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Craft Cocktail

Craft Cocktail

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Published by Chris Gray

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Published by: Chris Gray on Jun 27, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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So it appears that we San Diegans are right in the midst of the craft cocktail revolution.

For those of you not in ‘The Know’; the craft cocktail is a drink composed of finer, more classic, more obscure, more handmade, and more superior ingredients. Some bartenders are even now referring to themselves as ‘mixologists’. Similar to the craft beer movement that we became involved with a few years back; the craft cocktail seeks to add a bit of history and ‘craft’ to bartending. This movement also tends to frown on the crappy mixed drinks that most of us are accustomed to. The first time I ever had one of these craft drinks was in New York at a ‘Speakeasy’ bar called P.D.T. (the name stood for “Please Don’t Tell) It was one of those bars that you had to have a password to get in to. The bartenders looked like wild-west barkeeps. The drinks were excellent and goddamned expensive. They contained weird ingredients like ‘Demarara Syrup’, and ‘Peychaud’s bitters’. The whiskeys had names I had never heard of and the walls were adorned with stuffed deer and bear heads. Needless to say it was a pretty unique new experience. …..pan to San Diego a few years later (we are always a little late) and we now have a wealth of these kitschy new bars opening everywhere. The bars share a lot in common: 1. The bartenders usually dress in some sort of costume (like a riverboat poker dealer from the 1920’s, or something oldfashioned-ish) . They wear moustaches, fedoras, ruffled shirts, and generally play the part of a ‘hipster mixologist’. 2. Some of these bars require an easy-to-find-on-the-internet password in order for you to enter. (you are not as exclusive as you think you are). 3. There is most likely an air of pretension at most of these establishments. Not snobbish, but more of a feeling that you lack a sophisticated palette. (Hint: don’t ask for vodka at these types of places, as the spirit lacks ‘character and flavor’ as one scripted barkeep once told me.) Most of these places don’t even carry vodka. Hint: This rule also applies to ketchup if you are dining there. 4. The bartenders can spend 45 minutes talking about ‘hand-cured black cherries’ or ‘heirloom bitters’, if you venture to ask. Advice: don’t.

5. The drinks are going to be painfully expensive. This whole ‘craft drink’ thing is completely foreign to a guy like me. I have never heard of most of these ingredients. I am not particularly keen on having herbs or elixirs in my cocktails. And did I mention that these drinks are expensive? One thing you will instantly notice at these new establishments that these drinks are worth it. The bartender will slow down to make your drink and actually craft it for you, rather than slop two ingredients in a bucket glass. These bartenders seem to actually CARE about the thing they are making. And if this doesn’t sell you on the value of these cocktails; did I mention that a Manhattan is about 94% whiskey? Same thing goes for an Old Fashioned. It is virtually impossible NOT to pour a stiff craft cocktail. Personally I think the craft cocktail is an excellent change of pace to an otherwise worn-out drink selection at most bars. I remember our goto drinks back in college: The trusty vodka/cranberry and the reliable Jack n’Coke. It seemed that cranberry juice was the only substance that was able to mask that ungodly “$9.99 for 1.75 liters of vodka” flavor. Coke served the same purpose for the just-as-crappy whiskey we would buy. What the craft cocktail does, is take us San Diegans out of our drinking comfort zone. It steers us away from the generic vodka-cranberries and the Bud Lights. The movement brings back the emphasis on the ‘taste’ of alcohol that we never knew we were supposed to be enjoying in the first place. Savor the flavor of a 90-proof Louisiana rye. Try a Tequila ‘Spanish Harlem’ cocktail that is nothing even close a margarita. Taste the floral notes of juniper berry in your ‘Gin Basil smash’…..Hell, when was the last time you had BASIL in a cocktail anyway!? Drink up, try something new, and don’t ask me why you just paid $78 for four drinks. -C

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