On February 6, 2022, Shen and I had the incredible opportunity to teach a wine education class to the staff of one of the best new restaurants in the country—Roots Southern Table. Yes, you read that right . . . COUNTRY. Not Dallas-Fort Worth. Not Texas. Country.


But don’t just take my word for it. The folks at the New York Times and Esquire rated Roots Southern Table as “The 50 restaurants we’re most excited about right now” and “Best New Restaurants in America, 2021,” respectively.


So how did we score this opportunity? Well, it all started with a boy and a dream . . .


Ok, not exactly.


In the fall of 2021, I taught Restaurant Management at The University of North Texas at Dallas. This was my first semester teaching and I had BIG plans. I wouldn’t use a traditional Restaurant Management textbook. Instead, I would create my own curriculum. I envisioned a class focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, empathy, active listening, mental health, addiction, sexual harassment, and so much more. Ultimately, I would utilize my bachelor’s degree in Humanities to discuss topics that were taboo for most of my hospitality career.


It is my belief that hospitality students, and hospitality workers in general, can learn the hard skills (e.g., food costs, compliance, etc.) on the job, and thus my class focused on human skills (e.g., empathy). Sadly, human skills are too often ignored in the upward progression of staff to management roles. As background, the typical trajectory of a restaurant manager goes something like this: a busser is good at bussing so she is promoted to server; she excels at serving so she tries bartending; she excels at bartending and is promoted to assistant manager. Now, that manager can step on the floor at any moment and serve guests, but nowhere in her journey to become a manager did she learn how to care for the people in her charge. My class aimed to remedy that.


Now, as much as I love talking and sharing my experience with my students, I have enough higher education experience to understand the value in guest speakers. So, I brought in badass guest speakers from across the country to discuss the topics stated above. Some of my guest speakers included: Alex Jump (who is the Bar Manager of Death & Co. Denver and also has a podcast Focus on Health), Joel Rivas (who is the founder of Saint City Culinary Foundation, whose Heard program focuses on wellness in the F&B industry), and Chef Tiffany Derry (who is the owner of Roots Southern Table).


Yay, we finally made it full circle to Roots Southern Table!



Chef Tiffany Derry is a celebrity chef, restaurateur, TV personality, food advocate, and brand consultant. She is INCREDIBLE. She had my students pumped up to take on the world! After hearing her speak, I could have jumped in the ring with Mike Tyson or given oral arguments to the Supreme Court. Yes, I would have had my ass handed to me in both situations, but that’s beyond the point. Chef Tiffany was that inspiring. At the time, I wanted to say thank you for taking the time out of her crazy busy schedule to speak with my students for over an hour, but I wasn’t sure what to give her.


Fast forward to my 40th birthday dinner. A couple of my besties took Shen and I out for dinner at Roots Southern Table. Chef Tiffany was gracious enough to step out of the kitchen to say hello and talk to us about her new restaurant. The food was killer and the staff was super welcoming. Still, I noticed something when we ordered wine. Our server was too nervous to open the wine so she asked the Bar Manager, Creighten Brown, to open it instead. That gave me an idea!


Teakwood Tavern Hospitality could offer a wine education class to the staff as a thank you to Chef Tiffany. I proposed this idea to the Roots team, and it was approved.


For this class, we focused on how to perceive acidity, sweetness, tannins, alcohol, and body in a wine. In my experience, most wine newbies incorrectly focus on the subjective elements of tasting. Does anyone else smell cat-piss?” Instead, they should focus on training their brain to recognize acidity, sweetness, tannins, and body. These characteristics matter when pairing wine with food and when ordering wine at your favorite restaurant or wine shop.



To teach the structural components of wine, we showcased contrasting wines. We selectively procured wines with various ranges of sweetness, acidity, tannins, alcohol, and body. We were not concerned about the staff determining the exact levels of sweetness, acidity, tannin, and body. That takes time. Rather, we taught the staff how differentiate a wine with a high level of a certain characteristic (e.g., tannin) versus a wine with a lower level of that same characteristic. Being able to notice that subtle difference in a wine is the first step towards mastering how to taste. And the best way to do that is by tasting multiple wines at the same time and comparing their structural components.


