The Golden State of Cocktails, in 3 drinks

The Golden State of Cocktails, in 3 drinks

Matt Grippo is an East Coast transplant. He is a Bartender and the General Manager of Blackbird Bar in San Francisco. A traveller and purveyor of rare products, Matt is on a quest to take the pretension out of cocktails.

He just joined the justcocktails cadre! Here he reports back from The Golden State of Cocktails, hosted in San Francisco on September 22/23 2014:

Barman Matt Grippo appropriately attired for the duties at helm of Black Bird

Barman Matt Grippo appropriately attired for the duties at helm of Black Bird

 At Blackbird we were lucky enough to host a handful of Golden State competitions and seminars. Over three frenzied days I managed to get away from hosting on home turf to pop my head into several memorable events.

Here were my three Golden State drink highlights.

Blackbird Bar SF

Blackbird SF

Day One:

The G&T. A drink we all take for granted and yet is consistently butchered daily across the
world. The Gin and Tonic was broken down and built back up by Camper English in his Golden State
seminar G&T OMG. (Read: The history of Tonic here)

Golden State Cocktail

Camper English hosts “G&T OMG” seminar in Blackbird for Golden State of Cocktails, 2014

Greeting guests on arrival, a beautiful gin and tonic served in a Spanish style balloon glass with Beefeater gin and a brand new product from Jennifer Colliau, the Yeoman Tonic Syrup.

Yeoman-Tonic-Syrup Golden State of Cocktails


A collaboration between Pernod Ricard and Small Hand Foods, the tonic’s designed to specifically compliment Beefeater Gin. It’s a delicious version with tons of flavor, ridiculously refreshing. The signature recipe promoted by Beefeater is:

1.5 oz Beefeater Gin,

.50 oz Yeoman Tonic syrup 

2.5 oz soda water

Garnished with a lemon wedge.

Camper English served it up with a hearty dose of history.

Golden State of Cocktails

Morgan Schick of Trick Dog (SF) and Eric Quilty of Jupiter Olympus (SF). Shown here with their awesome punch for the Pisco Punch Out Competition that was held at Blackbird for Golden State of Cocktails. Made with Kappa Pisco, Celery pineapple syrup, fresh lemon, pineapple skins, bay laurel infused Riesling and topped with IPA.

The “Pisco Punch Out”

After a long day of learning, we decided to throw our hats in the arena and duke it out in a Pisco punch competition.

4 Pisco Brands and 8 competitors in two rounds. Battling it out in small plastic sample cups. Guests cast a tiny umbrella ‘vote’ into ballot buckets. In the second round, two swarthy young men put the fist into the punch competition. They set up a beautiful punch bowl with a frozen ice mold of flowers and pineapple skin. Giving their shoulders a break for the night, Eric Quilty and Morgan Schick of Jupiter Olympus brought their A-game with a delicious punch made from Kappa Pisco, Celery and Pineapple syrup, Bay Laurel infused Riesling, lemon juice, pineapple and IPA. Well-done gents. (Fun Fact: Kappa (Chile) is produced by Marnier Lapostolle family. The same family that has made Grand Marnier for generations)

Day Two: 

Started off with a seminar on bubbles by one of California’s only Master
Sommeliers, Peter Neptune, a title he shares with only 140 other people in North America.

Neptune’s “Cava Sutra” Seminar covered all things sparkling, from different styles and practices new and old. Peter was a hilarious, engaging speaker with knowledge for days on the subject. One standout tasting at this seminar was my introduction to Brachetto d’ Acqui, an Italian wine with denomination of origin in the Piedmont region. It’s made from the brachetto grape and can be still or sparkling. We sampled a sparkling version from the producer Marenco. This might be one of the best things I’ve tasted in the world of wine. A striking bright red color. It tastes like a bowl of fresh strawberries with bubbles.

Brachetto d’ Acqui is happiness in a glass.” – Peter Neptune

Lastly I have to rave about a drink that came from the most unassuming place, a seminar on batching cocktails for volume. No matter the volume, your bulk cocktail should taste just as good as when it’s made à la minute.
Several people joined forces on this class and represented some of the best cocktail bars in California: Trickdog (SF), Honey Cut (LA), ABV (SF), and Grandpa Johnson’s (LA).

They all shared expertise related to how these bars keep up with high volume demands without sacrificing creativity or quality. Morgan Schick, Bar Manager of Trickdog, shared best practices on what to batch and why. One interesting point Schick made is the idea that you don’t completely batch a drink.

“Preserve some of the show.”, says Schick.

He served the seminar goers a cocktail from Trick Dog’s earlier Horoscope themed menu, The Pisces.

Morgan Schick Golden State of Cocktails (Trick Dog)

Morgan Schick, Bar Manager of Trickdog, knows how to deliver great drinks to high volume demands. Image Credit – Maggie Hoffman (Senior Editor at Serious Eats)

 He explained how the drink was batched for service and broke down the cocktail for the classroom. In the following cocktail, Trickdog would mix the Rum and Vermouth ahead of time. Lime juice and Celery syrup would be measured together and then the third element mixed would be the saline tincture.

The Pisces Cocktail from Trick Dog Bar , San Francisco

The Pisces Cocktail from Trick Dog Bar , San Francisco

The Pisces Cocktail

1.5 oz Angostura 7 year rum,

.50 oz Punt E Mes,

.75 oz celery syrup,

.75 oz fresh lime juice 

A couple of dashes of salt tincture. 

All in all it was a great event. Learning happened, delicious libations were consumed and money raised for charity. Keep an eye out for future events from the Golden State of Cocktails team on their website. The third installment will be happening in San Diego in November, 2014.

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