Google’s latest acquired rating service, Zagat, released a nice article about the Ten Most Annoying Cocktail Trends as voted by the readership. Although Absinthe didn’t make the list, some things point out why Absinthe has a difficult time coming back among Americans.
1. Too Many Ingredients. Fine I can sympathize with this one. If some cocktail has twelve ingredients and I skip one, you should notice. If you don’t, then it doesn’t need to be there. There are some cocktails with many ingredients where if you skip one it’s ruined, but I have a feeling those are less in number than people might think. Likewise, improving a cocktail by removing an ingredient is a sad realization. That Absinthe rinse you do to every cocktail better be worth it, and better not screw anything up.
2. Drinks over $15. Granted, a well Martini shouldn’t cost more than a few bucks but I can make a fancy one that costs $12 before any markup. If you want a fancy drink with top-shelf ingredients, then prepare to pay fancy top-shelf prices. Some bars with more style than substance might overcharge for crap (there’s one in my town), but for the most part respect the years of technique that not only go into crafting exquisite booze but also the fine-tuned cocktails from a knowledgeable bartender.
3. Weird Vodka Flavors. I want to sympathize here but I can’t. The market has tons of these and most are gimmicky low-brow attempts to sell stuff to people who don’t really like booze. However, there’s a baby in this bathwater and I have seen some bars do wonders with the right flavor extractions. Again, there’s one in my town that makes their own flavored vodkas and they do it well, even though it’s not my style of bar. Whether they use Bacon, or Tobacco these vodkas actually add something to the cocktails they are in. Let the craftsmen experiment. Vodka is only truly flavorless by American definition anyways, so show some international hospitality and allow for this backdoor.
4. Molecular Cocktails. So the name is douchetastic. There’s also the danger of someone using liquid nitrogen incorrectly and having your stomach removed. Like any trend someone is going to take things a bit too far. But most people don’t realize is that this is an old trend. From the flaming citrus garnish to the opening up of a scotch with a few drops of water, the sight smell and flavor can be enhanced on a small molecular level. Marketers know that we drink with our eyes first and design labels on that premise. Tasters know the incredible value of scent while imbibing. So once again let the craft be creative. Just because you don’t know why it’s important doesn’t make it less so.
5. Twee Serving Vessels. This goes right in hand with the trend towards old style cocktails. Most of those were made with higher proof booze so a four ounce glass was just fine. We migrated towards bigger drinks with the trashy trend of mixers (gasp, yes it was a trend at one time) and the lowering of class, er… proof down to the common 80. If you made a truly historic cocktail with the correct ABV, and you doubled it to fit an eight ounce glass, one would hammer you. Sometimes a smaller glass just fits the recipe. The Chrysanthemum is a great example of something that gets drowned in modern sized glasses.
6. Herbal and Floral Infusions. Fuck you. I love herbal and floral tastes. Your palate of cheeseburger and soda might not but then again I don’t want fat and sugar all over my cocktails. Let’s agree to disagree here. Back to my blogs topic of Absinthe, this is one point of the American palate that prevents us from enjoying Absinthe. We can’t tell the difference between Star Anise, Aniseed, and Fennel because we don’t eat that kind of food. Most Americans would say all three taste like licorice, whereas international gourmets would be damned to make that statement. On behalf of America, I’m sorry Europe.
7. Bacon in Drinks. Again not my cup of tea but let people experiment. If you don’t like it then don’t drink it. Let those who do have their fun.
8. Enough with the Retro. I somewhat agree here. The elitist hipsterism of bartenders looking like some 1920’s nobody can get on my nerves. Retro cocktails though, are amazing. Cocktails that were made as good tasty drinks instead of covering up prohibition’s bad booze are a retro goldmine. It’s all about taste, and I personally love cocktail onions. Another problem with retro is that it’s presence might stifle creativity. My Chrysanthemum and Sazerac aren’t a purists dream but I’ll bet you ten to one that they taste better. Honor your roots but don’t let them hold you back. As for Absinthe, it has no choice but to be retro and slightly hipster, as it was banned before banning booze was cool.
9. Metal Straws. Straws are for kids anyways, what are all you immature people ordering?
10. Cocktail Snobbery. This is more than slightly hypocritical to say at the end of this rant but I hate it too. I’m no mixologist but rather a cocktologist, for a reason. If you are trying to look like a gentleman and order a drink in a fedora then you fail anyways as a gentleman takes his hat off indoors. Developing an ego solely based on what you drink is sad and you have some serious self-reflection to do. Please have some style but for fucks sake do it right and without the hipster ego. This might have more to do with going to the wrong place. Don’t expect a hip speakeasy to have the same style of patrons an old-door saloon does. Why are you wearing a hoodie in a Martini Bar (guilty) or a full suit at the Punk-Rock Dive (guilty as well)?
In the end, grow up and have some style. Whether it’s the leather jacket and whiskey at the biker bar or the retro love affair of multi-ingredient infused classics with a molecular twist, have yours and let others have theirs but have some at least.