Time for a Fresh Drink
February 3, 2024 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Arguably the most important innovation in cocktail construction over the last few decades was the reintroduction of fresh juice. from The Cocktail Revolution by Peter Suderman
posted by chavenet (31 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Nice article and it rightfully cites other important contributions, not just fresh juices, like the return of dozens of lost ingredients such as creme de violette and orgeat. We take their presence behind the bar for granted today. We also owe a debt to those early 1990s craft bartenders who decided that actually (and accurately) measuring their ingredients mattered both to the balance (sweet/sour) and the reproducibility of a good drink. And that some drinks were never meant to be shaken, but stirred (for heaven's sake). Finally thanks are due to all of the 'mixo-archeologists' (many who have gone unsung) who dug through piles of old cocktail manuals to revive (and often revision for modern palates) forgotten recipes.

Cheers!
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 2:26 PM on February 3 [11 favorites]


I'll drink to that!
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:39 PM on February 3 [4 favorites]


We take their presence behind the bar for granted today.

Maybe in hipper areas, I guess. I just recently was treated to a manhattan made with, I kid you not, dry vermouth. They didn’t have sweet vermouth. In fact, no one behind the otherwise-well-stocked bar even knew what sweet vermouth was. Their solution to the drink I brought back was to drizzle simple syrup into my drink, because, y’know, “sweet.”

I take nothing for granted now.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:52 PM on February 3 [18 favorites]


Crobar (rip) being named in an article about fancy culture cocktail resurgence has spun me out completely, but also totally delighted me.
posted by ominous_paws at 3:28 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]


known for innovative cocktails meant to replicate the taste of comfort foods; their current menu includes drinks with names like French Toast, Japanese Cold Noodle, and Cold Pizza

The time has finally come for my post-college innovation, the gin and soy sauce shot!
posted by limeonaire at 3:37 PM on February 3 [5 favorites]


So, are appletinis passe?
posted by Czjewel at 3:51 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]


Fascinating, especially about the Aviation. I first had one at a fancy bar in Ohio about 10 years ago and it became my drink of choice. I was a newish cocktail drinker and vaguely knew that creme yvette/creme de violette was a weird ingredient and figured out I had to ask bartenders at other places if they had it before I ordered one but I had no idea that it was a rebirth of sorts!
posted by damayanti at 4:05 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


So, are appletinis passe?

It’s complicated. There are lots of people moving their way through the 80s/90s cocktail canon with varying levels of sincerity and/or irony (often both at the same time). As a result you could order one and be told they don’t have the ingredients, or they could make you one with de Kuyper Pucker™ just like the good/bad old days, or they could make you their “elevated” riff on it with a house-made cordial and a high price tag. Your best bet is to learn to read the signals a bar puts out with its selection, menu, dress code, and noise level and then order appropriately.
posted by fedward at 4:07 PM on February 3 [6 favorites]


Thorzad

I feel your pain, sir. A pain I experience often when I go out to drink with friends who don't completely take in their drinking environment. Allow me to refer you to Andrew Bohrer's 10 Rules of Drinking Like a Man And, yeah, that title didn't age well, but there's some good advice buried in his writings nonetheless. Right now I'm put in mind of Rule 5:

Order The Right Drink In The Right Bar At The Right Time

I’m a traveling man of many circles, and my business card reads, 'Cultural Attache,' for a reason. When Peter, my 23 year old mohawked cook takes the after work party to Shorty’s, our local punk rock pinball bar, he and I will, 'do,' a couple car bombs because I respect the way of his tribe, and sometimes I am part of that tribe. When I steer the party to the Zig Zag, we quaff sexy cocktails and fine spirits. My point is, if you order a Rob Roy at Shorty’s the bartender has every right to tell you to fuck off.

Andrew goes on to add this:

Do they have rye whiskey?

If I can’t tell if I’m in a nice place or just a place that looks nice, I very safely ask, “What kind of rye whiskey do you have?” This is a very non dickish way to not put your server under too much stress and gauge where you are, if the answer is returned, “Maker’s Mark, Crown Royal and I think Jack Daniels,” (not ryes) you know where you really are.


