COCKTAIL PHOTOGRAPHY – HOW TO DO IT BETTER?

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Ever since i started blogging about cocktails and spirits a year ago i have struggled with taking my pictures in an environment that isn´t the best when it comes to light as i live in a very dark apartment and there´s really nowhere to go outside either. But in a bad situation you try to do the best that you can and sometimes you need to be inventive.

I take my pictures is in the kitchen with the kitchen fluorescent light in the roof as the light source apart from a little small metal halogen light i use sometimes to brighten it up. There isn´t much daylight coming in from the windows unfortunately as there´s huge cherry trees and a garage next to the building that blocks most light. To combat the poor light i try to use different angles and play with shadows.

I think i really need to make myself a light-box of some kind, Rumdood made one and his pictures are great. Cocktailnerd uses both a lightbox and outdoor backgrounds as far as i can see when browsing his blog and his pictures too are great. Making a light box doesn`t have to be expensive if you use cartons, its mainly the lights you need that may cost a bit. I wish one of the bloggers that have made their own lightbox (Dood..hint) would make a blog post about how to do it with drawings or pictures in some tutorial style.

Another thing is the camera. I have a very simple pocket-camera which i use with the macro that is available which isn`t very good. I want my pics to be bright but under these light circumstances its a bit hard. I´ve been told that my drinks looks like they do in a bar which in a way isn´t necessarily a bad thing  but i would prefer to be able to take bright yet natural looking pictures. And then i rather would like to be able to choose whenever i want a picture to be dark like it would in a bar. And besides, i`m quite “tired” of being kicked out of tastespotting everytime because they think my pictures are too dark..

During Drinkwrite 2009 in New Orleans there was a cocktail photography session with Jamie Bodreau, Darcy O`Neill and Rick Stutz – all three of them taking amazing pictures. The main points in short, made during the photo-session were these:

A_- You dont need to have the most expensive equipment to take good pictures but if you have good stuff, it helps. Look for cameras that are good with low-light and close-up-macros.

B – Daylight is always the best.

C – Get a good lens/lenses.

D – Indoors, cheap desk-lamps will do.

E – Things to consider – visual interest, surfaces one or two, neutral background example – paper. Glassware is important, try to vary, look in 2nd hand shops. Garnish of the cocktail is important for the final touch.

F – The lowest possible number you shoot, the more light you`ll have.

G – try to get a macro of 12.

I wonder how many cocktail bloggers out there struggle with the same problems as i do when it comes to cocktail photography?

When i was in the US i was lucky to have a chance to take pictures in natural light outdoors and to experiment using a paper background versus using a natural background with plants etc by the fishpond and here are two different pics of my a little bit crazily garnished tikidrink “Mixohouse cocktail” which was made for the New Orleans TDN.

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I myself think the one with paper background looks better as the neutral background lifts the cocktail into focus. So a neutral background is important but it doesnt have to be white or of paper, but it needs to be “calm”. At home i`m using a dark brown straw-mat that i hang up in the kitchen. It works quite well though even if its dark in there, you can see it at the picture on the top.

I find the pic at the left better when it comes to brightness, the right one is a bit too dark, i would have liked to see the mint more bright green as it is in the left pic as well as the cherry more exposed. But both pics are taken in daylight which i think is the best light to use. That said doesn´t mean there´s no way to get good pics indoors, you just need good equipment and good light. (light-box again)

There are a few blogs out there with some tremendously fantastic photos, i hope to get there some day – and photographing is really fun. I also look a lot at food pictures, there´s much to learn from the foodies and food in my opinion isn´t the most easy subject to photograph.

Another important thing is the after-work. The exposure, color balance, sharpness, brightness and contrast are a few very important factors for a good end result. At the same time i don´t want my pics to be too much processed either, i want them as natural as i can get yet there´s occasions when its nice with a really “dreamy” picture.

In any case to me the main thing is – i want the cocktails too look appetizing enough to make you want to drink them.

Its just like with food pictures, if it makes you crave it or feel something then its a good picture. But good cocktail photography isn`t all about the equipment, its also how you take the pictures, how you balance the background, how you crop the picture, how you make the picture come alive and get personal etc I also think its a good idea to try to keep it simple.

But one thing that i don`t like is how many of the glossy magazines process their pictures to the point of making them”loose their soul” and in the end they really do look not only unnatural with too bright colors and too much sharpness but also totally unpersonal and almost sterile.

A good idea for us bloggers though would be an online cocktail photography school..anyone? i would certainly need and enjoy it.

Now you`ve read about my pictures and my thoughts on cocktail photography and surely there are tons of things i haven´t thought about and i`m curious to know about your photographing.

