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
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?