Complaint Box | Complicated Cocktails

Complaint Box
Got a Gripe?

Get a grip. Send your rant — no more than 500 words, please — to: [email protected].

If you celebrate New Year’s Eve in one of the city’s trendy bars, you may find yourself wondering: what has happened to the once simple, relatively inexpensive pleasure of drinking?

Every new restaurant or lounge I read about or venture into these days features cocktails with a list of ingredients so long and complicated that the person who assembles them can no longer bear to simply be called a bartender; he is a “mixologist.” “Artisanal,” “locally sourced” and “hand-picked” have replaced “cold” and “straight up” on drink menus, but mixologists need to remember that somewhere in the list of ingredients should be a dash of fun, or else it is all just hard to swallow.

I’ve always been interested in new restaurants, having worked as a waitress and a bartender in my family’s restaurant in New Jersey before studying hospitality management at Cornell. For anyone like me who tries to keep on top of dining and drinking trends, the complication of “cocktailing” has been unavoidable, on a par with the craze for cosmopolitans that followed on the high heels of “Sex and the City.” But this pretentious cocktail movement is about more than just the “libations”; it has gone as far as to change the culture of the places where we drink.

A recent visit to the quintessential contemporary cocktail den presented drinks with special touches like mint grown in the back garden, grapefruit freshly juiced by hand, and ice cubes made from pure water frozen at a special temperature to ensure slow melting — it took longer to read all of the ingredients than to actually ingest them. Posted on the wall was a list of rules for appropriate conduct in this establishment, just to make sure that everyone knew that this bar was different, and acted accordingly. The place was mature, the drinks delicious, and the chuckles muffled.

Drinking should be synonymous with big laughs and a heightened sense of romance, maybe even a few regrettable slips of the tongue. I am not endorsing drinking in excess or drinking solely to get drunk, but is it necessary for people making drinks to take themselves so seriously?

Even certain kinds of liquor have been relegated to third-class status. Several months ago, when I first started noticing the complicated-cocktail trend, I read that a nightclub owner had declared that vodka was “over.” Nevertheless, I find it hard to believe that he will stop selling $400 bottles of the stuff to the clients in his club (although ordering a plain vodka soda might be frowned upon by the mixologist behind the bar).

I feel that this whole trend is a genius marketing ploy, a way to justify gouging patrons on drinks. People may feel better paying $20 for a drink if it includes rare spices kept in sacks of pure spun silk, but that doesn’t mean the drinks taste better.

I appreciate a masterfully constructed meal as much as anyone else, but sometimes I also just need to grab a greasy slice on the corner. Right now, what I think everyone needs to do is stop treating drinking as an esoteric exercise instead of the simple, spirit-raising quest that it should be.

Ali Zweben, a former publicist for fashion and lifestyle companies, lives in Union Square and works as a freelance public relations consultant.

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Your Guide to New York’s New Year’s Eve Love-In

It’s New Year’s Eve, and the organizers and sponsors of the bash in Times Square want you to pucker up.

Apparently, 2011 is the year of love. This year’s celebration will include a “Kiss Platform” where two long-distance couples will be reunited and 30,000 revelers will receive samples of lip balm, courtesy of Nivea, one of the sponsors of the event, in preparation for smooching at midnight. Even the 12-foot wide, 11,875 pound geodesic sphere that an estimated one billion people will watch is themed “Let There Be Love.” Waterford Crystal has added 288 new triangles etched with “a romantic pattern” that will join the 2,688 crystals covering 32,256 digitally controlled Philips Luxeon L.E.D.’s, which use about as much energy per hour as two traditional home ovens.

And by the time it’s all over, the 453 bulbs that light the seven-foot-tall “2011″ sign and the tons of confetti fall into the slush, one couple will have been pronounced man and wife.

Two Marine Corps reservists, Bethany Phillips and Geoffrey Dubie, who met in Iraq and were engaged on a Bahamian beach, were selected in Get Married Media’s “Get Married in Times Square contest” to be the first couple in the celebration’s 106-year history to recite their vows in front of the throngs of revelers in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and one of his daughters will be there, as will aging performers from the 1980s like Rick Springfield, Backstreet Boys and NKOTB, with a special performance by the English singer Taio Cruz, who will sing “Falling In Love” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Snooki, from MTV’s reality series “Jersey Shore,” will not be there, however. Here is the complete schedule of the evening’s events.

The festivities will begin at 4 p.m. under partly cloudy skies with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark.

