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Crafty or Crappy?


EvergreenDan
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My first thought on reading this was, "Gee, I hope I don't have to acquire a taste for Bundaberg yellow label. So how do you decide which tastes you want to acquire? I suppose one way for me would be to listen to the opinions of the writers, bartenders, and historians.

As I think about it, perhaps it is better to think about evolving tastes rather than acquired tastes. There has to be a way to get from point A to point B. Maybe you decide the endpoint would be better hit by an asteroid and left to the fossil record. Or you get side-tracked on the way and end up somewhere exciting and unexpected.

in general, the tastes you acquire or evolve to find harmonious show a pattern of escalating tension from a central point (gustatory or olfactory sweetness).

it is probably beneficial to acquire tastes for things local and sustainable or conventionally nutritious and mentally nutritious (the therapy of sensory distractions).

the paths from point A to point B is the big question and bar tending really explores those paths.

abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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My first thought on reading this was, "Gee, I hope I don't have to acquire a taste for Bundaberg yellow label. So how do you decide which tastes you want to acquire? I suppose one way for me would be to listen to the opinions of the writers, bartenders, and historians.

As I think about it, perhaps it is better to think about evolving tastes rather than acquired tastes. There has to be a way to get from point A to point B. Maybe you decide the endpoint would be better hit by an asteroid and left to the fossil record. Or you get side-tracked on the way and end up somewhere exciting and unexpected.

Acquiring a taste doesn't mean abandoning discernment. It just means no longer writing off whole classes of things because they share a certain flavor element. Bundaberg--well, let's just say that it's educational.

I've always found the best thing to motivate me to acquire the taste for something, be it epic poetry, marching band music or hogo-driven rum, is the belief that our ancestors were no dumber than we are. We know things they don't, but the corny or weird things they liked, they probably liked for a reason, and if we can't see that reason, then we haven't understood the thing.

That belief (which applies as much to other cultures as it does to the past, obviously) can lead one to try things to which one has no connection, so it's not always evolution, although it certainly helps to have a foot on the path already.

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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Ok David,

I guess I can't argue with any of that. ... But I'm not about to feel guilty about any tastes I don't manage to acquire...

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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So how do you decide which tastes you want to acquire? I suppose one way for me would be to listen to the opinions of the writers, bartenders, and historians.

Yes. And keep trying it every so often as your tastes change. Took me 30 years to finally like Campari. I'm a slow learner, apparently.

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

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Just for closure, here's what we came up with:

Craft Cocktails

The hallmarks of craft cocktails are:

  • High quality spirits and liqueurs
    . Not Midori, Apple Pucker, most flavored vodkas, most cream liqueurs.

  • Fresh and/or high quality mixers and flavoring ingredients.
    Not premade sour mix, drink mixes, most soda pop.

  • Taste of alcohol and the flavors of the alcoholic ingredients.
    Not just of the mixers to cover-up flavors.

  • Usually no more than slightly sweet
    unless

    • Sweetness balanced with bitter, herbal, or complex flavors or

    • Flavors combined in unusual or interesting ways or

    • Intended as a well-crafted tiki, tropical, or dessert drink.

    [*]
    Use accepted preparation techniques.

    [*]
    Pedigree helps in borderline cases, such as being an accepted classic and a modern creation from a respected mixologist.

No one like to have their cocktail moderated or unpublished, so we use our best judgment and discretion to try to keep our shared database a fruitful source of drink-making, reference and inspiration.

The complete Kindred Cocktails Style Guidelines.

Thank you very much for your help.

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

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  • 1 month later...

So... now that this has been discussed, weighed and measured by those that know much more about it than I do, I'm going to stir the anthill and ask the question I've been trying to find the answer to while reading through all of this.

I want to say first that I respect the knowledge of the cocktail experts and enthusiasts that participate in these discussions and have learned/will continue to learn a lot from them. Having said that, my question is: is hammering home the message of the craft of the cocktail and the personal enjoyment of the person making the drinks more important than the preferences of the person who is drinking it? Is teaching them what they should like of more importance than providing them with something they do like?

This isn't meant to be argumentive, I'm genuinely curious and attempting to learn. I guess what I'm getting at is, if a bit of simple syrup makes a good drink great to the person drinking it but throws it out of balance according to the person mixing it, is it being more dedicated to the craft to give it to them so they can really enjoy it or insist they drink it as you would so that they can try to learn to appreciate it as it should be?

Edited by Tri2Cook (log)

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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Ultimately, this is the same question as in any culinary field, right? If a diner likes well-done steak and instant mashed potatoes with powdered gravy, who am I to try and convince them that they "should" like a medium-rare dry-aged steak with retrograde-starch potato puree and a red-wine beef jus?

In the case of cocktails, I think there's a range of what could be considered "balanced," and a craft bartender wouldn't blink at someone who has a slightly sweeter palate. There's a world of difference between adding an extra quarter-ounce of syrup to a Daiquiri and treating butterscotch schnapps as a base spirit. Hospitality dictates that a request for the former should be accommodated with a smile, while a request for the latter should be met with a gentle suggestion that they try something else from the menu or find a bar that's better equipped to meet their needs. God knows they exist.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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Good point Matt. I didn't use a very good example. I guess what I was getting at was, is it encumbant on one who appreciates the craft aspect of the cocktail world to try to steer someone (including one's self) away from what they like if it doesn't fit within certain parameters?

