Making mojitos at midday http://instagr.am/p/Q9hVuTRzR4/
Right, this has got to stop. Any self respecting person who has an ounce of knowledge about what to drink should petition to get this stuff banned. It’s companies taking advantage of poor saps who haven’t had the pleasure of actually imbibing a cocktail, or an alcoholic drink of any sort ever! When you buy alcohol’s like this you are not experiencing alcohol. What you are getting is a sugar enhanced liquor that is probably just going to give you diabetes (Disclaimer, may not actually give you diabetes).
I am not an alcohol snob, nor a cocktail snob but products like this, that are sweetened beyond belief just cannot be healthy. They are also not great for an industry that needs to give our young people more education.
This isn’t an attack, it’s just common sense.
(All these are my opinions, backed up by little evidence apart from years of experience with alcohol)
Mixology or Bartending: the Great Debate
If you live in the greater NYC area, perhaps you’ve had this discussion with friends. You walk into an upscale bar and at the bottom of the menu, you see a fine print sentence scrawled out in gothic style calligraphic handwriting, “Our cocktail menu is curated by our in-house mixologist,” or a lovely sentiment with similar phrasing. A friend will inevitably roll their eyes and inquire as to the origin of the word mixologist, then begin making bold generalizations regarding mixologists and bartenders, claiming they are essentially the same profession, differing only in name and levels of pretentiousness.
This has probably been a topic of discussion only if you have a vested interest in the bar industry, or you frequent bars that employ mixologists. But such a conversation (if one were to take place, this is all hypothetical…obviously) brings up some interesting points. What is a mixologist and why does it command a title superior to that of bar-keep? They both work behind a bar, they both often go to special schools to study their trade, then they pour, mix and make drinks to support themselves. No brainer? Not quite.
The job of a bartender has to be one of the hardest out there. Without listing why here are a few reasons: long shifts, pushy people, drink & dashes, yelling, standing on your feet for hours without sufficient breaks. But here’s the kicker, a bartender is mixing pre-established recipes. The word bartender is actually defined as a person who mixes and serves drinks at a bar. They may know about the wine that accompanies signature dishes or a beer that pairs best with a certain steak but they are not there to make your palate dance with enthusiasm or to bring out the whispers of ginger in a certain item on the menu. That, my friends, is a mixologist’s job.
Bartenders are paid to tend bar, to make sure your glass is re-filled and to mix up a mojito (a bartender’s arch-nemesis) on occasion. A mixologist (defined as a person skilled in making cocktails) is trained in spirits and how to taste them, treating it as an art form aiming to please the palette, not personality. They are usually employed by a bar or restaurant that’s looking to convey a particular message then tailor a personally crafted cocktail menu to contribute to the desired ambiance. Mixologists invent drinks and play with ingredients, perfecting them until they’ve achieved the right percentages of each. They add bitters and juices and other eccentric ingredients to drinks they’ve developed. A bit different from from mixing up a martini.
“I find the ‘mixologist’ description unnecessary. I can quickly see based on the bottles behind your bar, your menu, your volume of customers and your skill, what kind of place I’m in, and whether this is your summer job or your lifelong passion,” said Kathleen Reynolds. “If we’re going to get fancy with vocabulary, we need a few new titles, because outstanding pub bartenders like the legendary Doug Quinn or up-and-coming Aiden MacKenzie are outstanding in their own right. They may not make original cocktail bitters out of unicorn tears, but they know their loyal customers and often patrons’ favorite drinks await them as soon as they step into the bar.”
Perhaps what it comes down to is the subjectivity of the concept. This is not meant to offend bartenders as some have much more responsibility than others. The point is, mixology IS a profession, populated by an industry that thrives on innovation and creativity. And when all’s said and done, if you’re a bartender doing more than your share of mixing, maybe you should re-think your title.
Firstly, God Damn do I love this film, (the 1988 hollywood version not the more recent Far Eastern variations) it is one of those films that I could watch over and over and over again, and Tom Cruise just happens to be one of my favourite actors ever. But there are some definite problems to be had if we look at it with a critical bartenders eye.
First of all, no matter what you say, in our realm of creation of damn-fine tasting drinks, there is no place for a Red-Eye. A coworker/flatmate and I experimented after watching it post-shift one night, and both agreed that it might possibly be worse than any other imbibable(is that a word?) liquid in the world when done the “Cocktail” way. Surely there is a need for an egg to add something to a cocktail, (normally texturising the drink) not just floating on the top? It seems like an over the top protein shake gone wrong to me? There is however a slightly modified Japanese version which Ereich Vaughn Empey considers in his blog post here. However, as this isn’t a post concerning strictly the red-eye then we’ll leave it to him to help cultivate some more ideas about it.