What are the problems you folks have to deal with when doing your cocktail pics? what solutions have you come up with and what equipment do you use? what works for you?

TDN Tiki sure was a blast

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There´s a demand for more posts from the TDNs that includes some of the comments and i do agree, its fun reading – especially if you`ve been there for a while and gotten to know the wonderful people who populate the mixoloseum chat room, but a few comments cannot really give a true picture of how it is to take part of this online cocktail party, so if you haven´t been there yet – please stop by, we don´t bite and you don´t must mix a drink or even talk, but i`m quite sure you would want to once you`re in!

And besides all the fun and all the crazy jokes, there´s some serious discussions going on about how to mix good drinks and everything from making ingredients to the quality of spirits – the wealth of knowledge that springs forth outta this chatroom is immense.

The TDNs are every thursday from 7 pm EST in the Mixoloseum chatroom – http://bar.mixoloseum.com/

I think this by far must have been the funniest of the TDN´s i`ve taking part in but there has been many…50 TDN´s since the first to be exact (not counting the one this last thursday which was sponsored by Kahlùa coffee cream) and i have missed only a few so i`m not sure. But one thing i know and that is that we broke the record this time. I`m not sure how many we were at the most but before i had to leave we were 43 happy imbibers in there.

And that of course makes up for many drinks and the theme this time when we celebrated our one year anniversary was a theme well worthy our one year celebration –  Tiki. Both Jeff ”Beachbum” Berry and Martin Cate stopped by and the prizes were also many and fine – and now and then enlightening and informative or just plain funny announcements ”by Stan” popped up to help keep things in order.

“Stan Jones Announcement to all:

Junkhauler!  I approve of your use of an ingredient no one has ever heard of, yet you claim you can “find it at your local grocery store Perhaps you’ve died and are actually visiting SJ Mart, where we do indeed have the juice of every nut. For your Holmes-like efforts, you have won your book of choice from the Mud Puddle collection!”

Prizes included the new series of Mud Puddle Books’ cocktail guides, a gold barspoon provided by Cocktail Kingdom, booze provided by the CSOWG, tiki mugs and ingredients from Cass (junkhauler) and the CSOWG.

Yes this was the happy imbibers night..

Dr. Bamboo : I need a t-shirt with “it’s getting all drunk in here” on it.

Camper : Dont forget to put people’s names nerd- we’ll never remember.

JenTiki : It’s past my dinner time gang. Might drop in later. Bye for now.

Camper : It must be weird to eat dinner somewhere other than in front of the computer.

Deviator : In honor of TDN – Tiki Drink Night – I will be selecting recipes at random from Sippin’ Safari

Martincate : Stand by for action!  Any thing can happen in the next half hour!

Kaiserpenguin: I am not passing out until 3am EST

And people were anxious to get their drinks up, the queue was long…i`ll forever admire Rick `s patience with and ability to keep the infamous queue in order through the night.

Marshall to Kaiserpenguin (22:08:48):
I have 296.7 drinks to add to the queue. Please place them in alphabetical order by number.  😛

Bonzo Gal: Put me in the queueueue, please

Tiare : Dont forget i`m in the queue..

Rumdood: I wish to be in the queue

JohnTheBastard: Stick me in the queue, please

Ryan : Please queue me, Rick.  Mine has fernet.

Dbeach :What’s the state of the queue?

Kaiserpenguin: Yeah, you want in?  It’s long.

RumScout : /me has modified the Scorpion with Elad…. we’re calling it the Stingray. AM I IN THE QUEUE YET?

Tony_harion : We might need a second chat room just for this queue

Dr. Bamboo: I will have that engraved on my tombstone:  “There is always a queue.”

Drink-well :What’s the queue?

ColTIki: who is up?

Dr. Bamboo: Someone wave an open bottle of Fernet under Rick’s nose.

Dr. Bamboo: What is the queue?

Frederic: The queue is chaos

Ryan: The queue is thunderdome

Tony_harion: I´m beginning to think there´s no such a thing as a queue.

DPlanner: Queue is on hold for a bit, per the queuemaster

And so it went on..

One of the other announcements encouraged us to find our Stan T-shirts – ”First person to post a picture of themselves in their Stan Jones t-shirt on Facebook and in here gets a muthaboudreauing prize”

(unf mine was in the laundry)

Who won the prize? John or Blair? that remains a mystery.

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Later in the night there was a communal fernet shot – i bet it was the first global communal online fernet branca shot ever made:

Stan Jones Announcement to all:
Everyone go get a shot of Fernet now. Do not hesitate!  We will do it like the A-Team.