Tim Tompkins, the president of the Times Square Alliance, which produces the event with Countdown Entertainment, estimated the organizers lost about a day due to the blizzard. But with the help of shovels, plows, industrial special snow melting machines and 500,000 pairs of feet trudging through the area, very little white will be left.

“The show must go on and the snow must be gone,” he said.

Where to Watch

Last year’s live Webcast was seen by hundreds of thousands of viewers in 196 countries worldwide, though many reported sluggish service, undoubtedly due to overtaxed networks. You can watch the stream, beginning at 5:50 p.m. Friday and ending after midnight, on;,, or below:

Revelers on the go can download the first official Times Square Ball App and watch on-demand videos at a comfortable arms-length distance from their mobile device, which is available for Android and Apple users free on iTunes. Mobile networks permitting, users with the application will be able to watch the entire six-and-a-half-hour sequence of events and post photos of their own celebrations, a selection of which will be projected on the “Toshiba Vision” sign below the Times Square Ball.

Check into Times Square on FourSquare, download the Facebook application, or use Twitter with the hashtag #TimesSquareBall.


At a news conference on Thursday morning, Mayor Bloomberg outlined the basic rules.

“No backpacks, no alcohol, you’ve got to behave,” he said. “The kinds of things you would expect. Every year we have a great celebration and I think this will be another one.”

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, who was also at the news conference, added that, “we have no specific threats against the city on New Year’s Eve. Any time large numbers of people come together, we put in our counterterrorism overlay.”

Asked if the police would do anything differently because of recent cases of package bombs emanating from overseas, Mr. Kelly said, “We always do things a little bit differently, we don’t want to get stuck in a rut, so some of our deployments will change. We have a lot of detection equipment that we deploy. We have blocker cars; over sixty blocker cars that will be in place; our helicopters. There’s thirty-three dinner cruises on the river. We police those. There’s a lot of activity going on. We have a lot of experience in dealing with it. And, again, I think it will be a safe and happy event.”

Mr. Kelly said the department was sensitive to any signs of a dirty bomb or radiation.

“We have several thousand radiation detectors that are deployed with our officers,” he said. “We have large radiation detection equipment that we deploy on vehicles. We actually have it on all our harbor launches in the water, so we’re certainly very sensitive to that issue.”

Getting There

The New York Police Department will begin restricting access to streets in and around Times Square about 2:30 p.m. Seventh Avenue, from 41st to 59th Streets, Broadway, from 47th to 59th Streets and 43rd to 47th Streets, from Sixth to Eighth Avenue, will all be closed to traffic.

When Times Square closes to vehicle traffic at 3:00 p.m., revelers can begin to fill up the viewing sections along Broadway and Seventh Avenue, moving northward from 43rd Street to Central Park, as designated by Police Officers.

Beginning at 5 p.m. 42nd Street from 6th to Eighth Avenues will be closed to traffic.

Moving across town between 42nd and 59th Streets will be difficult after 6 p.m. You won’t be allowed to cross Broadway or Seventh Avenue once the streets have been closed. If your destination is east of Broadway/Seventh Avenue, you must enter at Sixth Avenue. If your destination is west of Broadway/Seventh Avenue, you must enter at Eighth Avenue.

Visitors are encouraged to walk or take the subway to 42nd Street. Note that only the Sixth and Eighth Avenue exits will be open after 7 p.m. The southbound and northbound N/R lines will skip the 49th Street station beginning at 7 p.m., until after midnight, and the northbound No. 1 train will skip the 50th Street station during the same period.

Once you get out of the subway, police officers will direct you to viewing sections marked off with barricades that are first-come-first-served.

The official rules state:

  • Backpacks and large bags prohibited
  • Alcoholic beverages prohibited
  • Property may not be abandoned at checkpoints
  • Attendees who leave before the ball drops will not be able to gain entry to their original viewing area

The organizers, the mayor and the police department are planning on another success this year.

The goal, Mr. Tompkins said, is to “break through that lovable but persistent cynicism of New Yorkers and to ask: What are we hopeful about and what are we celebrating?”

“It’s a determination to celebrate despite the trials and tribulations and traumas of life,” he added.

Al Baker contributed reporting.

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No Comment? Not Here. Our Most Talkative Posts of 2010.

When our dear readers write in, City Room listens. Through December 28 of this year, you submitted 97,724 comments (93,094 were approved) on the 3,403 posts we published. But only a handful were chart toppers on the comment boards.

