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Don't Call it a Classic If It's Not


weinoo
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Today's Diner's Journal reports on Manhattan restaurant Low Country, located in the West Village. Low Country (I haven't been) evidently specializes in food from the American south. And bourbon.

Evidently, Low Country goes so far as to call a Margarita made with bourbon classic. Same with a Martini. From said article:

“We offer classic drinks like martinis, margaritas and negronis, that are familiar to customers, but give them our own twist by making them with bourbon because it’s an indigenous American spirit, that’s very popular in the South.”

Sorry - it ain't a classic if it's made that way. Just sayin'.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

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Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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It's always a dilemma to order a drink at a place you've never been to. I've made it a habit to take the time to ask the waitstaff/bartender how they make a particular drink (even though it's a bit tedious at times) ever since I ordered a sazerac made with no absinthe :blink:

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It's always a dilemma to order a drink at a place you've never been to. I've made it a habit to take the time to ask the waitstaff/bartender how they make a particular drink (even though it's a bit tedious at times) ever since I ordered a sazerac made with no absinthe :blink:

Good point. It's also why a lot of people who work in the biz will order something like a Negroni when they're at an unknown bar - they figure most bartenders can count to 1! I tend to stick with a glass of bourbon or a beer.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Kentucky Margarita

Jim Beam Black Cherry Bourbon, Triple Sec, Lime, Brandy Cherry

They aren't listing their "bourbon martini" but there's this beast:

Dirty Southern Martini

Crop Organic Tomato Vodka Pickle Juice, Pickled Green Tomato Tabasco

Oh, they're also charging 14 bucks for the likes of Baker's and Knob Creek. I don't care if it's Manhattan, that is completely insane.

Edited by cadmixes (log)
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“We offer classic drinks like martinis, margaritas and negronis, that are familiar to customers, but give them our own twist by making them with bourbon because it’s an indigenous American spirit, that’s very popular in the South.”

Sorry - it ain't a classic if it's made that way. Just sayin'.

A Martini made with bourbon is a Dry Manhattan of sorts, and a Negroni made with bourbon is a Boulevardier. Both classics in their own right, though granted they are not as well known as the three drinks mentioned in the piece above.

Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

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“We offer classic drinks like martinis, margaritas and negronis, that are familiar to customers, but give them our own twist by making them with bourbon because it’s an indigenous American spirit, that’s very popular in the South.”

Sorry - it ain't a classic if it's made that way. Just sayin'.

A Martini made with bourbon is a Dry Manhattan of sorts, and a Negroni made with bourbon is a Boulevardier. Both classics in their own right, though granted they are not as well known as the three drinks mentioned in the piece above.

That's close, but as you know, a dry Manhattan is made with (classically) rye and dry vermouth and a Boulevardier (one of my favorite cocktails, by the way) is usually made with different proportions than a Negroni...but I get your point.

My point, however, is that the drinks mentioned in the article and as they are prepared at the restaurant, are not classics and should not be called what they are not.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Seems it's a question of how they've ordered the sentence. Perhaps if they'd said ..."we offer our own bourbon based twists on classics like Martinis, etc..." it might have been clearer. I don't think their drinks are classics by any means, and in fact a few sound downright disgusting, but this seems almost a semantic argument after a point...

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Seems it's a question of how they've ordered the sentence. Perhaps if they'd said ..."we offer our own bourbon based twists on classics like Martinis, etc..." it might have been clearer. I don't think their drinks are classics by any means, and in fact a few sound downright disgusting, but this seems almost a semantic argument after a point...

I enjoy arguing semantics :wink: . How would we feel if someone had a steak Diane on their menu, but since it's a chicken joint, they make it out of chicken?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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“We offer classic drinks like martinis, margaritas and negronis, that are familiar to customers, but give them our own twist by making them with bourbon because it’s an indigenous American spirit, that’s very popular in the South.”

Sorry - it ain't a classic if it's made that way. Just sayin'.

I don't disagree with your fundamental point, just like I abhor the practice of calling something a "Bourbon Sidecar." But I don't think that's quite what they're saying. It seems like they're saying that they riff on the classics by making them with bourbon, and they're indicating that they're riffs by calling it a "Kentucky Margarita" or a "Bourbon Dark & Stormy." It's not like they're making the drink with Jim Beam Black Cherry Bourbon and just calling it a "Margarita." And I don't get the impression they're saying that the Kentucky Margarita is a classic.

--

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From the article:

And Wild Turkey 81, blood orange and walnut liqueur are the components of something called the Winter Martini.

