Today, we know better, and we drink better. Scattered across almost any sizeable city you can find countless Pub or bar options which will accurately reflect the drink traditions from far off countries and cultures. Better yet, we can find specialized and unique bar that thoroughly embrace the well crafted classic drink, and then build off of them to create richly inspired creations that present the best of the old as well as the new. The bartender that are evolving our beverages in the bar have spent long years studying and exploring the liquid sensation and the secret behind.. We learn to the fiber of their being what makes these flavoring & coloring agent work, and then they blend them together in a well-balanced form that can often make it difficult to identify any individual source of inspiration.
A cocktail is a style of mixed drink. Originally a mixture of distilled spirits, sugar, water, and bitters, the word has gradually come to mean almost any mixed drink containing alcohol. A cocktail today usually contains one or more types of liquor and flavorings and one or more liqueurs, fruit juices, sugar, honey, water, ice, soda, milk, cream, herbs, bitters, etc.
Until the 1970s, cocktails were made predominantly with gin, whiskey or rum, and less commonly vodka. From the 1970s on, the popularity of vodka increased dramatically, and by the 1980s it was the predominant base for mixed drinks. Many cocktails traditionally made with gin, such as the gimlet, or the martini, may now be served by default with vodka.
A cocktail’s life is much longer when it is able to adapt itself to tastes’ exploration and this vital force lies in the composition of its formula. At the origin of drinks’ changes there are many factors: the shifting of the consumers’ tastes; the marketing strategies of the production companies; the evolution of the techniques in producing the spirits themselves; the preparation techniques; the evolution of the glasses and of the technical tools.
At the beginning of mixology there was the need to render the spirits of the time more pleasant to the palate. They had a raw and “tough” taste because of the distillation processes that weren’t able to divide the noble part of the product from the alcoholic and methylic remains, often toxic and always not pleasant, that were cause of serious damage to the health.
Today we can say that a cocktail is good because it is composed with ingredients that are already good, and that, mixed together in a certain way, create something even better; but we have to say that cocktails were born to make drinkable what maybe was not.
It is also because of this reason that many classic recipes have substantially changed in their alcoholic base. This way they have had the chance to arise again on the market successfully and they have become new classics even if maintaining the appeal of the great mixed drinking tradition.
Vodka is the most consumed distillate in Western countries, the most used in the mixed drinking and the most consumed on a global scale, barring certain rice distillates drunk in the East, which are consumed only on a local scale. Vodka has created a real revolution in the mixed drinking. New Martini drinkers ask more and more for a Vodka martini cocktail, often specifying the preferred brand and often on the rocks.
One of the new born recipes that is already a classic is the Cosmopolitan, and it has already many variations. The actual recipe refers to marketing figures given by Absolut Citron and it appeared on American menus at the beginning of the eighties. The base of the recipe was the Harpoon, a drink that the company Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice promoted in its brochures between 1956 and 1970, and it was made of vodka, cranberry and lime.
Today this drink is known as Cape Codder.
Dale De Groof, the American bartender, added some Cointreau and flamed an orange peel: the Cosmopolitan was born.
Even the Cuba Libre is living a particular moment. Born from the union of Daiquiri (rum, sugar and lime) and Coca Cola, it spread in many countries as the simple union of rum and coke. Somebody used to add some drops of Angostura, while the notable variation of today is the presence of aged rums. It’s the preparation techniques that are giving to this cocktail a strong renewal.
Today we talk about Shaking Cuba Libre, when a shaken Daiquiri is poured into a tumbler full of ice and Coca Cola. But the latest trend is to prepare the Cuba Libre as a “pounded”, preparing the Daiquiri into the glass and then topping it up with coke.
In the great Margaritas’ family, the mandarin version with Gold Tequila prepared at New York’s Grace Bar, is really worth a try. And it is only one of the many fruited Margaritas very popular today
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I see today’s drinker as being far too willing to accept the marketing propaganda presented by many of the liqueur and spirit producers. Playing the role of iceberg lettuce, with its bland and flavorless addition to the diet, we have Vodka, which through the wonders of modern marketing has countless drinkers energetically debating one brand over another, when in truth they can rarely detect the differences when used in a cocktail. Hot and trendy new cocktails pop onto the scene and are quickly spread around not based on their culinary quality, but due to their perceived status because what singer or movie star was seen drinking one. And just as canned food destroyed many recipes through the appeal of its cheaper price and broader availability, we find many people growing accustomed to inferior versions of classic cocktails because they are made with little concern for using quality ingredients or methods.
While all of this might sound a little bleak, there is hope on the horizon. In the midst of such atrocities as the Apple Martini, or Red Bull and Vodka, we see that some of the trendy directions that some drinkers are heading in are starting to look to foreign classics for inspiration. The Mojito, a classic Cuban drink from the early 1900’s has already been going gangbusters for a couple years now. The Caipirinha, a simple and long time Brazilian staple, is just now starting to gather a firm following. The danger of course for how these, and other internationally inspired drinks might aid in our cocktail evolution is firmly based on the quality and dedication provided to their preparation. Already I see bars skipping the use of fresh mint and limes in the Mojito and opting instead to use mint flavored limeade, and with Cachaça sometimes being difficult to find, many bars will just substitute vodka, even when white rum would be a more appropriate replacement..