Complaint Box | Ubiquitous Pets

When two writers with opposing views weighed in about people and their pets — one who had such separation anxiety that she finagled a prescription for a service dog and another who groaned at what she called bored, childless adults who treat their animal as a next-of-kin — a lively discussion ensued.

Complaint Box | Public Smooching

Another Complaint Box railing against couples smooching in public brought out the Europhiles and romantics who defended the practice. But others disagreed. “The sight of couples performing mutual tonsillectomy in public,” as one reader described it, goes a bit far.

At a Memorial Ceremony, Loss and Tension

We received an outpouring of grief and memories on the ninth anniversary of 9/11, when thousands gathered in a park near ground zero. But even as they stood to hear the names of the dead read aloud, a vigorous debate ensued, a back and forth between readers discussing whether a mosque and Islamic community center should be built near ground zero.

Officials Plan to Eliminate 170,000 Canada Geese in New York

On July 23, City Room got its hands on a doomsday plan for New York’s geese. A nine-page report put together by a variety of national, state and city agencies showed that officials hoped to eventually reduce the number of Canada geese in New York to 85,000 from 250,000. Roughly 170,000 geese would be eliminated, whether through gassing by the authorities, hunting or birth control.

18th-Century Ship Found at Trade Center Site

When a mysterious vessel was unearthed at ground zero, archaeologists scurried about with tape measures over what appeared to be the floor planks of the ship’s lowermost deck, wrote David W. Dunlap. But we turned to you, the readers, in particular those with knowledge about boat-building or maritime history, for your insights. Was it a slave ship? A barge? A ferry of Dutch origin, perhaps? A “Moby Dick” reader who called himself Ishmael offered one explanation. So did a graduate from the Webb Institute, Simmy Willemann, who wrote:

The remains are probably prow planking and ribs from a Dutch warship, Tijger, sent to New York to purchase furs in 1613 under command of the Dutch explorer, Adrian Bloch. Cannons and wooden planks, presumably from Tijger, were unearthed when the original World Trade Center’s foundation was constructed.

Vessel Particulars: length = 80′, displacement = 130 tons, 6 1,500- to 1,600-pound cannons

A history of the Tijger.

“I’m surprised it didn’t get a parking ticket,” said one reader.

Read Mr. Dunlap’s follow up, which revealed the ship’s provenance.

JetBlue Attendant Held on Bail as Lawyer Cites Abuse on Flight

In the aftermath of a ruckus at John F. Kennedy Airport when a JetBlue flight attendant fled the aircraft via the emergency slide to avoid a conflict with a rude passenger, a lawyer defended his actions. So did many of you. “Isn’t failing to obey the instructions of the plane crew an arrestable offense?” asked a reader. “I say that the passenger ought to be arrested, especially if she assaulted the flight attendant.”

Officials Kill Nearly 400 Geese From Prospect Park (813)

On July 12, Prospect Park was the scene of a massive effort to capture and kill nearly 400 Canada geese and goslings as part of a plan to reduce the goose population in the region. Wildlife biologists and technicians descended on the park and netted the birds and carted them away. ‘Outrage!’ some cried; Good riddance, said others.

Earthquake Shakes New York: Did You Even Notice?

On June 23, a 5.0-magnitude earthquake struck north of Ottawa, but tremors were felt as far away as New York City. Turns out, plates did rattle, dogs did bark. Readers wrote in from London, Ontario; Ottawa, Canada; and Allegheny, N.Y.

JetBlue Flight Attendant Uses Emergency Slide to Escape Dispute

On August 9, service employees who are familiar with serving ornery customers watched with glee and disbelief when Steven Slater, a JetBlue flight attendant, apparently upset with an uncooperative passenger on a just-landed flight, unleashed a profanity-laden tirade on the public address system, pulled the emergency-exit chute and slid off the plane, a beer in each hand.

Has Your Street Been Plowed?

The recent blizzard has caused commotion and anger among the city’s residents living on buried streets. We asked if your streets had been plowed. We were buried with comments.

Mosque Near Ground Zero Clears Crucial Hurdle

On August 3, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 9-0 against granting historic protection to the building at 45-47 Park Place in Lower Manhattan, which cleared the way for the construction of Park51, a tower of as many as 15 stories that will house a mosque, a 500-seat auditorium and a pool. Although the debate over the mosque and its location was national, it struck a nerve with New Yorkers in particular. Some asked, Why not somewhere else? Others offered support.

“This is America, where you are free to practice religion of all kinds, and build your house of worship wherever any other could be built. What more fitting use for this land? The flag-wavers should be happy — not angry.”

