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What to call the genre of new cocktails?


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I understand the need for a pithy term that will encapsulate the spirit of what these bars are doing, especially in any piece aimed at the masses.

I also feel that we all understand the futility of really 100% capturing the essence of what anything is about - especially anything that is still developing as a genre - in a single concise phrase.

That said, I am uncertain about "craft cocktails" since for me it seems to discount the craftworthiness of more new-school styles of cocktails. Is molecular mixology necessarily less of a craft? I'm not sure that it is.

If the term doesn't make you feel too nauseated, I'm tempted to suggest "retro cocktails", implying an eye to the past but with a new spin on things. Just like kids in high school would wear "retro" bellbottoms to raves. (Oops: did I just date myself there?)

Of course, "retro" often carries post-1950s connotations to me, so it might be just as misunderstood as any other term that has been suggested. I guess I'm trying to capture a sense of reappropriation, appropriating old ideas for new creations.

ETA some stuff.

Edited by Kohai (log)

Pip Hanson | Marvel Bar

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Interesting thoughts, Kohai. Personally, when I use "craft cocktails," I intend it to encompass anything that approaches cocktails as a serious paraculinary endeavour, whether it's the spirit-centric drinks at PDT, the produce-centric drinks that seem to flourish on the West coast, or molecular mixology. I view it as an umbrella term.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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As someone not in the business, I think that I'd understand "classical cocktails" as what we find at D&C, Pegu, VH, and PDT; but "craft cocktails" suggests something much broader such as molecular mixology or any cocktail that takes its process and ingredients seriously.

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I think that "craft" is not apropos, simply because it is impossible to avoid a mental association with "craft brewing" and all the connotations that go along with this use of the word. I don't believe that craft brewing and classical mixology have a sufficiently shared philosophy or aesthetic to make this a good term.

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Oh... I should hasten to point out that one of the ways I have taken to calling this philosophy and aesthetic is "new old school." It's an expression that says, I think, "these guys went back to the old school (largely skipping over the Dark Ages) and grew the tradition forward from there."

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I think that "craft" is not apropos, simply because it is impossible to avoid a mental association with "craft brewing" and all the connotations that go along with this use of the word. I don't believe that craft brewing and classical mixology have a sufficiently shared philosophy or aesthetic to make this a good term.

On the other hand, I think that today's cocktail culture has a lot in common with craft brewing. They both hark back to a time when people took their craft (beer or cocktails) seriously; they build on classic styles and recipes but bring inventiveness and modern ideas to their drinks. The turn to fresh juices and syrups instead of reliance on bottled mixes sort of parallels the craft beer turn to small batches and hand-blended mixes of grains and special hop blends.

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Today's emerging cocktail culture may well have a lot to do with craft brewing, or not, but the issue is how to specifically address the subgenre of "craft cocktails" or "culinary cocktails" (which term I am somewhat partial to, despite its pretentiousness) that is executed by D&Co, et al. Plenty of places use fresh juices but are still quite distinct from them, stylistically.

ETA: I like "classical" as a descriptor of this style, as long as it is not confused with "classic". Which it probably will be, inevitably, in the big game of Telephone that is the dissemination of pop culture.

Edited by Kohai (log)

Pip Hanson | Marvel Bar

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Craft brewing has a certain "back to the farm" aesthetic that I don't think this stream of mixology emphasizes. When I hear "craft cocktail" I think I'm going to get one of those Cyrus "artisanal" drinks.

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I suppose it depends on who you're trying to talk to. Maybe everyone else here really does find it impossible to avoid thinking of "craft brewing" when they hear the word craft, but not me. Of course, I'm not a professional bartender, and maybe that's who we're trying to communicate to? I don't think that was Kent's original intent, but it seems like we're also on a quest to name our own interest.

I doubt most people will think of craft brewing right away, but, like me, will think first of craftsmanship. Maybe you'll say this is still too agrarian for describing these modern cocktails, but I doubt any of the bartenders in question would bridle at being called a craftsperson, whereas, okay, I can see them rolling their eyes at being described as a "gourmet".

