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Cocktails - East Coast vs. West Coast Styles


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Missed Thomas Waugh from Alembic (in San Francisco) at Death & Co. this week but I did catch this article in the recent Food & Wine (http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/new-must-try-cocktails).

I'd be quick to agree with the overall point of the piece that New Yorker bartenders of note are classicists who emphasize technique while Californian cocktailians are more inspired by trips to the farmer's market. However, I would posit that NYC cocktail bars are extremely imaginative in incorporating non-spiritous ingredients into the drinks but in the straight-up, classic cocktail form.

In regard to this, I haven't been to the West Coast in a while would anyone on this forum say this is generally true from first hand experience?

"Wives and such are constantly filling up any refrigerator they have a

claim on, even its ice compartment, with irrelevant rubbish like

food."" - Kingsley Amis

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Missed Thomas Waugh from Alembic (in San Francisco) at Death & Co. this week but I did catch this article in the recent Food & Wine (http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/new-must-try-cocktails).

I'd be quick to agree with the overall point of the piece that New Yorker bartenders of note are classicists who emphasize technique while Californian cocktailians are more inspired by trips to the farmer's market. However, I would posit that NYC cocktail bars are extremely imaginative in incorporating non-spiritous ingredients into the drinks but in the straight-up, classic cocktail form.

In regard to this, I haven't been to the West Coast in a while would anyone on this forum say this is generally true from first hand experience?

"In New York, we’re obsessed with historical drinks and techniques. Out West, they’re shopping the markets. You probably won’t find them reading old cocktail books at home and pondering the difference between a flip and a sling."

As a cocktail geek, I find plenty of kindred spirits in SF to discuss historical origins and such, but agree that our access to fresh produce is a key element of the local cocktail scene.

What are these "non-spiritous ingredients" of which you speak?

Marcovaldo Dionysos

Cocktail Geek

cocktailgeek@yahoo.com

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Should have elaborated. Basically incorporating flavors into the cocktail (outside the base spirits) in subtler ways other than muddling or juicing or adding to syrups. Then presenting them in the traditional straight-up cocktail form. The emphasis is always on the spirit rather than the flavor of some outside herb, fruit etc. I mean such things as "fat washing" and infusions like walnut infused cognac or rose infused Herradura. Also house made bitters are becoming common.

Also, a robust enthusiasm for obscure, extinct, domestically unavailable liqueurs, amaros, spirits etc. I think NYC bartenders get more exciting and inspired about Pimento Dram or an off the market gin than they would over the first rhubarb of the season.

Edited by TVC (log)

"Wives and such are constantly filling up any refrigerator they have a

claim on, even its ice compartment, with irrelevant rubbish like

food."" - Kingsley Amis

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Thomas Waugh, and the rest of the bartenders at Alembic, are probably particularly poor examples of the cliches about West Coast bartenders. Josey Packard is from out East (did the B.A.R. program) and I believe Daniel Hyatt hails from the Portland bar scene. They all have great respect for the classics and I always have a great time geeking out with them about cocktail history and technique when I stop by the bar.

To my mind the book most emblematic of the West Coast bar scene would be Hollinger and Schwartz' "The Art of the Bar." To say that those cocktails aren't inspired by classic cocktails would be completely wrong.

At the same time, as cocktailgeek says, proximity to so many fresh ingredients, so much of the year certainly must have some impact and inspiration. If you go to the farmers' market and find calamansis or, in my opinion the king of fruits, cherimoya, should you not use them because they aren't traditional ingredients? If you are into food and cocktails, why not?

As Mr. Wondrich says, "What Would Jerry Thomas do?"

There are cocktails in Thomas' book which call for Lemon Verbena!

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Should have elaborated. I mean such things as "fat washing" and  infusions like walnut infused cognac or rose infused Herradura. Also house made bitters are becoming common. Basically incorporating flavors into the cocktail (outside the base spirits) in ways other than muddling or juicing or adding to syrups. Then presenting them in the traditional straight-up cocktail form.  The emphasis is always on the spirit rather than the flavor of some outside herb, fruit etc.

Well, to judge any bar by the crazy standards of those madmen at PDT is pretty tough!

And, yes, house made bitters and other ingredients are quite common in cocktailian bars on the West Coast as well. My personal favorite are the Milk Thistle bitters at Alembic. Just a really funny idea.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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May be headed out to SF in April. Can't wait to try Alembic.

"Wives and such are constantly filling up any refrigerator they have a

claim on, even its ice compartment, with irrelevant rubbish like

food."" - Kingsley Amis

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Also, remember the West Coat isn't just the Bay Area.

Probably the most quintessentially West Coast farmer's market type bartender has got to be Scott Beattie at Cyrus in Healdburg.

But to get even further afield, don't forget the bar scenes of Portland and Seattle! My pals at the Teardrop Lounge and others in the Oregon bar scene are doing some pretty cool things. Plus, there's Vessel and Zig Zag Cafe...

I've heard there may now even be a decent bar in Los Angeles.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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In regards to the West Coast style of citrus forward drinks, I would be remiss not to mention Paul Harrington.

His tenure at the Townhouse, columns on hot wired, and book, "Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century," still loom very large.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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In regards to the West Coast style of citrus forward drinks, I would be remiss not to mention Paul Harrington.

His tenure at the Townhouse, columns on hot wired, and book, "Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century," still loom very large.

maybe another way to look at drinks is

civil war reenactments... (experience something exactly as it was a century or so ago)

be like charlie trotter...

be like feran adria...

i think i want to hold down the charlie trotter style...

abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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[...]

maybe another way to look at drinks is

civil war reenactments... (experience something exactly as it was a century or so ago)

be like charlie trotter...

be like feran adria...

i think i want to hold down the charlie trotter style...

As long as I can still drink donbert's foie gras infused bourbon, that is OK with me.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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  • 3 months later...

True "classic" place from the ambience to the cocktails is Julie Reiner's new location in Brooklyn = Clover Club.

Joe Kaiser

Kold-Draft

1525 East Lake Rd

Erie, PA 16511

Office: (814) 453-6761

Fax: (814) 455-6336

Cell: (814) 602-9703

joe.kaiser@kold-draft.com

www.kold-draft.com

It's not Ice if it's not Kold

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True "classic" place from the ambience to the cocktails is Julie Reiner's new location in Brooklyn = Clover Club.

rumor has it they are picking up a boston bartender. look for him. he has a funny accent but makes a mean drink!

abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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True "classic" place from the ambience to the cocktails is Julie Reiner's new location in Brooklyn = Clover Club.

rumor has it they are picking up a boston bartender. look for him. he has a funny accent but makes a mean drink!

they also picked up one of the few cocktail geek bartenders from north carolina. which is great -- people down here just don't appreciate that kind of craftsmanship. he deserves to be in a place where they do.

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