Spirits & Cocktails

Snooth User: Carly Wray

cocktails vs. spirits

Posted by Carly Wray, May 14, 2010.

I'm headed to the Manhattan Cocktail Classic this weekend, and over the past few days, as I've spoken to other attendees, I'm hearing a big split between those who actually enjoy mixed drinks, and those who cannot fathom mixing additional ingredients into their chosen spirit.

Interestingly, it tends to be the highly-dedicated wine lovers who prefer their booze unadulterated.

If you're not drinking wine, do you usually order a spirit served straight, or do you mix it up?

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Replies

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Reply by chadrich, May 14, 2010.

Gin and tonic were destined to marry each other.  But Scotch was meant to be a bachelor.  Beyond those, I drink a little Sambuca straight and a little Absinthe with the requisite sugar cube and water.  But not much else by way of alcohol mixed with juices/flavorings/etc.

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Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, May 14, 2010.

I love, LOVE neat tequila, but margaritas also rock.  This is a conundrum of epic proportions!

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Reply by Carly Wray, May 14, 2010.

GDD, what are your favorite tequilas? And do you find that you have certain ones you'd prefer to drink neat, and others that work better for margaritas?

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Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, May 14, 2010.

Generalities here, but I sip Reposados and make margs with Blancos.  I dislike Anejos, as they've been aged in oak for so long they've just about lost all that great agave-ness that made them so delicious to begin with. 

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Reply by Degrandcru, May 14, 2010.

I usually don´t drink mix drinks. But as a general rule, mix the cheap stuff and drink the good stuff straight. Here in Mexico you´d never get served good Tequila in a Margarita, if you order a Margarita be prepared to get the cheapest, lousiest Tequila in it. But in a Margerita you don´t taste the difference anyway, so the good stuff would be a waste. Even a good blanco you should drink straight (e.g. Herradura, to have it in a Margarita would be a waste).

The same is true for other spirits as well. E.g. Rum, Bacardi - serve it as a Cuba Libre or a Mojito, if its a good Rum, have it straight.

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Reply by MFriday, Jun 19, 2010.

Never, ever drink cheap spirits. Just don't go there. It makes you feel rotten, makes money for the big companies that don't care what's in your drink.

Respect your self enough to ask for spirits that are well rated. As the bartender - he should know. As the store buyer, he will know.

 

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 19, 2010.

Carly, always look for '100% Agave' on your tequila. That definitely doesn't include the likes of Cuervo Gold (uggghh!!). I drink a lot of tequila straight, not just the occasional shooter (though I avoid refrigerated Cuervo shots like the plaque they are) but more good stuff for sipping like a number reposados and anejos. I'll disagree with GDD if you can find the right producer for the anejo. Try a Chinaco, but there are plenty of others. I've probably had at least 3-400 different bottlings over many wastrel years in Mexico and elsewhere. Tequilito es mi amigo...

Scotch (almost exclusively single malts) I never mix. Good vodka from Poland and Russia I'll often have straight but will also mix (love a good, dirty vodka martini, wellmade Bloody Caesar, etc.). Absinthe with sugar is an abomination that no purist drinks, Charich ;-). Adding water doesn't really count as mixing (whether a bit of branch water in a bourbon, or spring water in a scotch or whatever in pastis...) in my book. Had a little icewater in my Raki Friday night. The Lagavulin I had at the end of the night was neat.

I will also drink good, aged rums straight, though I like a number of rum cocktails (maitais, daiquiris, even a pina colada on the beach). And I have brandies (whether from Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, or even grappas and marcs) almost exclusively straight, with the very occasional champagne cocktail.

In general the cheaper stuff can be used for cocktails, but the cocktail will definitely be a better one if the good stuff is used. That includes for the mixers, as well (e.g. Grand Marnier in margaritas rather than Triple Sec). Heradura or Patron make much better margaritas then at least the bottom three levels of Cuervo or Sauza.

