Friday, August 4, 2017

Campari America Spirited Connections Interview Series: Sam Anderson

While the cocktail and spirits industry has a façade that is sexy and exotic, those within the industry (like myself) know all too well that countless cocktails night after night can take its toll.  Many years ago, I realized that if I wanted to thrive in the cocktail industry, I would need to work out religiously and be militant about maintaining balance in my life. 

That said, I have gravitated towards people in the industry who do the same; those who seek out spinning classes in whatever city they are in, those who do pushups on the side of the road (even on top of a volcano), those who run charity bike rides, and train for triathlons.  I have such deep respect for these people, mostly because I know how hard it is to wake up for boot camp after staying out a little bit too late.  But, we all must do what it takes to maintain balance in a naturally hedonistic industry.

Perhaps most inspiring of all is Sam Anderson.  He is the Beverage Director of the perpetually hip Mission Chinese in New York City and a marathon runner.  He has been featured on the cover of running magazines, has starred in running campaigns for companies such as Adidas, and all the while, has been killing it in the cocktail world. 

Photo Courtesy of Sam Anderson
This month for my Campari America #Spirited Connections Interview I sat down with Sam to talk about how he discovered running, the importance of alone time, and how it fuels his creativity. 

Get ready to be inspired, dear reader, because Sam is the real deal.  Handsome, thoughtful, wildly creative, and most certainly off the market.  He collaborates frequently with his girlfriend who is a florist (Fox Fodder Farm) - most recently with Red Bull Music Academy and Le Dauphin in Paris.

Without further ado, Sam Anderson:

Photo Courtesy of Sam Anderson
Gastronomista:  Sam, it seems like these days you are known just as well for your work as the Beverage Director of Mission Chinese in New York City as you are for marathon running and your inspirational Instagram posts.  How did you get your start as a bartender and how did you get involved with running?

Sam Anderson:  Years ago, I stumbled from the craft coffee world into Freeman’s Alley where I was mentored by some of the best in the industry all at once; a real kick in the ass.  Lynette Marrero, Toby Maloney, Jim Kearns, Greg Ramirez, Yana Wolfson… a murderers row of bartenders who, unbeknownst to me, were pioneering the craft cocktail business in Real Time in front of my eyes.  I got to witness this, juice their citrus, make their syrups and set up their bars. From there, I worked as Head Bartender at Hotel Delmano during its first four years; still so proud of that place, those nights, the energy and pure sex appeal of that space and it’s trailblazing service to the neighborhood. I earned my “Nightclub Cred” working at Gold Bar for three years alongside Tim Cooper and Remi Shobitan.  I worked as well for April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman as a roving Beverage Director/Cocktail Guy at several of their restaurants.  I’ve done consulting work as well at Vinegar Hill House, Sel Rrose, Fig 19, Cafe Colette, and the Breslin.  I have been at Mission Chinese since the second location’s opening.  I run the cocktail, wine, tea and beer program.

I got into running mainly out of desperation … turning 31 and realizing that I was far down the road to being victimized by the occupational hazards of the service industry not to mention my own rather dark family history with respect to alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. After years of procrastination and failure to quit, I simply woke up one day with a vicious, existential hangover after a long night of cigarettes and mescal and ran over the Williamsburg Bridge.  I couldn’t have gone further than three miles and felt as though my heart would explode.  That feeling afterward, of release, of making a tiny step forward was the first time I’d felt empowerin over a decade.

Photo Courtesy of Sam Anderson
Gastronomista: How do you balance your life in the hospitality industry with staying fit? 

Discipline.  I run 6 days a week every morning and average 60 miles per week with an uptick when I run long routes in preparation for approaching a marathon.  I’m almost always training for a race, either fast, shorter spring races or marathons in the fall. I drink only on the weekends when I am not working and I stick to natural wine.  I am very conscious with how I eat as well and I prioritize eating for training performance first—focusing on a nutrient rich vegetarian diet.  I try to get to bed early and rise as early as possible, so that means I’m not the guy out on the bar circuit any more.  Honestly, I find the biggest challenge to be maintaining touch with a community that I don’t participate much in anymore—but interestingly, as I’ve spoken out about my decisions and just been committed to them, like-minded folks in the business have gravitated to me over time.

