What's New on the Scene: Nov. 17, 2009

The anxiously awaited Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco will open its doors to the public on Tuesday, Dec. 8, owner Martin Cate informs us. Cate, of Alameda’s Forbidden Island and one of the premier rum and Tiki barmen in the country, will offer more than 80 grogs, Tiki drinks, Havana cocktails and other beverages, and more than 200 rums including an exclusive house rum from St. George Spirits called Eurydice.

Here’s an innovative reason to host a party: your backbar has a birthday. No, not that ancient bar back; the backbar, in this case, the imposing structure behind the stick at Seattle’s cocktail haven Tini Bigs, which turned 100 years old last week. The birthday party kicked off with $4.50 Finlandia cocktails and Martinis and happy hour food all night.

Bar Artisanal, the casual off-shoot of Terrence Brennan’s Artisanal restaurant in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood, has revamped its specialty cocktail list with seasonal additions including the Grape Fizz made with Bacardi, lime and concord grape juices, and the Peppery Pear made with bourbon, pears and pink peppercorns. The list features cocktail and cheese pairings as well.

Concord grapes must be suddenly hot in New York bars: autumnal treats from Rick Pitcher, beverage director at NYC’s famed Gotham Bar and Grill, include the PB&J (made with Montecristo Rum, Castries Peanut Rum Crème Liqueur and fresh concord grape juice with a crushed peanut rim). He’s also added the Bartlett, (Charbay Green Tea Vodka, Bartlett pears, sage, Tasmanian leatherwood honey and fresh lemon juice).

In Los Angeles, the fall menu at Akhasha, which focuses on local, organic and handcrafted ingredients, includes a Pumpkin Pie (Tru Vanilla vodka, Modern Spirits Pumpkin Pie vodka, soy milk, agave syrup and a graham cracker dusted rim) and Autumn Harvest (Jefferson’s small batch bourbon, organic apple juice and cinnamon).

A couple of years ago, seafood chain McCormick & Schmick’s moved to all fresh juices and made-to-order drinks. Earlier this month, the chain’s execs announced they’d introduce seasonal cocktail menus as well, setting the bar higher for other high-end chain restaurant beverage programs.

Newly renovated Dovetail restaurant in Manhattan has a new sommelier, Amanda Reade Sturgeon, formerly of Babbo and The French Laundry, who has spearheaded a revamped cocktail list to herald the bar’s rebirth. The list takes an old-school turn through classic drinks using ingredients from smaller producers, local distilleries and seasonal juices. Drinks reveal a serious interest in sherry as an ingredient in such drinks as the Dovetail Manhattan (Sazerac Rye, Hidalgo Morenita Cream Sherry, apple cider, bitters and bourbon-soaked cherry) and the D’groni (gin, Cynar and sherry).

The highly regarded BarSmarts Bartender Training Program wrapped up its recent New York series with BarSmarts Live, a full day program of instruction, education, mixology, testing and formal certification for the program’s top performers. The event marked the ninth BarSmarts Pernod Ricard USA event and the second in New York City. More than 900 bartenders have taken the course since the program launched last autumn. Bartenders Misty Kalkofen from Drink in Boston, Jim Meehan from PDT in New York, Don Lee from NYC’s Momofuko and Eric Alperin from Varnish in Los Angeles assisted during certification testing.

Dave Wondrich reviews a bartender trainee.

Dale DeGroff goes over his notes at the New York event.

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