Interestingly, Chef Tiffany explained how she uses the same methodology when teaching her culinary team about different grades of beef. It would be very difficult for someone to compare a prime NY strip that she ate a month ago against a choice NY strip she ate today. However, if you put a prime NY strip and a choice NY strip in front of someone at the same time and asked her to compare, she could likely perceive the difference in tenderness, flavor, juiciness, and marbling of the two pieces. It works that way with wine too.


Shen and I had an amazing time teaching the staff at Roots. They were super attentive and great fun to be around. They asked fantastic questions and were serious about their notetaking. Creighten said that he took 5 pages of notes, which is not bad for an hour and a half presentation.


There you have it. That is the story of how Teakwood Tavern Hospitality saved Christmas. Just checking if you are still there.


That is the story of how Teakwood Tavern Hospitality taught a wine education class to one of the best new restaurants in the country—Roots Southern Table. If this type of class interests you, please contact us! We host in person and virtual classes.


Sending humanistic love,


John


P.S. Over the years, I have received a lot of crap from my Ohio State friends about being a Humanities major. The funny thing is that they never understood what type of classes I took. My specialization was in Comparative Cultural Studies. I was only 1 class short from a minor in both African American Studies and Women's Studies. I loved my Humanities classes, and they have served me well since I graduated in 2005. It’s especially rewarding to use that knowledge to teach at the university level about diversity, inclusion, and sexual harassment in hospitality. Funny how things work out.







26 views0 comments
  • The Reynas


Swedish Punsch has always intrigued me. It’s basically a batched cocktail that adds next level complexity to a separate beloved cocktail recipe. Much of the work is done for you. Do yourself a favor and try Swedish Punch on its own at your earliest convenience.


But what is it?


Well, let’s start at the beginning. Any punch consists of five ingredients: spirit, sugar, citrus, spice/tea, and water.


If you would rather watch an informative video about Swedish Punsch, check out our YouTube channel, Teakwood Tavern:



History of Swedish Punsch


First, the Swedes became particularly smitten with the delightfully extravagant precursor to modern rum, Batavia Arrack. Batavia Arrack brings a complexity of rum flavors along with a fermented red rice funk from its original home of Indonesia. Batavia Arrack is the base spirit used in Swedish Punsch. If you'd like to learn more about this amazing product, please refer to our article on Batavia Arrack.


The Europeans batched beverages for their long ride home from Indonesia. The Swedish in particular mixed Batavia Arrack with demerara sugar, teas and spices from the Jakarta area and shipped this batched beverage home to Sweden.


This concoction was drunk in the early 1700s, just as the punch era was taking hold in other parts of the world, like England and the US. By 1733, the Swedish East India company began importing the red rice and sugarcane from Southeast Asia to start local production of Batavia Arrack. This increase in availability of a base spirit permitted the Swedish population to make their own punsch at home.


Influence


Soon a tradition of drinking the punch during or after a nice meal with a cigar began. Punch is often credited as the precursor of the cocktail, long before the Old Fashioned was created. Here’s a shout out to you, Ben Franklin, who is also known for his punch recipe.


©Kronan Punsch


By the 1840s, a Swedish wine merchant determined he could lease storage casks beneath the castle of Stockholm and bottle his version of punch to be sold. The prices of luxury items like sugar, spice, and citrus dropped around this time making the price of bottled punch affordable to the general population.


Many other producers followed suit, and punch became an integral part of Swedish tradition to the extent that the language was influenced. There are approximately 80 words derived from Punch, including a punschveranda, a porch designed specifically for the drinking of punch. Yes, please! Even today, special occasions in Sweden will usually be toasted with Punsch.


Swedish Punsch in cocktails


The pre-prohibition cocktail revolution arose from this abundance of worldly liquors thanks to our many immigrants. For example, in the mid-1800s, Swedish immigrants brought their version of punch to the United States. Soon after, cocktail books began referencing Swedish Punsch. There are over 50 recipes for pre-prohibition cocktails utilizing Swedish Punsch.


