Here you are in Albuquerque for the International Balloon Fiesta. You got up early and went to the balloon glow, walked among the balloons, oohed and aahed over the mass ascension and posted enough photos on Facebook and Instagram that your friends are not only no longer “liking” them, they’re on the verge of blocking all further posts from you. You look at your watch at 9 a.m. and think, “What now?” You could stick around for the chainsaw carving (do you really want to?); you could go visit the other attractions in Albuquerque, of which there are many, but the other 100,000 people you were rubbing elbows with this morning will be crowding the Bio Park and the museums; or you could just go to your hotel and spend the day at the pool, thereby missing anything that the Land of Enchantment has to offer.
The United States is the most vacation poor country in the world. Do you really want to spend your few, precious days away from the office fighting the masses or wasting the day emulating the vultures from “The Jungle Book”? If it’s further amusement you’re seeking, there’s an option: hop in your car and travel the fifty miles up I-25 to Santa Fe. Continue reading
MOVE over wine, it’s finally time to share your spotlight. For years, wine has been the go-to beverage for elite dining establishments. Restaurants employ top dollar sommeliers who spend years studying wine and its nuances in order to properly pair the perfect Cabernet Sauvignon with your rib-eye. Some restaurants even have cicerones, experts in the art of ale to make sure you get the IPA with the correct IBUs. But what about the bartender? Bartenders spend countless hours studying spirits, creating cocktails and learning techniques. They are up in the wee hours of the morning polishing bar tops and pulling floor mats. It’s tough on their knees, shoulders, wrists and especially their relationships with the “daywalkers.” They always work on holidays, weekends and evenings. Heck—anytime the rest of the world isn’t working, chances are the bartender is. When you are starting your day, the bartender is just ending his. But finally bartenders are starting to get credit for their creativity and hard work and the popularity of the cocktail is on the rise.
Photo of Quinn Stephenson by Gaelen Casey
There has been a craft cocktail movement all over the world throughout the last decade. In cities like London, Tokyo and New York, the cocktail scene is well-developed and the bartender’s reputation has returned to that of the pre-prohibition days, when bartenders were stars and some even made more money than the president of the United States. The movement has spread and bartenders are now being given titles like “mixologist” or “cheftender” to better reflect the highly skilled profession.
I remember the first time I realized what an art form bartending was. For years, I studied wine. I was always looking for the right wine to pair with food—trying to decipher which wine from what region would have the right acidity level or which grape had the perfect aroma to compliment a dish. I was taking the creations of two other people, the chef and the winemaker, and trying to make a match. One day, I was trying to find a pairing for a dish that was giving me some problems. I needed more acidity and was looking for more tropical fruit and I just couldn’t find the right wine. I also thought a little spice, like cardamom, would have been perfect. It dawned on me that I could actually create those flavors in a cocktail myself. A little caramelized pineapple, a homemade cardamom/star anise syrup, some fresh lemon juice, a dash of rum and BOOM! That day my focus shifted from wine to spirits and I never looked back. Continue reading
Thank you to everyone who participated in our reader survey—we loved your colorful comments and insightful suggestions. Congratulations to Fionna Buck, who won a cool $250 in the survey drawing (and even promised to spend every penny of it in her favorite restaurants)!
Chris Medina, Michael Wewerka and David Boyd, the partners behind burger joint Holy Cow in East Downtown are very close to opening their newest restaurant, Gravy, in the old Milton’s space, across from Holy Cow. The menu at the upscale diner menu will reflect the space—comfort food with a sophisticated twist, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Beer and wine will be served, and it will be open seven days a week. We look forward to seeing the custom work and enjoy the next project from this talented group. Continue reading
Now there’s a provocative question. When it’s posed with a twinkle and a grin and answered in the affirmative, we know we’re in for some fun. Just the word “cocktail” makes me giggle.
The holiday season is the perfect time of year to try your hand at concocting a few. Gather the ingredients—enticing bottles of spirits, bitters, cream, fresh and preserved fruits, some chocolate, even—and set them out. Invite over the people you love, roll up your sleeves and get down to business. This is the time to break out the panache, add a little flash and do something special. In other words, show off! Live it up!
story by James Selby
photos by Kitty Leaken
With this issue, localflavor returns to a series chronicling some of Northern New Mexico’s independent entrepreneurs: wine shops and markets and distillers who offer their customers artisanal creations imbued with the integrity of place and craft.
New Mexico is steeped in history. Many scholars, many books, many museums chronicle its rich, complex past. Heritage that we can taste—whether in a bean or a breed or a beverage—makes history much more compelling. It is this link—from ancestor to present, from farm to table—to which we look more and more to sustain our individual cultures, health, life. Recorded history began 5000 years ago modern history as soon as you finish this article. Is a bottle of Taos Lightning whiskey, bottled in New Mexico, a touchstone of history or a portal to the future? According to John Bernasconi, the president and master distiller of KGB Spirits, located near Alcalde, it’s both.