I also have a regular yoga practice, as well—which tends to undo some of the knots that a difficult training schedule can tie up in your body. It’s all big time and effort commitment but it keeps me bouncing along.

Photo Courtesy of Sam Anderson
Sam Anderson:  How do you think fitness influences your life on a day to day basis?  Does it inspire your work in any way?

On the physical ground level, because I work really hard to maintain my training, I feel strong and empowered—I know what it is to not feel great about your body… I was for over a decade, a chain-smoker, someone who drank daily, with terrible eating habits who barely got to work on time. I’m no longer self-destructive or nihilistic about how I will feel the next day; when I am making decisions about what I’m going to eat/not eat or drink/not drink, it’s all with a mind toward the physical state. 

Running functions not just on the physical level but on the mental—I run without my phone, without music and use the time to meditate and focus on my breath.  This is enormously therapeutic, stress-relieving and hard to describe.  I know that it clears psychic blockages, allows me to exist in peace and keeps me from reacting to the stress of the city.  Running inspires my entire life—I love better, I listen better, I work better as a result.  Yes, I often get some of my favorite ideas while running but that is just a natural overflow… the channels get cleared, the mind is free to ramble and bounce along. Running is a portal to the subconscious, a physical activity that opens up [that] very creative space. 

Gastronomista:  New York is an amazing city for running.  What are some of your favorite routes around town?

Sam Anderson:  So true!  New York has an embarrassment of riches for the adventurous runner and cyclist—bridges, greenways, waterfronts, parks, access to trails.  If there’s one thing I miss about NYC when I’m traveling, it’s this.  BridgesQueensboro in particular.  I love the dim, gothic solitude of that bridge but also the way it crosses over right into the heart of the city, seeming to be lying right across the ribcage of the city. I love the approaches to the bridge via the waterfronts and then connecting it with the Manhattan bridge and its views of the lower part of the city.  That loop; I lose myself completely, lost in the dream of it all on those 16-17 miles. I love running late at night and in the early morning on the waterfronts and love the long stretches between bridges out to Red Hook.  I love, more than anything, escaping to the trails outside New York

A post shared by Sam Anderson (@sam4nderson) on

Gastronomista:  You’ve been involved in some amazing running campaigns, including Adidas Running, tell us more about how these amazing opportunities came to be, and what you’ve got lined up for the future.

Sam Anderson:  Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to have collaborated with some photographers on creating photos and content that capture my experience of training—the elation that it can produce, the flow.  I was also on the cover of Runaway Magazine, a brand new running publication that people really dug.   This content was never staged… always captured in a race or on long runs, so you really feel that energy.  Recently, I filmed and shot with Adidas, working Mark Seliger and then later with Hypebeast on a piece that I got to style and do the location scouting for.

Hypebeast x adidas - PureBOOST DPR - New York from VIDSETT on Vimeo.

Lined up in the future—I have a full season of races coming up.  The big one is that I’m running my 4th New York Marathon this fall to benefit City Harvest.  Also will be running Boston and Lehigh Marathons.  I also have a number top-secret projects that are all in utero at the moment… wish I could reveal all but I can’t!

Gastronomista:  What tips do you have for balancing fitness, nutrition, and hydration with a busy work schedule in the hospitality industry?

Sam Anderson:  I’m still trying to get that one down myself.  But, putting myself on a training schedule has been really helpful—the hospitality world is very unpredictable and stressful. So having a set routine that I follow every day that keeps me in shape, gives me mental space for meditation and reflection and keeps me grounded.  This has been life-changing.  Otherwise, you’re at the whims of the wind.

