5K put on by Ethan and Angela Stowell to benefit the Fetal Hope Foundation.

What a great event this was! A clear and crisp morning was perfect for the 5K (we walked) around Seward Park. Good thing we worked up an appetite because there was a whole tent full of delicious food from area restaurants to be had after!

LUPEC Seattle had a goal of $500 to raise for the cause and as of today (donations have still been coming in!) we've raised $1,825!!!! I couldn't be more proud!

I want to thank the ladies who walked (and ran) with me: Sonja G, Danielle F, Jan L, Tracy M, Stevi D.

I also want to give a special shout out to Stevi and Tracy who went above and beyond and raised money on behalf of the cause.

And of course all of the ladies who donated to help us reach our goal: Danielle F, Jan L, Jen B, Lynn & Chelley, Carolyn R, Elisabeth K, Katarina K, Brook H, Lauren E, Sonja G, Elaine S, Leslie S, Valentina V, Leslie D, Sandra S, Julie B.

And of course thank you to those who aren't a member of LUPEC but who supported us with donations also!

We'll be doing this again next year!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

LUPEC Seattle Goes to Ireland

Or, to Mulleady’s Irish Pub on the edge of Magnolia. But I prefer the first title. So, LUPEC Seattle Goes to Ireland, via Magnolia.

For the March 2012 LUPEC Seattle meeting we went to Mulleady’s where owner Travis Stanley-Jones created some Irish Cocktails and Beer Cocktails for us. And punch, he created a lovely punch for us. Brian Lee was on hand to make cocktails as well, and he did it very ably!
At this point in this post, I’d like to say that Irish Whiskey and I don’t have a very storied, long, or good history. I’ve only ever had one drink with it I enjoyed. So, I may have been hesitant to try the drinks that were created for the group. But, I’m one for trying things, so I had to do it!
Back to the evening’s happenings… The punch was delicious and served warm – it was made with Redbreast 12yr, Demerera Sugar and Lemon & Orange Juices. The punch was very easy to drink – perhaps too easy? It was gone very shortly after the group arrived, and no one I spoke with could find a flaw with it. For a cool night, it was a deliciously warm yet dry drink. Not too tart or tangy, but it did allow the whiskey to come through. Travis made a beautiful garnish out of the LUPEC Seattle logo – a dried orange colored with bitters – to float on the top of the dainty punch glasses.

For the cocktails, we had the choice of Lady Flannery, Brainstorm and an Irish Pal. The Lady Flannery would be a good drink for non-whiskey lovers, in that it was more on the sweet side, and gorgeous on top of it all! The Brainstorm had my favorite name and was a very well balanced drink with Redbreast 12yr, Dolin Blanc and Benedictine. It was a very smooth, spirit forward drink. The Irish Pal was a great ending drink and very mellow.

For some reason, I decided to try one of the Beer Cocktails that Travis & Brian offered to us. I went with the Beer Cassis, which consisted of Maritime Old Seattle Lager, Dubonnet Rouge and Briottet Crème de Cassis. Perhaps it’s the local girl in me (Maritime is down the street from my house) that wanted the Maritime in my cocktail. The Crème de Cassis nicely offset the Lager, and while I don’t know much about Crème de Cassis, I have it on good authority that this kind is lovely. And hey – it’s fun to say! Briottet! Dubonnet Rouge is also quite fun to say. So, all around, it was a delicious beer cocktail and had some great names in it to boot!

Travis was kind enough to offer us some great complimentary bites of Chicken Mousse on Endive, Champ Croquettes and Vegetable Crudite. If you missed out on the Champ Croquettes, you MISSED OUT. I might have to go back just for those.

Travis gave us some information about Powers 12 year single pot still Irish Whiskey, but then proceeded to tell us that it’s not available in the states – I felt like that was him being a tease. All in all, anyone want to go to Ireland to find some?

Mulleady’s offers trivia on Monday nights, and they have Trivial Pursuit cards available all the time, in case you need to add some questions to your life while you’re eating dinner. Which I think is always necessary.

If you missed March’s meeting, please go see Travis and if you ask nicely enough, I think he’d probably make you one of the drinks he made for us that evening. And if you get enough smart, cocktail-loving women with you, you can recreate the meeting! Just call me up – I’ll come down.

