Archive for the 'bar trends' Category

Savory Cocktails – Trend or Fad?

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Blogs are exploding with reports of meaty cocktails on the menu. I’m not going to lie – my first reaction is “ewwww.” I want bacon with my morning OJ, not in it.

But then I let it simmer a little (sorry, it was one of the only puns not taken), and thought about the savory drinkables that have been around for a while. There is, of course, the Bloody Mary, with its sweet, spicy and savory components. Then there is the age-old Chelada cocktail that uses Clamato juice – a product that has always made me run away (but then again, I don’t exactly like clams). And recently, modern bartenders (a.k.a. bar chefs or mixologists) have reverted to hand-crafted cocktails from real fruit, herbs and spices, rather than relying on mixes (admittedly moreso in higher-end establishments and independents).

Considering these elements makes the savory cocktail seem like a no-brainer – so why the buzz? Oh, maybe it’s the term “fat-washing” that has us talking. Mixologists are adding fat (as in, bacon fat) to whiskey, popping it in the freezer, then cutting out the solidified fat. Bacon flavor infused – greasy fat in the trash.

And ok, I’ll admit it. With the extreme love for bacon I see on a daily basis, and the versatility we’ve been opened up to in the past few years, maybe this could work. After all, bacon is amazing in chocolate, so why not in my chocolate martini?

But how about salmon-flavored vodka? Now you’re cringing, right? Yes sir, one distiller has added a salmon flavor to their line-up. I’m all for shaking things up, but…

So, the question remains – is this a growing trend, or just a fad? Well, the thing about a fad is that most of the time, it has some basis in a functional long-term trend. Take leg warmers for instance – a fashion fad, but not for those in the dancing world. And in food, fads may fizzle, but they tend to stick around in one way or another. In other words, while the liquor store of the future may not stock the makings for a Philly cheesesteak cocktail, what we are seeing is a slow move away from overly sweet, candy-coated cocktails. We’re scaling back the sweet for a more balanced drink, be it savory, fruity or otherwise.

There are elements in the meaty drink craze that are shaping the future of drink. And focusing on those nuances, the driving forces, will help us determine future flavors for this category. Just please, don’t let it be salmon…

Bartender, can I have a brew?

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

From the evolution of molecular mixology to the rebirth of cocktail classics, bartenders are literally setting the bar a bit higher. Bartending has evolved into a culinary profession. At upscale establishments, bartenders are referred to as “mixologists,” creating bitters and tonics from scratch, and experimenting with infusions and tinctures (alcoholic extracts made from herbs).

Modern mixologists, or bar chefs as some are referred to, will source ingredients for their drink menus as they do the rest of the menu – focusing on seasonal and fresh ingredients, visiting farmer’s markets, locating exotic ingredients, handcrafting the above mentioned bitters, tinctures and infusions, squeezing fresh fruit juices on a daily basis, and stocking precious and obscure liquors.

Seeking to educate their patrons, and rid their glasses of the overly sweet appletinis and lemon drops, modern mixologists work with a combination of esoteric ingredients, science and creativity.

But with a downturned economy, and an increase in at-home entertaining, how is the average consumer expected to keep up? Syrups and drink mixes are always helpful, but can sometimes lack the panache or versatility of a bartender’s arsenal. There are, of course, exceptions, and one of the most innovative products we’ve spotted recently is Tea Forté Cocktail Infusions.

With added visual appeal – it looks like a pyramid tea bag with a leaf for a string – Tea Forté literally brews a cocktail. And the flavors? Well, they’ve got us really excited. Lavender Citrus blends white tea with lavender, bergamot, grapefruit and violet. Lemongrass Mint combines lemon myrtle and spearmint. And Silkroad Chai merges black tea with cardamom, ginger and cinnamon.

And as for versatility, a great example is the Lemongrass Citrus, which is said to work well with Gin & Tonics and Mojitos, aside from custom recipes.

Of course, Tea Forté doesn’t just do cocktails – they’ve got a whole line of tea and iced tea bags, but this cocktail line truly shines. And now, I’m feeling inspired…and thirsty…

Believe it or not, I’m drinkin’ on air…

Monday, May 4th, 2009

If you’ve ever heard someone use the expression, “I could get drunk on the fumes,” they may be on to something. UK “food experimenters” Sam Bompas and Harry Parr have launched Alcoholic Architecture, a bar where patrons actually breathe in their cocktails, rather than drink them.

The interior of the bar is designed to look like a gin & tonic, and the drink is actually misted into the air. Patrons don plastic suits, to protect their clothes, and inhale the intoxicating air. And apparently, the mixture can even get you drunk…

Running Moonshine…

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Moonshine Whisky Still
Creative Commons License photo credit: CJ Sorg

I’ve only had the “pleasure” of drinking moonshine a few times in my life, but they’ve certainly been interesting. The first was at a farm where old peaches took on new life, and it knocked me out cold. The most recent, was at a wedding in Greece where a guest from Crete introduced us to a very mellow, but potent, grape-made version.

While the almost wine-like Crete spirit convinced me that not all moonshine tastes like lighter fluid, I still equate it more with the Duke boys than upscale bars and lounges. So, you can imagine my surprise when I recently read that distilleries are bottling the stuff and charging premium prices.

[That's not to say that homemade moonshine is not still strong in this country, and elsewhere, by the way. Just type in "moonshine" on the Google News tab and you'll find plenty of articles on arrests for possession and home distilling.]

Now that moonshine is going legit – with brands line Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine, the exclusive spirit of the 2009 GRAMMY gift bags – we’ll keep our eyes peeled to see if this is the latest in an interesting line of recent bar trends…

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