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Categories: deluxe mixology

Accelrys “Raise Your Game” Cocktail Night

deluxe | mixology was privileged to make drinks for Accelrys’ annual sales kick-off party at the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla.

In order to impress the 250 employees, we were asked to incorporate various aspects of molecular mixology into the different drinks. We decided on 4 cocktails, each with its own unique twist. Since craft cocktails are our specialty, we were happy to bring in some molecular mixologists for consulting and ideas that really took our cocktails to the next level.

Here’s a list of our drinks:

Smoke-Infused Old Fashioned

Smoke-infused bourbon, organic sugar, bitters, orange peel, cherry

For this drink we constructed a simple old-fashioned but added a twist. After each drink was made we smoked it using a smoke gun and different flavored wood chips to really add a different element. The smoke hit the nostrils and added a rich aroma before the initial sip.

Cactus Cooler

Reposado tequila, lemon, lime, agave, raspberry cotton candy

A great San Diego drink and our own take on the margarita. The cotton candy was added to an ice-filled margarita glass. After the drink was shaken, it was strained over the cotton candy, which provided some visual stimulation. Since the liquefied sugar was heavier than the rest of the liquids, it sank to the bottom of the glass and added a blue hue to the rest of the drink. It also made for a sweeter finish.

Chai Brandy Punch

Jamaican rum, brandy, milk, chai tea, brown sugar, nutmeg

A simple but tasty punch that brought more of a wintery feel to the event. Reminiscent of eggnog, this punch was our “dessert” drink that guests could enjoy after their meal. For theatrics, we added dry ice that bubbled and smoked in the mixture throughout the night.

Einstein’s Elixir

Prosecco, St. Germain, Crème de Violette caviar

This was our signature cocktail. Sweet and bubbly but with the crème de violette caviar in each cocktail, guests were able to experience one of the cooler aspects of molecular mixology. With a sip of prosecco and elderflower followed by a bite of crème de violette and a rush of flavor, this was the favorite of the event.

Overall our drinks were received well and Kevin and I had a great time working with some old colleagues and new partners. We want to give a shout out to a few people for helping make this event possible. Thanks for all of your help!

Oscar Olivares, Mindful Mixology

Frank Giganti, Mixology Bartending Academy

Derwayne Chesterman, Liquid Syndicate

Ryan Caliendo, Caliendo Photography

Elizabeth Eldredge, Accelrys Event Coordinator

Categories: Past Events

New Year’s Party

deluxe | mixology  was called upon to help bring in the New Year by mixing at a fun-filled party downtown! It was a smaller gathering in a hotel suite which provided a more intimate setting but after the spirits started flowing we might as well have been at a bar!  All juices were hand pressed and fresh. Only the best for our friends!

Here’s the menu:


Black Cherry Cosmo

Effen Black Cherry Vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice, lime juice



Belvedere Vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice, lime juice


Lemon Drop

Belvedere Vodka, Cointreau, fresh lemon sour


Apple Cran

Belvedere Vodka, apple juice, cranberry juice


Sour Patch Jack

Jack Daniels, fresh lemon sour


Categories: deluxe mixology

Bartenders Guild Karlsson’s Vodka Christmas Party

deluxe | mixology had its first ever US Bartenders Guild event last Monday. Karlsson’s Vodka hosted the annual Christmas party (ugly sweaters included!) in the upper bar/room at the Lincoln Room in downtown San Diego.

Kevin and I both had a great time rockin’ our sweaters (reindeer and Christmas trees along with a Buddy the Elf hat) and mingling with the local talent. Bartenders came from all venues including Nobu, the Hilton, Prohibition, Nicky Rotten’s, and Snake Oil Cocktail Co. We also got to meet Monetta Ennis, the area sales manager from Karlsson’s Vodka which I enjoyed because I was interested in what Karlsson’s was about and she was more than happy to share all about the company.

As it turns out, Karlsson’s takes the flavorless aspect of vodka and turns it on its head. Rather than producing a neutral spirit, Master Blender Borje Karlsson created a recipe that showcased Sweden’s famous staple in the form of a hand-made blend of seven varieties of virgin potatoes from the exclusive Cape Bjäre in the south of Sweden. The vodka is carefully distilled once (not the usual 6 or 7 times), in an unfiltered process that keeps the characteristics and flavors of the unique ingredients. What you get is a vodka with natural, not neutral, taste and quite a different vodka experience.

I tried it so I could witness how Karlsson’s was different. First in a punch, then on the rocks and lastly as a shot. The punch was tasty and didn’t leave much room to experience the vodka. However, when I drank it on the rocks I was met with a smooth alcohol and an earthy, potato flavor that added a richness and depth to an otherwise bland spirit. The shot went down easily enough but as this is a sipping vodka I’d try to stay away from shooting it unless the party is really bad.