Hey, Waiter! Just How Much Extra Do You Really Expect? (1257)

Customers can be reluctant to fork over the customary 20% tip for excellent service. It’s not their fault if their employers don’t pay them a living wage, David Sax, a journalist and author, wrote in a Complaint Box — and in so doing lit a comment thread on fire. Some were tired of waiters expecting big tips for bad service; others — many of them current or past waiters — felt it was their due.

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In a Word for Third, a Shovelful of Indignity

This week has been an educational one in New York City.

One lesson, in particular, will linger — long after the last molecule of grayed, salted melt gurgles down a storm drain, long even after the patina on Michael R. Bloomberg’s statue has been reburnished by some future feat of municipal derring-do.

Millions of New Yorkers who thought they lived on perfectly nice blocks in decent neighborhoods have learned that their streets are, in fact… tertiary.

A new word entered the Big Apple lexicon this week, and it’s not a happy one.

Tertiary, despite managing to simultaneously sound like both euphemistic bureaucratese and ripping flesh, is a Latinate word that means, simply, third. In a classification system with only three levels, tertiary, alas, means last.

And in New York City, tertiary means it takes three days for the city to plow your street.

That’s not its literal meaning, of course. In plowman’s parlance, tertiary streets are the ones that feed into (and get plowed after) secondary streets, which are streets that feed into (and get plowed after) arterial streets, also known as thoroughfares and main drags.

But the effect is undeniable: New Yorkers ended up feeling like third-class residents of a third-rate burg, left to clutch their bronze medals in the race for basic city services.

Or as one City Room commenter, Peter Haskett, put it Wednesday, “Most of the streets in Briarwood, Queens, must be as ‘tertiary’ as syphilis as far as City Hall is concerned, because nobody will touch them.”

The tertiary stage of syphilis, for those of you who haven’t recently cracked a medical textbook (or consulted inferior tertiary sources like encyclopedias), tends to involve big gummy lumps on the face, the sensation of bugs crawling on the skin, intense ocular pain, dementia and death.

Father: “What kind of part did you get in the school play, son?” (Boy hangs head.) “Tertiary.”

But cheer up, third-stringers. Tertiary isn’t always bad. The tertiary period, which ran for a few million decades beginning in 65 million B.C., saw the rise of mammals, some of whom have received the benefits of tertiary education, otherwise known as college. If you fall seriously ill, you would do well to get yourself to a tertiary care facility, a clinic or hospital involving specialized medical treatment.

In the ecological world, tertiary consumers are at or near the top of the food chain — they eat the carnivores (secondary consumers) who eat the herbivores (primary consumers) at the bottom of the pyramid. This can be a precarious position when the lower rungs start to give way, but it’s hard to argue with a grizzly bear with a mouth full of salmon.

And those of you who blame Mr. Bloomberg for this whole mess, remember: his mayoralty is in its tertiary stage.

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Training Your Employers In Six Sigma

Once you have selected on Six Sigma for your business structure you are going to next need to determine the best way to go about training your workers. There are a variety of ways to begin Six Sigma training although many have to do with your business, the structure and size of the organization and your present needs.

In order to better comprehend the process of training it is a good idea to understand what you’ll be learning about Six Sigma. Six Sigma training is goal based and is intended to help boost performance on all levels of the company. In order to receive the best possible training a teacher must be specifically and fully trained for these specific purposes.

Training is constructed to help companies deal with the primary dilemmas that most companies face. Training should help companies increase their strategies to produce greater results, make improvements that result in long term gains, and to utilize metrics to the best advantage of the company so that they are less time consuming and more reliable.

There are a lot of alternatives for those companies that are looking for Six Sigma training and many select different methods of training for those at different levels within the company to tailor design Six Sigma training to their own business. Six Sigma training in the classroom is considered better for those at the upper levels of the company however at the lower levels it can be simpler to train employees using a Six Sigma software program or an internet Six Sigma training course. The classroom environment does present better dynamics as employees can ask questions and also learn by the questions that are being asked by other students while online options dont permit this kind of exchange. With an internet program however, employees can move through the program at their own pace and this allows each employee to determine how long they should stay at each level for better overall comprehension.

Six Sigma training can really help to not just improve the bottom line of your business but can also help you to build a better work environment. Six Sigma companies are strong and their employees work together because the structure of the program requires it. It requires employees on a variety of levels to come together and create goals, generate ideas, and formulate solutions to problems. This team work is something that helps to grow businesses that are not only more profitable but that are healthier on all levels as well.

