Showing posts from September, 2009

Speakeasy Culture

A good cocktail is not simply a spirit cloaked in a Halloween costume, it is formally-dressed and in full makeup ready for its closeup.
Regardless of how “cutting-edge” you might consider yourself, everyone gets a touch of nostalgia now and then. It’s a natural human craving for a simpler time when efficiency and profitability didn't trample over quality, when having vegetables for dinner meant having to grow and harvest them first, when communicating with someone far away meant writing a letter, and everything was made by hand because there was simply no other way things could be made.

Cocktails have become automated and "dumbed-down" in the form of the ubiquitous "soda gun", pre-mixed high-fructose corn syrup-laden "juices", and cheaper versions of classic ingredients have become the norm. While organic and local food has swept into restaurant kitchens around the globe, their cocktail bars really haven’t kept pace. I can’t tell you the number of ti…

Going Clear (in cocktails)

“Surprisingly, though, taste is not the only consideration. Presentation is the most important thing - garnish, colour, the glass. If the drink pleases the eye, the customer's mouth will start to water. Aroma is the next thing, then taste. We apply these criteria when judging a new cocktail in a competition.”

- Peter Dolelli, The Savoy Cocktail Book
In every high-end bar (and even some of the lower ones), there is a subtle ingredient in nearly every drink they serve; so subtle that it's downright transparent. Depending on the machine making it, it can be cloudy and milky or clear as glass and achieving that distinction is no simple feat. (More on that in a minute.) First, let's talk about how ice got in cocktails in the first place.

The mere presence of ice in cocktails is, in itself, a long story. The origins are fairly simple - someone discovered that in warmer weather, people preferred (but needed to become accustomed to) cold alcoholic beverages. Cold "softened&…

Natural Selection

I remember watching Wild Kingdom as a child and how it all seemed so cruel and unfair. A lion would stalk an hours-old, four-legged baby of some animal variety and, through the magic of camera work, when the parent was even the slightest bit inattentive, the lion would kill the animal, often under the helpless gaze of the parent The fact that it was cute wasn't helping the matter. Why didn't the film crew step in and stop it? How could they let it just get killed? The reality, which I couldn't understand at the time, was that while one cute baby animal died, a few other cute animals (cubs of the lion) would be fed, along with mom. As an ironic bonus, the parent of the sacrificed animal wouldn't be passing such inattentive genes on to the next generation. The impermanence of the universe wasn't yet clear to me.

Restaurants, too, have life-spans. Some as short as a bait fish in the ocean, born only to feed other animals while other restaurants seem to have the momen…