And to add a personal bit of advice: if the vermouth isn't being kept chilled, regardless of what kind it is, pull the rip cord for a safe ride down and switch the over to a neat pour and/or a beer.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 4:30 PM on February 3 [11 favorites]


through the 80s/90s cocktail canon

I want a cocktail cannon!
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:33 PM on February 3 [10 favorites]


Well, in Seattle you can get a cocktail in Canon.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 4:35 PM on February 3 [4 favorites]


Is that bar The Violet Hour still the place for this kind of thing in Chicago? (Asks an old.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:59 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Well, in Seattle you can get a cocktail in Canon

Can they fire it ~180 miles to where I am?
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:03 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Can't believe he doesn't mention tiki bars, which acted as boozy monasteries, preserving the culture of exotic mixers and fresh juice through the cocktail dark ages.
posted by turbowombat at 5:31 PM on February 3 [14 favorites]


The right drink in the right bar at the right time: I was at dinner theater at the Moose Lodge (or whatever they are calling it these days instead of the Moose Lodge) to see my community theater group's production of Southern Fried Funeral. (We are north of the Mason-Dixon.) And I ordered a margarita. Here's how that went...

Following the bartender's two-minute search for the tequila (Jose Cuervo gold, which was both passable and also entirely in line with what I expected from the Moose), I received a rather stiff rocks margarita, including a wedge of real lime and a salted rim. Yay! I took it back to our table where the other theater-goers inquired as to how it was. "It's quite drinkable and does what it says on the tin." Damning with faint praise? Maybe. But also it was a six dollar margarita from the Moose. Honestly, given the circumstances, it exceeded expectations. Fresh lime wedge was a nice touch. I mean, was it as good as I'd get from a fancy and dimly lit cocktail bar in the downtown section of the nearest (hour and a half away) big city? No. It also didn't cost fifteen dollars and I didn't have to balance on an uncomfortable and overly-narrow stool or endure piped in jazz. Was it as good as I can make at home with my dad's dead wife's añejo tequila imported from Mexico and entirely fresh lime juice and Cointreau without dust on the bottle? No. Was it way better than a slushy sugar fest like you'd get in a college bar? Yes.

It is important to moderate your expectations and BE REASONABLE if you go around ordering cocktails in places that are not... cocktail oriented. The Moose Lodge in a four-stoplight town in Greater Rednecklandia sells a truckload of domestic beer and the occasional glass of red wine. The bartender, who was doing the Lord's work putting a margarita together for me with a wedge of real lime on the rim, even, got a two buck tip on a six dollar drink along with a big smile and a thank you. Also I enjoyed the dinner theater a lot more thanks to my quite functional margarita.
posted by which_chick at 6:19 PM on February 3 [18 favorites]


piped in jazz

It's giving series of tubes
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:30 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]


Anyone know how to track down a bottle of Chantreuse that doesn't cost an arm and leg pls lmk. It's almost cucumber gimlet season.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 8:07 PM on February 3 [4 favorites]


(Chartreuse, sorry)
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 8:20 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


DirtyOldTown, I had the distinct honor of giving Toby Maloney my beat-up copy of The Thin Man when he was still working at Milk & Honey, back when dinosaurs walked the earth. He was really good people the few times I met him there, and it’s been delightful to hear about The Violet Hour’s success.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 10:04 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


The time has finally come for my post-college innovation, the gin and soy sauce shot!

I'm assuming that one goes in the same box as my "VV shot", equal parts vodka and balsamic vinegar. Mixers that *actually* cover up the taste of alcohol, which I do not enjoy.
posted by Audreynachrome at 1:48 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Maybe in hipper areas, I guess. I just recently was treated to a manhattan made with, I kid you not, dry vermouth.