Photo Courtesy of Sam Anderson
Gastronomista: So, while we've established that you've become super disciplined about your daily routines, you are also passionate about the today's hospitality industry.  What are your favorite bars right now?

Sam Anderson:  I love Metta (killer sourdough bread, local fire-roasted veg dishes, super clean and fresh food that tastes so good it’s hard to believe it’s so good for you, emphasis on classic cocktails and natty wine), Four Horsemen (my favorite wine list in the city, food and service are also like butter), Karasu, The Bar at the Grill, Cervo’s.  Cocktail and Wine Bars: Dante, Mace, June Wine Bar, Air’s Champagne Parlor, Maison Premeire, Attaboy, Hotel Delmano.  I love a good dive bar as well—Sunny’s, The Alibi and Sophie’s are all favorites of mine.

Gastronomista: If you could visit any bar anywhere in the world, at any point in history, what bar would you visit?  Who would you have a drink with?

Sam Anderson:  I would have loved to have shared a pint with Joe Strummer after he ran the Paris Marathon.

Gastronomista: What drives the creative process for you when you're creating cocktails?  Any tricks of the trade you can share?

Sam Anderson:  My creative process is driven by simply being open.  And what I mean by that is being open to inspiration wherever it may come from—music, art, film, food, something someone says to you, something you read… I rarely am inspired by another cocktail or from a drink of some sort, honestly.  I think it’s really important to know your venue, know your guests and what will resonate with them rather than forcing a concept or a perspective on them.  Also, keep it simple!!!

Gastronomista: This series is sponsored by Campari America; would you mind sharing a recipe  or two made with Campari America products with us?

Tingling Negroni
Created by Sam Anderson

1-1/2 oz Gin
3/4 oz Campari
3/4 oz Zirbenz Pinecone Liqueur

Stir with orange peel.
Strain over a large, single rock.

Add 4-5 drops of Szechuan peppercorn oil and a roll of seaweed.

Created by Sam Anderson of Mission Chinese

1 oz Blanco Tequila
1/2 oz Mezcal
1/2 oz Giffard Passionfruit
1/2 oz Campari
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
Shake all ingredients, and strain over ice.  Garnish with fresh flowers.

For more follow Sam Anderson on Instagram.

Thank you for supporting the brands that make this blog possible.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Perfect Pairings: Oysters & Sauvignon Blanc

Oysters are one of my favorite delicacies.  They are one of those amazing foods that feel both simple and luxurious at the same time and are an exciting treat on the beach or in a sophisticated restaurant.  I love nestling up to the bar at Balthazar for a few freshly shucked oysters and a glass of wine, but even more, I love sucking my own at home with a few bottles of wine. 

Brancott Estate made my dreams come true when they sent me a case of their Sauvignon Blanc and an oyster shucking kit complete with level 5 cut-resistant gloves and a shucking knife.  Included was a bottle of their classic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, The Letter Series 'B' Sauvignon Blanc, and the Flight Song Sauvignon Blanc

Needless to say, I immediately went to the store and picked up 18 oysters and my oyster party was born. 

I love briny oysters, so I picked up the briniest they had: 6 Barron Point, 6 Barcats, and 6 Kumamotos.  I made my own Mignonette Sauce with red wine vinegar, shallots, and freshly cracked pepper, and served it along side these beautiful bivalves. 

I opened the three bottles of wine, and served a glass of each for everyone, and we dug in.  First of all, Sauvignon Blanc and oysters is a perfect pairing with oysters, and are especially delicious with briny oysters.  I've never done a mix and match pairing with three different wines and different styles of oysters, but I loved it, and so did my guests. 

It was really interesting how the flavors of each oyster changed with each wine, and how each oyster kind of naturally gravitated towards its best wine pairing.  I really loved the Barcats with the Flight Song, and the Barron Points with the Letter Series, and the flagship Sauvignon Blanc with...everything.

