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Crafty or Crappy?


EvergreenDan
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Chris,

The original recipe is in percentages - 50% brandy, 25% pineapple syrup , 12.5% curacao and Maraschino. I scaled this to a 4 oz drink as above. I made the syrup by taking a whole pineapple, peeling it, cutting it into chunks in a bowl, adding 1/2 cup sugar, and letting it sit in the refrigerator for 8 hours. I stick blended the stuff, added 3/4 cup 2:1 simple, and strained it through a double layer of cheesecloth.

It probably is too much pineapple, but the drink doesn't read 'pineapple', and I don't think that decreasing it would make it better. I might riff the drink as this:

2 oz "old" brandy

1/2 oz pineapple syrup

1/4 oz lemon juice

1/4 oz orange Curacao

Barspoon Maraschino

6 dashes Angostura

Thanks,

Zachary

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Here's the "What makes a cocktail classic?" slide from my intro workshop:

enhance the spirit base

layer & direct different flavors

technique serves the cocktail

treat your ingredients with respect

quality, not quantity

recipes are guides: taste & adjust

about 2-3 oz booze per drink

~25% dilution

beware the sweet

classic recipes form the basis for innovation

My crack, anyway....

With the exception of the first point, I think this is a pretty good explanation of a craft cocktail. There will always be examples that don't fit the norm but it is pretty close to the mark.

IMO "craft" doesn't necessarily have to conform to one taste aesthetic like the "serious" cocktail bar. Beware the sweet is certainly a good guide but a sweet cocktail could certainly be prepared with a lot of craft, and low-alcohol non-spirit-forward drinks can fit the definition of craft - you are welcome to argue semantics about whether we are talking about cocktails or mixed drinks but I don't get hung up on that stuff.

If you look to other crafts, there are a huge varieties of styles and tastes in pottery, fine furniture, craft fabric, etc. and I believe it would be a mistake to get too snobby.

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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... sweetness. There are quite a few tiki-style drinks that basically consist of sweet juices, a little lime for sour, and some rum. They are more than just a little sweet, not particularly complex, and not containing unusual combinations. Are they getting excluded?

Perhaps you could post up a craft tiki cocktail that has these characteristics, for the purpose of discussion.

So for example the other night I was screwing around with stuff in Beachbum Berry Remixed, and made these:

Hai Karate

2 oz. gold Virgin Islands Rum

1 oz. lime juice

1 oz. pineapple juice

1 oz. orange juice

1 tsp Grade A maple syrup

2 dashes Angostura

Miehana

1 oz. Grand Marnier

1 oz. coconut rum

1 oz. gold Virgin Islands rum

1 oz. lime juice

1 oz. pineapple juice

1 oz. orange juice

They were both ok, the Hai Karate a little more so. It could be argued that the Ango and maple syrup up the complexity into craft territory (I personally would not argue this, but someone could). Note the very un-craft coconut rum in the Miehana! Berry admits as much but to him it worked well enough anyway.

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i'd put two things at the forefront of craft: empathy and problem solving.

every drink solves a problem and all the ingredients in the drink should be united with empathy. not many people have serious empathy for the ingredients they select meaning that they can barely taste the drink in their mind's eye before they make it. so much of drink making is done randomly which is bad for problem solving when ingredients are so expensive.

there are vast amounts of problems to solve and hopefully bartenders out there are dot connectors and outside the box thinkers. we of course rank the importance of potential problems.

some problems to solve:

i need to relax somebody and dispel their built up anxiety. the solution will be an acquired taste which contains one of the various forms of "dryness".

i need to teach somebody about expanding the harmony of their palate so that hopefully they will see the benefits of expanding the harmonic range of other areas of their life (cocktails fight racism!). the solution yet again is an acquired taste.

i need to use an ingredient i inherited because it is bought and paid for. the solution is to contemplate it and understand it is aesthetic properties so you can use it in a beautiful context.