Drink-well: do a countdown…

cocktailnerd :10
kaiserpenguin:5
kaiserpenguin:3
BonzoGal:4
kaiserpenguin:7
cocktailnerd:1
cocktailnerd :!
tony_harion:15
kaiserpenguin:0

shot!

”mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!”
”That was awesome”
”hic”

BAM!

I managed to create two tiki drinks for this TDN and they were, even if not my best totally drinkable.

PO´AHA PUNCH (meaning Thursday Punch)

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1oz Old New Orleans Cajun Spiced Rum
1oz El Dorado 15yo
1 oz Clemènt VSOP
0.5 oz fresh lime
¼ oz simple syrup
0.5 oz coffee liqueur
1t cream of coconut,
Fresh pineapple juice to top.

Run in blender until smooth with crushed ice. Pour in tall glass, top with fresh pineapple juice and more crushed ice to fill,dust nutmeg on top and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

TIKI CELEBRATION

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1oz LH 151 rum
1oz Scarlet Ibis rum
0.5 oz fresh lime
¼ oz simple syrup
1t absinthe
Top with Rootbeer.

Shake and strain into glass filled with ice. Garnish lime.You can actually sub the rootbeer with some Root and canesugar coke.

LOOKOUT ALL TIKI FRIENDS – BEACHBUM BERRY`S REMIXED IS SOON OUT!

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In case you already didn´t know..Jeff “Beachbum” Berry is soon having his new book BeachBum Berry Remixed released!

Remember Grog Log and Intoxica? well now these two ground-breaking books on forgotten tiki drinks are revised and updated with expanded drink history and lore, incorporating newly discovered information about the origins of the Mai Tai, Zombie, Suffering bastard, and other legendary Tiki mysteries.

And that`s not all my friends, he is also giving us 22 new original Tiki drink recipes made by himself plus 40 newly discovered, previously unpublished vintage Tiki drink recipes from the 1930s-1960s. Well if that ain´t a real treasure chest for us to dig into then i don´t know the meaning of that word.

Beachbum Berry Remixed, is a completely revised and updated anthology of the Grog Log and Intoxica!

And there is more – what about: 38 of the best new recipes from today’s Tiki revival, gathered especially for Remixed from the world’s top mixologists and cocktail writers? – now i`m thirsty..and there´s also gonna be full-color vintage Tiki illustrations and original drink photography as well as a thoroughly updated drink ingredient glossary with new product recommendations. Can it get better?

So there you have it! all we now need to do is just wait for this wonderful book to be available for purchase which is going to happen in November 2009 from Club Tiki Press,an imprint of SLG Publishing and you can also pre-order from Amazon.com.

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And here`s what the Bum has to say:

It’s coming out in late November. It’s a compendium of the Grog Log and Intoxica!,completely revised, updated, and expanded, with 107 new recipes — some are new contemporary exotic drinks from around the world, while others are newly discovered vintage exotic recipes.

The title is Beachbum Berry Remixed.  It will be in full color, with lots of new and vintage drink photos.  It’s been 10 years since the Log, and so much has happened since then — including the cocktail renaissance and the cocktail blogosphere — that the books were sorely in need of a makeover!

Much of this new info has to do with the tangled history of the Mai Tai.  In the same way that Sippin’ Safari devoted a whole chapter to the Zombie, Remixed spends 5 pages sorting out the various claims of authorship by Trader Vic, Don The Beachcomber, and Harry Owens.

Mahalo!

Jeff

Isn´t this great news folks? i know most of you tikifolks as well as myself have known this for a while but hey, this is such a great book that i happily blow the horn;-)

And let`s face it – The Bums books are priceless – and to the Bum i just wanna say – mahalo..

Let`s make some lovely Tahitian vanilla bean syrup

vanilla

Have anyone who knows me missed that i love vanilla? I use it all the time and i even grow 4 varietes of vanilla orchids but not to try to get any beans of course, i just find those climbing plants lovely and exotic also without flowers.

Vanilla is apart from a flavour and aroma booster both a beautiful and fun garnish, i mean really.. just look at this. I have more than once received the question how to make a good vanilla syrup, and so i decided to write about it, its really simple. First – there are different vanillas and they taste differently. The most common is the bourbon or Madagascar vanilla.It’s a nice vanilla – with that lingering warm – inviting and exotic flavor typical for the vanilla bean after its cured.

