Thursday, May 19

Meaning of Words

This is a list of some of the words used on my site. Words can have many different definitions and they can be taken out of context at times. I'm not saying these are the meaning for these words, but within the context of this site this is how they will be used.

  • Classic Cocktails - A cocktail invented at least 25 years ago and is or once was considered a standard cocktail.
  • Modern Cocktails - Cocktails invented within the last 25 years.
  • Fundamental Cocktails - The most basic cocktails that when properly understood, will form the foundation of understanding how to make cocktails better. These can be classic or modern cocktails. Also sometimes called foundation cocktails
  • Specialty Cocktails - Typically a creation of the bar and is most likely the only place it is served. However this is where drinks are invented and given enough time can rise to be a standard cocktail in all bars.
  • Standard Cocktails - Should be available in all bars and range in populartiy. These can be classic or modern cocktails.
  • Non-standard cocktails - This could be a drink that once was a standard cocktail but fell in popularity or is another bar's specialty drinks. Non-standards should only be order in rare circumstances.

More may be added in the future, but this is where we will start.

Saturday, May 14

The Classics

If classics aren't ordered very often, should bartenders still be expected to
know how to make them?

This posses an interesting question.

If shootouts don't occur very often, should policeman still be expected to know how to shoot a gun?

If servers don't crash very often, should system administrators be expected to know how to reboot them?

If a bunt does happen very often, should a baseball players still be expected to know how to do it?

The fundamentals of any job should be the first thing that is learned. There are modern and classic cocktails in the bartending world that make up these fundamentals for the job. The basic principles learned by making the simple mixture of sweet, tart, and liquor to make a balanced cocktail is the core to being a good bartender.

Without the base knowledge of the fundamentals a bartender can still do very well at their job and make a lot of money doing it. By following a receipt one can make good drinks, no doubt about it. But, to be a true mixologist the person absolutely needs to know what an ingredient does to a drink.

First lets define a few things. A cocktail can be classified into 3 scopes:

  • Bar specialty drinks - typically a creation of the bar and is most likely the only place it is served. However this is where drinks are invented and given enough time can rise to be a standard cocktail in all bars.
  • Standard Cocktails - should be available in all bars and range in populartiy.
  • Non-standard cocktails - this could be a drink that once was a standard cocktail but fell in popularity or is another bar's specialty drinks.
A classic cocktail could be either standard or non-standard based on it's staying power in the minds of patrons.

When you think about it, the drinks a bartender needs know include: his/her bar's specialty drinks and the standard cocktails. There are many, many specialty drinks that are vying their way to get on the standard cocktail list a recent add to this is the Cosmopolitan.

So, what are the standard cocktails? That is another topic for another day. So I will post a bigger list in a future post, but the standard classic cocktails that every bartender should know, to name a few are: Manhattan, Old-Fashioned, Cosmopolitan, Martini, Margarita, Daiquiri, Mojito, etc... These drinks are known by patrons and they are the essence of what people think of when the word cocktail is spoken.

Within the standard cocktails there is a spectrum of drinks that range in popularity whereby the less popular drinks are less important to "know" and the more popular are more important to "know". Once a cocktail becomes unpopular it then falls off this list and becomes a non-standard.

So for the obscure non-standard cocktails patrons just should not order them. They maybe classic cocktails but they have been long forgotten. Actually, you can still order these drinks but there are three things that must be true before it is allowed:

  • The bar is slow
  • You know they have all the ingredients
  • You have a very good repoir with the bartender going.

And if you do order one of these oldies but goodies be sure to let them know that you know it is an obscure drink.

So don't go into a bar and play stump the bartender by ordering a Devil's Torch unless you want to get thrown out on your ear and I would be glad to help them do it.

Drinks have evolved over time by modifying and creating variations of cocktails. A large explosion of this occurs when there is a new type of mixer available. For example when carbonated water became widely available a fizz was invented from a sour.

As more and more mixers become available it is easy to see why one would get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of cocktails, and it is only going to get worse. The key is learning the fundamentals because you are learning the base recipes that beget all the others.

So the answer to the original question, should a bartender learn the classics if they are not ordered very often, is yes and no. This is because a classic cocktail could be a standard or non-standard cocktail.

You should definitely know all of the classic standard cocktails. But, more importantly learn the standards (classic and modern) with an emphesis on the more popular ones. Learn them and learn the modifiers that got you to your bar's specialty drinks. Make them and taste them for yourself. If you don't like the way they taste, modify them by adding more sweet or more tart flavor to get to a balanced cocktail you would be proud to serve.

As for the non-standard classics you don't have to memorize them. However they should be studied because a lot of them are the building blocks and foundation for nearly every modern drink made today. By learning the basic fundamentals of building a good balanced cocktail one can quickly refer to a bar book (don't be embarrassed to this) to get the base liquor, modifiers, and glass type and still make a great drink.