i need to strengthen the youth culture of my city. the solution is to create places they can meet and consume beautiful drinks they can actually afford (without accepting horrible profit margins for the business). dollar an ounce spirits will not solve this problem. there are zillions of stunning cheaper options, but you will have to learn to create that luxury symbolism yourself.

i need to shut someone up and make them a lame drink so i can triage other more pressing problems. the solution is to make a lame mono-fruit-sweet-cran-tini so you can shut someone up. the positive exemplary pressure of your acquired-taste-dryness-therapy will build and they will eventually be ready to join the program. but first they have to see you helping to solve other people's problems.

abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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Not convinced about this intent business. There are many, many bartenders who make cocktails without any thought whatsoever about the ingredients they're using. They use that gin and that vermouth because that's what they've been told to use; it's what's in the well. They put it in a shaker, stir it, strain it into a chilled glass (that's the way they learned the job--every Martini glass gets chilled) and stick an olive in it. Done. No intent there other than to finish their shift and get paid. And yet there's a dry Martini at the end of the process, cold, crisp and delicious.

There are also quite a number of bartenders who obsess about every ingredient; who hand-pick some and make others from scratch; who combine them in precisely-measured quantities, stir them in Yarai mixing glasses with antique spoons, strain them into Schotts-Zweisel coupes, garnish the results with hand-spanked sprigs of tarragon and slide them across the bar with a slight bow, as if to say "please accept this gift I have crafted for you." And you taste it, and all you get is the Chartreuse and Pimiento Dram that they have dashed in from little crystal bottles, with a thin, bitter aftertaste from their gentian-laden, brackish homemade bitters.

I'll take the Martini.

aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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Not convinced about this intent business. There are many, many bartenders who make cocktails without any thought whatsoever about the ingredients they're using. They use that gin and that vermouth because that's what they've been told to use; it's what's in the well. They put it in a shaker, stir it, strain it into a chilled glass (that's the way they learned the job--every Martini glass gets chilled) and stick an olive in it. Done. No intent there other than to finish their shift and get paid. And yet there's a dry Martini at the end of the process, cold, crisp and delicious.

There are also quite a number of bartenders who obsess about every ingredient; who hand-pick some and make others from scratch; who combine them in precisely-measured quantities, stir them in Yarai mixing glasses with antique spoons, strain them into Schotts-Zweisel coupes, garnish the results with hand-spanked sprigs of tarragon and slide them across the bar with a slight bow, as if to say "please accept this gift I have crafted for you." And you taste it, and all you get is the Chartreuse and Pimiento Dram that they have dashed in from little crystal bottles, with a thin, bitter aftertaste from their gentian-laden, brackish homemade bitters.

I'll take the Martini.

I don't think that speaks to craft though. It is like saying you will take a Ford Escort over an Alfa Romeo. The former is a functional beast, churned out for that purpose. The latter probably won't get you to work on time, though is damn stylish and a treat when it works. OTOH, one would rather drive a well-crafted Ferrari that would accomplish both and better.

A.

PS - I think the craft is also in the system. If those bartenders are consistent, the spirit well-chosen, the glass chilled, the shaking thorough, etc, it is the result of someone having a craft mentality in training them and keeping them on-track. I don't think craft has to equal innovation and creativity. It is about the intent (not always from a single person) in the execution of the process. Each of those items represents a choice that was made and how those choices are made (chilled vs warm glass, eg) are where the craft emerges. Of course, it is possible to randomly blunder onto all the correct answers to those choices. I do think that is incredibly rare though.

Edited by Andrew Hall (log)
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There are also quite a number of bartenders who obsess about every ingredient; who hand-pick some and make others from scratch; who combine them in precisely-measured quantities, stir them in Yarai mixing glasses with antique spoons, strain them into Schotts-Zweisel coupes, garnish the results with hand-spanked sprigs of tarragon and slide them across the bar with a slight bow, as if to say "please accept this gift I have crafted for you." And you taste it, and all you get is the Chartreuse and Pimiento Dram that they have dashed in from little crystal bottles, with a thin, bitter aftertaste from their gentian-laden, brackish homemade bitters.

