Thursday, March 01, 2012

Tiki Month is dead, long live Tiki Month!

The highly estimable Doug, voted by someone as One Of The Twenty Most Important People With Both Liquor AND A Blog Who Still Bothers To Blog On A Semi Regular Basis, in the process of expounding on matters Tiki thought it'd be a good idea to riff on the cocktail known as a Dr. Funk as a "gateway cocktail" to get people turned on to absinthe/pastis/Herbsaint/Pernod/et al.

This post is not about the Dr. Funk or Tiki.

Rather it is about absinthe/pastis/Herbsaint/Pernod/et al.

Of which Doug is admittedly not a fan and which I vehemently dislike.

I can, in the proper context, have a spot of ouzo or a smallish tumbler of pastis. More than that and even Bruce Banner would be impressed. I don't like licorice.

Scratch that.

I @#$%ing hate licorice. Sometimes in a food recipe you'll see the chef calling for fennel/tarragon/star anise/etc. extolling the "lovely licorice flavor" while I suffer the torments of the damned.

So, it didn't come to me as the remotest surprise that Doug's 'speriment of luring people to Absintheville via the Dr. Funk didn't quite pan out as hoped. Turns out a LOT of people don't like licorice, especially in their cocktails. ("The kindest comment I got from this group of Absinthe virgins was, 'It tastes like Good 'n' Plenty,'" notes Doug.) Which leads me to the real point of this entry. There is something of a disconnect between a lot of the cocktail geeks out there and people whom we'll tag as cocktail-friendly. And one of the main points of divergence between these two groups is in the matter of absinthe, etc.

I won't take this opportunity to rail against the retro-hipsters doing that whole La Belle Age trip, flogging tiny 3oz coupe glasses, etched ornately and riddled with gilding; something which aggravates me more than taxes and collectivism combined. But I could at the drop of a hat. (Google up "The League" and "Poser's Demise" and you'll get an idea.)

Doug also swerved into another divergence when he noted that "It took me a while to understand that what I thought of as 'sweet' drinks on my menu weren’t all that sweet to them." In the cocktailosphere, the weight of opinion is pretty overwhelmingly for dry over sweet (I tend to agree, incidentally) but what us cocktail geeks call "sweet" as Doug noted, most regular guests would call "regular."

We can sit here and argue the average palate has been rendered overly saccharine by HFCS, sodas, etc., by neon slushies passing off as cocktails, etc. But that still leaves us with the problem that normal people really don't hew to the same level of dryness. This was a Lesson Learned The Hard Way™, so I now feature more of what we call "sweet" drinks because, that's what people enjoy.

And that's kinda the point. Too many cocktail geeks think of cocktailery as a "showing off" thing rather than a "hospitality" thing.

But, even being the tropical sort of guy that I am (stand by for my treatise on the Daiquiri and Mojito) I am now kinda craving a Manhattan (perfect Bourbon Manhattan, straight up).

This endeth the rant.


Blogger Doug Winship said...

To be clear, I don't hate absinthe. I DO hate licorice with a passion. I use absinthe like I use bitters for the most part, with a dropper, and it can do marvelous things thusly.

Also, my guests were actually looking for drinks that were dryer, rather than sweet. I had actually erred slightly to the sweet side in preparing the menu, but they thought from reading it that I'd erred WAY to the sweet.
Regardless, your point is well taken. Hospitality is the first goal. Spreading the Gospel of Cocktail Geekery is a secondary, unpublished goal. Thus my menus always have a hidden agenda of leaving a path where I can move my guests from safe-feeling drinks to the stuff I suspect they'll like, if they try it. Sometimes this is as simple as putting both vodka and real Martinis on a menu....

11:36 AM  
Blogger JMG said...

Mind you, I'm not against, er, "leading" the assembled throng in a direction in which I want them to go.

I've also realized that "sweet" is a regionally relative term. (Here in SoFL with the eleventy zillion assorted tropical cultures mingling and mashing, what might be considered "sweet" in Peguland, would be "dry" here.)

4:16 AM  

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