The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2014

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12  /  the tasting panel  / november 2014 LETTER FROM THE EDITOR It is now required that every restaurant has to have a cocktail menu. Some customers are likely to whine or pout if one is not forthcoming. But forget about loading your list with classics—real gin Martinis, Manhattans, Old Fashioneds; they want "craft" cocktails—unique, creative flights of fancy in a glass. That's fine for the deep pockets crowd that missed the first go-round—the Harvey Wallbanger and Sex on the Beach eras. But those of us who have been hoisting our cocktails since the Dark Ages realize that the best cocktails, the ones that stand the test of time, are the simple classics. Start with two or three top quality ingredients, mix judiciously and serve. Ahhhhh . . . That's what I'm talkin' about. Why has the Martini survived for nearly a hundred years? Because it's pure, simple, elegant and, most important, it tastes good. It is a showcase, a glorifica- tion, of superior ingredients. A sensory home run. As Pete Wells said in a recent New York Times piece: "All mixed drinks can be divided into two categories: good and not good. A cocktail that you finish involun- tarily, that moves to your lips again and again without requiring you to decide to raise your arm, is a good one. A cocktail that you finish because you hate to waste alcohol, or one that you don't finish at all, is not good. This is the binary theory of cocktail criticism." Too many "mixologists" try to dazzle with creativity by adding a bunch of obscure ingredients to their inventions. Let's see . . . How about ambergris and fermented lemur ear lobes . . . that ought to work. There is, of course, a hidden agenda here. We can charge $18 if the customer doesn't know what half the ingredients are. Too many of the rock star young "bar chefs" are like regular chefs who try to wow you with their great ideas without ever having learned the basic techniques of cooking. And have you noticed how long it takes to make one of those concoctions? A true cocktail should not be an attempt to cover up the taste of the alcohol with pyrotechnics; it should strive to enhance and provide a setting for it. I'm not saying creativity is a bad thing—just too much of it is. Simplicity and elegance are the things that make a great drink. Why not dial back the hyperbole and show everyone how grown up you are. CONTRIBUTORS With the company for 18 years, Leanne Chau is the Marketing Director of Southern Wine & Spirits of California. When she is not traveling (or planning her next trip), Leanne spends her time cooking or looking for the coolest new restaurant to try. Liz Clayman is a freelance food, restaurant and lifestyle photogra- pher. Originally from the coast of Maine, Liz has lived and worked in New York City for the past decade. When she's not shooting, you'll most likely find her eating, cooking or baking. Marvin Shaouni is a food and portrait photographer based in Detroit, MI. While photographing Detroit's burgeoning food and handcrafted cocktail scene, Shaouni shoots for editorial and advertising clients all over, focusing on people, food and everyday life. "I love the energy that comes with capturing life and all that goes with it," he says. Shaouni is currently in the process of photographing a book on tea culture, which has taken him to some of the most notable tea growing regions in China. Justin Trevor Winters is a Los Angeles–based screenwriter with an extensive background in mixol- ogy and libations consulting. He is an instructor at the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and a contributor to His latest film, Killing Winston Jones, starring Richard Dreyfuss, Danny Glover and Danny Masterson, is slated to hit theaters in 2015. As a mixologist, he has con- sulted nationally and internationally for over a decade and is responsible for designing hand-crafted cocktails for a number of high-profile celebrity clients, as well as for high-end events including The Oscars, The Emmys and The Grammys. Is the Craft Cocktail Movement Getting Out of Hand? PHOTO: DUSTIN DOWNING

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