The Tahitian vanilla bean is a different variety and is highly prized among chefs for its unique lovely floral character, probably developed over many years in the rich volcanic soil in the Tahitian islands. Its believed that the Tahitian vanilla – vanilla tahitensis has evolved from the original vanilla planifolia and developed into its own species with its own flavor and character. The beans are fatter, shorter, more plump and oily than other vanilla varietes and the fragrance and flavor is really special. This is the vanilla of choice also for me. Its usually not cheap, not if grown on Tahaa also known as the vanilla island in French Polynesia.

But the species vanilla tahitensis as its called is also grown on Papua New Guinea and those grown there are less costly but they are also very flavorful with the typical character of the Tahitian vanilla bean. Still these cannot exactly compare to those from Tahaa even though very good. The difference isn´t that big though but its the soil creating a slight difference and nuance in aroma and its also about the feel. It was a while ago that I had beans straight from French Polynesia, after that I`ve had those from Papua but these are certainly not bad at all. So when i make my vanilla syrups i use the Tahitian vanilla bean almost all the time, but why not mix the two sometimes? Or even adding a third, the Mexican bean? Which is also regarded in flavor to be close to the bourbon vanilla.

I always let my syrups boil for about 2 mins and then simmer for a while before finally being taken off to cool. I prefer the boiled syrup for two reasons – one is that the 2 minute boiling helps to prevent molding, and second -–a boiled syrup has a thicker more viscous and rich mouthfeel than syrup made with the cold method (shaking the sugar and water in a jar until it disolves) At least that`s my own experience.

To make the vanilla syrup here`s what to do:

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Take 2-3 beans and split them lengthwise and scrape out all those wonderful tiny little black dots – the seeds. Add to a pan 2.1 or 1.1 sugar to water and add the beans and seeds. Choose a good sugar, like a finely textured light or dark raw cane sugar. Heat up and slightly boil for about a minute, then let simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes and stir sometimes.

A little trick i`m frequently using for a tasty syrup when using a light sugar is to add a pinch of light muscovado – that adds a deeper flavor. Take off the heat and cool. The longer you leave it to cool and steep the more vanilla flavor you`ll get. Then strain and pour in clean bottles. I sometimes leave the beans in the bottles as well. So what are you waiting for? Get working on the stove and before you know it you`ll have a wonderful vanilla syrup  – vanilla syrup really enhances the flavor in many cocktails.

TDN CELEBRATES 1 YEAR ANNIVERSARY! And its TIKI!

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TDN TIKI-TIME! THE WORLDS BIGGEST ONLINE COCKTAIL PARTY – ONE YEAR CELEBRATION!

I can´t believe how fast time has flied, its time for our 1 year anniversary of the Mixoloseum’s weekly online cocktail party – Thursday Drink Night aka TDN!

It started so small and it has grown more than i could imagine during this year that has gone. There has been many nice cocktails made – no less than 500 original cocktails – and that during 50 TDNs and every time its fun to be there chatting and mixing the night away. I have lost count on how many beautiful sunrises i´ve seen during aTDN night.

To quote Rick over at Kaiserpenguin who is the founder of this tremendously fun event:

“When Thursday Drink Night began as a small gathering of booze nerds who just wanted another excuse to hang out and mix cocktails, I had no idea we’d be looking back a year later at 500 original cocktails and a mountain of prestige.

Brands are now building TDN into their marketing budgets, and it has become the “cool thing to do” as word continues to spread.  And not little brands, but huge marketing behemoths like Diageo. Live events are no longer a special treat, but built into nearly all upcoming sponsored nights.”

“The Mixoloseum has hosted 50 Thursday Drink Nights since the first mixological day. In that time, cocktail enthusiasts, writers, and bartenders have created over 500 original cocktails using everything from Fernet Branca to buttermilk.

Guests who once came in fear of all the homemade syrups and bitters being slung about like fool’s gold in the chat room now make their own cinnamon syrup, have two local sources for Ting (in case one runs out), and don’t bat an eye when someone calls yellow Chartreuse instead of green.”

So arm yourself with your rums, other spirits, fruit juices, syrups, bitters and tinctures, crazy garnishes plus your tikimugs and glasses and join the fun together with our beloved Guest Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, and the whole array of cocktail enthusiasts, bartenders and cocktail bloggers and if you submit a drink you have the chance of winning premium prizes.

Here are the details:

The Prizes

Best Original Tiki Drink – 50cm gold Japanese bar spoon
Best Gin Cocktail – Bottle of Port of Barcelona gin signed by the distiller.
Best Absinthe Cocktail – Bottle of Obsello absinthe signed by the distiller.
Best Spiced Rum Cocktail – Bottle of Old New Orleans Cajun spiced rum
Last One Standing – If you close the doors on our party, you will get yourself a pick of one of Mud Puddle’s six new cocktail book releases.
First two newcomers who submit a drink – More books! Pick from Mud Puddle’s line-up.

