Cocktail Culture is Killing Bartending

An article on SeriousEats.com asks if cocktail culture is killing the art of bartending. The writer, Michael Neff, says that the nostalgia for vintage cocktails has birthed a "cocktail culture" where drinks like the Manhattan are king - despite whether or not anyone actually likes them. This nostalgia is alienating the only people who can tell us whether or not these drinks are any good. Those people are the consumers.

Neff states:

"Much of the current cocktail trend is based on nostalgia, and it is difficult to say it, but many cocktails that we now call "forgotten classics" are forgotten for a reason. They have the shine of history, and we're told we are supposed to love them, but they're too sweet, they lack balance, and they kind of suck.

The Jerry Thomas Manhattan (2-1 Whiskey to Vermouth, Angostura Bitters, with a dash of Cointreau) tastes like syrup. It certainly doesn't taste like whiskey. But it's the earliest written recipe of the Manhattan, and people are told that it's how a Manhattan is supposed to be made. Choke it down if you can, but don't dare say you don't like it. Who the hell are you, anyway?

This is a big problem for all of us. The consumer feels judged (because they are), and walks away feeling smaller than they walked in."

That judgement, Neff notes, happens when bars push vintage cocktails on their menus. These heavy-hitting drinks taste much stiffer, are much stronger, and sometimes lack the balance of many modern cocktails. Bartenders who work primarily in cocktail bars serving these nostalgic drinks may forget that today's consumer has a different palate than the consumers of yesteryear. He goes on to say,
"The upside to this upswing in mixology is that we have the privilege to stand on the shoulders of giants and have taken the cocktail to a realm more respected than it has ever been before. We have more ingredients, better spirits, and the combined culinary history of the last hundred years to guide us in our current experiments. It's exciting, and I'm honored to be a part of it. The obsession with recreating cocktails in their original form stifles the creativity of people who want to push drinks to taste better."
What do you think, readers? Do you prefer the newer, more complex drinks? Or will you stand by the old standards?

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Tags: alcohol online, alcohol classes seattle, certified alcohol servers, responsible alcohol service, alcohol server training, bartending certification, certified bartender, washington alcohol server permit, alcohol news, cocktail culture, cocktail nostalgia, manhattan

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