 Many thanks to Travis, Brian and Mulleady's for hosting their 2nd LUPEC meet up! And big thanks to guest blogger and new LUPEC member Noelle Royer, Noelle just recently moved to Seattle and this was her first meeting! You can check out Noelle's blog, which has lots of fun stuff about travel, eating, diving and other fun stuff at Events By Noelle.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Allison at the ready!

FEBRUARY 1, 2012: "Ada Coleman!" These words were uttered by the dolled-up dames of LUPEC Seattle in order to gain access to the jewel-box speakeasy Needle & Thread, which sits hidden above the main room of Tavern Law in Capitol Hill.  Utter the right password into a rotary phone on the north wall, and a vintage bank safe door cracks open, allowing passage to the secret bar upstairs.

The speakeasy trend may be long over, but every time I visit Needle & Thread, I get a little thrill speaking the secret phrase into the phone and hearing the safe door buzz open (they let me in!), the anticipation building as I climb the stairs.  What mysteries await? Who will be there? What will the bartender concoct for me when I request "something with gin and Chartreuse, no citrus"?

The sense that you are at an exclusive, clandestine party where anything might happen is reinforced by the bar setup at Needle & Thread.  There is no menu; instead, you tell the bartender what you are looking for in your cocktail (something brown, bitter, and stirred, for example), and the bartender lets his or her creativity fly.  On this occasion, the ladies behind the stick were Allison Milner and Monica Buntha.  Allison and Monica rose mightily to the challenge of LUPEC broads clamoring for variations on the Manhattan involving amaros, Champagne cocktails spiked with rum, and other libations.  There were even some involving flame!

A gin joint done up Prohibition-style seemed an appropriate place for LUPEC members to gather.  A group of whiskey and bitters-loving females is not so earth-shaking now (though still challenging to Lemon Drop and Cosmo stereotypes and the Boys Club), but if it weren't for cultural and political changes during the early 20th century, a group of dames gathering en masse for regular cocktail-swilling at bars (and paying for their own damn drinks) would be rather scandalous. So don't forget to raise a glass to our flapper forebroads for tossing out their corsets in favor of hot jazz, Pink Ladies, and loose morals!

At the gathering, the ladies did in fact toast an important forebroad, a patron saint of LUPEC, Ada Coleman.  Fittingly, party goers had to drop her name for entry (although rumor has it that a certain LUPEC member gained admission with a much naughtier phrase).  Ada Coleman was certainly a pioneer in challenging the Boys Club--she was head bartender at the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel at a time when there were few women bartenders, invented the Hanky Panky, and even patented an invention for an adjustable book cover--handy for keeping books open behind the bar (US Patent 1,698,391, if you're curious). Ada was highly influential during a golden time of the cocktail, providing mentorship to other famous bartenders, and she continues to be a role model today.
Monica serving it up with a smile!
After cheering for Ada, sipping drinks by Allison and Monica, and enjoying stimulating conversation with strong, interesting women, ultimately the time came to say good evening, and ladies slipped back downstairs, through the secret exit, and out into the brisk February night air.  The hidden exit is yet another sexy touch at the Needle & Thread, adding to the sense of being in a magic space: regular bar patrons might see you go in, but they never see you leave. It's almost as if you were never there.

Big thanks to Anne Magoon and Monica for offering to host us and also for the great goodie bags! Don't forget to use your free brunch cocktail coupon! And of course thanks to Tracy Meeker who volunteered to write up this month's blog post, well done! 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Be Mine Bitter Valentine

For the second year in a row Tales of the Cocktail is taking its show on the road and heading to Vancouver, Canada. This year it's a 3 day adventure, including one full day of nothing but tasting rooms! mmmmmm......

And of course there are lots of extracurricular activities such as parties, spirited dinners and bar crawls. Some of Seattle's LUPEC ladies are heading up for the event again and we're really looking forward to it as we had a ball last year!

One such party is the official closing party being held on Valentine's Day and sponsored by Campari. Now some people go for all that hearts and roses crap but LUPEC ladies would rather don a hot red number and get a little bitter. With a cocktail that is! The Bitter Bash is going to be a big ole love affair with Campari, Aperol, Cynar, etc. Talented bartenders from near and far will be stirring and shaking up bitter concoctions. Attendees will be wearing red so it won't even matter if you spill after you've had 2 or 3! And for everyone who joins in the fun there will be bitter swag for you to cozy up with later. Be sure to join us in wearing red and you may just find yourself with a best dressed prize (one each for men and women). 

Ticket packages are still on sale! Come join us!