This is certainly a semantic argument, but the point to me is that we have more accurate language for most of these things (including the thing above, where "accurate language" would most certainly not employ the word "martini"), so why not use it? Seems like when people used to do things like substitute one base spirit for another, such as with the negroni and the boulevardier, they would give their creation a new name. Now we get things like "bourbon negroni" or "kentucky margarita" because people need comfort zones and hand-holding which I guess is another topic entirely.

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Now we get things like "bourbon negroni" or "kentucky margarita" because people need comfort zones and hand-holding which I guess is another topic entirely.

When I made my post above I actually wrote a bit of a rant as this exact thing is one of my biggest pet-hates*. I'm a great believer that stand-alone drinks will get the credit they deserve, so long as they're good. They don't need to piggy-back on better known drinks to get the recognition they deserve. Why rum Manhattan? Just call it the Palmetto. Why bourbon Negroni? Just call it the Boulevardier.

The argument often presented is that a rum Manhattan is an easier sell than a Palmetto but I don't know if that's strictly true and in my own experiences disagree with it. In some environments, such as a high volume bar, I can imagine it makes some sense (even if it does irk me) though the sort of drinks we're talking about are such that a drinker of a classic Manhattan would quite easily be drawn to a Palmetto. And in most cases bars serving these types of drinks have time to speak to their guests so...

One of the ways I got round this exact subject with a couple of menus I created for a consultancy was to list the new drink with a sub-heading linking to the more recognisable classic. For example;

Old Cuban

Fresh mint leaves, Havana 7 year old, fresh lime juice, sugar syrup, Angostura bitters and Veuve Clicquot

alternatively try the classic Mojito with fresh mint leaves, Havana Club 3 year old, fresh lime juice, sugar syrup and soda water

1930s Cosmopolitan

Beefeater gin, Cointreau, fresh lemon juice and housemade raspberry syrup

alternatively try the 1980s Cosmopolitan with Absolut citron, Cointreau, fresh cranberry juice and fresh lime

You'd think that the 80s Cosmo would outsell the 30s due to its popularity, and I feared that may be the case, but it proved otherwise with higher sales of the 30s Cosmo.

This proved to be a very successful way of enticing drinkers of more popular beverages to try something new, they could instantly draw a comparison and in a large majority of cases it would prove to be a conversation starter as they'd want to know more about this new discovery. In a World where everyone wants to be a trend-setter of sorts, it was a clever way of making people feel like they were the first to try this new improved beverage.

*I deleted it as I've been writing a piece on this exact subject which I intend on posting on my webpage very soon.

Edited by evo-lution (log)

Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

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I don't disagree with your fundamental point, just like I abhor the practice of calling something a "Bourbon Sidecar."

Of course there are a number of classics that can be made with different base spirits. In some ways it is clearer than coming up with an fancy name for something that is basically a variation on a theme.

But I agree with the original point that mucking with the whole ingredient list and then calling it a classic is confusing and annoying.

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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Now we get things like "bourbon negroni" or "kentucky margarita" because people need comfort zones and hand-holding which I guess is another topic entirely.

When I made my post above I actually wrote a bit of a rant as this exact thing is one of my biggest pet-hates*. I'm a great believer that stand-alone drinks will get the credit they deserve, so long as they're good. They don't need to piggy-back on better known drinks to get the recognition they deserve. Why rum Manhattan? Just call it the Palmetto. Why bourbon Negroni? Just call it the Boulevardier.

The argument often presented is that a rum Manhattan is an easier sell than a Palmetto but I don't know if that's strictly true and in my own experiences disagree with it. <snip>

I only snipped the remainder of the post for length--I agree with your entire post, and I think the way you've laid out that menu is the best solution. I was going to comment that while I commend bars for creating their own drinks, are they really that concerned that patrons won't order them if they give them original names? They are already listing the ingredients, so patrons can see what the drink is composed of. Why try to hide them behind the names of classics? Not only that but in this particular case, using Bourbon in traditionally gin-based drinks is much too radical a change, IMO, to be pretending that it's no more than a "riff" on a classic drink.

I still hate that Martini has been distorted from a specific drink to a category, and it appears that Margarita and Manhattan are being dragged kicking and screaming through the same colloquialistic gauntlet. Sometimes this leads to absurdities such as the time I saw a menu that listed a "Margari-tini" consisting of . . . tequila, lime juice, and triple sec. Seriously.

Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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Sometimes this leads to absurdities such as the time I saw a menu that listed a "Margari-tini" consisting of . . . tequila, lime juice, and triple sec. Seriously.

That must have been because it was served in a martini glass :wink:

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Those drinks aren't half as offensive as the menu which reads like yet another "throw some grits, greens and bacon on a plate" affronts to modern southern cuisine. I'm sure it's better than it sounds, but still, $50 for a glorified ten piece fried chicken -- seriously?!

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