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I love a good cocktail just as much as the next guy. I also love that "cocktail culture" keeps changing. Remembering back to the early Aughts when people were going to fancy Hotel Bars and ordering a $250 bottle of Kettle One just makes me cringe. I realize that people still do this, and in spades, but I like that it is not fashionable now, and when you think of the people who still practice this bad habit, they are thought of as excessive fools. No, we live in a new time, the time of the "craft cocktail." You may have been to a couple places that make them. The bars are usually very dimly lit, the mixologist behind the bar carefully pours the exact amount of ingredients into a tumbler, stirs furiously, slaps a piece of mint or chars the spritz from an orange rind, puts it in the drink and serves it to you, all for the low price of $14 a drink. This is, of course, the extremely over simplified, caricature of what is involved in a craft cocktail. Usually, these men and women who serve this type of drink are extremely knowledgeable about the booze that they are slinging. Their knowledge goes well beyond brand recognition, they are interested in craft booze; small batch liquors and distilleries who use only the finest quality grains, barrels, and customs allowed by law. They're almost like the vegans of the spirits world in the sense that they know exactly what is going into the drink, and making damn sure there is no secret ingredients (added caramel for color? I think not!). I think that this trend is a great thing for the world. People should be more knowledgeable about what is going into their bodies, especially when it comes to alcohol. My whole adult life, I haven't really cared what I was drinking, so long as it had something in it to get me to where I was going. Granted, I had things that I didn't like, or things that I had had a bad experience with, but I would drink almost anything. I don't really like gin, but it's been years since I drank it, so I don't even know if that is true anymore. I used to not like scotch because of an incident with Johnnie Walker Red back in my teenage years. In fact, I was physically unable to even smell the stuff until well into my 20's. However, I work in a restaurant where it is my job to serve these beverages, so I got over it; I actually enjoy single malt scotch very much these days.
All this being said, the restaurant where Tim and I work is not a craft cocktail bar. If the craft cocktail bars of the world want to be seen as the filet mignons, we are more of the meat and potato stew variety. Does that mean that our cocktails are bad? No way! We have some of the best drinks in New York City; they are huge, they are cheap, and they are cold. What more could you want out of a beverage? Seriously though, our bar caters to a lot of old people, so the drinks are old fashioned, literally. We make Martinis, Manhattans, Cosmopolitans, Old Fashions, Gimlets and Gibsons more often than not. Even the youngsters that come in don't want something fancy, they want Vodka Red Bull, which we don't have (we toyed with the idea of Jaegermeister but never sold any of it). I grew up in an old persons bar, and I was trained there as well, so this kind of old school bar tending is what I know. There is a certain charm in it, and when the going gets tough, I can make a lot of drinks in a short amount of time. Craft cocktails are meant to be made slow and enjoyed slowly as well. You don't shoot these drinks, although sometimes they are so delicious, you would like to, but then you remember that they're 14 bucks a pop and you chill out and sip the thing like a normal person and not some alcoholic menace that you really are. In that case, you come down to our restaurant and have a pint glass full of gin that we call a martini, charge you $12, and send you stumbling into the streets. Because, at the end of the day, people drink alcohol because it gets you drunk. Sure, you can dress it up with all the best ingredients, make the drink with a song and a dance, but at the end of the day, you just want something that's going to make you feel good.