Definitely liked the flavor as it opens up unlimited combinations of drink concoctions but  can also be enjoyed on its own.

Appetizers were made their way around as well, all of which were tasty. Overall the party was a sweet way to meet up with a bunch of San Diego barkeeps, try some great booze, and spread a little Christmas spirit (!) – bartender style. A special thanks to Karlsson’s for putting it on and thanks to the Guild for the Williams-Sonoma floating mulling spice ball.

Wishing everyone from the Guild, Karlsson’s Gold, and the Lincoln Room a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Categories: Reviews

Interview with Pillbox Brewery’s Brendan McClenahan

Brendan lives in Encinitas, CA and began brewing as a hobby in the summer of 2009. He founded Pillbox Brewery and started a club where people can pay to join and taste each batch he makes. He also does tastings, private trainings, and small events such as weddings and private parties.

How did you get started? Any inspiration?

I went to Stone Brewery in Escondido with my friend Calvin. We toured the facility and learned all about the process of how to brew. Although I had no previous experience, I enjoy cooking and gardening and was encouraged to try it out. I began reading books and researching dozens of websites, and found many contradictions in the process. Everyone had their own way of brewing. I was determined to find a way that was simple, but yet yielded great tasting beer.

How did you come up with the name, Pillbox Brewery?

I first stated brewing at my parent’s place in Solana Beach, which overlooks the surf spot called Pillbox. Seemed like a good name to me.

Tell us about your process of brewing.

Brewing beer is like making tea with barley. First you steep the grains in 150-degree water. This releases the sweet fermentable sugars called dextrose. After removing the spent barley, you bring the water to a boil and add hops. After an hour you let it cool, put it in a bucket, add yeast, and store it in a dark area for 2 weeks. The yeast eats all that sugar and creates alcohol and CO2. Then I add a little more sugar, bottle and cap it.

Is there anything you do differently than most?

My process is less complicated than most. I choose to keep the process simple and let the ingredients do the work. I am big on sanitation. Basically nothing that hasn’t been sanitized can touch the beer after the boil. But even with minor mistakes, my beer turns out great.

What types of beer have you brewed and what were your favorites?

I have probably made 20-25 batches over the last couple years, and none of them the same. My favorite was either a Belgian Strong Ale called Soren Kierkegaard or a clone of the Dog Fish Head 90 minute IPA called TyPA. I also made a variation of that called Hoppy Pistotti for a friend’s wedding.  Sometimes I’ll experiment with fun beers like my Maple Ale, Double Chocolate Stout, Peppermint Stout and a Hefeweizen/Cider called Wassailweisen.

How do you decide what flavors to add?

The sky is the limit – you can make any type of beer. Basically, whatever would go well with bread would be good in beer. Apples, cloves, apricots, chocolate, etc. all make great beer.

Though I don’t use adjuncts often anymore. It’s fun to fool around with that stuff but the best beer I’ve made is simply barley, water, hops and yeast. I guess that’s what the german reinheitsgebot is all about.

Have you ever experimented with beer cocktails?

No, never even thought of it, but maybe you could take one of mine and serve it back to me all spruced up!

What has been your biggest success and biggest failure?

Biggest failure was a recent batch of Westvleterenga No. 12 that I was brewing, which was spilling out the top of the airlock during primary fermentation. I went to replace the dirty airlock, but when I took it off it erupted. Beer sprayed like a geyser into my face, up to the ceiling, and all over the floor! Don’t try this at home, kids. The good news is that it dripped from my hair down my face and into my mouth, and I loved the taste :)

Biggest success was the TyPA I made. It was a big step forward for me in terms of creating a very complex hop profile and balancing that against a mature full body.

What recommendation would you give someone who wants to learn?

Read “The Joy of Home Brewing” by Charlie Papazian.  Also, talk to a friend or someone who brews and do it with them or borrow their equipment before you make the investment. Once you start yourself, it is a messy journey of trial and error and learning to be creative. Be prepared to make mistakes and learn throughout the process.

What is needed to start home brewing?

I would tell people to visit Brewmasters Warehouse. They have everything you need to get started. Once you have tried out the starter kits, and are feeling a bit more adventurous, you can build your own recipe using the custom recipe kit application. Not only can you add your own ingredients, but the application will help with quantities and give you an idea of how the beer will turn out. Most of my recipes are public, so you can even order my exact beers. They also ship your entire order from Georgia for $7, no matter what you order.