I'll take the Martini.

these bartenders do not understand the problems that need to be solved. their ingredient obsession is also misdirected.

though it should be noted that the symbolism of the antique spoons, the zweisel coupes, the crystal bottles, and the exemplary service are important to helping people expand their aesthetic harmonic range. i outlined the mechanism in a blog post called "A Tale of Two Harmonies". Unfortunately most people do not always have the ability to articulate why they do what they do. You can still be successful if you don't, but you might be less likely.

the cocktail is a powerful art and i think few people have scratched the surface of what you can do with it.

(edited to make more sense)

Edited by bostonapothecary (log)

abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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There are many, many bartenders who make cocktails without any thought whatsoever about the ingredients they're using...And yet there's a dry Martini at the end of the process, cold, crisp and delicious.

See, I don't know about that. If you give no thought to the ingredients, and don't know if your vermouth is oxidized or not, and you've given no thought to ratios for gin and vermouth or shaken vs. stirred and orange bitters are not on your radar, you might make a serviceable Martini. Chances are, though, that you'll have a glass full of diluted gin and oxidized vermouth. On the other hand, if you do care about those things... there will be a dry Martini that's complex and interesting and it'll be there every time you order one.

I'm sure there are many many chefs who make food without any thought about the ingredients they're using, and they turn out something edible at the end of the process. But would you want to eat at such a place on a regular basis?

Intent and discipline drive quality and consistency, whether you're a chef or a bartender or a carpenter.

Thanks,

Zachary

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To extrapolate a little on what I think Splificator is getting at, the "craft" aspect of a drink has a lot to do with context. If the ego (whether well-founded or not) of the bartender overshadows the drink (s)he is making, it loses something, if not everything. A bartender who is a host first can make a beer and a shot into a "craft" experience. If the bartender is more concerned about grooming his facial hair than making his patrons feel at ease, then nothing he makes will be as enjoyable as the guy at the neighborhood dive who always forgets the bitters in the Manhattan made with wet ice. But hey, this guy has some great jokes and can actually make conversation and the drink is only $4 anyway.

That may not be a "craft" Manhattan, but it sure as hell is craft bartending.

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Craft: an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill <the carpenter's craft> <the craft of writing plays> <crafts such as pottery, carpentry, and sewing>

Classic: a : serving as a standard of excellence : of recognized value <classic literary works> b : traditional, enduring <classic designs>

Both definitions are compliments of Miriam Webster.

If we accept these definitions then a craft cocktail is one that has been made with artistic skill. The beauty is in the mouth of imbiber.

And a classic cocktails becomes an enduring, traditional cocktail, ie a Manhattan, Martini, Martinez. From which we can safely draw the conclusion that classic cocktails must start with the letter "m". And unless someone wants to hand me a perfectly prepared Sidecar to debate the definition of classic, I rest my case. :laugh:

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I'll leave this debate to those who know much more than I. To borrow a slogan, I don't want drinks with good taste, I want drinks that taste good (to me). If they happen to conform to a standard described by the experts, great. If not, as long as I like it, I'll drink it anyway... :raz:

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I don't think that speaks to craft though. It is like saying you will take a Ford Escort over an Alfa Romeo. The former is a functional beast, churned out for that purpose. The latter probably won't get you to work on time, though is damn stylish and a treat when it works. OTOH, one would rather drive a well-crafted Ferrari that would accomplish both and better.

A.

PS - I think the craft is also in the system. If those bartenders are consistent, the spirit well-chosen, the glass chilled, the shaking thorough, etc, it is the result of someone having a craft mentality in training them and keeping them on-track. I don't think craft has to equal innovation and creativity. It is about the intent (not always from a single person) in the execution of the process. Each of those items represents a choice that was made and how those choices are made (chilled vs warm glass, eg) are where the craft emerges. Of course, it is possible to randomly blunder onto all the correct answers to those choices. I do think that is incredibly rare though.