Sunday, May 1

Mexican Restaurant in Mandeville, LA

Last night my wife and I went to a local Mexican restaurant. We love the food at this place. The atmosphere is loud, lively, and fun. They have a great LOOKING bar and the wait is never very long.

That's all I can say good about this place.

The bar needs some talent.

Behind the bar they have the obligatory Margarita Rocks pre-mixed in a bucket and the Frozen Margarita machines whirling away. We've sat at the bar 3 times now waiting for our table and all three times we have been fairly disappointed.

First time there, we get this crusty guy who has the attitude of a rusty nail. Being a Mexican place I order a Margarita on the rocks. No problem and it was decent. My wife orders a Mojito. The Rusty Nail's response, "We don't serve that here! You must be watching too many episodes of Sex and the City."

Ummmm, okay. Are you just trying to piss me off?

So, she orders a Smirnoff Vodka and Tonic with extra lime. Not only did they not have Smirnoff it was returned with NO lime at all.

Well, we chalk the first time up to a bad bartender. So on our second visit we go to the bar happy to see the Rusty Nail nowhere in sight. We sit down for our pre-meal drink by ordering a Maker's Mark Manhattan straight up for myself and a Vodka and Tonic for my wife. Barkeep then informs me they are out of Maker's Mark and still no Smirnoff. Very sadly, I end up with a Jim Beam Manhattan without bitters and shaken.

Third times a charm, right? Nope. Knowing at this point to keep it simple I order a Whiskey Sour. Still no Maker's Mark I go with Wild Turkey and of course I get
Finest Call sweet and sour mix. There is nothing fresh here. My wife's VODKA and tonic, which comes back with so much vodka that she sent it back. (still no Smirnoff by the way) She ends up getting a Margarita on the Rocks with an extra shot of Blue Curacao. She liked it.

This place is very busy and sells decent Margarita by the bucket. It is obvious that they are not concentrating on the bar. It's too bad. This restaurant is in a great location, the bar is very nice looking and has a lot of potential.

I write this in hopes they upgrade their efforts in the bar area because I will be coming back because the food is just that good.

Friday, April 29

The Old Stand-By: Introduction

There is a short list of cocktails that have interchangeable base liquor components. You will recognize many of the names of these drinks, but many people don't order them because they don't know exactly what they are. In future posts I will go into these Old Stand-By cocktails in depth.

The great thing about these cocktails is that it can taste one way with one type of liquor and then completely different with yet another. This can truly give you an idea of the complexity and flavor of the base liquor.

Here they are:
Sour, Fizz, Collins, Highball, Sling, Rickey, Fix, Cooler, Stinger, Gimlet, Toddy, Julep, Squirt, Swizzle, Cobbler, and of course the Martini.

Some of these are very similar for example the only difference between a Fizz and Collins is the type of glass and the garnish. But we will get into that later.

Many of these cocktails started out with one type of liquor as its base but has evolved to other things over the years. Some purist may have issue with this but it is what is. For example, the Martini is a gin base drink but over time people started drinking it with vodka. This can be attributed to the fact that some people just don't like certain types of liquor so they substitute their favorite or the original drink tastes so good that it is figured that it will taste great with other types of liquor too.

In any case these old stand-by drinks are good place to start when looking for a favorite cocktail. Most if not all bartenders know how to make these and the ingredients are rather simple for most.

Old Stand-By, Bar Fear, For Bartenders For Patrons

Sunday, April 24

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is an essential ingredient in numerous cocktails. Simply put, it is sugar and water. The sugar is super-saturated by heating the water.

Simple syrup is often used to offset the tart taste of many drinks to make a more balanced mixture. For example, in a Whiskey Sour, simple syrup is added to lemon juice to make flavorful mix.

There is a store-bought mix called Sweet and Sour Mix, but with this you can't control the balance of your cocktails properly. For some drinks you want more sweet than sour and visa versa. So make your own.

The process is pretty easy.

Simple Syrup:
Combine 1 part water and 1 part sugar in a saucepan. Heat and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil for two minutes. Take off the heat and store in a plastic or glass container at room temperature.

This mixture will last about 2 months. If you want to extend that period, you can add 2 ozs of Vodka per pint of simple syrup to the recipe.

Simple Syrup works great in an Old-Fashioned and many other classic cocktails. Give it a try.

Saturday, April 23

Vodka Cocktail Recommendations

Read Developing Favorites before going on...

Sweet and Strong
Black Russian
Cosmopolitan
Kamikaze
Mudslide
French Martini

Sweet and Weak
Bay Breeze
Cape Codder
Sex on the Beach

Tart and Strong
Vodka Martini
Vodka Gimlet
Vodka Sour

Tart and Weak
Vodka Collins
Vodka 7
Vodka and Tonic
Salty Dog

Balanced and Weak
Screwdriver
Harvey Wallbanger
Bloody Mary

Balanced and Strong
Devil's Torch
Long Island Iced Tea

See Webtender or Dale DeGroff's Site for recipes.

