Mr. Show, Chalkboard Paint, and the Perils of Owning a Bar with Crudo's Micah Olson

Categories: Bar Fly

Zach Fowle
Last time we talked with Micah Olson, he was mixing drinks and running the wine program at Jade Bar, Sanctuary on Camelback's acclaimed cocktail lounge. He's now part-owner of the new Italian eatery Crudo.

What's different about this place?
Well, I'm the owner, so there's that. Compared to Sanctuary and Merc Bar, this place is a little calmer and definitely more of a focus on the cocktails compared to everything else. Like at Merc Bar, it's kind of like a club/lounge, and a lot of people still drink vodka Red Bulls -- you get the people who want to hang out at a cool cocktail lounge as well as the people who just say, "I want to get drunk." Jade Bar had a focus on driving numbers -- it was very corporate for not being a corporate hotel. They're not as worried about putting out a good cocktail as they are about meeting numbers. I look at the bottom line as well, but as long as there's enough money to pay the bills and I'm putting out great cocktails, I'm happy.

Is this a better environment for you?
I really enjoy it. This is week three now, and I still haven't made a Lemon Drop or a Cosmo yet.

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Sombreros and Seersucker: Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo Parties in Metro Phoenix

Categories: Bar Fly

May 5: Big day this year. While Cinco de Mayo -- the yearly celebration of the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces in 1862 -- lands on the same date annually, only occasionally does it also match up with the Kentucky Derby, held the first Saturday in May. The combination of these two events means you have a lot of options in your Saturday bar-going. Here are our top choices for drinking this weekend, whether you're into sombreros or seersucker. (Or both.)

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The PDT Cocktail Book's Benton's Old-Fashioned

Categories: Bar Fly

Zach Fowle
On Thursday, we told you about the PDT Cocktial Book, the awesomely illustrated, if overly complex, book of recipes from PDT owner Jim Meehan. Today, we'll share one of our favorite recipes from the book: Benton's Old-Fashioned, which combines three of our favorite ingredients: maple syrup, bourbon, and bacon.

Created by Don Lee, a former bartender at PDT, the drink is made using a technique called "fat washing," in which swine fat is fried and poured into containers holding bourbon. This concoction is chilled in the fridge, which makes the fat rise to the top and solidify. The solid is then scraped off, and the liquid is strained, leaving bourbon with a slight yet unmistakable hint of pig.

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The PDT Cocktail Book: Does It Belong on Your Shelf?

Generally, cocktail books are easy. Slap a few recipes together, pair each one with a drool-inducing photo, put out a few thousand paperback copies, and you're bound to make some cash. Providing value -- and doing it stylishly -- is another task entirely.

The PDT Cocktail Book was released in late 2011 to much acclaim -- it was called "the book of the decade if not more" by mixologist Dale DeGroff. After sitting down for a chat with its author, Jim Meehan -- who, as the behind-the-bar owner of New York speakeasy PDT (short for Please Don't Tell), has been responsible for many of the trends that influence cocktail culture in the Big Apple and, as a result, the rest of the country -- we picked up a copy.

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Bill Samuels' Perfect Mint Julep

Categories: Bar Fly

Yesterday we met Rob Samuels, grandson of the creator of Maker's Mark Whiskey and current chief operating officer of the distillery. You would expect a family with such a rich, bourbon-soaked history to know a few good whiskey recipes -- and you'd be right. Rob's father, Bill Samuels Jr., perfected his Mint Julep recipe over years of experimentation. The recipe below serves 14-16 people and is perfect for a Kentucky Derby party (which is coming up on May 5). Make sure you get to work on your Juleps a day before you want to serve them -- the recipe takes more than a day to make, but the drink is worth every second.

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Talking Bourbon with Rob Samuels, COO of Maker's Mark

Categories: Bar Fly

Zach Fowle
Rob Samuels, maker of Maker's Mark
Rob Samuels comes from a long line of whiskey-makers -- the Samuels clan has been distilling as far back as the 1500s in Scotland and was making whiskey in America before the country was founded. Bill Samuels Sr. (Rob's grandfather) began producing Maker's Mark in 1954, and Rob took over as chief operating officer of the distillery about a year ago (that's his signature on the side of every label). We met him for a weekday cocktail at Scottsdale's Culinary Dropout.