Let's say a person does like the butterscotch schnapps in your example and decides they want to create a drink with it. If they manage through some feat of mixology to create a tasty, well balanced drink based on that ingredient, where does that place the drink? A tasty, well crafted drink based on something entirely outside of what would be considered a worthy base for a craft cocktail. By the definition of craft cocktail, it would come up short no matter how well it was done... but, if those who know their craft drinks agreed that it was well done, where would that leave it? Would if be craft by virtue of making the unlikely base work or would it remain crap due to the accepted criteria of craft?

Edited by Tri2Cook (log)

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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is hammering home the message of the craft of the cocktail and the personal enjoyment of the person making the drinks more important than the preferences of the person who is drinking it? Is teaching them what they should like of more importance than providing them with something they do like?

My hope was to define what a craft cocktail is, and I think we accomplished that pretty well.

Some people (most people, probably) simply aren't interested in craft cocktails. They may have their drink (Martini, Scotch, Jack and Coke, whatever) and drink only that. They might like only beer or wine. Or they might have immature tastes. I do not mean this pejoratively; I think most of us favored drinks that disguise the alcohol when we first started drinking.

Other people may simply not have been exposed to craft or creative cocktails. Gently exposing these folks can introduce them to a world that they will appreciate. This might be making a classic cocktail a bit sweeter (or less bitter or herbal or whatever). Or picking something that is easy to like, such as a Daiquiri or Margarita.

And some enthusiasts of craft cocktails may favor certain types of drinks, tastes, and flavors that others don't like. A tiki lover might not like an amaro drink, and vice-versa.

I don't try to evangelize everyone. If I know that a guest really likes light beer, then I just buy some. If someone asks for an Alabama Slammer, then I'll make it (subbing something like bourbon and cherry liqueur for Southern Comfort). If they want a Vodka Martini, I'll make it to their liking (to the best of my ability).

But if I think they are open to something new and interesting, I might serve it to them, even if it isn't a "safe" drink. And, of course, you want to be a good host and never make someone feel bad about their tastes.

I make plenty of craft cocktails. I don't have to make them for my guests if they don't want them. Hell, it's a lot easier to open a bottle of beer!

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

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is hammering home the message of the craft of the cocktail and the personal enjoyment of the person making the drinks more important than the preferences of the person who is drinking it? Is teaching them what they should like of more importance than providing them with something they do like?

Sometimes, yes. Look. It's easy to say "drink (or eat) what you like", but that doesn't really mean anything. If you've never had an artichoke, a cup of coffee, or a Martinez how do you know if you like it or not? Food marketers use this concept to reduce the noble chicken into chicken nuggets. I know kids and adults who never eat anything but chicken nuggets and french fries. Why should they get to dictate what people eat so that we don't offend their ability to say "I eat what I like"?

I was in Houston a few weeks ago and stopped at Anvil. On the menu was a buttermilk punch with Averna and green Chartreuse. Now, I don't particularly like buttermilk. It's not something that I would seek out and drink, though I use it in cooking. I told this to the guy behind the bar and he told me to try the drink. So I did, and it was quite good.

You've got to know your customer. If someone insists on a well done steak, or instant mashed potatoes, fine. Would I expect a nice restaurant to carry boxes of instant potatoes just so they could cater to my likes? No. If you're not sure whether or not you like something, but you're willing to try and find out, that's one thing. If you're afraid of new experiences just because, that's another.

Thanks,

Zachary

Edited by Zachary (log)
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My hope was to define what a craft cocktail is, and I think we accomplished that pretty well.

Yessir, I understand the intent and greatly appreciate the discussion that accompanied reaching that goal. That's why I waited until the goal had been achieved before bringing my question to the table.

I think what I'm trying to work out is, now that what comprises a craft cocktail has been hashed out to the general agreement of all or most involved, where do those of us lower on the learning curve in this subject go with it. Not so much in regards to personal preference but when making drinks for guests in our home or whatever situation we may be involved in that includes making drinks for others.

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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  • 2 weeks later...

Eh, I think it's not worth losing a lot of sleep over. You've got drinks you like to make and drink so those are the drinks you'll mostly make and drink, and occasionally you will (hopefully) want to try something new, even if it is just a simple variation on your standards. I probably come across as beating dead horses around here regarding dry Daiquiris, but I think it can be used to illustrate the concept quite well. The way most sources and even very illustrious bars and bartenders make the drink, it is a perfectly delightful rum sour, not in the least bit challenging and with plenty of rewarding refreshment for even the novice drinker. But when you scale the sugar all the way back to the barest amount necessary to take the edge off the citrus, you open up a new experience, where the rum and lime become far, far more than the sum of their parts. Either drink, made with quality spirits and fresh juice, could be considered crafty. But by pushing yourself to your limits you can open up new gustatory joys.

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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