A great way to eliminate waste in your business is to implement a 6 sigma. six sigma training has proven successful in removing waste and increase productivity and profit. To learn more log onto

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Steps For Making Quality Control Practiced Company Wide

Many Organizations have a quality control department which obtains a sample of the products that are manufactured, verifies them for accuracy, and if those are done accurately, the assumption is made that the remainder of the run is correct. This may be true in a perfect world, but in all likelihood, small shifts can take place in the course of assembly, causing components or the whole to be worthless; becoming waste materials. Conquering this way of thinking is not always simple, but it needs to be completed to reduce waste, increase customer trust, and maximize profits.

The first step to turning quality control everyones job is to retrain workers. State plainly that employees are to check work throughout a project. Contingent upon the work being performed, this can be on a time schedule, for instance every 15 minutes, or it could be on a step by step time frame, where after each section of a project the work is double checked for correctness.

Strengthen the belief that minor adjustments are easier to make, and are less costly to the organization than redoing a job. Establishing a small modification to machinery or to other work generally requires less down time and less work than a comprehensive roll back or requiring to start from scratch. By steering clear of performing work that has already been done, earnings can see a substantial increase.

The next part of this is to retrain supervisors, managers, and other business officials. Showing them that faster is not necessarily better, and how mistakes made by moving to quickly are costing the business revenue will get them on board with the modifications that are proposed. The language of management is money, and pointing out to them how this can lower your expenses or increase profits will demonstrate to them that the organization’s business’ best interests are in mind with altering how things have always been done.

Moreover, double checking a business’ deliverables and guaranteeing precision will increase customer assurance in the products. Customer assurance is everything for a business. A happy customer will tell one or two individuals, and boost business gradually, but an unhappy customer will tell ten others, which may greatly reduce the earnings of the organization. Regardless of what marketplace a company is in, it can profit from making quality control everyones job. Through decreased waste products and improved customer confidence, the bottom line can be greatly increased. The slightest changes at times yield the biggest bounty.

To learn more about the six sigma process from six sigma white belt to the Six sigma master black belt visit

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It’s 7 A.M. Is Your Street Plowed?

During a press conference on Wednesday, John J. Doherty, the city’s sanitation commissioner, said that he expects that every street in the five boroughs would be plowed by 7 a.m. on Thursday.

The hour has arrived.

Is your street plowed? Take a walk over to the window, open the curtains, and take a peek. Hopefully, what you see will make you happier than it did on Tuesday and on Wednesday. Did Mr. Doherty live up to his word? Let us know in the comment box below.

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A Word from our Sponsor

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A Word from our Partner

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A Recipe for Instant Snowmelt: Heat and Mash

Rising temperatures helped melt snow all over the city on Wednesday, but in a parking lot at Orchard Beach, the melting was helped along by a huge cooker run by the city’s Department of Sanitation, to eliminate snow carted in from nearby areas of the Bronx.

The Sanitation Department plowed several acres of the beach’s massive parking lot, and set up a giant orange vat that cooked the snow until it melted.

Next to the melter, there were huge snowy mounds that would have made nice bunny hills for child skiers. The hill was replenished throughout the day by snow carted in on trucks operated by a multitude of agencies and private companies.

There were plows from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, dump trucks from the city’s Department of Transportation and parks department, and even Dumpsters on the back of private carting company vehicles.

Much of the snow came from hemmed-in areas like nearby City Island, where streets are narrow and space to dump snow is limited. As each new truckload of snow was dumped in the parking lot, it was scooped up by front loaders that emptied their snow into the heated vat, which had a runoff pipe that let water splash out onto the asphalt. This huge, steaming canister resembled a bubbling cauldron, and it was stoked by a worker standing over it, mashing down the snow with a pole.

The operation was near the beach’s entrance area, and, presumably to keep spectators away, snowplows had pushed a tall mound of snow against the entrance gate booths, sealing them off to passage.

Kathy Dawkins, a spokeswoman for the Sanitation Department, said there were 36 such melters being used citywide to help eliminate snow buildup throughout the city. The agency selects sites for the process after consulting with the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, to make sure that local sewers can handle the volume of water created by the melters.

Why not just let the snow melt on its own? Ms. Dawkins said the city wanted to avoid letting certain areas of the city turn into a kind of urban Alps. “If we have mountains of snow lasting until April, that’s not good,” she said. “By using the snow melters, we’re able to haul the snow to the location and get rid of it.”

The melters can handle 60 tons per hour, and create 240 gallons of water per minute, she said.

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