Cinephreak Does Beer, Bourbon & BBQ… in New York!

So a little while back I got a call from Tom Fischer who runs BourbonBlog.com (you may remember the epic videos I did for him covering the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, and the Evan Williams Single Barrel Unveiling in Louisville last year… if not, read about that here and here). Tom proceeded to inform me that he’d been asked to speak on a bloggers’ panel at the Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival (www.beerandbourbon.com). And that it was in New York. And that he wanted video coverage of said debacle. And that the festival was paying for the trip. For those just joining us, allow me to break down the math: Beer + Bourbon + BBQ + video shoot + free trip to NY = not a tough sell for Jake. Consider my arm twisted. And so here’s the recount of the festivities, as best I can tell it (or rather… as best I can remember).

Tom and I trek to Louisville to crash with some friends of his before the trip, who run The Bourbon Review (www.thebourbonreview.com), a magazine covering… well, take a guess. It was a fun night, rife with socially lubricated banter, experimentation with a new cocktail (more on that later), the sampling of many different bourbons, and even an impromptu by-popular-demand viewing of a little short film called Foxxy Madonna vs. The Black Death, by yours truly, which you can read about here and even buy your very own special-edition DVD copy of here (*ahem* shameless self promotion).

Then, it’s off to NYC. Arrive, check in at the hotel, and get obliterated by city nightlife. First stop is Blue Smoke (www.bluesmoke.com), a BBQ restaurant and bar that seethes awesome from every corner. They make everything from scratch there, and it’s all original, in-house recipes – they even make their own bread and ice cream. We film a video piece and spend time hanging out with Executive Chef Kenny Callaghan (a great guy) and are treated to a sampling of very fine bourbons including a Pappy Van Winkle 23 and the 141.1 proof uncut George T. Stagg, and several plates loaded with some of the menu’s finest offerings. The most succulent BBQ you can imagine. The best fried chicken I’ve ever tasted. Perfect mashed potatoes. They even somehow managed to turn macaroni and cheese into some sort of high art – seriously… the food there makes most meals you’ve had taste like kibble. Long story short, Blue Smoke = great stuff. Downstairs they even have an underground elite jazz club called Jazz Standard. If you’re in NY, do yourself a favor and go there.

Next we grab a cab and hit up Brandy Library (www.brandylibrary.com). Pure brilliance. It’s set up like a library, except the shelves around you are filled with bottles instead of books – bourbon, whiskey, scotch, brandy, cognac… everything divided into sections, variety galore. The place is filled with art deco couches, and feels as if it’s entirely lit by candlelight. It’s a very dim, elegant, and altogether ethereal ambiance. You really have to be there to fully appreciate it. We spend some time talking with the Beverage Director, Ethan Kelley (a guy with a knowledge and passion for what he does that’s quite inspiring), and after a decent conversation sit down for drinks. Ethan ordered for us, having been able to eerily effectively judge what brand of beverage we’d enjoy based on our prior chat. For me he ordered this fantastic little New York rye whiskey that just knocked my socks off, called McKenzie (which definitely intrigued me since that’s my wife’s name, though it’s spelled differently). Adjectives to describe this very young whiskey: spicy, smokey, rich, creamy, super-smooth, and tastes like happy. It’s put out by a small label (Finger Lakes) and I’m told it doesn’t even have a distributor – it appears to be very difficult to find. To the people who make this – your drink makes me happy and I want bottles of it. After awhile we head downstairs to the private tasting room and shoot a video piece with Ethan. Eventually we call it a night and head back for some much needed rest.

