Seattle Bartenders Dispense Wisdom

I bring you wisdom from my peers atop the mountain.
Oh, and top this facial hair, bar-biotches!
Source: The Telegraph

When Angus Winchester first tweeted this article, entitled 13 Bartenders & Their Least Favorite Cocktail Trends, I expected a litany of customer douchebaggery, along with a few snipes at bartender misbehavior. Instead, Eater has assembled some real wisdom from the elite mixers of one of Craft’s highest cocktail mountaintops, Seattle.

You need to read the whole list, but I’ll steal a few here to whet your appetite, and to expand on.

Elizabeth Powell, Liberty: “I would have to go with white whiskey. People want to get away with calling it moonshine, which it isn’t. I don’t find white whiskey to be an interesting flavor profile. I suspect that it’s being used as a means to get people who don’t drink whiskey into drinking whiskey. I prefer to think that people who are interested in widening their spirit horizon will find those industry professionals who they know will encourage them to taste new spirits without depending on hoopla and marketing.”

While I agree that the current trend toward “white whiskey” is the devil, I disagree on why. There is one word behind the entire white “whiskey” movement: Money and Time. OK, that’s two words. But time is money, so I stand by my first draft.
Bottled white dog first showed up for commercial sale from small distilleries that probably did not have the money (or possibly the skill) to give their liquor the time to turn into whiskey. A very few sold because of a unique and pleasant flavor, a few more due to novelty/marketing, and a few more due to a desire to support small distillers.
But this just encourages bad behavior. Now we have large, deep-pocketed businesses getting into this sham on the consumer. This raw, unfinished product is being sold for $45+ a bottle!
This is just a rip-off. Calling the unfinished run-off of a whiskey still “whiskey” is like calling a wad of uncooked dough “french bread”. Stop it, distillers. And bartenders, stop enabling this!

Andrew Friedman, Liberty: “Vermouth. Sorry, I just don’t buy it. Only cocktail geeks are excited about low-alcohol vermouth drinks. In my experience, the non-geek tries one, says, “Ooo! That’s cool!”, and then goes back to ordering their favorite style of drink.”

Several of the items are along these lines. The main thrust is that we need not get too damn baroque about our ingredients.
Vermouth is a wonderful and critical bar ingredient that is still largely reviled by the larger world and deserves rehabilitation. But come on, it’s a modifier, or maybe an occasional sipper. Like a thousand other things, trying to make it do too many things smacks to me using novelty to cover for a lack of base skill.

There are lots of good thoughts on service from several gurus on the list. If you are a bartender or server, read them. Live them. Or else.

The takeaway from the list as a whole I think is this: Ego and innovation for their own sakes endanger not only those who so indulge in them, but the industry as a whole. There is a great deal of art in bartending, and that is a lot of what makes it worthwhile, but it doesn’t justify putting artistry above the end product.

Oh, then there is this pearl of timeless wisdom. Any who dares disagree shall be banned.

Erik Carlson, Bastille/Stoneburner: “Probably the most evil trend this time of year is candy corn infused vodka.”


  1. Frederic

    2 November

    I disagree about the vermouth cocktail aspect. Lower proof whether to squeeze in one more, perhaps because you need to drive home or be functional at work, is a great option. Amazing flavor despite the high ABV is another. And also, I do a bunch of bartending shifts during the day, and it’s great to make people drinks without finishing them off before the sun sets.

    It’s also timely, since I just finished a post about a vermouth cocktail I rather enjoyed from the Belly Wine Bar here (set to post on Monday).

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  2. Doug

    3 November


    That’s a good point. I haven’t done much with lower alcohol cocktails, and most discussion on alcohol levels seems to focus only on high-test versus mocktails, which I mostly turn my nose up at.

    My old, working world experience would tend to indicate that lower content drinks would be a good thing for lunch in cultures that still allow for a bit of booze with lunch.

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  3. JFL

    2 December

    I agree whole heartedly on these points. I don’t mind vermouth, and if someone wants to serve low alcohol cocktails I’ll applaud a well made drink. Lord knows we all needn’t like the same thing. However I’ll take a craft beer over a low alcohol cocktail anyday. Don’t expect me to ever go ordering or designing a low alcohol vermouth cocktail. It’s just not something I do. We’re full octane sun or no sun baby! Some trends you just can’t follow.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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