DrinkBoy

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About DrinkBoy

  • Birthday 01/15/1959

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  1. I think it is important not to take the "cocktails as liquid cuisine" tagline too literally. While similar to cooking, there are of course some significant differences between the two. However I feel it is specifically because of my culinary training that when I moved from wine into cocktails that it was almost a religious experience. I had spent years researching wines and training my palate, as well as working with wine and food pairing, seeing that as just part of what I needed to know about. When I first "really" got into cocktails however, the thing that struck me the most was how much like cooking the whole cocktail thing was. Unlike wine, cocktails are a beverage that you directly participate in. It is something where the knowledge and skill of the chef/bartender has a direct impact on the quality of the product. If you go to a restaurnat and order an item from the entree list, and a wine from the wine list... and a week later you are in another restaurant, and order the same thing from the entree list and the same wine from the wine list... the entree will most likely taste different, since the chef in the kitchen has a very participatory role in the preparation of the dish, but the wine had better taste the same. The main way restaurants partcipate in the wines they provide is in knowing the best wines to select based on the food they serve and their customers needs. I'm not saying that this is a simple task, just that it is significantly different from making cocktails. And that making cocktails is more like cooking. I'm not familiar with your overall cocktail knowledge, so excuse me if I jump to an inaccurate assumption... but I suspect that perhaps you're just needing a little more time? In classic culinary training, students are drilled HARD on a lot of the fundamentals. This includes preparation, cooking methodology, product knowledge and selection, and base/foundation recipes. A good strong knowledge of the similar aspects of mixology should be able to prepare you to be able to come up with variations of the classic cocktails which utilize different products and suit different moods. A method that I often find useful when I need to come up with a "new" drink, is to remove the caps from some of the products I am wanting to use, and holding the bottle tops close together smell the combined aroma coming off of them. From this I can get a reaonsable idea of what a cocktail made from these ingredients might taste like. I used this process to come up with the "Trident" (a variation of a negroni, using aquavit, Cynar, sherry, and peach bitters), which is perhaps one of my more popular creations. With enough deep-seated understanding of the different products available, you can eventually work up a reasonable taste-memory, which can allow you to mentally combine different products together in order to come up with a drink from scratch. I feel your pain :->... my home liquor collection is well over 200 bottles. Some of which I go through regularly, but many which I only occassionally use. This gets back to my earlier comment about not taking "cocktails as liquid cuisine" too literally. There are both simularities as well as differences between the "art form" of cooking and that of making cocktails. Cooking even something simple can take ten or fifteen minutes, with many things (if you start totally from scratch) taking an hour or more, or sometime even days to do right. A cocktail? Most of them you can mix up in less than a minute start to finish. Frankly I love long and involved recipes which take time and careful organization to prepare properly, but at the same time I love the "instant gratification" of mixing up a quick cocktail too. As for heat, texture, techniques, chemical changes, and elaborate presentations... while not the "norm", each of those definately can play a role in the process of making a cocktail. Just go to any bar that is into "molecular mixology" and you'll see each of them being exercised (but let's not get into that discussion! :->) I think that this over simplifies the situation, but when trying to draw a direct comparison between cooking and mixology I suppose it's one way to illustrate a comparison. In general cocktail recipes are FAR simpler, in almost every way, from their "Back of the house" brethren. Heck, most cocktail recipe books easily cram six or more recipes onto a page without blinking. That alone shows a significant difference between the two. In the end of course, it's all about what you enjoy doing, and how you enjoy doing it. Not everybody likes to cook (although it's hard for me to fathom). Some people who hate to cook, love to eat out at wonderful resturants, and have a tremendous knowledge of cuisine, they just don't care for making it themselves. Which is perfectly fine. -Robert
  2. Absolutely! I often describe the bar is the "original" Chef's table. Where the customer sits in a place where they can watch everything the chef (bartender) is doing as they prepare orders for all customers. They can also interact with the chef, which they could not easily do if they took a seat at the table, and they can directly ask the chef questions and get specific recommendations. I totally agree. It can be easy to slip into "cliquish" behavior, and often that is a natural, but temporary, progression of somebody who gets into the "cocktailian" mindset. When you initially realize that you are in posession of "secrets" about how to make great cocktails, it can go a little to your head and you start feeling just a little superior. But then as the whole enormity of the situation unfolds you realize just how vast the landscape is, and how little you truely know and understand. I often explain to people who might diss me about my nickname of "DrinkBoy", that if nothing else it helps keep me humble and not to take things too seriously.
