Who’s killing the electronic cigarette?

That’s the topic of my article for The Ümlaut, a new website published by Jerry Brito and Eli Dourado:

Since no one seriously disputes that using e-cigarettes is far safer than habitually inhaling cigarette smoke, allowing them to compete should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, the law allows the FDA to ban new tobacco products even when they are irrefutably safer than what is already for sale. The agency evaluates applications based not only on the risk to individual users, but also on how they impact smoking cessation and initiation in the population as a whole. If the FDA decides that these effects outweigh the health benefits, it could ban e-cigarettes not because they are dangerous, but rather in spite of their safety.

I feel obliged to make one update to the story. In it I say that the nadir of fear-mongering about e-cigarettes is a doctor from the Mayo Clinic telling journalist Eli Lake that the propylene glycol used in some brands is “similar to antifreeze.” He was recently outdone by a North Carolina doctor who appeared on a local news segment to warn viewers that e-cigarette vapor could be “several thousand degrees” when it hits your lungs. The physics of this would be rather remarkable, as would e-cigarette users’ ability to endure the product if it were true. Michael Siegel has the details and you can watch the segment here.


Achievement unlocked: One decade of blogging

I realized late this afternoon that my blog turns ten today. That’s like retirement age in blog years. Blogging isn’t quite as much fun as it was when I first started, back when bloggers would gather for happy hours based solely on sharing a publication format, subject matter inconsequential. Because we were bloggers! And that was reason enough. Much of what I used to post is now better suited to Twitter and Facebook, and the professionalization of the web makes it more sensible to submit longer content to existing publications than post it here. Nonetheless I’m grateful for those of you who do read this blog and continue to find value in posting, even if SEO has become a bigger consideration than trying to build a daily readership.

I could go on, but in adherence this site’s rules for good blogging…

Rule #1: Be meaningful.

Rule #2: If meaning is elusive, be amusing.

Rule #3: If meaning and amusement are both out of reach, be brief.

… I should probably shut up and post a cocktail recipe.

The Plantain Pisco Sour is exactly what it sounds like, a Pisco Sour sweetened with the spiced plantain syrup I like so much. This is an updated version of a drink I made for competition a few years, minus the foam. Use a good pisco like Campo de Encanto, the kind of pisco that actually tastes like it was distilled from grapes, for best results.

2 oz pisco
3/4 oz spiced plantain syrup
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz Dimmi
1 egg white
bitters, for garnish

Shake everything without ice to aerate the egg white, then shake hard again with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with drops of aromatic bitters. Etch them into tiny hearts for that extra special mixologist touch. (I use Novo Fogo Cherribiscus Bitters that my friend Evan Martin made, but any colorful and aromatic bitter will do.)

And if you’re looking for more drinks to try, remember there’s a whole section of the site devoted to cocktails now.

[Photo by Will Ray.]


Markets not in everything

My article today at The Atlantic looks at the anti-competitive effects of the FDA’s regulation of tobacco:

David Sley wants to sell cigarettes. This, by his own admission, does not make him the most sympathetic person to feature in an article about excessive government regulation. Yet Sley, an aspiring entrepreneur who has spent more than two years trying to navigate the Food and Drug Administration’s new tobacco regulations, has legitimate cause to complain. The entire cigarette industry has been brought to a standstill by the FDA, forbidden from introducing any new products since March 2011. Tobacco companies contend that the agency’s actions rest on uncertain scientific and legal grounds — and, for once, they may be right.

In the article I document Sley’s attempt to launch a new cigarette brand, a process which has dragged on for more than two years without resolution. As you may remember, the Tobacco Control Act was backed and negotiated by Philip Morris, who just might have anticipated such a result.

The extremely slow approval process also bodes poorly for the premium cigar market, which is even more dynamic than that for cigarettes. Cigar lovers should pay close attention when the FDA issues its proposed rules for cigars later this year.

Read the whole thing.


Playing catch up

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. A few things that have come up in the past few weeks:

For Drink Portland, I took a look at three new rye whiskeys that have entered the market.

Year of Aquavit: EcoSalon is on board.

Department of Unlikely Coverage: Gizmodo discovers the Bone Luge. A very in-depth article!

The Oregonian gave Metrovino our first major review since Chef Dustin See took over in the kitchen and gave us high marks.


Reform Oregon’s smoking ban

An Oregonian editorial last week was refreshingly libertarian, calling for same-sex marriage, tuition equity for some undocumented immigrants, restraint on gun control, and even opposition to the state’s smoking ban. I sent in a letter about the last item, which they published today:

The Jan. 12 libertarian-leaning editorial “Protect and expand personal freedom: Agenda 2013” was a breath of fresh air, especially in regard to our state’s excessively stringent smoking ban.

