Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Importance of Ingredients

Nobody actually wants to drink a crappy cocktail. Nobody says "Let's head down to that bar that serves shitty cocktails because I'm tired of drinking things that taste good." Just like food, the ingredients and their flavor profiles are uber important in the recipe you are using. If you use lamb instead of beef in your burger patty, do you think it will taste different? Of course it does. But it's still red meat. If you use Bourbon in your Manhattan cocktail do you think it will taste different than Rye? Of course it will, even if they both are a whiskey. Scotch whisky tastes totally different than Bourbon whiskey. I know I spelled whisk(e)y differently. They do, too. Don't get me started.

My question is to everyone that posts recipes on the internet, "why be so broad in your ingredients list?" If you discovered the perfect combination of specific quantities of specific spirits for your cocktail and have decided to post it on the World Wide Intertubes, let everyone know what those ingredients actually are. Give me brand names.

At some point in time I bought a terrible cocktail book or maybe someone gave it to me. I don't remember. Flipping through the book, I realized that, although the stories were well written, the cocktail recipes seems to be have written by someone who doesn't drink alcohol. They flat-out suck. To quote the recipe:

The undisputed heavyweight champion of the world

3 ounces gin
1/4 ounce dry white vermouth
Lemon peel for garnish

Place the gin and vermouth in a shaker, along with plenty of cracked ice, and shake vigorously to combine. Strain into a well-chilled martini glass. Garnish with lemon twist, or olive if your guest prefers, and serve immediately.

Now, I can nit pick here. But that's not the purpose of this post. I am disappointed with the fact that they only listed "gin" and "vermouth". Out of all the spirits on a liquor store's shelves, one brand of gin couldn't be more different than the next brand. The same goes with vermouth. A lot of white vermouths are made with the grape varietals Clairette blanche, Piquepoul, Catarratto and Trebbiano. Without getting into a lot of technical detail, wine is made and then it is aged with herbs, roots and/or bark. It's kind of the same process as gin. There are so many different variables that can change the flavor profile from vermouth to vermouth and from gin to gin. So, it bothers me that an author of a cocktail book just writes "gin" and "vermouth" in a recipe without clarifying which brands they used.

Here's your homework. Try two different brands of premium gin, say Hendrick's versus Tanquerey 10 side by side neat. Don't do a shot of them. Just pour them in separate glasses and take a sip of both, one right after the other. Give enough time in between to actually taste the first gin. Pay attention to the herbal, floral and spice notes to the first one. Then do the same with the second. Wow! Totally different, right???? Would you agree that these two gins would make two different tasting martinis? The same goes with the vermouth. Did you notice in their recipe that they didn't list the olive, "if your guest prefers" in the ingredient list?

Was that a beef burger with Swiss cheese and a pickle or was it a lamb burger with smoked Gouda and Cole slaw? Eh, they're both burgers. Who gives a shit?

I hope you do.

1 comment:

  1. Good ingredients are SO important, whether in food or in cocktails. And speaking of which...Gilbertie's has Kentucky mint, which is known as the most proper mint for mint juleps. I am going to investigate this claim next week when I pluck a few to make juleps next weekend. As they say--if they grow together, they go together...