Although I styled this shoot inside, I recommend shucking outside where spills and flying oyster shells won't be an issue.  Do yourself a favor and pick up those level 5 protective gloves and some dedicated dishtowels; those oyster knives are sharp, slip easily, and no one wants to lose a thumb. 

There are still a few months left to summer, which means lots of time to have your own Oyster & Sauvignon party.  I think I have a new summertime tradition in the making, this party may need to become an annual celebration! 


Tasting Notes:

Brancott Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc:  The Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is the flagship wine of Brancott Estate, and is an exquisite Sauvignon Blanc.  This wine is sweet and crisp with flavors of grapefruit, citrus, pear, tropical fruit, with a slight vegetal note and an underlying saltiness (my favorite).  You can never go wrong with this wine.  Never.

Brancott Estate Letter Series 'B' Sauvignon Blanc:  The Letter Series 'B' is a great Sauvignon Blanc for Chardonnay lovers.  It is a bit more round on the palate due to its time on oak, yet has bright flavors of grapefruit, guava, passion fruit, white peaches, and a crisp vegetal note signature to all Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blancs.   

Brancott Estate Flight Song Sauvignon Blanc:  The Flight Song is the lightest of the three wines, in both alcohol level and calories.  It is light and crisp with flavors of grapefruit, lemon, and tropical fruit with nice minerality.  I'm such a big fan of this wine - a glass of cold Flight Song is perfection on a hot summer day. 

Mignonette Sauce

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup minced shallots (I like them roughly chopped, but that's just me)
1/4 t ground pepper

Mix in a bowl and serve with freshly shucked oysters.

Styling Notes:

Silver Oyster Forks - Vintage
Silver & Glass Pitcher - Vintage
Silver Trays - Vintage
Bottle Opener - Viski
Gold Coasters - Ikea
Glasses: Riedel

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Butterfly Pea Blue Bitter Spritz

When I first read about Butterfly Pea Tea and its amazing color-changing properties, I knew it was just a matter of time before I had an idea for it.  Today is that day. 

I recently received a bottle of Luxardo Bitter Bianco, a clear, bitter liquor that omits the crimson color that we all know and love.  Its slightly ivory hue opens up a world of possibilities in the cocktail department, one that gets me extremely excited.  But what to make?  Seeing that it's Summer, a Spritz came to mind, but not just any Spritz however, a Blue Spritz!

I knew these were going to be a hit, so I simply placed the whole flowers into the bottle of Bitter Bianco, and let it sit for about an hour.  It quickly changed from white, to pale blue, to dark blue.  (It's a really pretty blue, too.) 

I filtered out the flowers using a sieve and a bowl, and poured the blue bitter liqueur back into the bottle.  Amazingly, the new color matched the logo perfectly.  Kismet.

If you don't know, part of the magic of the Butterfly Pea Tea is that it changes color when acid is added to it, thereby changing the pH balance.  Fortunately, I like spritzes with a big squeeze of lemon juice (because I'm a rebel like that), resulting in purple-hued spritzes. 

Perhaps what I love the most about this drink is that you can easily create a rainbow of drinks depending on how much bitter you add and how much acid you add.  If you like your Spritzes with the traditional 3:2:1 ratio, that works perfectly too. 

The tea added a slight floral note to the spirit - but I have found that Luxardo products have a lot of flavor happening in them already.  The fruity flavors of rhubarb and gentian are extremely evident, as is the dried orange peel, with a slight raspberry flavor.  The floral note of the tea adds a bit more complexity, which is wonderful for summer sipping. 

I hope you guys have fun with this variation on a classic, I know I sure did. 

Butterfly Pea Blue Spritz
Modified by Gastronomista

3 oz Prosecco
2 oz Butterfly Pea Tea Infused Luxardo Bitter Bianco
1 oz Soda Water

Garnished with an Orange Slice

Butterfly Pea Purple Spritz
Modified by Gastronomista

3 oz Prosecco
2 oz Butterfly Pea Tea Infused Luxardo Bitter Bianco
1 oz Soda Water
1/4 Lemon Wedge Squeezed

Garnish with a fresh flower and a lemon wedge.

