Category - Food

I’ve got a bone to pick with a lot of good bartenders
Buttermilk Maple Gin Flip
SideBlog: Yo’ Pumpkin Spice Latte Got (2)99 Ingredients, But Pumpkin Ain’t One Of ‘Em
SideBlog: Coral Snake

I’ve got a bone to pick with a lot of good bartenders

Hey bartenders! You know many of you number among my favorite professionals in the world. Ofttimes, I will value some of your opinions above my own. (Well, sometimes….) But there is a current complaint about customers going the rounds among a lot of even the elite among you that you all need to realize is a bad conceit.

I was triggered to write this little rant by an otherwise excellent post at Spirits & Motors by Robby Nelson named I’m a Bartender. He has seven enumerated points that are each funny, true, and ought to be required reading for any number of idiot customers out there. Read the post. It’s good.

But in the final wrap-up, he throws out this:

For your part, trust that I know what I’m doing. When you tell me that you want a drink that’s “not too sweet,” all I hear is that you don’t want me mess up your drink, which makes me think that you think that I’m a hack, which makes me sad. Do you ask the chef to make your food “not too undercooked?” I recommend abolishing that “not too sweet” phrase from your vocabulary.

Um, no. Robby, here’s the thing: I am a very experienced bar customer. I know what I like, and more importantly, how my tastes differ from other people. I probably have one of two very good reasons for asking you to, yes, not mess up my drink.

One, I may have drunk at your establishment in the past. I therefor know how your house recipes are balanced. I may have even ordered this particular selection before. And I judge that your house profile is too sweet for my taste.

Two, I my know that my own taste in drinks runs to the very dry. You may well have had your Cosmopolitan recipe handed down to you by Dale DeGroff himself, inscribed on a stone tablet. But I know I want mine less sweet than that.

See? Like Dale always says, he didn’t come up with the recipe himself.

I am, in fact, trusting you to either punch up the lime, or use a drier orange liqueur, or whatever you, in your professional opinion, believe will produce a less-sweet drink with the same underlying flavor profile. If you know that you make that drink a lot less sweet already than most, feel free to do your regular thing. Sophisticated palates can and do disagree about the amount of sweet they need to make any given drink perfect. It is frankly insulting to the customer to grump about how you know better than them about their desires. It’s a bit like a server who says the chef recommends the duck be medium rare, then gets all huffy when the customer says he’ll have it medium anyway.

Here’s the point. I am giving you valuable information about me (and my desires) when I say I want my drink “not too sweet”. I am going to be, without doubt, one of two guys. I could be, well, me: a customer who has long experience with cocktails, who understands the market, who is making an educated judgement that your drinks may well run sweeter than he really wants, and who knows that you (like him) could fix a drink with too little sugar, but you’d have to dump one that is too sweet and start over. I could also be the cocktail version of the wine poseur who asks for “any Loire red from the north bank, nice and tannic, maybe with a hint of plums or elderberries.” All I know is that I’ve read on the blogs that most cocktails are designed overly sweet to appeal to inexperienced drinkers, and since I fancy myself to be sophisticated, I signal my elite status by asking for my Lemon Drop to be “not so sweet”.

If I am the Idiot pole of this Boolean gate, you could make that Lemon Drop with 50-50 vodka and lemon juice, or 50-50 sugar and Citron, or just back off the sugar in your regular recipe a bit. As long as you slide it over the bar to me with a conspiratorial smile that will say to them, “Lots of my better customers agree with you about Lemon Drops being too sweet. I think you’ll find this to your liking,” they will guzzle it down and run off to Yelp to bugle about how they’ve finally found a bartender who “gets it”. But if I am the other possibility, and you choose anything other than the last option, I’m going to think you are a hack, or a douchebag, or possibly both.

I singled out Nelson here only because he was unfortunate enough to have me read his post right when I had time to rant about it. I’ve been hearing this increasingly lately and it has got to stop. Let’s not put another row of bricks in the Craft Bartenders Are Rude, Douchey Snobs wall, shall we? Save your (well-hidden) scorn for Tanqueray Martinis with no vermouth, or Piña Coladas, or guys who order friggin’ Grey Goose on a first date while she’s knocking back Knob Creek neat. It’ll be a helluva lot more profitable for everybody. Trust me.

