Master Mixologist Tony Abou-Gamin and La Diva enjoy a classic daiquiri cocktail.
Darlings! Last weekend the South Beach Food & Wine Festival was in town and throngs of well-heeled and well-fed foodies were everywhere, crowding up Diva's streets and taking over my beach! It was only a few days before the shindig started when I got the call from my lovely agent Peggi asking me to join her for an event at the W Hotel South Beach:
" Chasing Ernest Hemingway with Tony Abou-Ganim"
Ernest Hemingway was not only a great writer, bull fighting aficionado, big game hunter and sport fisherman but he was also a notoriously famous imbiber. Join Tony Abou-Ganim as he takes you on a journey to some of Hemingway’s most famous haunts. From the classic Daiquiri’s at the El Floridita to his Mojito at the Bodeguita del Medio in Havana, Cuba. Next you’ll follow Hemingway as he makes a stop at Harry’s Bar in Venice to enjoy a Bellini before arriving in Paris for Absinthe Drips at Clos Des Lilas, a Bloody Mary at Harry’s New York Bar and a final stop for a Death in the Afternoon at his namesake bar inside the Ritz. This is sure to be an educational and entertaining look into some of the world’s most famous libations and the man who made them legendary!
Tony's demonstration table complete with absinthe drip and other bartender accoutrement.
Actually, I'd heard about Tony before and knew that for the past few years he demonstrated at a cocktail event for the festival, so La Diva was more than intrigued. Over the years, I've seen my share of wanker "mixologists" full of "attitude" and "flair." (I LOATHE flair bartending, just make my drink already fer Chrissakes.) So, yes, I'll admit it, I did wonder if Tony would be in that genre of bartending egomaniacs that La Diva cannot stomach?
The place mat set before me was titillating! Would we be drinking ALL of these?! Diva hoped so!
Tony came out and before his demo, I asked for a photo and without hesitation, he put his arm around me and with a big smile, planted a kiss on my cheek. I was taken by his immediate warmth and friendliness, the signs of a great bartender. "I think I'm going to enjoy this!"
Tony began telling stories of Hemingway and the drinks Papa invented and enjoyed. Engaging and funny, Tony not only kept my attention but actually taught me a few things as well! We went through making of a classic lime daquiri and then he talked all about absinthe. Charming and informative, he was more than happy to take questions. When I made a comment about loving champagne, he gave me the absinthe champers cocktail in his hand. It was unique and delicious!
The next thing you know, Tony had asked if anyone made mojitos at home? Well, of course, La Diva has made a few and he asked me up on "stage" to help him. When I got up to the demo table, I was aghast to see a GIANT WOODEN MUDDLER next to the ice tub. Being the joker I am, La Diva COULD NOT resist saying,
"Hey, Tony, I like your big muddler."
Well, that was it. We were OFF! Tony "went with it" and the double entendres flew, we had a great time! What a great sense of humor Tony had and also was a very good sport. (La Diva is certain that others performing at this festival just would not tolerate anyone stealing their thunder!) Just like Diva at her demos, Tony worked off the vibe from his audience and we had everyone laughing! It was a blast!
Yep, there is TONY'S BIG MUDDLER! I mean, c'mon, it WAS a bit rude, ya know?! But all jokes aside, Tony and La Diva take our cocktail making quite seriously.
Seeing that I've worked as a cocktail bartender for YEARS, I was curious to find out if I'd learn anything new from this event. Indeed I did. Tony had me using a Lewis bag to crush the ice for the mojito. Apparently back before ice crushers were invented, bartenders would use this heavy canvas bag to beat their ice into lovely little pieces, perfect for the mojito and DIVINE after a long, stressful day. And yes, that MOJITO WAS DAMN GOOD. I might just have to introduce this old school technique to my class!
Of course, Tony was flogging his own mixology book and both La Diva and Peggi felt compelled to buy it. Ok, I know, I KNOW! I have SO MANY cookbooks from the last two years, I didn't really need ONE MORE. But, I am not in possession of a quality BAR book of cocktails and I thought Tony to be so interesting and educated, I was happy to support him by purchasing his book.
Tony told me he almost signed it "MY" muddler but didn't want to get me in trouble with my husband! Wise man. Haha!
When I got home I took a look at his book. Thorough, educational and beautiful, it covers the history of certain cocktails, bar tools and what they are used for and original cocktail recipes as well as Tony's take on some classic libations. The book also covers garnishes, flavored syrups and what fruit goes best with what spirit in what season, very useful indeed. I would highly recommend it for the home bartender or any cocktail aficionado. If you'd like to purchase "The Modern Mixologist," click HERE. And for a great interview with Tony talking about his tome, click HERE.
La Diva, Tony and his Big Muddler, God love 'im. Ciao for now, darlings!
If YOU'D like to learn more about how to make cocktails and have a ball with La Diva, come to my "small bites, BIG DRINKS" cooking and cocktail classes! More info HERE!