Butterfly Pea Tea Infused Luxardo Bitter Bianco

1 Bottle of Luxardo Bitter Bianco
1/4 Cup Dried Whole Flower Butterfly Pea Tea

Add flowers to open bottle and infuse for 1 hour.  Strain tea through a sieve, and pour back into the bottle.  Shelf life: TBD.


This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Anchor Distilling. All opinions are 100% mine.
Thank you for supporting the brands that make this blog possible.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Gastronomista on the Speed Rack Syposium - Cocktails & Media

About a month ago, Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix from Speed Rack asked me to be on the Media Panel for the annual Speed Rack Symposium.  I was extremely honored to be asked to be a part of the panel, especially because of who else was on the panel: Kate Krader Food Editor at Bloomberg Pursuits, Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau of Punch, and Amanda Schuster of Alcohol Professor.  Dana Cowin, formerly the Editor-in-Chief of Food and Wine Magazine led the conversation (and did a banger job). 

Needless to say, I cleared my calendar to make sure I could be a part of it.

It was incredible to be on a panel surrounded by professionals that I deeply respect on so many different levels.  The conversation ranged from brand building, to how far the cocktail industry has come in the last decade, to thoughts on being a woman in a male-dominated industry.  The most poignant take-away for me was that female bartenders don't want to be called out as female bartenders anymore, they just want to be acknowledged for doing great work.  Writers: stop pitching "Top 10 Female Bartender" stories.  Seriously, stop it.

If you have an hour, please listen in.  It was an amazing conversation, one that I learned a great deal from.  I also had an opportunity to wax on poetically about many of the behind the scenes moments of working on Gastronomista: from the failures, the successes, to the daily struggles.  A rare, raw moment from this Boozy Babe.

Get your headphones ready, and please leave comments below to continue the conversation:

Thank you Supercall!

Huge thanks to Supercall for featuring the Gastronomista Shop in their story, Gorgeous Jewelry That Will Show Off Your Love of Booze!  Check out the whole story here:

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Campari America Spirited Connections Interview Series: Alan Cumming

It is with much excitement that I share the latest interview in the Campari America #SpiritedConnections series with the one and only Alan Cumming

When I found out that I would have the privilege to interview Mr. Cumming on this here little blog, I was nervous and excited (but mostly nervous) about what to ask him.  It was incredibly daunting to come up with questions to ask a man who has been featured in every publication under the sun, and has won countless awards ranging from Emmys to Tonys to Independent Spirit Awards.  But there have been more than awards for his acting; he has also won accolades for his humanitarian work, his involvement with the community, and literary awards for his incredibly raw and personal books. (If you're feeling like an under-achiever right about now - I get it.)  He is a true inspiration - someone who cares about people: their ability to be different in what ever way they choose and to live in a world without judgement or persecution. 

After receiving the responses back from Mr. Cumming it was incredibly clear to me that we all have something to learn from men like him.  He is a man with a wide and diverse range of passions, and yet, laser focus about how life should be lived: unapologetically

Without further ado, Mr. Cumming on Campari, authenticity, and a little bit of mischief.

Gastronomista:  Mr. Cumming – first of all - it is a great pleasure to interview you for my #SpiritedConnections series in partnership with Campari America.  I have been a fan of your work for many years from the silver screen to the stage to your work as an activist.  What inspired you to become involved in philanthropy and can you tell us a bit more about the organizations you work with?

Alan Cumming:
  I’m Scottish and I feel I am genetically programmed to fight injustice anywhere! Seriously though, I do feel that growing up in a country whose values are all about trying to ensure that no one slips through the cracks, and looking out for each other, where profit is not always society’s goal – that really forms you, or, it has me, and because of the platform I have, I am able to make a difference.