What are your favorite local breweries and why?

San Diego has some great breweries. My favorites are Green Flash, Pizza Port, and Ballast Point. They’re making some awesome beer. There are other great craft breweries all around the country that are all worth a shot. For example, I just tasted Hess for the first time – it was their abbey ale and was seriously impressed! I’d love to go for a visit and see what they do. I’m not much of a beer snob, I just have a ton of respect for any brewery that’s willing to put themselves out there and try new things.

Would you consider selling it or do you want to drink it all yourself?

Oh man the legal side of that is super complicated. I kind of get around all that with a club I set up where members contribute and end up drinking almost all of the beer I make. Besides that I love to do beer tastings for groups, brew a batch for a local wedding or other event. But before I have any huge aspirations I want a few more years to really nail down my recipes and invest in equipment.

How much is it to join the club? What can members expect?

I ask them to give $50 per year and in return they can have pretty much as many beers as they want for the whole year. I brew about 9 five-gallon batches per year, which comes out to like 450 bottles. So there are around 30 beers for 15 or so members. But I could make whatever work. I just love to share it.

Obviously most people don’t brew to save money, but for the art. But how does making your own beer compare to buying it in stores?

 The reason I do it is for the craft and experience. Actually, I don’t even drink most of the beer I make. It either goes to members in the club or I give it away. I can make a bottle for about $1.00-1.50. That is right on par with many other craft beers in stores, but I have the satisfaction of making it myself. I may switch to all grain brewing next year, which would cut down on my costs because I wouldn’t have to buy extracts. In order to make that leap, I need to invest in more equipment and hit the books to figure out a totally new system. Yes, it’s less expensive, but hopefully it will give me more control over the taste and quality of the beer.

Feel free to contact me on Facebook with any questions or ideas!

Categories: Interviews

2nd Annual El Dorado Bartender Challenge

On November 29th, deluxe | mixology attended the 2nd Annual El Dorado Bartender Challenge. In Iron Chef style, bartenders from all different venues in San Diego faced off against one another with only their skill and experience (plus a secret ingredient that was only revealed immediately before each round) to rely on. It was a friendly competition with an assortment of personalities, hats, and banter, but overall was a cool way to see the local talent in action. Among the contestants were last year’s winner Anthony Schmidt from Noble Experiment, Prohibition’s Tim Stevens, and Christian Siglin from Craft & Commerce.

4 of the 8 contestants competed in the first round and the next 4 followed in the second. The 5 featured judges were looking for originality, presentation, and balance of the concoctions. Each scored the three categories from 1-10. The “secret ingredient” for these two rounds was Kahlua, and bartenders used ingredients like gin, Campari, and mint, among other ingredients.

Sarah Ellis from Jayne’s Gastropub, Tim Stevens, Anthony Schmidt, and Dustin Haarstad, co-founder of Blind Tiger, were the winners of the first round.

For the next round, an herbal bitters liqueur called Becherovka from Czech Republic was decided for the “secret ingredient.” Tim and Dustin went first. Tim created a drink using mostly lemon, a hint of lime, Benedictine, and apricot. While Dustin took the round, Tim made it clear to me after the competition that his drink was still pretty tasty. “I tasted it. I didn’t know if it was gonna win but I was like ‘that’s a good fu#$ing drink! I’d drink the sh!@ outta that drink!'”

Anthony’s bourbon highball with bitters and ginger defeated Sarah’s “Swizzle My Nizzle” with gin and fresh lime juice in the following round putting last year’s winner and Dustin Haarstad in the finals.

The bartenders took a break before the last round so it was the opportune time to try a drink from El Dorado’s Fall Cocktail Menu. I went with a Honey Badger (rye, honey, bitters) while Kevin opted for a Moscow Mule (vodka, lime juice, ginger beer, bitters). Both were simple yet tasty and we appreciated the freshness of the beverages.

For the final round the “secret ingredient” was a Spanish sherry. Both Anthony and Dustin looked calm and ready and the TV screens  on either side of the bar showcased both mixologists fashioning their drinks. The 4 minute round ticked away and after the time ran out, judges started tasting. After a few minutes the judges turned in their score sheets and the points were tallied.

With the points added up the winner was announced: Noble Experiment’s Anthony Schmidt, the now two time El Dorado Bartender Challenge champion. We watched him take a celebratory chug from his trophy after being announced. For his drink Anthony went with Famous Grouse, lemon juice, and honey and it tipped the judges just the right way. Congrats to Anthony!

Definitely a cool event and it was fun to see the local talent competing against each other and doing what they do best: mixing drinks! Thanks to El Dorado for putting this on!

Categories: Reviews

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