My main problem with cocktail isn’t Doug Coughlin’s (Bryan Brown) outrageously contrived philosophical diatribe (YES, 4 BIG WORDS IN A ROW), nor the loosely padded bullshit “boy meets girl, they fall in love, boy fucks up , regains her love eventually” plot, nor the hippy hippy shake.
It is however, the inability of the cast and director to properly convey how much it physically and mentally hurts to do an 10 hour shift, close the bar at 2 or 3 am then head back in first thing in the morning for opening. And for someone who at one time was doing 11am to 4/5am 6 days a week that’s pretty annoying. Sure, they manage to get in some of the bar closing, but mainly just the bit where you sit back and have a beer after work is done. For a film that has a loose plot which is padded by a whole lot of bartending, there is very little actual bartending going on. Sure, they make a lot of drinks and throw a lot of bottles, but where’s the prep, or the lugging of kegs, or the 3 hour deep clean once a week?
This film apparently inspires lots of people to try their hand at bartending, I certainly have a few non-bartender friends who thought that it would be a great idea after watching the film. Why can’t someone make a real film about bartending, I know that I would go and see it repeatedly at my local cinema. Preferably in 3D so the flair bottles can come flying out of the screen at you, and maybe smell-o-vision too?
Coughlin’s law: never show surprise, never lose your cool.
Education is a massive part of our society, we know this. Yet, there is a severe lack of education in certain bars I frequent. Ask a question about where the rum is from, or what wine is similar to another, and in the majority of cases I am met with blank faces. It is unnerving to think that the person selling me a product knows very little about, when in our consumer orientated world we are used to having all the information at our fingertips.
Let’s get this straight, I consider myself to know a fair bit about the alcohol I serve after reading copious amounts of literature and going through the barsmarts wired training program. However, I started learning the first minute I stepped behind the stick, I was fortunate enough to be working with some very experienced bartenders, who were looking for a slightly new way of life. This garnered my thirst for this knowledge. On the other hand, there were plenty of staff there who when asked a simple question such as “Where is Zubrowska from,” would give a simple blank stare.
The point I am trying to get across, is that the education of bartenders worldwide is patchy, everywhere I have worked the lack of knowledge has been outstanding. Surely as people who make a living from the service of a product, we should be informed enough to have an opinion on this product, and at the very least, be able to be informative about the product? The Barsmarts program is wonderful, and if you haven’t heard about it you should check out some more info here. I fully intend to have all the staff I am about to get working with again to go through it, and I’m hoping the bar will foot the bill.
In my opinion, the “burden” of education behind the bar should fall on the bar you work for, and the bartender. If the bar has educated bartenders who can talk about their products the possibilities for up-selling and giving guests a better experience are amplified greatly in my opinion. However, we as bartenders and cocktailians should also thrive to educate ourselves. There isn’t anything that we can ever stop learning about, new techniques, new products etc are always gathering interest.
The main question isn’t whether or not we should be educated about our products or not. It’s or whether we should demand to be educated or whether it is an inherent skill of bartenders to educate themselves?
ps. I know from experience that being able to talk about my products and give the guests little golden nuggets of info boosts gratuities :)
Bartending is frowned up here in Glasgow(unless you are a student), it seems that apart from a few high end bars, the local populace seems to believe that they are better than the average bartender. Sure, the general populace might make a bit more money than the average bartender, but we’re good people. However, there is nothing more annoying as a balding middle-aged man rolling up to the bar with his money hunting girlfriend and acting as if he owns not just the place, but you, the bartender. I have been a victim of some pretty awful customers working where I have, but even after experiencing death threats and physical intimidation this type is still the worst kind of customer. These are the ones who demand to be served by a mixologist.
These are the customers who come in, demand your attention, and then don’t have a fucking clue what to order. They stand there, right in front of the draft beer, and then still try and order something that doesn’t exist in order to impress the gold-digger standing next to them. The gold-digger who undoubtedly will order a grey goose and slimline tonic (no garnish-too many calories). When one of these walk in, then you know you aren’t going to get tipped from them, not even if they’re trying to impress the lady at their side.
This kind of person treats the staff like they own them, they talk down as if we are dogs, and quite frankly piss everyone off. “Why try and be nice?” They must ask themselves this question before leaving their house. And it’s annoying as hell, what is the cost of a simple “thank you” or “please,” it almost makes me happy to be starting back to work at the crappy hostel bar I started learning the trade in 3 years ago.