 

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Reply by StevenBabb, Jun 22, 2010.

i'm all over the map with this subject....

i love a good dirty martini, just olive juice, no vermouth, and i go with stoli or grey goose... if i'm mixing vodka i use absolute or sky.... but usually at home i use 2nite vodka.... it's a new vodka from italy that my girfriends cousin is importing/copartner in.... it's phenomenal stuff.... and i get it for super cheap! hahah...

tequila's... i'd have to say siete leguas is my fav.... but i've been known to shoot patron and even cazadores (but only after the first bottle of patron is gone)... here's my lasted way to shoot... drop the salt and lime, and grab cinnamon and and orange... shoot it the traditional way, cinn/shoot/orange.... it'll change the way you shoot tequila for ever.......

makers mark is my go-to bourbon.... rocks.... old fashion (no orange, just my preference)... and manhattan (no bitters)..... i'm kind of picky with things, and prefer to make things myself... a lot of bartenders these days have lost the art.... i also enjoy old potrero, it's made localy here in SF by anchor steem.... i drink that on the rocks..

scotch... laphroaig and lagavulin are my go-to's.... served with 2 rocks.... my girlfriend can't stand em tho...hahaha... there's a place called rick house here in SF that makes very good "handcrafted" cocktails (big cocktail revolution here) and they make this one called the laphroaig project... it uses laphroaig, green and yellow chartreuse, luxardo maraschino liquer, fresh lemon juice, a few dashes of peach bitters....(see what i mean by cocktail revolution).... super tastey...

i'm not a huge fan of gin, but i like hendricks and junipero.... junipero is made here in SF by anchor steem, too... i've actually tasted it right out of the still on a tour of the brewery... i drink these with club soda (i can't stand tonic... i know, i'm weird)

i've been wanting to get into rums.... but with everything else.... i mix bacardi.... i use malibu and captain morgan in my mai tais with a float of meyers dark.... i have sipped mt gay... i liked it....

cognacs..... remy  martin is my fav... vsop or xo... also hennessy.... consumed in large amounts here in the bay area... (hip hop community keeps moet/hennessy in the exporting business here alone....) depending on who i'm with, i'll drink these on the rocks or snifter... with some friends i'll even shoot, or drink right out of the bottle! (don't judge me) i've been known to walk through ceasars in vegas with a bottle of remy xo.... (again, no judgements needed)

 

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Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Jun 22, 2010.

"I love a good dirty martini, just olive juice, no vermouth..."

I'm just being a stickler here, but that's not a martini, it's vodka and olive brine.  Vermouth is an integral part of the martini, as is gin (although some will let that slide).

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Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Jun 22, 2010.

Kind of like a Manhattan isn't a Manhattan without bitters. 

I don't think it's the bartenders who've "lost the art".  ;)

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Reply by Pedro Cidade, Jun 22, 2010.

Manhattan with Canadian Club is excelent! If the night is hot, a gin and tonic. I rarelly drink cocktails. If the night is not for the wine, I usually drink beer.

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 22, 2010.

So GDD, I'm somewhere between you and Steven on the dirty martini. I can't drink gin, so always vodka, but I want it very dry before the olive juice addition. That means either rinsing the glass with vermouth then dumping it, or even a spray. No more.

Steven, start branching out on the rums (Bacardi is crap). There are lots of good, aged, darker ones from Venezuela up through the islands. I've even had a good one from Haiti this year.

And for a variation on a tequila shooter (especially useful when only Cuervo is at hand), start with a pat of wasabi, shoot the tequila, than chase with a similar volume of tomato juice. You will definitely know you're alive!

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 22, 2010.

Sorry, I forgot to mention a couple of rum candidates. I drink a lot of Santa Teresa from Venezuela, because I know the family that makes it, it's relatively well distributed, and I find it goes well with a cigar. Certainly light years ahead of Bacardi. The Haitian I mentioned was Rhum Barbancourt, Reserve du Domaine, 15 years. I helped place it in a few bars in Tokyo as part of a campaign by the rum importers of Japan to gather and send money for earthquake relief.

