Tony Abou-Ganim & Adam Seger: On Vodka, Vermouth, and Cocktail Culture in Russia

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Courtesy of AZ Cocktail Week and Hotel Valley Ho
Chef Salad takes a detour this week, interviewing three more of the country's leading beverage industry experts, all of whom are participants in the second annual AZ Cocktail Week, which started this past weekend and runs through February 22. Seminars are held in the Sands Room at the Hotel Valley Ho.

See also:
Wine Geek and Spirit Savant Steve Olson: On What We're Drinking Now and What We'll Be Drinking in the Future
Charlotte Voisey: On Molecular Mixology and Being a Bartender

If you missed Adam Seger's seminar on Dear Beer Cocktails yesterday, you can read his thoughts on vermouth and craft spirits right here today. Tony Abou-Ganim will be conducting a seminar on The Joy of Vodka today at 5 p.m. at the Hotel Valley Ho. H. Joseph Ehrmann will also conduct a seminar today at 3 p.m. on Craft Distillers and Artisanal Spirits. Same location. Read his interview here tomorrow.

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Courtesy of AZ Cocktail Week
Tony Abou-Ganim
Tony Abou-Ganim

Tony Abou-Ganim grew up in the bar business, making classic cocktails at his cousin's bar in Michigan before becoming interested in mixology old and new, educating people about the history and lore of cocktails through TV appearances, DVDs and books (The Modern Mixologist: Contemporary Classic Cocktails). He operates his own beverage consulting firm and has just completed a new book on vodka called Vodka Distilled. You can buy a copy at his seminar on vodka today.

Tell us about America's cocktail culture: I've never seen this much excitement behind bartending and craft cocktails. This is the Second Coming of the Golden Age. The first Golden Age was from the 1840's up to Prohibition. I wonder what cocktails would be like if Prohibition hadn't ruined our craft, which was decimated by the speakeasies. It was a dark time for bartenders. The craft suffered. It's just in the last 10 years that American bartenders are viewing it as a career again and not just a part-time job. It's an amazing time to be behind an American bar.

Are you a bartender or a mixologist?: We're all bartenders. We tend bars and love doing it. A good bartender knows my name, has a smile on his face, keeps track of the sports scores and what I like to drink. We're in the hospitality industry, after all.

Do you write books for bartenders or hobbyists?: It's just as important to write to the consumers as to the bartenders. My books embrace the consumer, and this new one [Vodka Distilled] walks them through an appreciation and celebration of vodka, which was popular in the '40s, '50s and '60s for its neutrality and mixability.

What do you hope people come away from your seminar understanding about vodka?: I want people to enjoy vodka for vodka's sake. With greater knowledge, comes greater enjoyment. Vodkas don't taste the same. The differences are subtle, but let's see what raw materials, distillation, filtration and water bring to the table. Vodka deserves a spot on the back bar, and customers shouldn't be thought less of for wanting it. Beautiful drinks like the Cosmopolitan shouldn't be thrown under the bus either.

Location Info


Hotel Valley Ho

6850 E. Main St., Scottsdale, AZ

Category: General

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