The Five Questions -Craig Newmark, then the inventor of HUM: Adam Seger, CCP, finally Ed Hamilton-founder of the Ministry of Rum
August 31, 2010
Although I’ve never met Craig in person, we are from the same town in New Jersey. Our lives have intersected over the years through many people around here familiar to me. Craig Newmark, is the founder of Craigslist on the Internet. Craigslist is a laissez faire community of buyers, sellers and givers. It exists in nearly every country in the world. Craig went to high school with my dear friend and butcher, Steve Hoeffner- who initially facilitated our conversation. (Thanks Steve!)
Since I started working on creating this project called The Five Questions on Wild River Review, I’ve tried to reach out to the famous and the unknown for their unique and personal perspectives on food memories and how food/drink have influenced them in their everyday life.
We all eat, some of us eat then write about it, others taste a special wine and always remember it. Still others have told me that some foods that they prepare bring a tear to their eye. Being a good listener, I try to capture these thoughts and put them down on paper. My goal in the Five Questions is to share the passion of food, drink and life. They all intersect, thank you for permitting me to share my thoughts and my dreams.
1. Did you cook at home as a child? Who taught you how to cook? Mother? Father? Grandparents? Did you have a favorite meal when you were a child?
“I never cooked at home, just never learned. I do recall my mom making great Southern Fried Chicken.”
2. Do you have a favorite restaurant that you enjoy? What is their style of food? Do you have a favorite dish that they prepare?
“I have number of favorites, mostly Asian, like Soi Gow (Thai), Dragonfly (Vietnamese), Tasty Curry (Indian), Nanking Bistro and Andy’s Excellent Cuisine (Chinese.) These are near our offices in the Inner Sunset in SF. I live in Cole Valley, enjoy places like Grandeho’s (Japanese), Bambino’s (Italian), and Reverie (cafe food.) I really have no particular favorite dishes.”
3. Is there anything you cook at home which has a deeper significance to you? Does it bring a tear to your eye when you prepare this dish? Who does it remind you of?
“Well, I don’t cook, so …”
4. If you could go anywhere in the world right now where would that be? What would you eat when you got there- is it a restaurant? What wine or cocktail would you chose to wash down that perfect meal? ( I’m hoping you enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail!)
“Honestly, I’d like to stay at home, too much travel over coming three months, mostly to support veterans, cops, and government workers who never get credit for their contributions.”
5. Are there any foods that you are intrigued by, but have never enjoyed? I’m sure that you are trying new things all the time- but does anything stand out as “Why haven’t I tried this yet?”
“These days, well, my tastes grow conservative.”
Thank you Craig. I appreciate your time that you spend with us on Wild Table…Very much. wb
Adam Seger CCP Founder/Mixologist hum Spirits Company Cocktail Adviser
I met Adam Seger through the magic of the internet and the interconnections between like minded people. He is one of the “living legends” of mixology. Adam mentioned that he sometimes gets to NYC to share his passion for his craft.
Adam, when you read this, please let me tag along while you visit various cocktail bars. This would be the stuff that cocktail fueled dreams are made of! Thank you! wb
1. When was your first run-in with intoxicating liquors. How old were you? (where did you grow up?)
“I grew up in Wisconsin. My dad was in seminary at Nashota House in Nashota, Wisconsin. Episcopalian seminarians in the sticks in Wisconsin drink a lot of beer, so that is on of the words I heard a lot as a baby, so My first word was ‘beer’. Easy to say and it made everyone laugh, so I perfected it as my 1st word. My parents should have known I was going to make a living via adult beverages. We always had red wine at holidays and I always got a glass for as long as I remember. It was always Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Village. I loved it and always looked forward to Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners for my glass of wine. My parents drank Gallo Chablis and Hearty Burgundy, so something French with a cork was a big deal. I remember going to the old Leinenkugel Brewery every summer in Chippewa Falls with my mom. I loved the smell of fermentation as a kid, long before I knew anything about beer. My parents drank whatever was on sale and in a can back then. Much has changed since, my dad now has a little wine cellar and my mom drinks ‘designer beers’. I did the usual wine coolers in the limo on the way to the prom and plenty of cheap kegged beer at my fraternity house, Delta Phi, but it was the wine class at Cornell Hotel School that I began my lifelong journey of taste and seeking beverage knowledge. I was a T.A. for wines every semester after that. We got paid minimum wage but got a mixed box of opened wines every week. So, I would take them to my fraternity house and we would drink these wines with burgers and pizza. I became the official house wine geek. From there I worked in France and spent as much time as I could cellar tasting in Alsace. From there, the next few years I got more and more into wine, then when living in Louisville got really into Bourbon, going to the distilleries and creating my own small batch blends. Fast forward, I passed the Advanced examination of the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2006 in NY.