The next morning I wake up with a nice little bitch of a headache, and a wave of queasiness about my stomach-region. I go back to sleep for a couple hours and wake up realizing I feel much better. Suddenly my thoughts go from “Oh crap!” to “Oh yeah!” and we get ready and head off to the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival in Manhattan. When we arrive I’m met with the realization that this event is ten times bigger than I anticipated. Held at la.venue, it seemed every time you reached the end of one room, another one began. It just kept going and going. Booths everywhere. Games. Drinks. Food. Free crap. We thought there’d be somewhere in the neighborhood of 500-1,000 people in attendance. There were 5,000. The day was split into two sessions, and $75 got you through the doors and a glass put in your hand, with unrestrained access to the high levels of awesome that abounded. We set up and made a quick pass through the place before heading off to the Tasting Theater, where a seminar was in effect with Maker’s Mark’s Master Distiller, Kevin Smith (who’s an all-around fantastic guy). After getting the camera gear ready, we trekked off to make what Tom created (with the help of Stephen Dennison) in honor of the trip – the world’s FIRST Beer, Bourbon & BBQ cocktail. That is correct – all three ingredients are in there. After nabbing a couple bottles of Makers Mark and a bottle of Wild Turkey American Honey, we find ourselves locked in a closet mixing a batch of the new drink (it was a room with a sink, bucket and mop – we thought we’d get access to the actual kitchen, but this is all that was available). Then it was off to the bloggers’ panel, which consisted of Art of the Drink’s Anthony Caporale (www.artofthedrink.com), Tom Fischer, and Thrillist’s Hayden Lynch (www.thrillist.com). The Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Cocktail was officially debuted (it should be noted that though the drink had only been created a week prior, it had already garnered strong buzz and interest on drinkhacker.com, about.com, cocktailista.com, cocktailenthusiast.com and several other sites BEFORE this festival even took place). The response was very positive, upon testing. Everyone had the same initial reaction as me – a drink with BBQ IN it?!?! But it’s actually damn tasty. The right amount of sweet, sour, and smoky tang, with an overall smoothness and a surprisingly layered texture.

After the panel concluded, we shot a video piece with Anthony on how to make the cocktail he demonstrated – The Cosmo Killer, which was sort of a guy’s version of a Cosmopolitan. Kind of cool that he managed to reclaim the drink from it’s girly status, thanks in large part to Sex and the City. By that time, session two was just beginning and we hit the ground running getting footage. We interviewed/filmed drink reps, season & spice creators, game inventors (inflatable Beer Pong!), restaurant owners, cigar manufacturers, business owners, bartenders, PR reps, as well as strippers (Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club was in attendance with two booths, no less), and loads of unruly drunk people. One booth we stopped by, Hill Country Barbecue Market (www.hillcountryny.com) had some of the most succulent, amazing barbecue I’ve ever tasted, served right out of the pig (literally). Web designer, artist, and all around cool guy (not to mention BourbonBlog correspondant) Matt Capucilli (www.mattcaps.com) joined us later in the day, and took up the reigns in front of the camera, unabashedly interviewing random attendees in varying states of debilitating inebriation, asking them “let’s get serious” for a moment. The segment yielded some very awkward, very inappropriate, and altogether hilarious (borderline Borat-esque) results. Sadly, the day drew to a close, and we were among the last to leave. After that we went out to Char No. 4 (www.charno4.com) for drinks and conversation, where after a several year hiatus, I got to catch up and have a drink with my good friend Jake Eben (who’s name you could potentially start seeing associated with future Cinephreak productions). And finally, like all good things, the weekend drew to an end.

All in all, the weekend was chockfull of all sorts of awesome. The icing on the cake was coming home to find Mackenzie waiting for me with dinner already in the oven. Baby, you’re oh so much better than the whiskey that somewhat shares your name (but seriously… that company needs to send me bottles). What can I say? Filming for BourbonBlog.com is always good times.  Big thanks to Tom Fischer for bringing me out on this, to Greg Nivens and the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival for bringing both of us out on this, and to Matt Capucilli for all your help. I’ve got a slew of footage to sift through, but rest assured you’ll be seeing the videos from our NYC adventure very soon. Stay tuned for more awesome here, and on BourbonBlog for said audiovisual stimulation. I’m out…

Best,
Jake

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~ by cinephreakpictures on February 4, 2010.

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