OK, just got back from a local restaurant that patterns itself after a nightclub. Guy in a tuxedo up on stage singing the classics (good voice). I face the Big Decision...cocktails or beer?
This place has tried to style itself up. They have a cocktail list and it's not all [fill in with a crazy Martini idea] Martinis. They have a Manhattan. Good. They have a Rob Roy. Whoa. And they list the ingredients and they look legit. Knob Creek bourbon, vermouth, bitters, and a cherry for the Manhattan. Damn.
I'm still suspicious. No prices on any of them. And they have a "Victor's Mai Tai" made from the "Trader's secret formula with four rums." Well Trader Vic never used four rums in his Mai Tai so the secret formula is probably pineapple juice and Rose's grenadine. And "four rums" is code for coconut, blueberry, pineapple, and Dragonberry flavored rum. No way this place has four different straight rums.
Still, how bad can you screw up Knob and vermouth? I ask how much the cocktails are. $8. That's not too much to take a chance on.
"One Manhattan please. Can I get that up?" Waiter scurries away to ask. That's not a good sign. "Yeah sure we can do that." Oh oh.
Five minutes later it shows up in a stemless up glass. I take a sip.
Now I know they shook it. I forgot to ask them to stir it. But did they have to shake it in a 30 quart cooler with 20 pounds of ice?!?
It was so watery I could have splashed it in a cops face at a DUI checkpoint and he would have laughed and waved me through. 100 proof Knob Creek bourbon that sat in oak for 9 years brought to its knees by a Scotsman ice maker in 30 seconds.
Is it because everyone wants to make cocktails/Martinis/up drinks like James Bond? Shaken not stirred? Or the quest for the absolute coldest drink? Every so-so bar I go to or even the bars that aspire to make great cocktails want to shake the living hell out of up drinks. I don't get it. And tonight was the most watery cocktail I've ever experienced.
I'm not thumping my chest by any means because I still have a boatload to learn about cocktails, but having learned quite a few things I think I'm spoiled now from the drinks I make at home. Stirring Martinis and Manhattans (and all the other cocktails that should be stirred). Quality ingredients (Vermouth). Fresh, cold ice. Chilled glasses. A smart lemon twist (if required) - see the citrus oil on the surface of the drink.
I go to the aspiring bar now and I just want to drink beer. I'll go out on a limb sometimes (like tonight) but I feel I have to specify things like stir the cocktail, put some vermouth in it (half the time they don't even use any), make it up not on the rocks, etc.
I have good craft cocktail bars I can go to and not worry about these details, but they are usually far away downtown (I'm in the burbs).
So the search continues. Find a suburban bar that can make a decent or great up cocktail.
I'm home now. I think I need a Vieux Carre cocktail...