 

Finally, that sangrita-like tomato chaser for the tequila shots is good with or without lime or lemon juice. It doesn't need all the fixins of a good sangrita, since the wasabi changes the ballgame entirely...

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Reply by BasilR, Jun 22, 2010.

Scotch/Whiskey rocks - Glenmorangie, or keep it simple with Bushmills or Jameson.  You can get these anywhere (and relatively cheap), and they never disappoint.

Tequila - Don Julio Blanco, and down in the interior we used to drink a lot of Tradicional.  And if you can ever get any Havana Club Rum - jump on it...

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 22, 2010.

I almost mentioned Glenmorangie as an easy entrance at a certain level of quality into single malts. It's similarly rounded and mellow to Macallan, and even does the same sherry cask, etc., versions. And it hasn't been dumbed down in the same way Macallan has in recent years. Irish whisky is, however, a different animal entirely.

Don Julio I view as roughly equivalent to Jim Beam (and Bookers as you go up the versions). Somewhat generic big distillery product. Certainly it also is rounded and easy going down. Plenty of other good tequila out there, though, with more character. It's worth the effort to explore.

 

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Reply by StevenBabb, Jun 23, 2010.

GDD.... i was only commenting on my personal preference to these drinks... most bartenders put WAY too much vermouth... i like the taste of alcohol... vermouth makes it flabby... so in my dirty's i've learned to just forgo the vermouth... as for my manhattans with no bitters.... again just me preference... i'm not a fan of bitter things... thats why i don't drink compari.... and i think the bitters tales away from the drink, for my taste...

NOW, that being said.... i've been a bartender for the better part of seven years.... i have a bar at home... now, when i make drinks for guests, and others, i rinse the glass for martini's with dry vermouth, and i give a couple of good dashes of bitters in their manhattans...

and my comment about bartenders in sf losing their way... they have.... in about 90% of places, there's no more personality... no more enjoyable experience... i was trained when i was 21 by a bartender that made his lifes career bartending in san francisco... there is an art to it... making drinks that are enjoyable.... carrying conversations, and having a great personality... and being able to multi task.... most tenders here in the city ask what you want, bring it back to you whenever they get to it, and walk away.... and in most cases chat it up with the waitstaff..... it's a sad situation.....

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 23, 2010.

Going back to your original post, Carly, perhaps it's safest to say that those who are fussy about their wines are also fussy about their cocktails... ;-)

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Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Jun 23, 2010.

We're definitely drinking in different places.  I have to beg bartenders to put vermouth in my drink at all, let alone the "proper" ratio of 1/3 vermouth to 2/3 gin.  I've never once seen too much vermouth.  God, I can only dream about such things!

Of course personal preference comes into play, but I don't think you can fault bartenders for making drinks the correct way.  Giving shitty service is another thing entirely, which I fire people for. 

It's all about balance.  A glass of vodka and olive brine is just a poorly made drink, in my opinion (then again, I detest dirty martinis).  You can certainly disagree; the banter is fun.  It's nice to talk to someone else in the biz (15 years for me: behind the bar, sommelier and finally wine director of a huge hotel).

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Reply by StevenBabb, Jun 23, 2010.

d... super fussy...haha...

and gdd, i never fault a bartender for making a drink correctly... but as for the vermouth debate, and depending on who you talk to, it'll be a debate... : )   i don't know of anyone who would put a third vermouth into a martini.... but, everyone has a preference...

to me, especially in a dirty, vermouth makes it flabby and almost oily... and i only put a splash of olive juice into my dirty, again.... i like to taste the vodka....

banter is definitely fun!!! especially with a girl that goes by Girl Drink Drunk! hahaha

by the way, what part of the world do you reside?

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Reply by MFriday, Jun 24, 2010.

Hey, isn't anyone drinking the little guys stuff?  other then junipero(just sold) and one other someone mentioned? SF bartender - what's your take on some of the new distillers? Beer makers making whiskey is happening across the us...is anyone trying them? Stranahan, Hangar One...what's the word?

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