We’ll also be giving out Annual Awards throughout the night (e.g. Person who consistently submits the worst drinks).

To join TDN Tiki – sign in to the Mixoloseum Chat Room this thursday sept 3rd at 7pm Eastern and join the TDN which will go on until last man standing to blow out the tiki torch or we all get moemoe.

Okole maluna!

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COCKTAILS WITH MEZCAL part 1 – Old Ancho Cocktail

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I`m going to start a new series – cocktails with mezcal. The reason for doing this is that i think mezcal deserves to be used much more in cocktail mixing, its such a nice spirit. Actually its used quite much now compared to before and that is a good thing, but i have never yet seen it in my country. And even though you really should experinece the full flavours of mezcal by sipping it (its very nice in clay cups) it makes nice mixed drinks.

So i`m going to post cocktails using mezcal, hoping that more will try to mix with it. Mezcal is a real handcrafted spirit distilled from fermented juice of the pineapple-shaped core, the piña – of the agave plant. These cores are roasted in earthen mounds as opposed to cooked as is the practice in tequila making, to simplify it. And the distinctive woody smokiness of the mezcal comes from this roasting.

The smokiness can maybe be a challenge to get used to but premium mezcals like Del Maguey and Ilegal has a light smokiness that is not offensive. And the smokiness adds a very interesting punch –  a little smoke and fire to a drink.

The herbal flavours of the agave and the earthy smoke from the roasting pairs really well with fruity flavours making sure you definetily won´t get a boring drink. If you have had bad mezcal as your first experience of this wonderful spirit, give it a new try – with a premium brand.

I have a tendency to use a lot of fresh fruit juices in my drinks so i`m not even sure this cocktail will do the mezcal enough justice. On the other hand –  it has a lot of smokiness that stands up well to most mixers. So here is the first cocktail with mezcal which i call Old Ancho.

To this cocktail i have made a ancho-chili syrup. The anco chili is really a dried poblano as they are referred to poblano when they are fresh. The ancho is dried, a reddish brown, flat and wrinkled chili and sweetest of the dried chilis originating in the state of Puebla, Mexico. The word ancho means “wide” in Spanish. Fresh poblanos are also sold under the name pasilla.

There´s another variety of dried poblano which is called mulato chile and which is darker in color,  sweeter and also softer in texture. Its heat rating is 2,500 to 3,000 Scoville units. (compared to ancho which is 1000-1500) The mulato has been described as tasting somewhat like chocolate or licorice, with undertones of cherry and tobacco. (mmm….)

The anco chile has a sweet slighly hot and earthy flavor. It is commonly used in Mexican cooking and is a staple in red chili and tamales.

The flavor in this syrup came out very nice, the palmsugar in it played well with the earhy flavor of the ancho, but to not have the palmsugar flavor overpowering the syrup i also used an equal part light raw sugar.To make this syrup you need 1:1 palmsugar and light raw sugar and i used a 2:1 ratio sugar to water. Then you need one large dried ancho chili. I only made a small batch this time.

ANCHO CHILI SYRUP

1 large dried ancho chili
1 dl light raw sugar (I used oxfam)
1 dl palmsugar
2 dl water

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I boiled this in my pan for about 10 minutes, then the chili seeds started to fall out. I let it boil a bit more and tasted. The flavor wasn´t very hot at all so i let it boil for another 3-4 minutes and tasted again. Now the seeds had given a bit of a hot flavor so i took it off and strained out the seeds. I also took out remaining seeds from the chili.

Then i put it all back again on the stove to simmer for another 4 miutes before i took it off to cool. The flavor was now a little bit hot but not too much, earthy, spicy and raw sugar sweet, just perfect.

The mezcal cocktail i made is a fruity and spicy twist on the mojito adding the ancho syrup instead of sugar and topped with Tonic water.

OLD ANCHO COCKTAIL

1.5 oz mezcal
1 lime, quartered
0.75 oz ancho chili syrup
5-6 mint leaves
Top with a good quality tonic

Muddle lime, mint and ancho syrup in shaker. Add mezcal and shake over ice. Strain into a cocktailglass with crushed ice. Top with tonic. Garnish mint and a speared ancho chili.

The mezcal and the acho syrup goes well together i think even though the mezcal somewhat overpowers the flavors of the syrup due to its smokiness. Nevertheless these two are friends. I find this cocktail quite refreshing. The ice also mellows the flavours a bit.

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Sugarcane bar