I sat for the Masters exam as well.”
2. Did you learn to be a mixologist from someone in particular? Was there a cocktail “hour” at your home when you were growing up? What was the cocktail of choice for your parents?
“My dad was a bartender in college. Growing up, I always thought that was cool. I learned to bar tend at Cornell by ‘Bud’ at The Statler Hotel, the teaching hotel of Cornell Hotel School. He taught me all the classics and once you have made a drink twice, you know it. Fast forward to me as Director of Restaurants at The Seelbach in Louisville. I used to go to this great place called Hassenour’s, a converted funeral home turned temple of Bourbon. This is where I went to Whiskey School with 3rd generation barman Max Allen Jr., basically tasting my way thru Bourbon history as I sat at Max’s bar and he passionately shared his knowledge. When Hassenour’s closed, I hired Max (and his boss Bill Altman) as my ‘Bartender Emeritus’ at the Seelbach. Max taught me everything. It was also thru the Seelbach that I made friends with Dale and Jill DeGroff. I got a six hour one on one tutelage by Dale after the 1999 Bourbon Ball. He and Jill had a 7 am flight, so we kept Max’s bar open until 6am and he instructed me on making his favorite classic cocktails. That’s where I learned the craft of Bartending.
Mixology was simply a very organic graduation of my Bartending knowledge, wine studies and passion for cooking and eating.”
3. Tell me about your HUM Hibiscus Liquor. I noticed it has cardamom in it. What is your inspiration for this elixir?
“Hum is my 70 proof, pot still rhum-based Hibiscus-Ginger Liqueur with Cardamom and Kaffir Lime. Think of it as an American Liqueur- like the Italian liqueur: Amaro. I knew I wanted to do a Rhum-based liqueur so I was drawn to Martinique and its delicious Rhum Agricoles. Putting on my wine geek hat I ran with the mantra ‘what grows together goes together’, so I researched al the indigenous botanicals and cuisine of Martinique for inspiration. Hibiscus is all over the island and has been one of my favorite cocktail ingredients long before it was cool. Ginger I added as hum’s peppery base note and cardamom, found in curries throughout the Caribbean, as its top note. The beautiful seductively fragrant Kaffir lime I added later upon the input of my mentor Francesco LaFranconi. Hum is a pure infusion just as I make at my bar. After the infusion, I balance the Botanicals with pure cane sugar and bottle it unfiltered at North Shore Distillery at a bold 70 proof.”
4. Who taught you how to cook? Do you have an early memory of cooking and what was that memory?
“I learned to cook from watching Paul Prudhomme on TV. He taught me how to layer flavors and cook with love. My first dish was Kraft Macaroni & Cheese out of a box when I was 5. To start with a cardboard box and end up with a delicious dish had me hooked. I have loved to cook since. My career has taken me thru the Michelin Stared Chez Julien in Strasbourg, TRU and The French Laundry. This has guided my ‘cooking style’ in the glass. Serge Knapp at Chez Julien taught me uncompromising freshness, Rick Tramonto & Gale Gand playfulness with Haute Cuisine and Thomas Keller a religious devotion to ingredients and their care.”
5. Is there anything that you cook that reminds you of a person in your family (grandmother, mother, father, etc.) and whenever you prepare this dish or cocktail, does it bring a tear to your eye? Do you have any particular recipe you would consider sharing with my readers?