  3. Well... now there you are getting into what I'm planning on for my next book :->At the core however is what I have been recommending for years, which is that somebody take "a" cocktail which they like, and simply focus on making that at home. This is how I first got my start. It was with the Sidecar. I ran across an online recipe (via Hotwired's "Cocktail" website, with content provided by Paul Harrington), and on my way home that night picked up the ingredients I needed. Next, I looked around in other recipe books and online, and found other variations of the Sidecar, and over the next week or two tried as many different variations as I could find. At the end of this, I had (what I felt was) a very good understanding of what I thought a GREAT sidecar was (4 parts brandy, 2 parts Cointreau, 1 part lemon juice, served up, no sugared rim). And it also taught me a very personal lesson about how ingredients such as sour mix, triple sec, and bottled lemon juice didn't belong in this drink. Hotwired's website switched in a different featured drink each week, and I eagerly would pick up the ingredients for each of those drinks and try them, and their variations at home. For anybody even slightly interested in making cocktails at home I think that this is an excellent way to expose themselves to what great cocktails are all about. Another important benefit of making cocktails at home, is that it is also cheaper than wine. A good bottle of wine costs $20 or more, or about the same cost as a good bottle of gin. That bottle of wine will quickly be finished off by two people in a sitting, but the same cannot be said for that bottle of gin. Plus you get the added feeling of accomlishment of knowing you made it yourself. And with a recipe that is both good and simple, it is almost foolproof with only a tiny bit of basic knowledge about how to make cocktails. Cocktails are indeed a cuisine, I have always enjoyed cooking, and early on I went down the route of studying wine, and eventually beer, and the role that they played. But cockails never really entered the picture. But once I started actually making cocktails at home, it struck me that their preparation was a personal culinary experience just like cooking, while wine and beer was simply a "selection" process, much like either knowing how to select a good head of cabbage at the supermarket, or selecting a good entree from the menu at a restaurant.
  4. You raise a very good point. When it comes right down to it, bars are in business to sell the products their customers want. If everybody wants to drink Apple-tinis then all bars will serve it. I think it is important to think of the landscape available to bars as the same as the landscape of restaurant possibilities. We need to have a broad variety to choose from, since everybody is different. Restaurants can do different ethnic cuisines, or different levels of $ervice, or cater to large crowds or small romantic dinners, or quick bites, or long elaborate meals, or vegitarian, or exotic game, or Truck Drivers, or business lunches, or... you get the point. Likewise bars can cover the entire spectrum as well. Here in Seattle we have some great examples of this. Two of our best bars are the Zig Zag Cafe and Vessel. Both take a totally different approach. The Zig Zag is very casual, concrete bar top, cavernous lighting, eclectic clientel, and cocktails served out of fairly generic glassware. Vessel on the other hand is bright and crisp with lots of glass, metal, and white. Bartenders dress with a nod too the period bartenders of the past, and the drinks are served from unique and elegant glassware. And both bars serve excellent and envelope pushing cocktails. And there are other bars which fill in the spectrum between these two. We then have the simple notion of business availability. How many "Pegu Club" types of bars do we need? What if all bars served drinks of that level and distinction? Are there enough customers? Probably not. There is however lots and lots more room for bars like that to open up before the market even approaches saturation. At the moment I'd say we are at the point where "cocktailian" customers still have a hard time finding bars which can satisfy their tastes. As such "cocktailian" bars continue to open up, eventually there will be enough to suit the customer base... but this will only cause that customer base to increase, as other customers, on the outside looking in, decide they too want to see what all of the fuss is about. Some will find these "fancy drinks" a little too much for them, but others will welcome the new experience and wonder what took them so long. I often look at this whole process as being similar to the evolution of the wine industry in the US. It wasn't that long ago when the majority of customers couldn't handle a Cabernet Sauvignon, but as the market evolved the customers gradually learned a newfound appreciation for the more complex and adventursome wines. While those of us who really appreciate a finely made cocktail might wish things were further along, I think the current evolution of the art is a necessary process, and one which finally appears to be moving in the right direction.