Wednesday, April 20

Brady's in Hammond, LA

The best bar in Hammond, LA is clearly a downtown bar called Brady's. This restaurant/bar takes up a whole square block!! If you ever are driving down to New Orleans on I-55 stop by the town of Hammond. The downtown area has this little place called Brady's.

Hammond is a college town home of Southeastern Louisiana University. Before 10pm this is awesome local tavern, after that, college central.

Nicole was my tender. She served me up two technical perfect Manhattans then an Old-fashioned. Sure the Old-fashioned had a splash of soda, but it was very good.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and I highly recommend a stop by this tavern.

Nicole had 8 years of bartending experience and she showed it. Great job Nicole!!

Address and Phone Number

Sunday, April 17

RFC - Cocktail Cooler

The following is a request for comment on the following proposed standard. The official place to place a comment on this proposal is at webtender.com

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The perceived meaning of the word cocktail is completely different from the original...

Cock tail, then in a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters it is vulgarly called a bittered sling...

Now days anything with alcohol in it is called a cocktail. I call for a rebirth of the cocktail's original meaning. A cocktail consists of liquor of any kind, sugar, water (ice), and bitters. I do suggest that we allow for the addition of other flavorings as long as it does not overpower the taste of the liquor. The point of a cocktail is to taste the liquor, but enhance it in a variety of ways.

So to be clear in the definition of cocktail...

A cocktail is a beverage consisting of liquor of any kind, sugar, ice, bitters, and optionally a small amount of flavoring where by the liquor is the primary ingredient.

Some clear examples of cocktails include:
Old-Fashioned
Manhattan
Martini
Gimlet
Sidecar
Just to name a few.

So you ask, what do we call all those other drinks if we don't call them cocktails? Well, we have another classification of drinks we call coolers. The definition of a cooler is an iced drink usually with an alcoholic beverage as a base. This more broad definition needs to be narrowed for what today what many people call "cocktails."

The new classification for the modern day "cocktail" that I propose is called a cocktail cooler.
The definition of this is...

A cocktail cooler is a drink with an alcoholic beverage as a base that is served in a cocktail glass.

The mother of this new classification of drinks is the popular Cosmopolitan

Some examples of a cocktail cooler include:
Cosmopolitan
Kamikaze
Appletini
Chocotini
Just to name a few.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Start of commentary...

Certain I don't expect that patrons should come into a bar and order a cocktail cooler by name. I'm just proposing that we reclassify some of the modern drinks into this new category. It is time to get back to true cocktails.

I know that the money is being made on cocktail coolers and that this is currently what the public wants but lets not mix the two together. The cocktail is a culinary master piece, which is not to be confused with a drink that is in existence to just hide the taste of alcohol.

Please for fogive me for being anal.

Friday, April 8

Drinking to get fucked up

Let's all pound down as many drinks as possible to see who passes out first!!

What drink can we make to get drunk the fastest?

Anyone up for drinking games?

These are all things that might be said by a novice drinker. The purpose of drinking is not to get wasted. Sure, sometimes it happens but that should not be the ultimate goal.

Drinking is a social and culinary experience that should be enjoyed in good company with appreciation and respect for the cocktail.

I am very disheartened by the trend of coolers, being passed off as cocktails. A cocktail is a cocktail, not a fruity, sugar drink that just covers up the taste of alcohol. A cocktail has alcohol in it. You are supposed to taste it. That is the point.

When mixed properly a cocktail’s blend of sugar, bitters, and liquor has a magnificent flavor like none you have ever tasted.

Now, I’m not saying that cocktails should not have fruit juice, far from it. But the fruit juice should be an ingredient that complements the cocktail, not over power it.

Respect for a drink is lost when you can’t taste the alcohol. Thus, people get drunk easier and without thinking. It is this type of irreverence and adolescence that give drinking a bad rap.

Alcohol is a dangerous substance when abused. But when it is respected and mixed properly, it can be enjoyed thoroughly.

Please drink responsibly and in moderation. Learn your limits and damn it, drink like an adult!

Here is another great article by Robert Hess on this topic:
http://www.drinkboy.com/Essays/YourFirstDrink.html

Friday, April 1

My Old Fashioned had foam!

Me and a bunch of folks from work went to a resturant and bar close to my office tonight. Great company, good conversation, and well... foam in my Old Fashioned.

Hmmmm.

Now I'm talking about a little bit. This thing had a head on it. Really.

I'm not sure what the bartender put in it, but there was a cherry and lemon muddled in the bottom of the drink. They were out of Maker's Mark and Knob Creek so we had to go with the Jim Beam.

Not sure what made it foam so much but I think the bar keep added some extra fruit juice and shook the sucker.

Oh well...