“My dad taught me how to make Gumbo. He is famous for his roux and gives it as gifts for Christmas. His secret is equal parts unbleached flour and bacon grease, cooked slowly on the stove in a Dutch Oven until it is dark nutty mahogany. Just before it burns you take it off the fire and add the Cajun Trinity, onions-celery-green peppers, plus garlic and loads of parsley. This stops the cooking and melts the vegetables. I make gallons of this every New Years Day with Pheasant my sister and brother-in-law shoot each fall. Called ‘She Kills It, He Cooks It’, my New Years Day Byo Bubbly Champagne party is THE Chicago industry party to start the year right. For a recipe, I like my coconut and lemongrass steamed mussels with Hum. The recipe is on the six minute cooking show segment I was in: http://livewellhd.com/video?id=7531870 If link does not work, Google Let’s dish Adam Seger and select Let’s Dish, the show on the Live Well HD Network, then select the episode ‘cooking with alcohol’ and my 6.5 minute segment ‘coconut steamed mussels’ Generation hum: innovation, sustainability, and education. hum is what happens when what’s in your glass changes how you drink. We are driven to imagine a new way to enjoy cocktails, utilizing creativity normally reserved for the great restaurant kitchens of the world. At the forefront of industry trends, we aim to reinvent the tippling experience with our craft spirits and an innovative fusion of the bar and kitchen. We present you with something new, something fresh. We present: Hum.
Inspired by the botanicals of the French Caribbean and modeled after the great amaros of Italy, celebrated mixologists Adam Seger, Chicago and London’s Joe McCanta infuse organic rum with fair trade hibiscus, organic ginger, green cardamom and kaffir lime to create the beautifully balanced spirit. How will you hum? At a bold 70 proof, Hum is best enjoyed on the rocks with lime and a splash of soda. As delicious as it is versatile, Hum can be mixed with tonic, ginger ale, or added to your favorite beer or sparking wine. Don’t stop there….replace sweet vermouth or orange liqueur with hum to kick up the classic negroni, manhattan or margarita. Cook with Hum like you would with brandy. Then, end your evening with your favorite ice cream drizzled with Hum. Mmmmm. The applications are only limited by your imagination. Did you hear? It’s time to get the world humming again. Today, the Green Movement is exploding and The Hum Spirits Company is doing its part to reduce its carbon footprint. We produce locally. We purchase fresh/natural ingredients. We are diligent and conscious of where we source our ingredients. Hum is all natural. It does not contain any artificial ingredients, colorings or chemicals. We purchase fair trade organic hibiscus, organic ginger, organic cardamom, as well as use locally distilled rum. Hum is bottled in 70% recycled glass, and the Company offers a bottle recycling program for all of its accounts. Our belief in sustainability has given us incredible exposure and coverage in beverage, food, industry, entertainment, as well as green press arenas. Hum out loud. We believe in a new way of doing business. To make our product known, we have a unique strategy: we have gone to the experts, the gurus, the ones who provide a lasting, culinary experience. We work from the inside out, building partnerships with chic restaurants and boutiques, with trend-blazing chefs and mixologists. Together, we invent drinks and dinner menus. We throw ‘Spirited Dinners’, hold tastings and cocktail classes. We have built a reputation from within the industry. In this way, we not only reach our intended markets, but we teach them about our product, how versatile it can be in the glass or on the plate.”
Adam said these were fun questions!
Thanks Adam for being so generous with your time! wb
Aka ‘Spice & Ice’
By Adam R. Seger CCP
2 Ounces 10 Cane Rum
1 Lime Fresh Squeezed
3/4 Ounce Ginger-Habanero Syrup
3/4 Ounce Mango Puree
Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled 10 ounce cocktail glass rimmed with Homemade 7 Spice (wet rim of chilled martini glass with a lime wedge, then dip rim in 7 spice)
-Homemade 7 Spice: equal parts cane sugar and spice blend. Spice Blend: 2 parts Cinnamon sticks,2 parts ground fennel, 3 parts Dried Ginger, 1.5 parts whole Szechuan Peppercorns, 1 part whole Cloves, 1 part star anise, 1 part green cardamom (inner pods-shells discarded). Place all in a Vita-Mix or high speed blender until sugar absorbs the spices. Keep in airtight container. Best to use within 3 weeks.