  5. It is important to remember, that when cocktails first entered the scene, the products available to the average bartender could fit in a suitcase. Brandy, Gin, Whiskey, Rum, syrup, curacao, bitters, orgeat, and perhaps a couple other cordials and syrups. Today, the number of ingredients is almost mind blowing. And there are new products coming out all of the time... not that all of them are necessarily worthwhile. Products like St-Germain show that there are still "new" products that are possible, and Canton shows that a renewed interest can bring back some products.... and just wait for "Forbidden Fruit" to make it's entrance again in the near future. Sometimes a great product will come out and land with a thud. Either through poor marketing, or a lack of understanding, or just bad timing. Tanqueray's Malacca gin is one such product which had great promise but just couldn't catch hold. We are seeing a large number of smaller distilleries opening up across the country, and many of them are playing around with obscure, unusual, or long forgotten products. I think we'll see some very interesting advancements in the next few years.
  6. While there is still a huge wasteland of ignorance regarding cocktails out there, I think we are already seeing a lot of momentum towards "culinary" cocktails, and bartenders who strive to really perfect their art and progress it forward. With others at the Museum of the American Cocktail, and through projects like Small Screen Network, Tales of the Cocktail, discussion forums like this, and the various other resources which are evangelizing great cocktails, we all play a role in pushing on the envelope. Bars and restaurants are essentially just providing their customers with what they think they want. As long as customers are wanting Apple-tinis and other such drinks, they will be commonly served across the country. Those bartenders who know better play a role by casually recommending alternatives to their customers (but this typically only works well when sitting at the bar), and customers who know better, when they are out with friends can help steer them in the right direction. I enjoy it when I get the chance to help somebody break out of their cocktail "safety zone" and get them to try some more interesting and culinarily more advanced libations.
  7. Bars have gone through large changes over time. The bar of today got its start from roadhouses or lodges which provided travelers with rest and nurishment on their journey. In the Pre-prohibition days, bars and saloons were mostly male establishments where they would gather and either hold meetings and conduct business, or simply drink away the days worries. It was during prohibition that women became welcome into bars and "speakeasies". So that is at least one thing we can thank prohibition for. As for the "perfect" bar, a lot depends on exactly what role the bar wants to play and what sort of clientel it is trying to attract. A Sportsbar will have a different "best" setup than a hotel bar, or a "speakeasy" style lounge, or a bar which is an integral part of a restaurant, or... There are lots of different styles. And I prefer bars which are a little on the quiet side as well. I like it slow enough so that I can get a chance to chat with the bartender a bit. But that also means they may not be busy enough to make a profit, so it's all about balance.
  8. When I was first getting into cocktails, it was at home, where I worked through many of the classic recipes an learned how great they could be. Of course, on my next trip to a bar, I ordered one of these drinks that I had grown so accustomed to. I was constantly dissappointed with what I was served. They were downright terrible. I eventually came to the conclusion there was no longer any such thing as a "good" bartender, they were all simply bottle-jockeys now, being trained in their craft with colored water and set loose on an unsuspecting public. I then had a chance to meet with Colin Field, at Le Bar Hemingway in the Ritz in Paris. Here was a bartender who really knew what great cocktails were all about. He was passionate about them and studied their history and their culinary value. I figured, where there can be one, there can be others. And so upon returning to Seattle, I made it a point to try to find those bars, or more importantly bartenders, who had a glimmer of sharing my passion about a well made cocktail. Gradually I would encounter bartenders who had the right stuff, sometimes it wasn't that they "knew" great cocktails, but that they had an interest in knowing. While I accept that there are going to be some cities where there is absolutely nothing in the way of hope for good cocktails, I feel that with enough careful searching, and nurturing, it should be possible to build up potential almost anywhere. -Robert
  9. Several questions have stacked up while I was in meetings today, I'll make a point of answering them individually instead of grouping answers to several people together into one post. And I've got to run out in a moment for "Repeal Day" Festivities, so any I don't get to right now, I'll answer tomorrow. The exerpt above doesn't fully reveal the book I've written. It is sort of a combination of "general guidance and advice" and a "recipe collection", split just about 50/50. I've targeted this book mostly toward beginning cocktail enthusiasts, but hopefully with enough information that even the experienced among us will find something to catch their interest. So I suppose this particular book is patterned more after The Bartenders Bible, by Gary Regan, and other such books, then it is either Jerry Thomas or David Embury. I do have a second book I am working on which is much closer to an Embury in style. But all of the authors who have come before me, and all of my good cocktailian friends were my inspiration!