"New Old School" doesn't sound very good to me, I have to say. A phrase like "Old School" sounds too much like contemporary slang to me for it to embrace the timelessness of the subject, and adding "New" to it to suggest an evolution just sounds slogan-y.

Edited by Wild Bill Turkey (log)
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Craft brewing has a certain "back to the farm" aesthetic that I don't think this stream of mixology emphasizes. When I hear "craft cocktail" I think I'm going to get one of those Cyrus "artisanal" drinks.

That's interesting. When I associate craft brewing with cocktails, I think about Sam Calagione at Dogfish Head doing biomolecular archaeology and trying to build beers that reflect the oldest traditions of brewing. Brewing Jiahu is sort of like making a drink by a 9,000 year old Chinese Jerry Thomas.

I think that's the problem with naming: you're battling preexisting, inconsistent associations.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I think some of us are missing the point: who is going to be reading Kent's piece. As he has stated, it's the general public, so they will not make some of the assumptions we from the business take for granted. For that I back up the neo-classical way of thinking.

But that also started a hole new discussion: what WE would like to call OUR moment. Borrowing from the Art world (I'm also a designer), either we let time and history name our movement,but only our grandsons and daughters gonna be around to know the answer; or we first need a manifesto, leaving all this West vs. East Cost or any other type of grudge aside.

I just think we should all raise our glasses together in a big toast and start to make history... but that's just my point of view from Brazil, where our cocktail culture go as far (and stops) at margaritas, mojitos and cosmos and 90% of what I serve every night are beers, caipirinhas and something-red bull :angry:

Paulo Freitas

Bartender @ Bar do Copa (Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro - Brazil)

http://www.bardocopa.com.br

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I think they should be called "good cocktails." Lets call the drinks made with sour off the gun and roses c*&p. Lets call our selves bartenders, and people who don't give a shit about what they are doing hacks. It doesn't matter what kind of bar a bartender works in its what level of integrity they bring to it. I feel I have a lot in common with someone who pours a perfect pint of beer, and a healthy shot of whiskey while telling a good joke and watching out for the nice tipsy lady at the end of the bar. I feel I have very little in common with the bartender, who first calls them him/her self an actor, writer, drummer/bartender, and does not care about what they are doing.

Same thing for cocktails. A cocktail made with juice squeezed a la minute, with home grown basil flowers and thia chilis has a lot more in common with TVH cocktails than a "Lemon Drop" sloshed togather at the THUMP+THUMP+THUMP club.

"good cocktails" have been made for hundreds of years, it's only the black hole of the 60's-90's when they were crappy. Why should 30 recent years overshadow all of the beautiful tradition. Lets take back the regular words. We're here, don't sneer, it's a cocktail.

We should just take back the normal names as everything else can drift into pretension. It is a shame that a "hamburger" from Mac's and a burger from In-n-out are called the same thing, They are not. There will be some confusion. Can't be helped.

Cheers,

Toby

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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I think that "craft" is not apropos, simply because it is impossible to avoid a mental association with "craft brewing" and all the connotations that go along with this use of the word. I don't believe that craft brewing and classical mixology have a sufficiently shared philosophy or aesthetic to make this a good term.

I really disagree with this. First, every craft has it's own aesthetics and no one has a monopoly on the term. Secondly, I believe there is a lot in common between craft brewing and craft cocktails (alcohol for one :wink: ) Other commonalities include quality ingredients, a striving for balance, a focus on delivering maximal flavor and experience to the customer along with the requisite drug-dose...

That being said, I think classical and craft are both good terms with classical having more of a connotation of focus on similarities to historical cocktails and craft being more open-ended.

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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Craft brewing has a certain "back to the farm" aesthetic that I don't think this stream of mixology emphasizes. When I hear "craft cocktail" I think I'm going to get one of those Cyrus "artisanal" drinks.

That's funny. When I hear "culinary cocktail" I think of those Cyrus fancy juice and vodka cocktails (totally unfair characterization of those drinks, I admit).

I guess that's because I think of those drinks as driven from the larders of the kitchen (interesting juices and garnishes, exotic syrups whipped up by the pastry chefs). And culinary makes me think of the kitchen.

