At Camp Runamok, a six-day summer sleepaway camp in Lebanon Junction, Kentucky, guests drink more bourbon than “bug juice.” But don’t worry: The campers here are all professional bartenders, and they’re all over 21. That doesn’t mean, however, that this place is lacking in childlike playfulness. Quite the opposite. Attendees might, for example, find themselves on a grown-up scavenger hunt, searching for ingredients for the perfect Boulevardier (bourbon, Campari, sweet vermouth, ice), then stirring and straining the cocktail, all while being pelted with paintballs by a man dressed as Captain America.
Louisville bartender Jared Schubert and Lindsey Johnson, CEO of wine and spirits marketing firm Lush Life Productions, started their immersive bourbon experience in 2012 to, as Johnson says, “teach the bar trade about American whiskey and build lasting friendships so that everyone has a place to guest-bartend and a bed to sleep in wherever they go.” That means spirited nighttime team-building exercises—
cabin-versus-cabin prank wars and talent shows featuring irreverent performances like a gargled “William Tell Overture”—are paired with geeky daytime tours and tastings at the region’s historic distilleries. But there’s an altruistic goal at play here, too: to raise money for their host, Lions Camp Crescendo, which caters to kids with special needs. In addition to fundraisers, like an auction to shave a fellow camper’s bushy beard, attendees scrub and paint the cabins and beautify on-site gardens.
“Everyone here is in the right spirit and has an honest love of whiskey,” says New Orleans bartender Kimberly Patton-Bragg, who returned this year as a head counselor. “Going into the rickhouses and touching the barrels, the smell of whiskey in the air—to go where these brands are born is special.” The camp has become so popular that, despite expanding to a second installment this year (September 7-12), only one in four applicants is accepted.
For now, Runamok is open only to pro mixologists, plus the occasional chef or coffee expert. Luckily, Kentucky isn’t wanting for interactive bourbon experiences. At Louisville’s Bourbon Barrel Foods, local chefs and bartenders run monthly guest cocktail parties and cooking demonstrations, often featuring products like barrel-aged soy sauce or bourbon-smoked salts and spices. If you’re more serious about the craft, you can enroll at the city’s Moonshine University, which offers five-day distiller courses, two-day workshops in distillation or whiskey blending, and two-hour talks and tastings at Grease Monkey Distillery. For a true spirit immersion, book a stay at Bardstown’s Bourbon Manor Bed & Breakfast, where the three-story barn will host mixology classes and pairing dinners. The place has bourbon running through its veins: The Federal-style estate is owned by the descendants of the legendary Colonel E.H. Taylor Jr., widely considered the father of modern bourbon.
Mixing cocktails in a city that relies heavily on public transit, like London or New York, is a breeze. In fact, the resurgence of overproof spirits and absinthe-based drinks shows that no one seems overly concerned with the breathalyzer. But what’s a mixologist to do in a driving town like Atlanta or Los Angeles, where responsible drinkers often follow a one-and-done rule? It’s a problem Paul Calvert of Paper Plane speakeasy, in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur, has tackled head-on. Rather than fill his menu with mocktails, Calvert has devised an innovative roster of low-alcohol cocktails—akin to the trendy session beers hitting the microbrew world—that allows folks to sample his creations without fear of intoxication. His solution: Load them up with beers, wines, fortified wines and aperitifs, which contain a quarter to a half the amount of alcohol you’d find in standard gins, rums and whiskeys.
“Because these drinks are often based on fortified wines like vermouth and sherry, they pair better with food than traditional high-octane cocktails do,” Calvert says. “They also introduce guests to ingredients they may not usually drink, like Madeira or port.” Here, he shows us how to make a bar favorite.
• 1 1/2 oz. medium-dry oloroso sherry
• 3/4 oz. Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
• 1/4 oz. Jack Rudy Tonic Syrup
• 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
• Soda water
Fill a collins glass with ice and add first four ingredients. Stir, add soda water to taste and garnish with a grapefruit twist.
Think of the Kalette as the Cronut of the vegetable world. Both have trademarked names. Both have bloggers buzzing. And both are hybrid creations designed to ride the wave of popularity of their component parts. Instead of croissants and doughnuts, however, British seed-breeding company Tozer Seeds has turned to the trendy veggies kale and Brussels sprouts for inspiration. Less bitter than sprouts and crunchier than leafy greens, the Kalette combines the best of the two versatile superfoods.
When it hits American shelves this fall, the Kalette will be the first new vegetable to debut since broccolini was invented in Japan in 1993. Though they’ve been available in Britain since 2010 under the name “flower sprouts,” Kalettes are crossing the pond with an official name change to capitalize on kale’s continuing buzz.
While they are genetically modified, Kalettes are not considered GMOs, because they were created using centuries-old selective cross-breeding techniques, rather than by splicing or shutting off genes. It took more than 15 years to perfect the crop, making the timing of the release a bit serendipitous.
“Each time a new cross breed is developed, it has to be tested through at least one growing cycle,” says Lisa Friedrich, Tozer’s American marketing representative. “Who would have thought 15 years ago that kale was going to be so trendy?”
Paris is in the midst of a well-publicized love affair with that most classic of all-American dishes, le hamburger. It’s no surprise, then, that the trend has trickled down to France’s overseas territories, such as the haute Caribbean hideaway of St. Barthélemy. Granted, the island has always had a soft spot for the dish: Divey Le Select, which opened in the capital, Gustavia, in 1949, is said to have inspired Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” But these days, the burger has received a posh makeover at the hands of the island’s top chefs—with prices to match.
“In France, you’re finding more hamburgers by Michelin-starred chefs,” says Guy Lombard, general manager of Hôtel Le Toiny, whose Restaurant Le Gaïac may be the island’s ritziest eatery. “It’s a chance to showcase homemade bread and the best ground beef, but then bring it up to a more gastronomique level.” Le Gaïac’s five-star burger ($40) includes ground Angus flank, aged cheddar, buns baked daily by the pastry chef and lettuce grown onsite.
At L’Esprit Jean Claude Dufour, which made its name on $38 scallop sashimi and $61 plates of pigeon, the lunch menu’s veal burger, dressed up with grilled vegetables and a Parmesan emulsion, is a relative steal at $32. And at upscale steakhouse Meat & Potatoes, Thursdays have been given over to burger parties, featuring a roster of chic burgers ($29–$45) that include ingredients like Wagyu beef, grilled scallions and tomatoes from nearby Guadeloupe. “Today, everyone loves a good burger,” says the chef-owner, who goes by JC. “It’s a phenomenon, like club sandwiches were 20 years ago.”