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The Malibu Red Red Hot Explosion

Categories: Bar Fly
Yesterday we told you about our experiences with coconut shampoo rum and the surprisingly similar Malibu Red, a blend of coconut rum and tequila. Dedicated tasters that we are, we tried the drink in many forms: neat, on the rocks, mixed with coke, and in the many cocktails posted on Some of them were horrific (Malibu Red and tabasco?!), but many were actually pretty good. The Red Hot Explosion was our favorite. Combining coconut, orange and grenadine, it reminded us of a visit to the tropics. More »

Malibu Red Tastes Like Coconut Shampoo -- in a Good Way

Categories: Bar Fly
Tequila + coconut rum: not as gross as you'd think.

Years ago, I went on a spring break cruise with a group of my hard-drinking friends and, broke college kids that we were, we dedicated the days leading up to the vacation to finding every possible method of smuggling booze aboard. Clear plastic water jugs, giant blue containers of Listerine, bottles meant for shampoo and conditioner -- out went the product, in went the liquor. The strategy worked pretty well for us. None of the stuff was confiscated, and we drank like kings.

BUT. There was a day near the end of our trip when supplies were running low and we decided to pop open a shampoo bottle that had been filled with rum. Mixing the stuff with Coke, I appreciated an extra flavor of coconut. "Greg," said I, "what kind of rum did you use in this? Malibu?"

"Umm, no," he responded. "Bacardi, I think."

"Coconut Bacardi?

"No, just plain Bacardi."

Know those scenes in movies when a character thinks the meat he's eating is delicious, then suddenly finds out the natives are feeding him cooked swamp rat? Our reaction was like that. We spat out what was in our mouths and dashed over to the offending shampoo bottle. Sure enough: coconut-scented. We'd been drinking shampoo rum.

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El Chorro Lodge's Pisco Sour

Categories: Bar Fly
Yesterday we discussed Pisco (the Peruvian and Chilean liquor made from distilled grape juice) in the general, and Pisco Porton (the most recent addition to the range of Piscos available in Arizona) in the specific. Today we show you the best possible use for Pisco Porton -- the Pisco Sour.

The most famous of all cocktails made with the spirit, the Pisco Sour was created by Victor Morris, an American railroad man who moved to Peru to first work on new rail lines, then opened his own bar. English-speaking travelers flocked to his Morris Bar for his Pisco-based creations, the most popular of which was the Pisco Sour, which definitely was made with a mixture of Pisco, lime juice, and sugar and might have also contained egg white and bitters as most of today's recipes do (historians are still on the fence about the subject). San Francisco bartenders began serving the drink in the United States, and the drink became so popular that even after Prohibition snuffed out much of Pisco's popularity, the Sour remains the most famous cocktail made with the spirit.

In a new spring drink menu rolled out in early February, El Chorro Lodge showcases both Pisoc Porton and the Pisco Sour, with a Southwestern edge.

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Pisco Porton: The Other Grape Drink

Categories: Bar Fly
It would seem from looking around the shelves of bars or liquor stores that Europe holds a monopoly on the production of spirits made with grapes. France gives us Cognac and Armagnac; Spain produces a fair amount of brandy; Italy has its grappa. But drinkers do themselves a disservice if they ignore the fruit's other iteration, made on the other side of the world: Pisco.

Originally developed by Spanish settlers as an alternative to the brandies being imported from their homeland, Pisco has been produced in winemaking regions of Peru and Chile since the 16th century. The spirit -- which features the spicy complexity of tequila and the smoothness of vodka -- didn't gain popularity in the U.S. until the early 1900s, when the Gold Rush brought thousands to California. Because it was easier to ship Pisco north from Peru than it was to send whiskey overland from the East Coast, the spirit became the rage with California's new residents. The Pisco party was short-lived, however -- Prohibition stamped out Pisco's fire in 1920, and the drink has never been able to recover the esteem it once held.

But! A new entrant to the field, Pisco Portón, may change that. The spirit -- made at Hacienda La Caravedo in Ica, Peru, which is home to the oldest distillery in the Americas -- launched in the U.S. in 2011, but has only recently made its way into Arizona bars.

And we know where you can get it here in town. 

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