At least at this bar the people there are looking for a good time, and they are on holiday, so almost certainly in a good mood. I really like this bar, it feels like home behind this stick. I know it isn’t all that good, and the cocktails aren’t what they should be (but I’m working on that) but it’s a bar where people to go to have a good time. There isn’t any flashing the cash, the tips are measly (the pay is decent) but people there are nice. Sure, some of the staff is on another plane of existence, but I can put up with that.
Maybe, we as bartenders should cut out the mixologist title. By definition a mixologist is someone who is creative and good at mixing drinks. A bartender, by definition is someone who serves and mixes drinks for paying customers. I believe we shouldn’t use mixologist if we work in a bar, leave that to the guys creating cocktails for competition, or the guys working for brands. They are good at mixing drinks but may not necessarily be great at service.
It is my belief that the term mixologist, and the popularisation of it in the media has led the general public to have the wrong idea about the guys and gals busting their guts behind the stick. It lends an air of unnecessary gravitas to the situation, and ends up with fat, balding guys treating the staff who don’t call themselves mixologists like pieces of crap.
Sorry, a bit of rant today, but hey, I can’t be perfect every day.
Scotch Whisky Collection at the Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh, Scotland (July 2012)
I thought that to have a complex drink, you had to have lots of ingredients. The reality is …. you can get a lot of complexity in an Old Fashioned with a good 100 proof whiskey, a good rich simple syrup and a healthy dose of bitters. On a deeper level, you can overthink life sometimes. — Louisville mixologist Josh Durr, as quoted in The Courier-Journal
Club tropicana, the infamous Wham! song from the early 80s features George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley sipping on the infamous Pina Colada, and for many this is the typical vision they see of ‘Tiki’. However, as a cocktail enthusiast and writer, I feel obligated to decry this.
Tiki has recently experienced a boom in popularity, maybe not a boom the size of the Gin or craft beer revolution that has been going on but now it is likely that you’ll find at least one tiki inspired cocktail on the menu at your local decent cocktail bar.
Tiki cocktail are predominantly based on a mix of rum, fruit juice, citrus juices, syrups and exotic flvaours thrown in for good measure. In comparison with the modern mixology wave that is going on, Tiki is a very relaxed style of drinking, with the emphasis on fun and flavour, rather than exact minutiae prepared in exactly the right order. (For a good example of a laid-back Tiki/Rum blog check out rumdood).
Tiki bars and clubs are still popping up all over, however the momentum seems to have been lost a little recently. (For an interesting article about a Tiki bar check out this post from bitters&twisted). The cocktails (when made well) are a delicate balance of anything from 5 to 15 ingredients, and consider the difficulty of balancing just 3 or 4 it shows how impressive tiki drinks really are.
So, with this little introduction to Tiki done, look forward to the 5 essential tiki drinks to know that will be following soon.
Thanks for reading, and keep imbibing!
CRITICAL MASS CHERRIES
For as long as I can remember now, cherries in Leeds have been as rare as rocking horse shit! Finally today we managed to get hold of a large batch, so decided to preserve them for use as garnishes. Using 3 punnets of Spanish cherries, we added 3 measures of Amaretto, 3 measures of Evan Williams (essentially making a big Godfather), and topped it up to the brim with simple syrup (1:1 ratio sugar and water). All was going well until Tom decided to cram another punnet of cherries in. Jar reached critical mass. Liquor everywhere. Good times on a sunny afternoon in the ‘Stack!
Tequila, whiskey and other 80-proof (or higher) dry spirits form the base of a cocktail — what chicken, beef or fish are to the omnivore’s dinner plate. Liqueurs and amari, from low-proof aperitifs like Aperol to full-strength digestives like Fernet Branca, are accents, the equivalent of flavorful sauces. Citrus, vermouth, fortified wine or a carbonated mixer like tonic water are sides rounding out the meal. Aromatic bitters, like Angostura or Peychaud’s, are the salt and pepper of a drink, integrating the mixture and accentuating flavors. — How Bartenders Use Liqueurs and Bitters - NYTimes.com
B honey cachaça is a new Brazilian spirit that blends sugarcane rum with honey and a touch of lime. Brought to the market by Formula 1 driver Nelson Piquet Jr and his partners, this 22% ABV cachaça is sweet but is balanced nicely considering this style of alcohol is a novelty.
The striking packaging is arguably easily marketable, and it will have designers discussing it all over. The hype of this might help in some way to dispel fears that there isn’t really a call for this in the market place.
We were unable to find a UK release date for this, but we will have a full review when it does arrive.