-Ginger-Habanero Syrup: 1 Cup Sugar, 1 Cup Water heated to just before boiling with 1 Seeded Habanero and 2 Ounces Sliced Fresh Ginger. Remove Habanero 5 minutes after taking off of heat. Cool and strain out ginger. Keeps sealed in the refrigerator for 3 weeks.
Ed Hamilton, Rum Educator-Tiki Bar Maven-Author, Sailor, Friend. Ministry of Rum Tasting Competition
I first met Ed Hamilton back in the early 1990’s. I was on a yacht owned by my step-father and Ed’s yacht was moored next to ours. Earlier that day, I attended a book signing that Ed held on one of the British Islands, maybe Tortola? Or it might have been at Foxy’s, on Jost Van Dyke- I’m not certain. There is a haze of Rum over a few years that still has not lifted.
I was immediately bitten by the rum bug. Here was a guy who lived on his own sailboat and he spoke about rum and drank it for a living! I still have the book named: The Rums of the Caribbean. Ed signed my first edition copy. Fast forward to 2010. I follow Ed’s Ministry of Rum website on the Internet. Through the magic of social networking and email I contacted him regarding his Ministry of Rum competition. The goal of this competition is to examine the art of fine rum, taste the rums blind and assign a numerical score. Then award the rums, Gold, Silver or Bronze medals. I asked Ed if I could be a judge at his event and he said yes. So I flew out to San Francisco and participated in the competition. We had a blast!
Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco was particularly generous by offering the First Night Event Party. Thanks to Martin Cate for being so generous with your time and a seat by the bar of your fantastic watering-hole.
El Dorado Rum.. Ed says that he has the remnants of some 20 year rum was running around his brain when I called. Nice stuff. The speed of the internet is really amazing. He tells me of his 80 year old uncle. This curmudgeon of a man used to build the equipment used to measure the magnetic fields of the earth. He could do anything he wanted to do and encouraged Ed to do the same. He tells Ed to be yourself. Do what you love.
1. When did you have your first taste of Sugar Cane juice Rum? How old were you? Did you know the difference the first time you tasted the different style of rum?
“I first tried Rum when I was 18 in Florida. That’s when 18 was the drinking age. My dad taught me to fix refrigeration systems on mega-yachts in the islands. At 5 oclock in the afternoon if you don’t have water or refrigeration, you have real problems on a huge boat. First, the galley will start smelling. Everything is down. If the generator is down you can get power at the dock, but if the refrigeration is down, there is no a/c, no way to keep the food cool, the freezers start to defrost. Bad. Very bad. My dad tinkered with things and he taught me to fix things. I can work anywhere in the world on yachts because I know how to make their essential systems run!
I lost my boat in Antigua. By then I’d invested six years in the Ministry of Rum. At this time water was five dollars a bottle and Cruzan was two dollars. Drinks were ¾ booze and ¼ fruit juice or whatever we had to mix it with, usually something to kill the taste of the (less expensive) rum.
Every distiller wants to tell you about the quality of their rum, so instead of just listening to the words, I drank the rum!
I quickly discerned a difference between the good stuff and the cheap stuff, but back then I quickly discerned a difference between the good stuff and the cheap stuff, but back thenBacardi Añejo was affordable.
Fast forward to about 1993 and I was in St. Pierre, Martinique. Ti Punch was the first time he had the stuff. Bernadette Canneterre. She descended from the island slaves. I can still picture the vision of her beauty .. the tasting room was open air thing. Conical roof. Built like an old horse mill. It was the anticipation of flavor. Lime, cane syrup and rum. So good and so simple. Nothing tastes the same as that day.”
2. You make your living traveling around the country singing the song of the islands favorite drink. Do you have a favorite way of enjoying your Rum?
“I Like my rum in a clean glass. I try not to get hung up on glassware. One of my favorite ways of enjoying rum is in a chilled coconut.