I don't get the first part of this--are you saying the dry gin martini is a Ford Escort? There's no more elegant drink, and none with higher performance. Or perhaps that's not what you meant.

The second part is a point well taken. Somebody had to set up the system, even if that somebody is long gone. And to address Zachary's point, I have had many shockingly palatable dry martinis in which no vermouth was used at all, in places that never heard of orange bitters. I've had many bad ones, too, to be sure. But I've also had many a bad drink in a "craft" cocktail bar. I don't think the craft lies in the intent as much as it does in the execution. "Craft" has always been understood as a mastery of tools, materials and process, separate from, although not necessarily antithetical to, any artistic intent. I think the discussion of classicism is one of aesthetic judgment and hence an artistic one, not a craft one.

aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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I don't think the craft lies in the intent as much as it does in the execution. "Craft" has always been understood as a mastery of tools, materials and process, separate from, although not necessarily antithetical to, any artistic intent. I think the discussion of classicism is one of aesthetic judgment and hence an artistic one, not a craft one.

I think this is perhaps why the answer to the OP is so elusive--a recipe cannot be intrinsically "craft". A "craft" item is the product of a craftsman, an expert in executing a method. Whether a cocktail is a "craft" cocktail must be judged on a drink-to-drink basis, even when the drinks are theoretically the same recipe.

Perhaps addressing the idea of intrinsic quality or merit of recipes needs another term?

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Precisely.

aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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David,

I have had many shockingly palatable dry martinis in which no vermouth was used at all, in places that never heard of orange bitters.

I'm a bit confused here. Look... you've forgotten more about cocktails and the spirits that go in them than I'll ever know, and I want you to know that I have the utmost respect for you. But if gin in a glass can be considered a Martini, is vodka and Godiva liqueur a choco-tini, or Jager and Red Bull a Jager-tini? Where does it end?

I think that intent and execution are inextricably linked in the definition of a craft cocktail. Without intent, you could execute an Irish Car Bomb perfectly and it doesn't make it Craft. Without execution, you get shaken Manhattans, which to me isn't Craft either. Neither are what I want to drink -- there are too many other interesting things to do with excess liver space!

Thanks,

Zachary

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Can I get a craft/not craft ruling on this cocktail?

2 oz. Skyy vodka

1/2 oz. Vice icewine vodka

1/2 oz. Cointreau

1 oz. grapefruit juice

3 oz. homemade lime cordial (2 cups lime juice + 1 cup honey + 1 kaffir lime leaf)

1/2 oz. grapefruit bitters

1 oz. jalapeno-black pepper syrup

Shake, strain, up.

(Background here.)

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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David,

I have had many shockingly palatable dry martinis in which no vermouth was used at all, in places that never heard of orange bitters.

I'm a bit confused here. . . . if gin in a glass can be considered a Martini, is vodka and Godiva liqueur a choco-tini, or Jager and Red Bull a Jager-tini? Where does it end?

I think that intent and execution are inextricably linked in the definition of a craft cocktail. Without intent, you could execute an Irish Car Bomb perfectly and it doesn't make it Craft. Without execution, you get shaken Manhattans, which to me isn't Craft either. Neither are what I want to drink -- there are too many other interesting things to do with excess liver space!

Here we run into some basic philosophical issues, ones that we probably won't solve on a cocktail board. Is every cocktail that is actually mixed to be judged on its fidelity to some ideal, perfect version of that cocktail? Or is it to be judged on its here-and-now effectiveness? Are we Platonists or Aristoteleans?