William Schmidt’s “Fancy Drinks and Popular Beverages” recommends mixing Swedish Punsch with seltzer or Rhine wine and dates back to 1896. Hugo Ensslin’s “Recipe for Mixed Drinks,” which was published in 1916, documented the Doctor Cocktail, a Daiquiri play. The distinguished Harry MacElhone featured many cocktails in his 1923 book, “Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails,” including the Diki Diki cocktail. The famous 1930s “The Savoy Cocktail Book” also discusses Swedish Punsch.


Once prohibition hit, Swedish Punsch, like many wonderful spirits and liqueurs, was eliminated from American cocktail culture. Then, in 2012, the Swedish company Kronan brought Swedish Punsch back to the US.


Note: Kronan Swedish Punsch is made with a mix of Indonesian Batavia Arrack and and rum from Jamaica and Port Mourant in Guyana.


Flavor Profile


Swedish Punsch showcases flavors of allspice, cloves, anise, caramel, and dried citrus. Though it is sweeter than pure rum, the tannin from the baking spices balances it out.


I’ve found it works equally well with whiskeys and gins, which permits easy plays on Daiquiris, Old Fashioned, or Martinis. Try swapping out a portion of your base liquor for Swedish Punch to add a new layer of complexity, but keep in mind it is only 26% ABV.


Cocktail Time

Twelve Miles out

3/4 oz light rum

3/4 oz Swedish Punsch

3/4 oz Calvados (Apple brandy)

Add all ingredients into a Mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Strain into chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange twist.


This cocktail is adapted from the 1930 edition of The Savoy Cocktail Book, which has the drink shaken rather than stirred. Considering the lack of citrus, by today’s standard, it should be stirred.


Waldorf Cocktail #2

1.5 oz dry gin

1.5 oz Kronan Punsch

.5 oz lime juice

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake. Strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lime twist.


The Waldorf #2 is the second of two versions from New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel bar. It was first recorded in the 1939 Café Royale book and then again in the 1955 United Kingdom Bartender’s book. Originally, the recipe called for 2 parts Swedish Punsch and 1 part gin, but modern day Swedish Punsch is thought to be sweeter than it was in the early 1900s.


Last Call


If nothing else, feel inspired to drink some punch! Check out acclaimed cocktail historian David Wonrdich’s book, “Punch.” Or find some Batavia Arrack. The same importer who brings us Kronan Swedish Punsch, Haus Alpenz, also imports van Oosten Batavia Arrack.


Feeling punchy,

Shen



28 views0 comments
  • The Reynas


Try saying that three times fast! Pronounced buh-tay-vee-uh eh-ruhk, this old-school Indonesian spirit is an ancestor to modern rum. Though hard to find, Batavia Arrack is worth the search!


If you'd rather watch our video about Batavia Arrack, here's a video on our YouTube channel for your viewing pleasure:



Background


Indonesia, with the help of Dutch and Chinese influences, produces a sugarcane distillate called Batavia Arrack. Among the oldest known distilled spirits dating back to the early 1600s, Batavia Arrack predates rum. Cocktail historian David Wondrich called it, “the world’s first luxury spirit; the first booze somebody thoughts was worth shipping halfway around the world, and to drink a bowl of Punch made with it is to see why that is.”


Batavia refers to the Dutch name for the capital of the Indonesian island of Java. Today, the city is called Jakarta and is the capital and largest city of Indonesia.


© University of Texas


Arrack is an Arabic word for distilled spirit and was the first widely accepted general term used to differentiate distilled spirits from fermented alcohol. Since arrack is made throughout India and Southeast Asia, there are many various forms. Generally, it is made with coconut palm sap or rice. Arrack is not to be confused with Arak, which is a middle Eastern fortified wine flavored with Anise—similar to Ouzo.


History


Dutch merchants colonized the port of Batavia in the 1600s. They planted and processed sugar plantations throughout the area, often using Chinese workers. Sugar cane grew well on Java, and neither the Indonesians nor the Dutch were ones to waste the molasses byproduct.


However, as more local Indonesians converted from Hinduism to Islam, the population became less interested in alcohol. At the same time, sailors and travelers, who were excited to find inexpensive alcohol to drink, were visiting the port of Batavia. Those visitors had the capacity to bring Batavia Arrack back to Europe and sell it at premium prices. This coincided with the introduction of Cognac in the early 1700s as the popularity and availability of luxury spirits grew.


