Bars, liquor companies push weird cocktails
Friday, July 08, 2005
By Nancy Keates, The Wall Street Journal
On a recent evening at Vault Martini Bar in Portland, Ore., customer Ann Samiee had to negotiate a cocktail menu with almost 100 choices that included a Badhattan, with bourbon and red wine, and a Pad Thai, a drink made of ginger-infused vodka, basil, lemongrass and lime juice. Ms. Samiee settled on a “Blue Basil,” a mixture of vodka, vermouth and basil, plus olives stuffed with blue cheese that created an oil slick on top. “I felt like it should have had croutons,” says the stay-at-home mom.
Across the bar, flight attendant Jenni Tompkins ordered a “Cherry Cheesecake” with vodka, vanilla liqueur and cranberry juice. Her verdict: “It tastes like cough syrup.”
If there’s a redeeming factor to all this mixological silliness, it’s in the form of the growing cavalry of forward-thinking bartenders that are rallying ’round the quality-cocktail flag, waved fearlessly as always by Robert Hess, aka Drinkboy:
Now that the trend has gone nationwide, it’s creating a bit of a backlash among some purists. “I cringe when people call anything in a martini glass a martini,” says Robert Hess, who along with some other stalwarts started the Museum of the American Cocktail. Its bar will soon serve only “authentic” drinks, made from 19th-century recipes. Audrey Saunders, a well-known mixologist, refuses to use recipes from liquor brands. When Ms. Saunders opens her new bar Pegu Club in New York this August, she’ll be making the same gin-based drink served at the famed British officer’s club in Rangoon in the 1900s.
Some cutting-edge bars and restaurants — such as Bar Americain, a new Bobby Flay restaurant in Midtown Manhattan — also are shunning the more-is-better take on drinks and paring menus down to include only classics like sazeracs. Employees Only, a bar in New York, is making its own vermouths, bitters and infusions from preprohibition recipes.
Making its own vermouths, bitters and infusions…hold it a sec, I feel a chorus of the Battle Hymn of the Republic coming on….
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