I'm primarily a historian in these matters, although one who spends an inordinate amount of time mixing drinks (I like drinks). But as a historian, my job is to observe, catalog and contextualize. So I would have to say yes, vodka and Godiva is indeed a choco-tini, if people are calling it such and drinking them. Does that mean I like the drink or approve of what people are doing? Not in that case, no. But When I was in my early twenties, back in the punk years, and I couldn't afford to drink in fancy bars, the old-man bars where I tippled made their dry gin martinis as I detailed above, and I was grateful for them. Were they the best martinis I've ever had? Probably if I had one now, magically brought forward through time, and put next to the best Fitty-Fitty I (or even better the folks at Pegu Club) could make, it would seem wanting in comparison. But you didn't have that choice at the Frolic Room or O'Donnell's, and in that context, what they made was a great martini (it's as Andy says above: those guys were craft bartenders, even if not making modern "craft" cocktails).

But let's switch perspective for a second. What if I were to offer you 25 ml of Bushmills 10 year old malt whiskey, dry-shaken with 10 ml Ronnybrook Farms heavy cream and 5 ml rich Demerara syrup, poured into a 50-ml test-tube and inserted into 500 ml of Victory Sorm King Stout. And I were wearing a vest. Would you consider that a craft cocktail?

Again, I don't think there is such a thing as a "craft" cocktail recipe, at least not in a definable way that doesn't exclude much of what the best craftsmen and craftswomen among modern mixologists are doing. (Good luck with Tiki--any principles that can encompass both those formulae and ones from, say, George Kappeler would have to be so broad as to be useless.)

But then again, I'm an Aristotelean.

Final thought: try making these arguments not with drinks, but with music.

aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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David,

I can see your point of view, even if I'm on the other side of the cave. It's because of people like you that today, we have the luxury of good vermouth, good gin, proper ratios, and orange bitters to the point where I can safely call gin in a glass not a Martini.

I think that craft bartenders can make non-craft cocktails, but the drink you describe is a shot and a beer, since you wisely kept the liqueur and stout apart from one another, which is not in the original recipe. Again, intent asks if those flavors work together, and whether or not you want your customers to drink a curdled cocktail. Personally, the answers are no and no, so it fails my definition of craft. It might be delicious, but in my mind, that's not enough. The vest is a red herring, as is whatever facial hair (or ego) they might have.

To give you another example, look at the drink that mkayahara posted upthread. Again, I don't think that's a craft cocktail, First, it's an 8 1/2 oz drink, and second, the primary spirit is vodka.

I agree that the definition of what is craft and what is not is difficult to pin down. But it's a lot of fun to try and hash it out.

Thanks,

Zachary

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I don't think the craft lies in the intent as much as it does in the execution. "Craft" has always been understood as a mastery of tools, materials and process, separate from, although not necessarily antithetical to, any artistic intent. I think the discussion of classicism is one of aesthetic judgment and hence an artistic one, not a craft one.

I think this is perhaps why the answer to the OP is so elusive--a recipe cannot be intrinsically "craft". A "craft" item is the product of a craftsman, an expert in executing a method. Whether a cocktail is a "craft" cocktail must be judged on a drink-to-drink basis, even when the drinks are theoretically the same recipe.

Perhaps addressing the idea of intrinsic quality or merit of recipes needs another term?

I think the merit question is where classic comes in. Classical music is a style with a particular merit. And it is generally agreed, I believe, that people continue to write classical music.

making modern "craft" cocktails).

... And I were wearing a vest. Would you consider that a craft cocktail?

...The vest is a red herring, as is whatever facial hair (or ego) they might have.

I don't think the vest is a red herring because the bartender craft is both in the execution of the drink and in the performance of preparing it. The question then is if the vest is appropriate to the ambiance or a non-sequitur? Surely part of what made Jerry Thomas great was the diamond stick-pin. Gerry Regan's book has some great examples of what makes a great bartender.

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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Wow, I seem to have left the pot boiling while I was away at the race track for a day or two!

As many can probably surmise, my agendum is to devise a standard by which submissions to Kindred Cocktails may be curated for craftiness. I'm surprised there's been no analogy to pornography, but submitters should have some expectation that their cocktails will be acceptable beyond whether the curators "know a craft cocktail when they see one."