The drinks we're talking about (whatever they're called) are more driven by the spirits.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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I think that "craft" is not apropos, simply because it is impossible to avoid a mental association with "craft brewing" and all the connotations that go along with this use of the word. I don't believe that craft brewing and classical mixology have a sufficiently shared philosophy or aesthetic to make this a good term.

I really disagree with this. First, every craft has it's own aesthetics and no one has a monopoly on the term. Secondly, I believe there is a lot in common between craft brewing and craft cocktails (alcohol for one :wink: ) Other commonalities include quality ingredients, a striving for balance, a focus on delivering maximal flavor and experience to the customer along with the requisite drug-dose...

I would argue that association with craft brewing would actually help explain these drinks to a general audience. From the drinkers perspective, we're talking about people demanding more from what's in their glasses. And in both case, the move to both better beers and cocktails follows a pretty crappy version of both.

The fact that the craft beer movement is far better established in the US, makes the association a useful way to attract more widespread interest in well made cocktails.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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I think we're going with craft cocktails. None of these definitions are perfect but this one makes the most sense for a general audience.

What's the term that the New York Times is using? They seem to be on the same page as we are (though many other papers across the country are not) and are writing for a general audience.

I think they should be called "good cocktails."

That's certainly the term that I use amongst people that have the same definition of "good cocktail" as me.

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How about "high end?" I think that conoctates an attention to detail, the use of good booze, fresh juice, and proper technique. But I hate how pretentionious it sounds. But it separates the scholck that is out there.

I guess that that is the crux of the matter. Cocktails are meant to enjoyed and fussed over only if it is the proper time and place. i am waiting for the day when a bartender asks if I would like a "Chandler Gimlet' because they had just smuggles in a bottle of roses from England.

Toby

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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A couple of weeks ago I was discussing this very conundrum with a few people and after deliberating for a while, we decided that the therm "classical" was a perfect fit for the growing cocktail movement. We equated it to classical music, as someone else mentioned earlier. Mozart and Beethoven are definitely classic, but there are plenty of musicians today still making "classical" music.

I also like the term "neo-classic." I might have to start using that one!

After our discussion we went ahead and used the term 'classical' on a flyer for a cocktail night.

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I've said this already but I feel it bears repeating: terms like "classical" only apply to a small slice of the many worthy bars out there. I love dearly Death&Co, PDT, the Violet Hour and Milk & Honey but there are many fantastic bars all over the world who are not trying to bring back the speakeasy.

If we are trying to describe the entire mixology/culinary/craft cocktail paradigm - in short, the growing awareness that "cocktails" don't contain Red Bull - then we ignore a vast number of excellent bars by using the word "classical". It describes a subgenre, not the entire movement.

For the same reason I call myself a "bartender" and not a "mixologist" (and certainly not a "barchef"), I am reluctant to aggrandize my cocktails by calling them "classical" cocktails or "craft" cocktails. As Toby has it, there are good cocktails and there are crap cocktails.

It's only from a public relations standpoint that we feel the need to separate ourselves from the chaff, to distance ourselves from the idea that a Cap'n'coke is a cocktail.

Just my two dashes (and maybe a barspoon of Devil's Advocacy thrown in).

<edited because I'm a compulsive proofreader.>

Edited by Kohai (log)

Pip Hanson | Marvel Bar

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It's only from a public relations standpoint that we feel the need to separate ourselves from the chaff, to distance ourselves from the idea that a Cap'n'coke is a cocktail.

I think that nomenclature is about more than PR. It's also about education. I spent several hours talking to bartenders at a cocktail competition Tuesday night, and their notion of "good cocktail" is very different from Toby's notion of good cocktail. My brief attempt to champion the basic concept of balance, for example, threw several of the competitors for a loop, because in their work they steadfastly believe that overly sweet drinks are in fact balanced, and they've got customers to prove it.

Perhaps "classical" or "classic" carries connotations that are wrong in cases such as those Kohai cites. But I have a lot of conversations with people who think "PDT" refers to a time zone and maraschino is a bright red cherry. Using the term "classic" and referencing those principles enables me to mark a distinction that most people -- drinkers and bartenders both -- don't even know exists. And I certainly can't initiate productive conversations by calling bartenders hacks and telling them they're making (and their customers are drinking) crap.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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