Gastronomista:  You have been notoriously outspoken about your sexuality throughout your career.  How do you think that being so direct and open has inspired those in the LGBT community?

Alan Cumming:  I don’t see that just being honest should be defined as notorious or outspoken. Actually, I wish I didn’t have to talk about my sexuality as much as I do. It would be great if we got to a place where people from the LGBTQ community didn’t always have a prefix referring to their sexuality and were thought of as humans first. They would never say ‘Straight Actor – Ben Affleck,’ would they? But until we live in a world where there is true equality for LGBT people, I will continue to answer questions about my sexuality without shame.

Gastronomista:  In your opinion, why is philanthropy and awareness especially important for the LGBT community (especially now)?

Alan Cumming:  We’re living in a perilous time. I think that’s pretty clear. Nothing is for sure, and we can’t rely on the advances that have happened for us recently. In times of uncertainty, and with a leader who is as fickle as Trump, it’s all the more important for us to be visible, loud, and with resources. We mustn’t be complacent. All of the good stuff that’s happened of late could easily go.

Gastronomista:  Your recent book, Not My Father’s Son, has won accolades from humanitarian awards to literary awards, to awards for narration and storytelling.  What has been the most amazing part of the journey of writing such a personal book?

Alan Cumming:  I realize that books have different stages. You write them for a reason, and during the writing, you realize the real reason you’re writing them. Then when they come out and the public engages with them, they become something else again. The biggest revelation for me about “Not My Father’s Son” was what a positive effect it had on so many people. My speaking out about an abusive past gave people confidence to deal with theirs, and it also gave them hope. That’s been the most amazing part of the process.

Gastronomista:  How did you get involved with UNHCR, an organization that safeguards the rights of LGBT refugees, and what has been the greatest takeaway from your time as an ambassador for the program?

Alan Cumming:  UNHCR basically contacted me after they saw me retweeting their articles on refugees drowning in the Mediterranean. I feel so strongly that we have to reassess our attitude toward refugees, toward immigrants, and toward the other. We cannot turn our backs. People are fleeing from terror and have nowhere to go. My trip to Lebanon with the UNHCR was absolutely mind blowing. A third of the population of that country is now refugees. A third! Meeting with an LGBT group and hearing their stories of suffering under ISIS only renewed my passion to help in any way I can.

Gastronomista: What inspired you to open a bar (aptly named Club Cumming), and what has been the most surprising thing you have learned through the process.  

Alan Cumming:  Well, it doesn’t open until the middle of September, but the reason I got involved is because I’ve been throwing Club Cumming pop-up parties after my concerts and actually Club Cumming started in my dressing room at Studio 54 after Cabaret. I think I’m just really good at having fun and helping other people to have fun, mainly because I’m not judgmental. I think people enjoy authenticity in any walk of life. This bar is an extension of that ethos. I want it to be all genders, all ages, all sexualities – anyone who’s willing to leave their judgment and prejudice outside and is up for some mischief.

 Gastronomista:  What are your favorite bars right now?

Alan Cumming:  Actually, my favorite bar in New York is the one Club Cumming will replace! Eastern Bloc in the East Village. I’m also a big fan of the Boom Boom Room at the Standard. It’s just the most New York-y of the New York places to go for a late night drink.

Gastronomista:  If you could visit any bar anywhere in the world, at any point in history, what bar would you visit?  Who would you have a drink with?

Alan Cumming:  I’d love to have been in Havana when Hemingway was out on a tear. I love that city and I love how passionate he is. I bet he would be a great drinking companion.

Gastronomista:  This series is sponsored by Campari America; would you mind sharing a recipe for one of your favorite cocktails to make at home?

Alan Cumming:  You take some vodka, some ice and some soda water, mix them all together, and enjoy. I’m a man of catholic taste.

For more, follow Alan Cumming on Instagram or Twitter, and his latest Spotify Mix for Pride Week.

All photos provided by Alan Cumming.

Thank you for supporting the brands that make this blog possible.

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