Buttermilk Maple Gin Flip

Buttermilk Maple Flip
I’ve really come to love egg cocktails lately. And it is not just because they piss off all the right enemies, like the clueless nutrition nazis and the overzealous food safety inspectors. Eggs can do things for a drink that nothing else can really even approximate. The fats in a yolk can provide a rich, unctuous texture on the tongue that is pleasantly… sturdy. Even heavy cream doesn’t make the mouth seem as full as a good egg yolk. And whether it was the finest professional molecular mixology I’ve had across the land, or my own feeble efforts, I have yet to see a foam that matches the frothy protein matrix of a well shaken egg white. Certainly there are fat or foam effects that you can’t manage with an egg, but for the basic task of creating sheer cozy decadence in a glass, there is no substitute for the incredible, edible egg.

That said, I don’t drink a lot of egg cocktails. They double the prep time of a drink, and usually the cleanup time too. And egg drinks are calorie bombs, too. I can’t help getting older, but I do make sporadic attempts to stop getting fatter. So while egg drinks are a serious indulgence, they do have the good graces to taste like one too.

Now that I’ve convinced you to drag a few eggs down to your basement bar, what shall we do with them? How about a Flip? Flips are one of those magnificent cocktail multi-tools, like Rickeys, Sours, and Juleps, that are not so much recipes as templates. A Sour is: spirit, citrus, sweet. Juggle the specific ingredients and ratios to your taste. A Flip is: spirit, egg, sweet, and spice. (If you add cream, you technically have a Nog.) You will often these days see the yolk of the egg swapped out for cream. I think this is because cream is a lot easier to employ that egg yolks, and even the hardest-working bartender in the world can get kinda lazy fast when customers start clamoring for eggs. I think this tendency is why I have never been totally satisfied with Flips I’ve been served in bars, and why I had not really experimented with them at home, because Holy Foghorn Leghorn, is an egg white and yolk Flip a cut above an egg white and cream one.

Kids, that’s a convoluted Risky Business reference. It was a movie from back when we thought stories about how the way to get into Princeton was to run a whorehouse out of your parents’ home and milk your buddies out of their college funds were logical and reasonable.
It was the 80’s, you wouldn’t understand.

This Flip, lifted from Serious Eats, shows off both the awesome power of the egg, but also the wonderful opportunities for matching specific spirits in multi-tool cocktail categories like Flips.


  • 1 whole egg, separated
  • 1 oz. buttermilk
  • 1/4 oz. maple syrup (1/2 in the original)
  • 2 oz. gin (I used Watershed’s Guild Series Chamomile, which you probably can’t get.)
  • nutmeg (optional)

Plop the yolk in your shaker with a few ice cubes and shake break it up. Add whites, buttermilk, syrup, and gin with more ice. Shake for up to a minute. Strain into a cocktail coupe. Grate some nutmeg over the top if needed.

I chose this recipe because I was looking to use this delicious, but frankly weird, Guild House Chamomile Flavored Gin I just bought. It is a custom expression for Cameron Mitchell’s Guild House restaurant by Columbus’s Watershed Distillery. It’s defining characteristics are of course the chamomile, but also a distinct nutmeg element. The Guild House is not a delicate gin, but it is bright, and I guessed, correctly, that the sturdy flavors of the buttermilk in this recipe would stand up to this gin in a complimentary fashion. I omitted the nutmeg, which is the traditional spice in a Flip, because the Guild House brought its own to the party. And I halved the maple syrup called for in the original recipe because I think maple is a cocktail bully that will take over any cocktail it is in if you don’t keep it under control.

The only place to buy the Guild House by the bottle is at the distillery, so if you want to try this variation elsewhere, I’d try something like Bluecoat. Definitely add back in the nutmeg, though.

Finally, remember this is a Flip. Do whatever the hell you want with it. It’s a template. Drop the gin entirely and use a rum or rye. I think I’ll actually try some tequila next. I’ll swap the maple for agave syrup, and drop the buttermilk. I doubt nutmeg will work, though. Any suggestions for a spice?

SideBlog: Yo’ Pumpkin Spice Latte Got (2)99 Ingredients, But Pumpkin Ain’t One Of ‘Em

Your Pumpkin Spice Latte got (2)99 ingredients, but any pumpkin at all ain’t one of them. Somehow I think we all probably knew this in our hearts.

SideBlog: Coral Snake

coral snake
The Coral Snake, a coffee, cinnamon, cocoa rum drink. Rule 2 (bloglovin’) all around here. It is a Rated R Cocktails invention, as blogged by Gin Hound.

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