Now, if they had added Maraschino to it, you would have had a Brooklyn, which is an entirely reasonable drink. Of course, if the bar doesn’t have sweet vermouth, they aren’t likely to have Marachino either, which is a pity, because it’s great.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:00 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Interesting article. I’ve been a part of the cocktail revolution/renaissance more or less since the start, so it’s interesting to see an article where I have hung out with just about everyone named (even “MCed” a wedding for one).

Here’s the thing about crème de violette: it just isn’t all that good. Sure, it sounds cool and maybe the first few times you have it in a drink it even tastes interesting. But pretty soon you just don’t want a drink that tastes like grandma’s bath beads. As often happens, when a new and distinctive ingredient comes to the attention the next thing you know everyone is making drinks with it. So it didn’t take long before I’d had enough crème de violette cocktails for a lifetime. This even has happened with ingredients that have been around forever. When Audrey opened Pegu Club I wrote that it was the only bar in the world that had Green Chartreuse in the well. But the next wave of cocktailian bartenders at places like PDT and Death & Company leaned on it so hard I didn’t drink any Chartreuse for a period of around four years due to palate fatigue. Similar things happened with St. Germain elderflower cordial (aka “bartender’s ketchup”), which found its way into everything. Perhaps my favorite tweet of the pandemic was someone who wrote, “Has anyone tried putting St. Germain in 2020?”

The Aviation is an interesting case. The internet played a huge part in the revival, starting in places like the AOL chat boards with Gary and Dale and Ted, then one or two blogs like Paul Harrington’s, then the heyday of the mega-discussion boards like DrinkBoy, eGullet and Webtender, and then back to blogs and eventually social media. The Aviation was a bit of a shibboleth in the early days, and was the entryway for a lot of people into the culture. It didn’t hurt that Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur is an outstanding product with a flavor like nothing else that most people had never tried before. That said, it’s not that interesting a drink once you get past the novelty. I can’t remember the last time I had one, but it’s been between 15 and 20 years. Nevertheless, it’s a much better drink without the crème de violette (which I suspect was used mostly for color in the first formulation).
posted by slkinsey at 4:56 AM on February 4 [6 favorites]


Now, if they had added Maraschino to it, you would have had a Brooklyn, which is an entirely reasonable drink. Of course, if the bar doesn’t have sweet vermouth, they aren’t likely to have Marachino either, which is a pity, because it’s great.

I’ll have to remember that one. Of course, at most bars, if you suggest “add some maraschino” what you’ll get is a tablespoon of the neon red sugar syrup from the jar of neon red “maraschino” cherries.

My go-to at any bar is usually a manhattan. I loves me a good manhattan. It’s an old-school classic that (I thought) any bartender would know how to make. Apparently, this is far from the case. My second-worst encounter with a clueless barkeep was the glass full of ice, poured to the brim with some manner of whiskey, with maybe a drop of sweet vermouth, that I was served.

My favorite manhattan encounter was at a small, local distillery. Like a lot of trendy tasting rooms, you’re handed a menu with “featured” cocktails, which are usually tortured takes on one classic cocktail or another. They had one such drink where the listed ingredients seemed to imply a manhattan, but with shit added.

When the bartender came to our table to take drink orders (small room, slow afternoon,) I quizzed them on this manhattan-ish drink, and whether a brother could simply get a manhattan? They actually seemed excited about this. Then, I asked whether they had rye (I go back and forth on this, bourbon or rye. I tend toward rye.) They did not (they make bourbons.) Then she discussed with me the personalities of their bourbons, and we landed on one that we agreed would make a good manhattan.

With a smile, they turned and started walking back to the bar, then stopped and came back. “I assume you’ll want this up?” I smiled and thanked her for asking, and told her my adventure with the glassful of ice. She said she thought to ask because most people ordering drinks there often get upset when they don’t get a glass of ice, but I seemed to know better.

They went back to the bar. I glanced over now and then and watched them happily craft a well-balanced manhattan. It was delish.