The trip to the Netherlands allowed for barrel aging in Indonesian teakwood. Oh hello, Teakwood! The ships’ movement sloshed the spirit inside the teakwood barrels, expediting barrel aging and adding complexity to the spirit. Final filtering and bottling happened back in Amsterdam. Sweden and Germany paid premium for this unique product, which drove the price up.


The Dutch controlled the export of Batavia Arrack back to Europe for the next few hundred years. Throughout the 18th and 19th century, this spirit was enjoyed around the world and became a leading ingredient in punch. Traditional punch, a precursor for cocktails, was a celebration of unique ingredients brought by world trade. Europeans referred to the spirit as ‘rack, and no punch was complete without ‘rack.

©Haus Alpenz


New taxes and the increasing popularity of rum in the 1800s lead to the decreasing demand of Batavia Arrack. By World War 2, the last bit of production stalled as Indonesia fell under siege. In 1949, Indonesia gained their independence and restarting production was not a priority for the heavily Muslim country.


Production


Batavia Arrack showcases the best flavors of modern rums because the mix of Eastern and Western production methods. Considered an East Indies rum, Batavia Arrack includes the pungent, savory flavors of a high-quality West Indies rum (e.g., Jamaican).


The distillation process utilizes several ancient Chinese methods, including the use of fermented red rice. The red rice differentiates Batavia Arrack from other spirits distilled from sugar cane, and it adds vegetal funk. We love the FUNK.


Batavia Arrack is distilled today with approximately 98% sugar cane and 2% Java red rice. However, cocktail historians believe back in the 1600s it was made with 4 parts molasses, 2 parts rice, and one part palm sap.


The process also uses the Chinese style of a dry fermentation by mixing the rice with water and molasses first. Separately, molasses is combined with palm sap for a Western style wet fermentation. Then, the liquid from the rice and the molasses palm mix are combined for further fermentation. Finally, Chinese-style egg shaped stills, as opposed to more traditional column stills, are used to make Batavia Arrack. The Europeans added the condensing coils and redistilled up to three times. Batavia Arrack is bottled at an elevated proof around 50% ABV.


Batavia Arrack Today


In 2007, the Dutch East Indies Trading, Ltd., with some help from David Wondrich, brought its product, Batavia-Arrack van Oosten, to our shores. This ‘rack is distilled in Java, blended in Amsterdam, and produced and exported out of Austria courtesy of Haus Alpenz. Currently, Batavia-Arrack van Oosten is used in bars around Indonesia as well as fine chocolates in Amsterdam. You can likely find it at your local specialty liquor store.


©Haus Alpenz


The most common use remains Swedish Punsch, which you can find as a batched liqueur or make your own homemade version for your next dinner party.


Cocktail Time


Cozzens’s Arrack Punch

(Homemade Swedish Punsch)

1 Bottle Batavia Arrack

6 lemons – thinly sliced

.5 lb sugar – original recipe called for 1 lb, but we are cutting this in half because sugar today is much more refined and therefore sweeter

One quart boiling water

Add the lemons to the Batavia Arrack and let them steep for 6 hours. Carefully removed them, without squeezing any juice. Separately, mix your boiling water with the sugar. Once dissolved, add Batavia Arrack. This recipe can be bottled or added to a punch bowl and enjoyed over ice.


Courtesy of David Wondrich’s book, Punch. There is a whole section on Arrack punches!



Arrack Strap

1oz dark rum

1oz Batavia Arrack

1oz sweet vermouth

1tsp Campari

0.5tsp demerara syrup

2 dashes mole bitters

2 dashes orange bitters

Add all ingredients into a Mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Strain into chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange twist.


This recipe was created by Brad Farran in 2021 at Death and Co. He adds the note, “At some point, every Death and Co, bartender takes on Arrack.”


Last Call


There are no shortage of origins and types of rum. And though we would love to get through them all, Batavia Arrack was an obvious first. The next time you see it on a cocktail menu, please don’t be deterred by this mouthful of a name. After all, mine is Shenandoah-Marie.


Sending funky love,

Shen

50 views1 comment