Raising the bar in Lake Placid

April Dowd photo

Cocktails guru Tony Abou-Ganim (left) and drinks writer Bill Dowd work out behind the bar during a Lake Placid workshop this week.

LAKE PLACID, NY -- Tony Abou-Ganim, the celebrity mixologist who helped the cocktail culture return nationwide with a rush over the past decade or so, was in fine form during an hour-long cocktail-making workshop at T-Bar on Thursday night.

T-Bar, a ritzy Adirondack-style cocktail lounge within chef Charlie Levitz's eponymous Charlie's restaurant on Main Street, was briefly turned into the kind of classroom no one wants to avoid.

Abou-Ganim splits much of his time between Las Vegas and New York -- he's a partner in the recently-opened Manhattan spot Bar Milano -- but pops up all over the country for trade shows, training events and special occasions. He'd just appeared at the annual Santé magazine industry trade show in Manchester, VT, and was returning to a place where he'd personally trained Levin's bartending staff a year ago in the fine points of cocktail making.

This workshop preceded a cocktail-pairing dinner prepared by Charlie's head chef Lendell Eaddy and Levitz, who oversees the Charlie's kitchen but spends much of his time at his other Lake Placid restaurant, Chair 6, and with his extensive catering operations.

During the show-and-tell, Abou-Ganim invited several onlookers to step behind the bar to help him make some basic drinks -- Cosmopolitans, Marqueritas, Martinis. He also challenged yours truly to a "Manhattan throwdown" since both of us are fans of the historic drink. I, in fact, consider it a food group.

He laid down the ground rules: The same recipe had to be followed — bourbon (we both liked the sweetness of Maker’s Mark), Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth, Angostura Bitters and a maraschino cherry. The catch was that Abou-Ganim preferred to shake his concoction over fresh ice — which I normally do for a straight-up cocktail — while insisting I stir mine with ice to properly chill each drink.

He shook.

I stirred.

We poured.

The audience voted on the cocktail with the most alluring appearance.

Modesty prohibits revealing the voters results. Let's just say I won't ask for a recount.

Here are a few more shots from the event:
William M. Dowd photos

Abou-Ganim discusses "feminine" (heavily botanical) vs. masculine gins.

Abou-Ganim and April Dowd of Troy, NY, whip up a Cosmopolitan.

As many fresh ingredients as possible help make cocktails work.
This shrimp/blue crab risotto with a roasted leeks sauce was a dinner highlight.

Abou-Ganim shows the art of the pour.

Teddi Jones of Albany, NY, is about to build a mojito.

Abou-Ganim's favorite, The Negroni: 1 oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin, 1 oz. Campari, 1 oz. Cinzano Rosso Sweet Vermouth, stir well in an ice-filled glass, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with burnt orange twist and serve.

Abou-Ganim and Charlie Levitz.

Abou-Ganim flames a citrus peel.

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David said...

All that looks delicious, man!

Just to add to that, have you tried adding purple to any of those drinks? try it and let me know if you can come up with something new with purple since it can mixed with cocktails and is a favourite at the celebrity circles! It’s high on antioxidants and prevents premature ageing and cancer. …

William M. Dowd said...


I presume you’re trying to plug a product called Purple, with a capital P?

I’m not familiar with the drink except to say its Web site lists 7 antioxidants among its ingredients. I’ll leave it up to other readers to see what they think of it.