The classic cocktails contain only two or three ingredients:
The martini (gin/vodka and vermouth)
The Manhattan (rye/bourbon and vermouth, and of course Angostura Bitters)
The Rob Roy (Scotch and vermouth)
The Rusty Nail (Drambuie and Scotch)
The Highball (rye and ginger ale)
Gimlet (vodka/gin and lime juice)
The Screwdriver (vodka and orange juice)
Rum and Cola
Scotch and water
And, of course, gin/vodka and tonic
In the late ’90s, cocktails started to change. Bartenders were no longer
bartenders. Some, not all (only those with PR teams) started calling
themselves ‘mixologist,’ ‘King Kocktail,’ bar-chef, Lady Libation, bartendrix
(WOW), Master Mixologist, Bar Guru, and more and more, while getting
less and less back in the making of great, popular recipes, and having a joke
or giving good service, even saying hello.
Some had little or no skill behind the bar. Some had never had any
experience behind a bar. Some just PR themselves or get free PR from
someone at the bar.
During the last ten or so years, the recipes became longer and longer. They
contained ingredients that could not be found behind any bar, but had to be
searched for high and low at gourmet shops!
Ingredients I found in cocktails on the internet: pumpkin spices, lemongrass
egg whites or whole eggs (to make foam, but very dangerous with the
salmonella virus). I see these cocktails in food magazines and internet sites.
I was informed by a public relations figure that the editors want drinks that
are hard. But do they want drinks that will be made into classics or sold in
bars? That is the question.
The PR firms may get you on the internet or in a magazine, but they are
not getting you behind bars or to the customers at the bars. They are not
becoming CLASSICS or trying to make a classic.
Now how about time to prepare? I talked to someone with over 30 years in
the business. They had a new product they were introducing in New York.
They went to a mixologist in a so-called ‘trendy,’ small restaurant downtown.
They asked the mixologist if he could make a Manhattan with the new
product. No problem! He was the Bar Chef and Master Mixologist of Trendy
10 to 13 minutes later, he produces the Modern Manhattan. Did it taste like
a Manhattan? NO. Did it have vermouth? NO. It had an artichoke-based
Italian bitter aperitif. It had two different types of bitters, one an angostura
bitter, the other from some former bartender from England. This was all
muddled with two herbs in a bottle from behind his bar. One was cinnamon,
the other a home secret.
Did it taste great? NO. Would it help sell the new product? NO. Was the
Master Mixologist spreading his peacock feathers behind the bar? Of course.
Because this is the New Modern Manhattan! For Trendy Bar, U.S.A. The
New and only Modern Manhattan. Two drinks, one place. The end of the
Modern Manhattan.
I guess I know it’s a different challenge for a bartender to create a cocktail
with two or three ingredients than to fill a shaker with off-the-wall
ingredients that make the cocktail almost impossible to drink and to make.
The PR person would say, “But it looks good on paper and makes my client
happy to see his name in print.”
How about in a cocktail?
Life is complicated enough. Shouldn’t our cocktails be simple?


  1. Robert North says:

    Do some research. There is no danger of salmonella from a well made cocktail.

    1) salmonella lives on egg shells, not inside eggs.

    2) salmonella can not tolerate alcohol content in excess of 20%. a shot of booze will kill it.

    3) salmonella can not tolerate the acidic ph of ANY citrus juice.

    Your other opinions would be more weighty if you knew, for example, that a manhattan traditionally has bitters.

  2. Robert North says:

    I agree that we’re in the service industry and that hospitality is job 1.

    I don’t agree with your claim that all classic cocktails are “simple.”

    Read Jerry Thomas. Read the Savoy Cocktail Book. Read ANY pre-prohibition bar guide and see what the craft once was and what, at it’s best, it is becoming again.

    And, yes, you’ll find eggs. Lots of them. And obscure cordials and spirits.

