All of my peers save one, are criticized for being pretentious behind the bar. Even I, have been known to say, to a guest, about the drink I am serving them, “that is the 2nd worst cocktail ever.” 1st, dirty vodka “martini,” 2nd being a dry vodka “martini, ” and 3rd being the vodka soda, as my friend Dallas calls it: the alcoholic’s light cigarette. Only Daniel Shoemaker of the Tear Drop lounge in Portland OR handles these questions correctly. When asked, “what do you do when you customer orders a cosmo?” He replies, “I make them a cosmo.” This is the only correct answer. You would think that vermouth companies are giving all us classic cocktail bartenders cash and hand-jobs for the way in which we refute modern classics. That being said, fuck cosmopolitans. I hate making them. And I make one so good that it would make Carrie Bradshaw come in her panties.* However night after night of this makes you want to eat a gun. Most of my peers take this out on customers, I take it out on drinks.
You can use persuasive language to avoid serving drinks you hate. Perhaps offer up a similar classic that you make well. Best of all, point a cocktail on the drink menu that is similar. Other times, you’ll find yourself wasting a bunch of time on an indecisive git. You must make people understand how to use their words to dovetail with our crazy bartender jargon. You will ask: “what do you normally drink,” or, perhaps, “what kind of a cocktail can I get for you?” Understand that it should not be your intent (mostly) to show off Assure the guest that you do not wish to poison them, or serve them something that you just feel like making. Rather your intent is to present a drink that they’ll love drinking, one that they’ll be excited about, that they’ll want to tell your rich friends about (focusing on where they got it and when it’s available, naturally). But, like a child, you must ask the customer to “use your words,” to get started. The words can be as simple as sweet, sour, tart, or boozy. They could be more specific: long-on-the-rocks-with-lots-of-non-alcoholic-mixers, stiff-booze-mixed-with-booze-and-a-dash-of-booze, fruity, fizzy, herbal, floral, aromatic, bittersweet like Campari, or bitter like an Italian Amaro. Use any language one would use to describe a wine: smoke, pepper, cassis, leather, earthy. No word is too odd. Or perhaps they would prefer more muse-driven ideas than adjectives that only describe taste. Perhaps you’d like to use words such as strident or uncompromising or bunny rabbit. Even stranger—events like: fired, or tough day at the office, or post coitus. Or just go crazy and have a drink for every Martin Sorscese film. The Raging Bull is already a drink, but what does a Taxi Driver taste like? Likely awful, but find out by experimentation.
And remember, stereotypes are a real time saver. The girl in the pink tube top that says “porn star,” who says she like drinks that aren’t too sweet? She lies. Serve her a Toronto and she shall never return for her bachollorette party demanding blob job shots for a crew of drunk girls and perhaps throwing a fuck at someone on your staff. Other times, and these are the defining times, a customer will ask you for a drink that you can’t and depending on your bar, you shouldn’t make. I always say that I’ll make anything that I have ingredients for, that being said, I don’t have a very long list of liqueurs that most people are used to, any flavored vodkas other than gin, any energy drinks other that coffee and tea and no light beers other than just drinking a half a beer (you fatty)**. But by far the most trouble I incur with bottles of suger poison I don’t stock is sour apple. I can’t stock it, because it is dead.
Last year the apple-tini died. Unless you are a cocktail geek you night not know that the apple-tini is dead. It died last year, we had a wake and everything, I’ll let Gabriel Szaszko explain off of the official Tales of the Cocktail blog:
“NEW ORLEANS — Dekuyper Sour Apple Pucker “Martini”, died July 19, 2008, after much mocking and disgrace. The memorial services were held at 12:00 am, Sunday, July 20th with a funeral procession from 100 Canal Street to the front of Cafe Giovanni at 117 Rue Decatur in New Orleans. There was brilliant and uplifting music played in a classic jazz funeral style and a well-attended processional of the casket with Robert Hess in the vanguard. The event was sponsored by Plymouth Gin, Contemporary Cocktails, and Tales of the Cocktail. After the processional attendees were invited to enjoy drinks and scantily clad ladies in Cafe Giovanni where a “Bartender’s Breakfast” was held. Unfortunately, the talented ladies likely couldn’t be seen due to the number of celebrants trying to get a real, true, non-floor polish-infused, drink from the veteran and highly regarded bartenders. There was also dancing in the street; it was very Martha and the Vandellas.”
Us real bartenders are happy to see it go. And much like the Steve Buscemi scene from Billy Madison, us real bartenders are crossing it off our lists and taking aim on the pomegranate – tini. The apple-tini has 3 problems, or in this case 3 reasons it was marked for death, it has no apple in it, it uses the suffix “tini” and is made with good awful disgusting fake ingredients.