I enjoy ambiance and showmanship but I judge cocktails and food by what's in front of me, not by the conceptualization, development, and implementation of the recipe. Yes, I'm interested in understanding the cocktail, its history, and the ideas it embodies, but my primary focus is what's in the glass. And I assume a priori that the bartending is well executed.

Intent plays a part for recipe curation because I can't make every cocktail to judge it. If David and a college kid were to submit the same eyebrow-raising recipe, I may well accept the former and reject the later. And if Julia Child told me to put cream in my Tart Tartin, I might damn well try it. :blink:

So while you can say that a craft cocktail recipe is one created by a craftman-mixologist, that's not helpful for my purpose. Analyzing the recipe against a standard can yield a yes/no decision, just as a diagnosis of, say, ADHD is made against a phychological standard. And in the gray areas, a curator relies on discretion and judgment. This may be hardest in the Tiki world and for vintage cocktails that are too sweet by modern tastes.

Without curation Kindred Cocktails will degenerate into drinksmixer.com, rather than be a fruitful resource for drink-making, reference, and inspiration.

Kindred Cocktails | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

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2 oz. Skyy vodka

1/2 oz. Vice icewine vodka

1/2 oz. Cointreau

1 oz. grapefruit juice

3 oz. homemade lime cordial (2 cups lime juice + 1 cup honey + 1 kaffir lime leaf)

1/2 oz. grapefruit bitters

1 oz. jalapeno-black pepper syrup

From the reasonably-sized picture in the background reference, this must be a recipe for two drinks. The vodka doesn't bother me because I don't see a damning difference between limecello and the vodka+lime cordial. (Yes, peel versus juice, I know, but still...) Or jalepeno/pepper liqueur and vodka + pepper syrup.

That leaves flavor. I don't know what icewine vodka is like, but I assume it's similar to icewine + vodka. The flavors sound interesting, if weird. The sweetness is an issue, unless the grapefruit juice happen to be particularly sour.

It appeared in print. That helps tip the balance.

I say craft, but borderline, absent actually making it and finding it lousy.

Kindred Cocktails | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

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Dan,

I might get my head bitten off for this, but why not gin instead of vodka in that cocktail? Why not nothing? In the arena of craft cocktails, vodka bothers me because it leads to lazy drinks - look at the Jasmine: understanding that Campari + lemon = grapefruit flavors is inspired. Adding vodka to grapefruit juice is not, yet both allow a bartender to make a grapefruit flavored cocktail.

Thanks,

Zachary

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... but why not gin instead of vodka in that cocktail? Why not nothing?

Maybe Juniper isn't called for (and I think there is already a lot going on in this cocktail). Same for white-dog, silver tequila, pisco, cachaca, whatever.

Vodka is needed to have a satisfying alcohol component for flavor, mouthfeel, and alcoholic effect.

My point is if it's OK to add syrup to XXXX infused in neutral spirits, then it should be OK to add neutral spirits (aka vodka) to XXXX infused syrup. Just because there's an opportunity to jam more flavor into a cocktail doesn't mean that the cocktail is better for it. In cooking, sometimes it's better to add water than chicken stock or cream. That said, I agree that this is atypical of a craft cocktail, and that Plain Flavor XXXX (Cranberry, OJ, Red Bull) + Vodka is a "marker gene" for a craptail.

Kindred Cocktails | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

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Would something like Audrey Saunders Dreamy Dorini Smoking Martini with vodka, Islay single malt, Pernod and a lemon twist be considered crappy because the base spirit is vodka? I don't think any of the other ingredients particularly enhance the base spirit. What is there to enhance? I'd say just the opposite. That the base spirit, for some, enhances the other ingredients in that someone not accustomed to the powerful flavors involved can begin to appreciate the complexities without being overwhelmed. I realize that's somewhat case-specific and those who appreciate Islay single malts would rather have it sans the other stuff but I think it's nonetheless a cocktail crafted to solve a particular problem which, in my opinion, does it well.

Feel free to firebomb the amateur if this is a silly example, I can take it. :biggrin:

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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