    States have also banned medium rare burgers (NJ in the mid 90s for a short time), runny cooked eggs, etc. States have banned tartre. Food safety laws often have mo basis in science or fact and the simple truth is egg whites/whole eggs handled properly pose NO danger. Did you know that the average consumer encounters 1 egg contimanated with salmonella for every 40,000 consumed? And, again, mixed with spirits and citrus, even a dirty egg is rendered harmless. Hell, rinsing the shells with vodka removes any risk at all.

    Simple drinks CAN be great. But advocating a rye/Ginger ale as a great cocktail undermines your point. Tasty? Sure. But zero complexity, and a direct descendent of a real classic: the rock n rye.

  3. Lori says:

    As a professional bartender of 20+ years I wholeheartedly agree with the above.

    I question, however, the forum ( This site hypes the B. S. drinks served by hot bimbos for way too much money.

  4. Robert North says:

    This is sort of like having a one person discussion as you don’t post your replies here.

    Yes, I tend bar–and am about to celebrate 20 years behind the stick.

    And, well I’m glad you have the books, but have you read and absorbed them?

    And, by the way, I grew up in NJ. I’ve been to events at The Manor–are drinks made from processed mixers laden with HFCS your idea of classic?

    I agree that “mixologists” need to get a grip, but to tar everyone who is working at a high level with the same brush is ignorance at it’s best.

    • barmag says:

      All you do is criticize. Do you have any helpful suggestions?
      My question was, ‘Are Cocktails Too Complicated?’ I have no idea who you are or, if you’re working at a high level, or if you’re impressed with your own level of unimportance.
      If you have a suggestion, I’m willing to take it. You can Email me at
      If you want to continue criticizing, good night.

      • Sean Clancy says:

        It is apparently you who cannot take criticism, barmag.

        Robert North is absolutely right.

  5. If I who have not bartendered since 2000. I will comment concerning this topic. First all new bartender who attended a school have yet to understand what it means to call themselves a bartender let pay homage to the forerunners of our art not the style as owners and bar managers see themselves as? First off when was the last time your any of your customer ordered a Tom and Jerry?
    I am now a Sous Chef, now concerning the safety of raw eggs, if your local law allow raw egg preparation so be it, in my opinion your customer has the final say just like when your friend order a rare hamburger good luck not to get sick. One of my kitchen jobs, all hamburger where cooked well done. My first kitchen job was at Jack in the Box.
    If you have any questions e-mail at your convience.

  6. Frederic says:

    “In the late ’90s, cocktails started to change. Bartenders were no longer bartenders. Some, not all (only those with PR teams) started calling themselves ‘mixologist,’ ”

    You mean the 1890s? Like when cocktails had multiple ingredients and the word mixologist was used?

  7. Tony Harion says:

    There are cocktails for every taste, the simple and the complex.

    As our craft evolves more and more obscure ingredients are going to come up. New ones are going to appear. Some good, some bad. But I’d rather have more ingredients to work with than having just the same old.

    This is a part of the evolution. Guests are getting more educated about what they order. Bartenders are researching more, creating more and enticing the guests even more.

    Classics are classics, and they are great. Some are “simple” (to prepare), but not all of them. Even the simple ones can be complex in flavor.

    Answering your question: no, cocktails don’t always have to be simple. They must entice, excite and leave the patron or yourself asking for more. Vodka and oj is not going do the trick anymore.

    ps: Salmonella is not a virus, it´s a bacteria.

  8. ray says:

    I can take your criticism, I look for it, that is why I put this up for evceryone to comment with my email, I am not hiding from criticism!I give you my email and this fourm. I do not care if you use eggs, its up to you! but I do believe that most cocktails are made with less than 4 products. MOST COCKTAILS that become Classic. Thank you all for your imput, even Mr.North. http://www.bartender does not HYPE cocktails made only by Bimbos. the site (its is being redone)gives every Bartender a fair shot! Thanks again.If you would like to comment more or have a cocktails recipe you want printed or any suggestions, We are open!, email to: Ray

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