Via Jacob Grier, comes this magnificent article in The Weekly Standard by Robert Messenger. It delivers a concise, precise snapshot of the modern craft cocktail industry. In addition, it addresses many of the issues we all face and discuss, in a clear and useful manner. It garnishes with a nice little digression on cocktail history and how it affects modern drinks. Finally, it sets forth a nice bowl of bar snacks in the form of an excellent discussion of the most important cocktail book ever, David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.
I am stunned by how in a single article, he touches on so many things I’ve learned and experienced as part of writing this blog. He talks of such drinks as the Jack Rose, the Rickey, the Old Fashioned, and the Hemingway Daiquiri. While he applauds the return of the cocktail menu to establishments both great and mean, he points out how far we still have to go:
Many of these concoctions have the name of a classic cocktail, but just you try saying: “I see you make a Strawberry Caipirinha, any chance you could make me a Caipirinha?”
He uses Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber as examples of what we once had as cocktail leaders that we lost and are only now replacing. He includes well deserved shout-outs to bartenders and impresarios such as Dale DeGroff and Audrey Saunders, and the men who are giving us ingredients to fuel the cocktail renaissance, such as Charles Rolls and Eric Seed.
Messenger’s review of Embury’s tome is especially annoying to me, as it reminds me that I haven’t done my own review as of yet, and now I’m going to have to do a better job when I do. His critical take-away from the book, which should also be yours, is that it contains all the basic principals you need to not just mix drinks, but mix great ones.
I will say that through much of the article, Messenger is a little too grumpy about the state of the cocktail world. In an article celebrating the resurgence of a culinary art, he is unnecessarily hard on those in the commercial mainstream who are taking hesitant first steps. All those Soli Blueberry Appletinis on menus out there are signs that people are paying attention. Rather than belittling them, a little encouraging criticism is more in order.
I’ll end with two final notes, if I may. First, the man clearly knows what he’s talking about when it comes to cocktails (emphasis mine):
Bringing a tray of four Pegu Clubs to your coffee table will liven up your guests, setting everyone to considering the drinks and their color. Like wrapped packages and Christmas crackers, well-presented cocktails add festivity to an occasion.
Second, it wouldn’t be a good cocktail article if the author didn’t make a variety of pronouncements in an off-hand manner that will cause a ruckus. For instance, I recommend that all you
shaken devotees out there send Messenger angry emails.
By the way, if you’ve read all the way to here, why? Go read the whole thing!