Current law makes few exceptions for businesses that cater to smokers, making it essentially illegal for entrepreneurs to open new cigar bars or smoking lounges even in stand-alone tobacco shops. Regardless of whether one supports a broad smoking ban, it’s difficult to justify forbidding these businesses to open.

Sensible reform would replace the current exemptions, which apply only to venues that have been grandfathered in, with objective guidelines that would allow both existing and aspiring business owners to offer smokers an indoor refuge.

As I reported in the Oregonian in 2011, the promised decline in heart attacks that the smoking ban was supposed to usher in never developed.


Save the stogies

My forthcoming article that I’ve alluded to a couple times this week is now up at The Atlantic:

If a time traveler from the early 1990s were to arrive in the U.S. bars and restaurants of today, what would notice first? Perhaps that the food has become more interesting and varied, or that a perplexing number of diners are photographing it with their remarkable phones. The most obvious change, however, might register on the nose: the nearly complete absence of indoor smoking.

California implemented the United States’ first modern statewide smoking ban in 1998. Today twenty-nine states and 703 municipalities require bars and restaurants to be smoke-free, according to data maintained by the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation (North Dakota brought the tally to thirty states this month). Tobacco use has been banished from our culinary radar along with the question “smoking or non?” Most of us don’t miss it. Yet as a slew of new bans, taxes, and regulations drive smoking to the peripheries of society, it’s worth giving tobacco another look.

Read the whole thing. And for more context on some of the arguments, see my recent posts about the effects of new tobacco taxes and the failure of the FDA to establish an effective regulatory regime.


Spirit of Scandinavia


Last month I completed my collection of all the commercial aquavits distilled in the United States. That’s not as difficult as it sounds, since there are only four of them. However I think that aquavit is a very underrated spirit for mixing into cocktails, so hopefully these four are just the tip of the iceberg. I won’t be surprised if we start seeing aquavit appear on more and more cocktail menus. My latest article for Culinate reviews aquavits from Krogstad, North Shore, Sound Spirits, and Gamle Ode, along with a cocktail recipe for each. Check it out here.

[Photo courtesy of Culinate.]


Behind the scenes at a Spirited Dinner


What does it take to put on a cocktail pairing dinner of four courses for sixty guests with 140 eggs? A lot of shaking, help from friends, and one very powerful blender. My latest post at The Drink Nation goes behind the scenes at our Brewing Up Cocktails Spirited Dinner in New Orleans and includes the recipe for our decadent closing cocktail, the Chocolate Stout Flip.


Give the gift of blue drinks

It’s December 1, which means Christmas is coming up and Sinterklaas and Repeal Day are right around the corner. If you need a gift for the cocktail lover in your life, my recipe guide from 2010 is selling for about six bucks with shipping on Amazon right now and is perfectly sized for stuffing into stockings.


“A bartender would be hard-pressed to use this as his reference at a bar where the average age of the clientèle was under 40. Missing are the Sex on the Beach, the Red-Headed Slut, the Orgasm and the Washington Apple, just to name the first few that come to mind.” — A satisfied Amazon reviewer.

The Cocktail Collective includes more than 200 recipes grouped into chapters by spirit: brandy, gin, rum, tequila, vodka, whiskey, and assorted spirits like aquavit, genever, and amari. There are also introductory notes to each chapter, along with advice for mixing drinks and stocking a home bar. The emphasis is on spirits that are widely available and fresh ingredients that are easy to buy or make, and the spiral binding allows the book to lay flat while in use. (Oh, and there aren’t any actual blue drinks in the book. Sorry.)

Most of the recipes are classics, but there are also a few from me and a bunch from a stellar list of guest contributors:

Anu Apte, Stephen Beaumont, David Buehrer, Frank Cisneros, Ryan Csanky, John Deragon, Michael Dietsch, Ron Dollete, Jabriel Donohue, Meagan Dorman, Camper English, Andrew Finkelman, Ricky Gomez, Peter Gugni, Jenn Hegstrom, Neil Kopplin, Mindy Kucan, Tom Lindstedt, Kevin Ludwig, Elizabeth Markham, Lance Mayhew, Jim Meehan, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Blair Reynolds, Adam Robinson, Matt Robold, Jim Romdall, Stephen Shellenberger, David Shenaut, Chris Stave, Kelley Swenson, Jeremy James Thompson, Keith Waldbauer, Stephen Warner, Allison Webber, Neyah White, Rocky Yeh

Pick it up here to ensure your friends and loved ones don’t have a blue Christmas.


Sherry cocktails at Culinate


My latest column at Culinate gives a little sherry 101 and suggests three ways to mix with it, along with the newest addition to the Metrovino menu, the PX Flip:

2 oz. Pedro Ximinez Sherry
1/2 oz. Angostura bitters
1 whole egg

Shake hard with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg. For the sherry I suggest the Lustau San Emilio PX, which is balanced by more acidity than some other PX sherries.

