If you read my post about spirits – titled ‘What’s the Point of a Drink?‘, this post should follow on nicely. If you haven’t but have a basic understanding about spirits, it should also make sense. If it doesn’t, have a read of the post – link above.
So, now that you have a rough idea about what spirits to order, let’s move into something a little more exciting; the world of cocktails. I’m not really here to tell you what you should or not drink when it comes to cocktails but there is definitely more to cocktails than a mojito – the exception possibly being a well made Piña colada in a real pineapple that is decorated like a tropical rainforest such that you could fall in love with an orangutan (Yes, I stole that from Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels).
Before I get to invested in my views, I want to get two things off my chest.
1. Origins of Cocktails
The first thing I want to mention is that the real popularity of the ‘so called good’ cocktails (i.e. the ones that don’t taste like glorified gasoline) exploded during the alcohol prohibition era following the first world war. As such, seeing as it was a prohibited substance, the point of these cocktails was to ‘hide’ and ‘mask’ the alcohol so that it could be drunk in plain sight (not to mention hinder the crude flavour that the bootleg booze of the time was offering up). As such, you really shouldn’t be complaining if your drink doesn’t taste like ‘alcohol’ if the intended purpose of the drink is to mask the alcohol contained within. If you want to taste the alcohol, grow a pair and order something that will put hair on your chest.
2. What is a cocktail?
The second thing I want to bring attention to is ‘what is a cocktail.’ Depending who you ask, a cocktail is any 2 or 3 part drink. This essentially means any drink with 2 or more ingredients can be considered a cocktail. For arguments sake, I’m going to say it’s 3 parts because if it’s 2, then a vodka pineapple is considered a cocktail. However, even if a cocktail has a minimum of 3 ingredients, this still means that your VCRs or Vodka Lime Sodas are technically ‘cocktails.’ Now most self respecting bartenders wouldn’t call themselves a cocktail bartender if a VCR was the extent of their repertoire. Just be careful of the ‘superstar’ behind the bar that claims to be the world’s best but their ‘go to cocktail’ is a long fresh pussy.
Now with the hate out of the way, let’s move into the more interesting parts. I’m going to selected 3 cocktails worth talking about and then discuss whether you should be asking for ‘premium’ or ‘house.’
1. Old Fashioned
For most people, a Manhattan is too bad-ass. As such, an old fashioned is a worthy social alternative. The problem here though is that not enough people know how to make a decent old fashioned; let alone educate a customer about one. In case you didn’t know, an old fashioned essentially consists of a sugar cube, bitters and whisky (bourbon or rye). A purist will then tell you that the cocktail should be built in layers of 15ml and garnished with a flamed orange peel – among other things. However, I like to think that the true glory of a cocktail falls into two categories:
A. How minimal ingredients are able to be blended to compliment each other.
B. How additional ingredients can added to build upon the flavours already present.
In most cases Cat B will probably not work for an old fashioned. As such, given that an old fashioned is a 3 part drink, I say this is one drink you might want to be upping the quality of your spirit.
This goes the same for other similar method cocktails such as the Negroni.
To keep your interest levels up, I will now analyse the Mojito. I don’t dislike the Mojito at all. However, given it’s commonality, it’s very easy for misconceptions to creep in. A Mojito is essentially a twist on the rum sour – done so by adding mint. However, instead of stopping there, soda water is added to top the drink off. This now gives us a grand total of 5 ingredients. Even if it is well made and the quantities have been methodically blended to taste, you still have got quite a number of flavours swimming around in your glass. This means that there will likely be minimal differences between rums. A dark rum will of course provide a slight in difference flavour compared to a white rum but doing so is kind of like changing spirits – i.e. it’s a variation. As such, if you are sticking to the white rums, it may be justifiable to accept something house like Barcardi (as disheartening as that sounds) in your well made Mojito.
3. Long Island Iced Tea
Where would I be without the biggest ‘hack’ of a cocktail. That’s not to say that this cocktail can’t be well made. However, if the point of the cocktail is to essentially put the dregs left on the bar top into a glass and then top it up with coke, how can it not be a hack? Coupled with the connotation that this is ‘the drink’ you have when you want to get ‘messy’ (or insert your own phrase) and it’s only going downhill for this drink. In most cases it might have marginally more booze than your standard 2 shot cocktail. However, instead of getting you ‘more drunk than any other another cocktail,’ all it is really doing is opening you up to a bad taste in your mouth.
A long island has a small amount of 5 different spirits (each of which are meant to compliment each other), which makes up the bulk of your drink. That being said, if you have more than 1 of them being of the ‘cheap and nasty’ variety, you may notice it. As such, if you value your drink I would ask you to steer clear of this one. However, if you absolutely must have it then please ask for the ‘nice’ stuff.
To quote the great man, Warren Buffet – ‘The smarter the journalists are, the better off society is. For to a degree, people read the press to inform themselves – and the better the teacher, the better the student body.’ That being said, by reading this post hopefully you can agree that the more we know about our spirits, the more pleasant hospitality will be, and I won’t have to listen to my mate complain about the idiot who tried to ‘teach’ him the correct way to make a ‘Mo-Ji-To.’
Stay tuned for more.
PS: Check out the “Bartender Hates You’ series for more great hospitality satire – link here (The Bartender Hates You)
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