1. Good damn it, if the ingredient is in the title, be sure its in the drink. Pomegranate margarita? Rose’s grenadine doesn’t make it so.
2. Basil mojito? Pomegranate tini? i may be too conservative on this. There are many accepted recipes that specifically refer to their original recipes, even on those, I will call bullshit. We all know a bartender’s margarita means a splash of cran, but that is a crap recipe, a crap-cipe***. I want to remove this shitty trend, and pose the following rules (as if I or anyone is able to impose such rules, I offer my rules.) I might be old fashioned, but I want to families come back into drink names. Cocktails-name as you will, but keep it brief, avoid plays on common drink names and never use the suffix “tini.” The martini, needs respect and restoration. Sours are what most cocktails are, say so when naming. Fizzes and highballs are rarely made these days, but there is a strictly coded vernacular about bubbles, use them. Smashes, juleps and cobblers are all simple and ignored when they are as simple as smashing up stuff in a glass.
3. Fuck fake ingredients. To a point, we will all use products that aren’t as real. We want them to be, iconic American products, but they are owned by foreign companies****our favorite brands cutting corners, frankly there sad things to learn at every turn. But generally speaking, I think we should let the way we drink reflect the ways we pursue pleasure. Into promiscuous sex? shots of well tequila will do you. Eat big macs? A midori sour will be ok. But don’t come into my bar rich and “full of class,” and order a jack and coke, or perhaps talk about yoga class and your cleanse diet and ask for a redbull vodka. ME? I keep it pretty fair trade, organic and hippy dippy, the same way I drink: small batch scotches and beers, cocktails with fresh squeezed juice.
My hate, is now upon the page, and it is time for compromise. I have nothing against apples. I love them apples. I actually dream of a day when Washington apples have their own brand of coveted calavados, “cascadia,” or something, a local apple brandy. But in the interum “us real bartenders,” have a duty and need to compromise. People will ask for apple tinis and we must have an answer better than: “fuck you.” And as I said in the title of this hate monologue, you can’t have a part of you menu that reads: This section for dumb cunts. However “fuck you,” is currently my favorite recipe for dirty martinis, but I digress. There are limitless things we can do to make an apple drink, but fate blessed me with a bit of luck on the opening night of my new bar. I was called upon to make a Washington Apple-tini. A drink that I hope is never called for outside of the northwest. I no sooner sock apple pucker than a french restaurant has “i can’t believe its not butter.” Compromise: I love the old rye cocktail the Algonquin.
Algonquin Recipe: shake and strain
1.5 oz rye
.75 oz dry vermouth
strain into a cocktail glass
Its a classic I love, but has no apple. Instead I offered up the Stadler and Waldorf.
Stadler and Waldorf recipe:
shake and strain
1.5 oz Calvados
.75 blanc vermouth
7.5 pineapple d
ash of Angostura
A drink that I would gladly offer to anyone seeking a appl-tini. An hopefully, if tactfully offered and expertly executed, would make any guest happy.
*People really missed the point of that whole series. Ask any bartender that worked the night the film came out, drunk girls vomiting on and in heels they can’t wear. What about the feminist messages?
**Look (I say, sighing), I can quote things, bring out charts and graphs, and be even more boring–but I won’t. I pretty much can’t serve you anything with less calories than a Guinness (about 95 calories) and it goes up from there. But, the calories aren’t the level you think. All the base spirits (vodka, gin, rum, etc) pretty much contain about 100 calories a shot, more if they are higher proof (lower proof means more water). A glass of wine averages 100 calories. A cordial or liqueur is double that, but you’d normally drink half as much. And if you’re thinking about mixing, remember, you aren’t drinking a whole coke in a whiskey-and-coke, you are drinking a quarter of one–that’s why it’s a whiskey-and-coke and not a coke-and-whiskey. A cocktail has only portions of a serving of each and is likely under 250 calories. Beer is the real culprit, as it averages over 200 calories, but two light beers have the same amount of calories as one regular beer and are less than half as good. I don’t carry light beer. If this is confusing and you want a real answer, I agree with your nutritionist, personal trainer, and Socrates: avoid processed food, exercise regularly, and use moderation; these are the keys to long life and happiness.
***cop right me, now. You can’t use it
**** Kirin (Japan) owns Four Roses, Diagio (everywhere but Scotland) owns most of Scotland, Jack Daniels is however owned by a company out of Kentucky, but they also own several other brands that are actually worse than Jack