Biggest round-about in the world is in Trinidad. In the middle there is a huge park. It’s about 3 miles around. Embassy buildings to old houses to slums. At different points there are people with trucks with coconuts on ice. Energy is cheap. Ice cold coconut are everywhere. They machete the top off. Pour some rum in on top of it. Buy coconuts and get ½ gallon of coconut water. Make ice cubes out of it for the galley on a boat.
A glass with juice that is available and rum. They don’t serve cocktails, but they do serve rum. Champagne, mango juice and light rum? Cannot do all things and be responsible.”
3. Your rum competition brings together people who are interested in the CANE spirits. Do you have any other spirits you enjoy drinking? What are they?
I drink a bit of bourbon, gin, tequila. Every distribut0r wants me to taste things. Taste stuff continually. Four or five new spirits are tasted daily, sometimes more.”
4. Who taught you how to cook? Mother? Father? Grandparents? Do you have a recipe that brings a tear to your eye when you prepare it? What is it? Who does it remind you of?
“Mom. Mom was a meat and potatoes cook. We all develop our own styles. When I cook something spicy it reminds me of an old girlfriend. She loved cooking with hot peppers. Diced hot vegetables, pickled peppers etc. She loved them all. On day she got some scotch bonnets to make these pickled vegetables. We were just eating them. Knew the stuff in the jar was hot, little did we know that everything we touched was coated with the pepper oils. About 5 minutes later all parts of our bodies were just BURNING.. We jumped overboard and swam around and tried to get it off of us. The ocean water didn’t help much, but it sure was refreshing!”
5. Who taught you how to sail? I remember meeting you in the Islands- I was on my families yacht, you were moored nearby, we shared an afternoon of conversation, Rum and good cheer…I remember at the time it was Cruzan and we mixed it with warm coca cola. Do you know how to navigate by the stars? Who taught you how to navigate?
A friend of my father’s had a Sunfish sailboat. I used to sail it off Ft. Meyers Beach. Come vacation time, I’d take my boat out and learned to sail.. I do know how to celestial navigate with a sextant. I can navigate with LORAN and radio directional finders. And basic celestial navigation of course. I learned from a guy who was a modern day rum-runner, except he wasn’t running rum. I don’t remember his real name and he probably doesn’t want it published anyway. He was a ship captain who had been running things into the region under foreign flagged ships. He taught me celestial navigation during a four month cruise from Taiwan to Singapore, but that’s another story. Don’t ask!”
Just google: RUM for more information on Ed Hamilton and the Ministry of Rum. Join his blog!
Warren Bobrow is a mixologist, chef, and writer known as the Cocktail Whisperer. In 2010, Bobrow founded “Wild Table” for Wild River Review and serves as the master mixologist for several brands of liquor, including the Busted Barrel rum produced by New Jersey’s first licensed distillery since Prohibition.
Bobrow has published three books on mixology and written articles for Saveur magazine, Voda magazine, Whole Foods-Dark Rye, Distiller, Beverage Media, DrinkupNY and other periodicals. He writes the “On Whiskey” column for Okra Magazine at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and has written restaurant reviews for New Jersey Monthly.
His first book Apothecary Cocktails, was published in September 2013; and immediately went into a second printing. In 2014, he published Whiskey Cocktails. He was born and raised in Morristown, NJ, on a Biodynamic farm.
Warren Bobrow in this Edition
COCKTAIL WHISPERER, Editor
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Blue Hill/Stone Barns: Time Exists in Harmony with Nature
The Cocktail Whisperer asks Anthony Bourdain Four Questions about Scotch
The Five Questions: Andrew Bell, American Sommelier
The Five Questions Catherine Reynolds
The Five Questions: Lincoln Henderson (Master Distiller)
The Five Questions: Natalie West (Foppiano Wines)
The Five Questions: Randall Grahm
The Five Questions: Sustainable Sushi
A Glass of Bourbon, Branch, and History
Midnight in the Bronx: Visit to Hunt’s Point Wholesale Fish Exchange
A Modern Day Absinthe Alchemist
A Summer Cocktail Party for Artie Shaw
Tales of the Cocktail: New Orleans, Louisiana