American Drinkers are Slobs

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.


10 thoughts on “American Drinkers are Slobs

  1. Well, another entertaining rant. As usual, I agree with some and not others, but it was worth the read. Here’s my spin:

    1. Not being fortunate enough myself to be in one of those cocktail meccas, I keep searching for the place or places that have it right where I live. Lately I’ve hung out at a place that has a reputation for fine drinks, but the house special cocktails are all mostly uniformly ridiculous. I’ve described it to others that if you read the descriptions of the drinks out loud, you’d have to take another breath halfway through. How do you spell “trying too hard”?

    2. I agree that “If you want a fancy drink with top-shelf ingredients, then prepare to pay fancy top-shelf prices”, but a Martini at $12.00 cost? I’m in CT, a relatively expensive booze state. Without going into the “Ultra-Premium” level of gin (and that means in terms of pricing, not necessarily quality), great gin tops out at about $1.50 per ounce wholesale. With a typical Martini recipe being 2.5 oz gin, .75 oz dry vermouth, and 3-4 dashes orange bitters plus lemon twist or olives, it’s a little hard to imagine material cost beyond $5.00 or so. I’ll bet you can make a “fancy” something at $12.00 cost, but it’s probably not a Martini. I’m in total agreement that the practice of over charging for crap is repugnant, and it happens all the time around here.

    3. There is a difference between “weird vodka flavors” and some house-made infusion that uses vodka as a base. Once an infusion is done, it’s no longer vodka. And be careful with that tobacco stuff. There can be real dangers.

    4. I have no problem with letting those that want to experiment do so, but I find the whole molecular thing, both in cocktails and food, to be overly fussy and just a little too precious. OK, let’s let those interested do it. The rest of us will just have a satisfying drink, and probably get it today.

    5. I don’t understand the point in the Zagat article. If I get your point correctly, we are in agreement. The point of a great cocktail should be quality, not quantity. If you want quantity, go to Cheescake Factory or any of the other cookie-cutter, bigger-is-better establishments. Also, one way to keep prices under control, and allow a patron to try more things is to keep portions appropriate.

    6. Agreed. I can live with these where they make good sense and are craftfully integrated. Where it’s just silly or sensationalistic, I say “fuck ’em”.

    7. How hackneyed has this quickly become?

    8. I’ve always thought the challenge with cocktails and absinthe are in honoring the past while living in the now.

    9. There’s got to be a decent biodegradable alternative here. Otherwise, there’s an opportunity for someone to make a million. I don’t want plumbing in my drink, and the hygiene… well, I don’t even want to think about it.

    10. I agree. And I’m a nerd about this stuff, as well. I notice every nit-pickin’ little detail with my drinks (the ones I make and the ones I’m served), but that’s just how my mind approaches everything. Once noted, I forget it and enjoy my drink. It’s booze for Christ’s sake. Drink up, savor the moment. Don’t end up like these folks that think the critique of the details makes you more important than the total experience.

    1. Re: #2, I took it to mean “a drink that ends in -tini” instead of a traditional martini, since most people A) don’t know the difference and B) they already told us that they’re super un-pretentious, so they probably don’t know what’s even in a real martini. 😀

      I try not to nit-pick with drinks, but little things like “I said sweet vermouth, not dry” or “why the fuck is there cola in my whiskey sour?” seem to grate on my nerves excessively. Maybe I’m being too picky. 😉

      1. I just tried a new place right across the street yesterday evening. When I bellied up to the bar, I saw the Negroni was a house specialty cocktail. I asked the nice young lady if she could make it at the ratios of 1, .75, .50: gin, vermouth, Campari instead of the usual equal parts. The gin and Campari went in (free poured) at those approximate ratios, then in went the vermouth at easily 2 times the volume of gin. I just couldn’t figure out how she could have blown it that badly and then it occurred to me; In her mind the glass needed to be full. It is so frequently clear to me that the world of cocktails needs as much evangelism as the world of absinthe.

    2. 50/50 Martini with 100 year old vermouth is how I hit $12. Sure it’s an exaggeration to pull out that sneaky ingredient but the point remains the same; better sometimes costs more. I bet you Shabba could outdo me though.

      Although cost does not always indicate quality as seasoned absintheurs know all too well.

  2. I keep trying to find something with that vibe for the Monkey Gland.

    I had no idea there was a readily available 100 year old vermouth. What is it? Is it really better, or just older?

  3. Old world spirits has an aged gin called Rusty Blade at $100 a bottle that I’ve been wondering about. $4 an ounce by two ounces is $8. I have a local aged gin and I wonder how it compares.

    The 100 year is apparently the age of the barrels, not barrel aged. My bad. Carpano Antica Formula which I want to punch the store owner for selling at $50 as online you can get it for half the price. $2 an ounce by two ounces is $4.

    $8 and $4 is $12 cost. This is list price so I’m not including taxes either.

    I divide the bottles by 25 to get the ounce price.

  4. Yeah, $50.00 for Antica Formula would piss me off too. It’s about $35.00 retail or $28.00 wholesale here in CT. I love it and use it all the time. Like I said, if the materials are truly expensive I have no quibble with strong pricing. Somehow though, I took the gripe in #2 to mean just simply overpriced. Of course, when that applies is always up to the judgment of each individual consumer, and they may just not be right for any number of reasons.

    And of course exceptional offerings may just happen, as you have illustrated. Did you see this one recently?

    1. Yeah I was thinking about bringing that up but the $12 martini seemed to be a better example since it’s something you can do with ingredients currently on the market and not some collectors stash.

      That cocktail blows my mind and I’ve considered trying to create a version of it with what those ingredients would be today. This blog has a version of it but I would upgrade to main ingredient of Cognac to at least an XO as just a VS would leave out those aged flavors.

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