Also: A martini at the bar at Musso and Franks. None better, especially considering the atmosphere.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:00 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]


TSHBO: Chartreuse will be pretty scarce on the ground for the foreseeable future. I think the availability and quality of some core ingredients have changed due to climate change and political conflict, and the monks have said they want to devote more time to contemplation and less time to distilling. So Chartreuse is going on allocation. If you find any, buy as much as you can afford.
posted by slkinsey at 5:08 AM on February 4 [4 favorites]


Now, if they had added Maraschino to it, you would have had a Brooklyn, which is an entirely reasonable drink.

Maraschino and Amer Picon (or, if you’re me, Bigallet China China)
posted by slkinsey at 5:12 AM on February 4 [4 favorites]


DirtyOldTown Happy to report that The Violet Hour is still going strong after all these years! There are other great spots these days, of course, but TVH is still one of the best.
posted by merriment at 6:34 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]


Maraschino and Amer Picon (or, if you’re me, Bigallet China China)

To be fair, you can make it with Angostura bitters. I was thinking that a bar without sweet vermouth (but, mirabile dictu, had Maraschino) probably wouldn’t have the others (I’m told Amer Picon, like Suze, is basically unavailable in the US and must be worked around).
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:41 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


The 5 Boroughs Cocktails are kind of fun to try out, although only the Manhattan and the Brooklyn are to my taste. The Staten Island Ferry (not linked there) is kind of a variant piña colada without coconut cream.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:54 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


I love the idea of cocktails but in Toronto each drink costs about the price of a decent lunch. Like $18. No. Nope. Noooo. Anyway las night I stayed home and drank Screech neat until my tongue stopped burning. So don’t listen to me.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:18 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


As for me, the classic cocktail renaissance started in 1985 when I found a copy of the two-volume Charles Baker Gentleman's Companion at a used bookstore in Champaign, IL. I am old enough to remember when you didn't know what "single-malt Scotch" was unless you'd read the Playboy article about it. I think there was also one explaining what tequila is. In those days, if you searched very hard, you might find a bottle of Jim Beam Yellow Label rye whisky. Which I'm pretty sure was the only straight rye whisky from an American distiller.

Not only has there been a return of once-extinct ingredients like creme de violettes and Maraschino, the whole distilling landscape has changed. There are actual craft distilleries that are not owned by either Beam or Seagram Hiram Walker. You have a choice in rye whiskies. You have a surfeit of choices in bourbon. The import pipelines from Scotland and the whole southern half of the Western hemisphere demonstrate that a 1980s malt whiskey or rum drinker would underestimate the actual diversity of those markets by a large multiple. I tasted some Japanese whiskey around 1980, and remember thinking it was like paint thinner flavored with scotch. There is a whole world of spirits that was obscured by the aftereffects of Prohibition: the revival that's happened in the last 20 years is very reasonably viewed as "the art of booze-drinking finally recovering from Prohibition."

I do have to take issue with TFA's blithe description of where things are at. Almost everyplace I go, if you order a Margarita you will get a concoction based on sour mix and tequila, even if they use the good tequila, and Cointreau for the triple-sec. Actually squeezing citrus fruits to make classic cocktails is still a very niche thing. And I don't think there's a single place within a half-hour's drive in the fairly-sophisticated market where I live, where you could sit down at the bar and order an Aviation with confidence that they'd have all the ingredients.

It's still very much TGI Friday's out there for most (cocktail) drinkers.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 7:48 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]


Similar things happened with St. Germain elderflower cordial (aka “bartender’s ketchup”), which found its way into everything. Perhaps my favorite tweet of the pandemic was someone who wrote, “Has anyone tried putting St. Germain in 2020?”

So like...I did. St. Germain and San Pellegrino Melograno E Arancia was one of my go-to drinks for online happy hours during the early days of the pandemic. I also had a fair bit of banana milk and white Russians for some reason for a while. Weird nostalgia for that was part of why I had way too many St. Germain cocktails at the dance club that first masked night out after I was fully vaccinated in 2021, and ended up on the floor.
posted by limeonaire at 2:44 PM on February 9


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