  10. It seems to me that one of the joys of sitting at the bar with a top cocktailian bartender is that they play so many roles: executive chef, line cook, maitre'd, and -- yes -- sommelier. Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli at Eastern Standard is one of many good folks out there who have walked me through appropriate choices for different foods or moods. ← It can be easily argued that there are many bartenders who more than fill the shoes of being the "sommelier" to their cocktailian customers. My point, which perhaps didn't quite come across, was that the "sommelier" is not only a staple of many fine restaurants, but is consistantly seen as being "the" authority on the wines that are available, almost to the point of being looked at with tremendous awe and respect. The percentage of "Bartenders" who are seen in this same light by their customers is exceedingly small. The common customer doesn't have a "role model" that guides them toward looking at the cocktail as a culinary experience. Does that help? -Robert
  11. Absinthe: The Topic

    You're right! It "Ought To Be". Unfortuanately it isn't... to the best of my knowledge it's the same "oil mix" they have been selling in Europe for a while, and while far, far, better than "Hills", it is a poor excuse for a true Absinthe. I've had the European version and it is rather sad :-<
  12. And as for details about my book in particular... It will be a general purpose cocktail book, but of course with my own perspective throughout. It is 224 pages, with lots and lots of color photos. We had Chad Solomon and Christy Pope in New York work with the photographer to make sure the cocktails were all accurately made and well presented, I felt that this was an important component for the book. It is hardcover, with a concealed wire binding. In the first half of the book I pontificate, as I am want to do, about the basics and details about whats important for making great cocktails. I tried to keep it as approachable as possible to the beginner, but still dive into some of the nitty-gritty details that I think are important to get into the hands of the professionals out there. In the second half we get into the actual recipes, I think there were something like 250 or so in the final count, for some of these recipes I reached out to bars and bartenders around the world to submit some recipes of their own creation, as well as supply some details and insights as to why they created it and how to really make them well. I also try to provide any historical background and insights on the various cocktails presented when I knew something. The hardest part about this book was to keep myself from saying too much. :-> I worked hard to keep the first half of the book as tight and too the point as possible, but there was lots of stuff that I "Wanted" to get into, but just knew I couldn't without going way over the target page-count... guess I need to save some of that for my next book...
  13. This has been a fun project. I've been working with Greg/MudPuddle on both my upcoming book as well as various aspects of this collection of classic reprints. He's already got the "second wave" of books almost ready to go, it's pretty exciting that things came together so well to allow this to happen. For Greg, this is a labor of love. He wanted to make sure the books were as high quality as possible, and as inexpensive as possible. He'll have many of these titles (but not all, since they aren't all yet back from the printers yet) at Tales of the Cocktail in July. -Robert
  14. Ed, no need for large pockets. Just pick up some small "eye-dropper" bottles like this: http://capricornslair.stores.yahoo.net/12ozamglasbo1.html (or even smaller) I regularly carry Peychaud, Orange, Peach, Angostura, My own "House", and sometimes Abbott's with me... you never can tell when you have a hankering for a cocktail that the joint might not have the bitters to make properly. A Sazerac without Peychaud's just isn't right. -Robert
  15. The size of bar really shouldn't limit you as to what you can handle. One of the smallest "bars" that I know of is at Milk & Honey in New York. So small that the bartender has no walking room at all. And they can make any of the classics.