Sherry has appeared in a few other cocktails on this site, including the Decatur, Walking Spanish, and the Two Item Rule.


Writing at Blue Oregon

I have a post up today at Blue Oregon, a leading progressive site in Oregon that aims to foster “a wide range of voices – from urban sophisticates to gun-truck-and-dog Democrats; from radical vegetarian leftists to cranky government skeptics.” My post is about the previously mentioned proposal to ban smoking in tobacco shops and hookah lounges. Judging from the comments so far, the site’s readership loses tolerance when it comes to consenting adults enjoying tobacco together indoors. However I’m glad to for the opportunity to write there, and perhaps additional attempts at liberaltarian fusion will be more fruitful.


My cocktail recipes, let me show you them

If you were reading this blog back in May you may remember that I was hired to edit a new guide to cocktail recipes:

If you’ve ever flipped through some of the introductory cocktail guides on the market you know that they’re filled with drinks that either shouldn’t be made or were last made at a Miami nightclub sometime in 1978. And while it’s useful to keep a Big Book of Dumb Drinks on hand for reference, it’s also nice to have a Small Book of Good Drinks That People Will Actually Like. That’s basically what I’m working on now.

I’ve teamed up with a local publishing company in the spirits industry that’s been receiving requests from liquor stores to create a quality, inexpensive paperback cocktail guide for bartenders and home enthusiasts. They’re doing the design, layout, and marketing, and I’m doing the writing and editing. The aim is not to create the biggest recipe book on the market or a lengthy text on the craft of bartending. Rather we want to introduce readers to the basics of mixology and spirits and provide them with some quality recipes to explore; in short, to encourage readers to try a Last Word rather than, say, a Sloe Comfortable Screw Up Against the Wall Mexican Style with a Little Bit of English. (Yes, really.)

That guide is now out. It’s called the Cocktail Collective and it looks like this:

OK, so first, the cover. The publisher insisted on this one over my objections, but let me assure you that there are no actual blue drinks in the book. I thought a bright red Negroni would be just as eye-catching and that the blue drink makes the book look outdated. Unless the Japanese trend of putting blue curacao and Midori in lots of drinks is the next thing to catch on here, in which case the cover is in fact ahead of its time. But either way, there are no blue drinks in the book!

(Quick digression: After a recent visit to Mistral Kitchen where Andrew Bohrer served a Vicious Virgin #2, I may have to rethink my hostility to blue drinks. Perhaps the second edition will have a Negroni on the cover and include an entire chapter on blue curacao.)

As for the actual content, the guide includes more than 200 cocktail recipes in chapters devoted to brandy, gin, rum, tequila, vodka, whiskey, and assorted spirits like aquavit, genever, and amari. There are also basic introductions to each spirit, instruction on basic mixing technique, and advice for stocking a home bar. Throughout the emphasis is on spirits that are in reasonably wide distribution and fresh ingredients that require a minimum of preparation. The guide is pocket-sized and spiral bound so that it will lay conveniently flat while one mixes a drink.

The guide is by no means a replacement for the more comprehensive books on the market, but it does fill a niche for an inexpensive cocktail book that’s not filled with terrible recipes some intern cobbled together from the internet. (For those more comprehensive books, see once again Andrew Bohrer, and buy the books he recommends if you want to get serious about cocktails.) It’s a mix of classics, popular drinks, a few of my own cocktails, and contributions from other bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts. The latter greatly improved the quality of the guide. It’s a stellar a list of contributors and I’m very grateful to them for sharing their creations:

Anu Apte, Stephen Beaumont, David Buehrer, Frank Cisneros, Ryan Csanky, John Deragon, Michael Dietsch, Ron Dollete, Jabriel Donohue, Meagan Dorman, Camper English, Andrew Finkelman, Ricky Gomez, Peter Gugni, Jenn Hegstrom, Neil Kopplin, Mindy Kucan, Tom Lindstedt, Kevin Ludwig, Elizabeth Markham, Lance Mayhew, Jim Meehan, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Blair Reynolds, Adam Robinson, Matt Robold, Jim Romdall, Stephen Shellenberger, David Shenaut, Chris Stave, Kelley Swenson, Jeremy James Thompson, Keith Waldbauer, Stephen Warner, Allison Webber, Neyah White, Rocky Yeh

So even if you have plenty of other books full of classic recipes, my guess is that at the very least you’ll find something new and interesting from these folks.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, you can order directly from the publisher here. It’s also available through Amazon. Or if you’re in Portland, we’ll be selling them at Circa 33 this Wednesday, December 22, from 6-8:30 pm. I’ll be guest bartending with my friend Leslie Bucher while we serve a menu of cocktails selected from the guide. Join us for a drink and pick up a last minute stocking stuffer for the cocktail lover in your life.