Can we talk? It is time to recognize that another word has gotten out of control. It is rampaging through the cocktail (and general culinary) industry, making those who employ it look insufferably twee. And worse, making the entire industry which is perilously close to embracing it look twee as well. I mean more twee than craft cocktails already kind of are. To be sure, this word is also being abused in many other arenas as well, but I write about cocktails, so that's where it pisses me off the most. It's just pretentious as hell. I'm talking about our sudden need to claim that we "curate" everything. Stop it. First off, most people don't know what it means, even if they just read the bare bones definition a few minutes ago. Most folks hear curate or curator and think of it as someone who collects and presents rare and precious things in museums. The positive image that probably lurks in their subconscious when they think of curators, especially if they are considering identifying themselves as such, is this guy: No. That guy is in "Purchasing". A curator is more this guy. Not quite the same, huh? But either way, the subtext cocktail types who employ the word curate want to portray is collecting, organizing, presenting, and protecting things that represent the great works of a civilization. You know, as in, "This belongs in a museum!" And that is the subtext most people who see the word employed have as well. And that's the problem. A cocktail menu, I don't care it is Dead Rabbit's or Smuggler's Cove's, is not a collection of the great works of a civilization. Sure, the Manhattan may well be the single greatest culinary achievement of American civilization. I happen to think it is. But let's face it, your list of house-created seasonal recipes is not the Louvre. It's not even Ripley's. And even if a cocktail menu is made up of nothing but time-honored masterworks, prepared to perfection... it's a list of drinks. And putting them on a menu does nothing to protect them for posterity. It is a colossally pretentious word for a list of products available for sale in, for practical purposes, unlimited quantities. Even if you have a "carefully curated selection of rare whiskeys", it is still a bunch of bottles on a shelf or three. If a particular bottle is still made, it is something for sale, again, in relatively unlimited quantities. If it has been discontinued, the purpose of offering it for sale is ultimately to destroy it permanently. None of all this is curation. The most charitable interpretation of this phenomenon is just another cutesy element in an industry that already dances so close with being "precious", a chaperone needs to swing by with a ruler to separate them for the craft's own good. At it's worst, this "curation" fetish is self-important, "Tulip Bubble" kind of thinking that encourages a dangerous disconnect between the value of a product as perceived by customers and by producers. Whether you are Le Lion de Paris or Bob's Bar (The Cultural Hub of the Midwest!), You. Are. A. Business. You are not a revered academic institution. Seriously guys, this term is creeping into use by people I both like and highly respect. Stop it. You are only damaging your industry and your own enterprise. And looking just a bit like an ass doing it.abc
The Lazy Bear is a six year old original by Jacob Grier, the only Barista/Street Magician/Blogger/Bartender/Think Tank Fellow either you or I know. He created this drink, not as a Tiki drink, but as an accompaniment for taco truck food at a wedding reception. (San Francisco, right?) I took a look at it for Tiki Month this year due to a tip from DJ Hawaiian Shirt, who blogged about it three years ago and firmly declared it a Tiki drink. Frankly, I had my doubts about this categorization when I looked at the recipe. Rye is really not a traditional Tiki ingredient, after all. But DJ is right. The Lazy Bear is quite spiritous for a Tiki Drink, but the vibe is there, especially with the tiny change The Shirt makes to Jacob's original recipe. To make sure it works as part of a Tiki presentation, you do need to amp the garnish, but the flavors are there, and pair very will with lots of traditional Tiki food flavors.
LAZY BEARIt really is quite good. It also can be presented as a non-Tiki drink just as easily, which is nice. It also is a great way to get someone to try rye if they have been shy of that before. All in all, another great example of modern Tiki invention.abc
- 3/4 oz. dark Jamaican rum, e.g. Smith & Cross
- 3/4 oz. American rye whiskey
- 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
- 3/4 oz. honey syrup
- 3 dashes "Spiced Bitters"*
Blogging co-conspirator Jacob Grier goes full Dumbledore and awards "all the points" to KJ DeBoer at Fish Sauce in Portland for this aquavit cocktail presentation. This is genius, and all you craft types who think you bring the creativity can just look upon this and despair. The thought process here is crystal clear: Aquavit -> Sweden -> Ikea -> Some assembly required -> Wordless Instrctions -> Ubiquitous allen wrench -> Swizzle stick. Yet neither you nor I thought of it and thus we must all bow to KJ. But... I rate "all the points" as false, since I reserve twenty for Jacob for sharing it and giving me easy content....
This is an excellent video from Indulgence, the culture YouTube channel from Playboy (The Atlantic Monthly of Lad Mags™) So, the proposition is this: You can tell most everything you need to know about a bartender by ordering The Gospel of Rum, a Daiquiri. Do you agree? I think I do. For a whole host of reasons, not all of which the bartenders interviewed go into. First, who doesn't like a Daiquiri? Even people who've never had a real Daiquiri like them if you give them one. Good ones are great, and more importantly, even mediocre ones are drinkable. If you are going to have a default test drink, it should be one you don't mind drinking a lot. Second, you will probably know if you need to punch out and switch to Jack and Coke or some wine before you finish ordering. If your bartender winces, or makes excuses about blenders, or says one goddamn word about strawberries, punch out. Quickly. Before the flames reach the cockpit. Conversely, if your bartender replies with intelligent questions such as up or rocks, or especially brand or style of rum, you can almost take your eye off them while they make the drink. If you want to make it a true test, dismiss any suggestions related to Hemingway, or any Daiquiri variant the bar has on their menu. As they say in the video, this is a basic skills test. There are basic bartending skills I don't have, but I can sure fake my way around them if you let me. Third, the rum they use will tell you a lot. If you aren't asked to specify, do they go to the well? If so, what's in there? Do they pour a rum with color without asking you? If they do, they pass the test, but be aware that this person is either opinionated or a conscious risk-taker, or both. Plan your evening accordingly. Fourth, watching closely will tell you a lot about the bar as well as the bartender. Does a bottle of Roses make an appearance? Leave. Leave the bar. You can't trust the Budweiser there unless it's in a bottle. Commercial bottled juice? You can certainly still trust your bartender, but be aware going forward that they may well not be able to give you all you want. What if they pull out a juicer and squeeze your juice to order? Trick question! 5-10 years ago, this would be a good sign. Not any more. A modern bar that looks like it has enough promise for the Daiquiri test, but squeezes to order, either doesn't actually serve many drinks with juice in them at all and will have little experience with high-end drinks in general, or they just will have service so slow you need to get out your calendar.abc
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