The atmosphere was tangibly more jovial at the Food & Wine fest Saturday afternoon, when Tony Abou-Ganim took the stage in front of a packed house in the Oak Tent (myself parked on the grass near the tent, and others gathered outside the barriers), to present on classic Ernest Hemingway cocktails.
Abou-Ganim kicked off the demo with his usual swagger, and same set of puns and jokes (at least he admitted to it). I’ve seen Abou-Ganim present more than a handful of times over the past few years, and there’s no denying he is something of a flashy showman on stage, but at its core, the information he provides is always practical and accessible for people of any knowledge level. He’s entertaining and informative.
Throughout the panel, Abou-Ganim shared quotes from the renowned tippler in addition to recipes for his favorite beverages. When presenting the Hemingway Daiquiri (lime, rum, simple syrup and maraschino liqueur), he said legend dictates that the drink is served at the famous Havana, Cuba bar El Floridita, "blended but not with a lot of ice." Hemingway described it: "It’s like the bow of the ship cutting through the wake of a wave, with a blue green daiquiri beneath the frothy white."
With the Death in the Afternoon cocktail (absinthe and Champagne), Abou-Ganim quoted Hemingway as saying "No one should experience the drink, nor death, alone. If you’re going to drink two, you might as well drink 3-5, very slowly."
While the presentation focused largely on drinks that Ernest Hemingway loved and made famous, the bulk of the useful information centered on technical tips for making better cocktails at home. Here are a few suggestions he shared, that will apply to any cocktail construction:Don’t refrigerate your limes. Cold citrus will be 1/3 less generous with its juice than one cut at room temperature.Making cocktails is exactly like cooking food - you want to find a balance. In cocktails that’s usually between sweet and sour. Use simple syrup to balance out citrus juice. Use a jigger to measure, so you can achieve the right proportions.Vermouth is oxidized wine, so it shouldn’t be stored on the shelf. Buy the 375 mL, put it in the fridge, and keep the cap on so it doesn’t oxidize.Don’t be afraid of bitters, they are the salt and pepper of cocktails.Drinks that are spirit-only, should be stirred, not shaken
To illustrate his final point, Abou-Ganim invited local mixmaster Bill Norris from the Alamo Drafthouse on stage to demonstrate why cocktails should be stirred, and not shaken. Check out the video to see the results.