January 18, 2014

"His 'Bone-Dry' Martini features a tincture made from chicken bones that are roasted and dissolved in phosphoric acid..."

"... his Sazerac contains a touch of ambergris, the whale secretion used in perfume production..."

There's some weirdness going on these days in the segment of commerce that goes under the rubric "cocktails."

Earlier this morning I tried to watch this video with these 2 supposed science geeks using nitrous oxide to hasten the infusion of berries and almonds into vodka. This is presented as an alternative to going out for a drink and "a dude in suspenders takes 7 hours to make it for you" — at least in San Francisco.

And I was listening to this amusing Stephen Merchant performance "Hello Ladies" — about dating — where he says the woman always orders "a cocktail" and gets a laugh as if everyone understands "cocktail" to be expensive. Back in the 70s, I knew a young woman who tested her dates' worthiness by — when the waiter asked if you'd like a drink — ordering a split of champagne.

But when did "cocktails" suddenly become something especially posh? I'm guessing specific establishments in American coastal cities made a market push. Here in the Midwest, far from the coasts, but right on the isthmus, I'm keeping biliary secretions of the intestines of the sperm whale out of my booze, and if I need reminder of the taste of deep-cooked bone, I'll gnaw on the charred tips of the last chicken Meade roasted with the drink on the side. And if there are any containers of nitrous oxide lying around, can't we just mix it with nothing?

Speaking of nothing, back in the 60s there was a whole genre of jokes about making a martini — the sophisticated cocktail of that era — that involved pouring gin in a glass and doing something else with the vermouth. So, seriously, if you want a glamorous cocktail, get some nice martini glasses and keep your gin in the freezer.

ADDED: Meanwhile, I went looking through my photographs from last month in Austin, Texas, thinking I'd taken a shot of a bar touting some crazy number of "infusions." I hadn't. But I found this:

IN THE COMMENTS: Paddy O says: "More along the lines of Althouse's opinion, is Ron Swanson's views on mixology":


chickenlittle said...

Bar tending is a dying profession. These drinks are made by machines, enslaved for mankind's enjoyment.

Paddy O said...

My first real exposure to the mixology movement (is that what it's called) was at a great little place in the Pearl District of Portland called the Teardrop Lounge. A friend was friend to the owner. Had my bachelor party there.

Great fun. Describe a flavor, be as weird or as complex as you want, the bartender would mix a drink, and often with a real name and history (confirmed by iphones).

More along the lines of Althouse's opinion, is Ron Swanson's views on mixology.

Ann Althouse said...

This seems related to the food thing of way too many ingredients, just lots of weird stuff put together to fascinate the reader of menus. Whether you can taste the things or whether they're even there is perhaps beside the point.

Ann Althouse said...


Let me chisel your aromasphere.

CatherineM said...

Because in places like New York City they cost $15-20. Obscene.

I blame Sex and the City and other media with the obsession with the glamour of the rich and infamous for a lot. Not that it's the shows/medias fault, people have free will to make stupid choices. However, the shows/media that glamorized "the cocktail" at the end of the work day and wear ridiculously high heels has influence on those who wish to emulate "success."

It's the reason nice girls from St. Louis try to transform themselves into their fantasy of a Carrie Bradshaw like "somebody" with a "fabulous" life and then lie about all of the fabulous parties they go to and rich people they know even though they are a secretary from St. Louis. Then they go deeo into debt because the only place to live is Manhattan (unless you are a nobody) and $700-1200 shoes mean you are somebody. It's sad.

I think this lends to the "bone dry" martini nonsense. Save your money, get a real life and learn how to make a good martini at home.

madAsHell said...

....more dirty martinis, and dishing with Michelle?

Scott said...

You can have your Martini along with canap├ęs of human breast milk cheese. Go ahead. I dare you.

KLDAVIS said...

The Parks & Rec scene is actually a send-up of a place in Chicago called The Aviary. There is a slightly less insane place in NY called Booker & Dax that does both liquid nitrogen/hot fireplace poker tricks.

I'm just happy I can get a decent Old Fashioned in Wisconsin again...with proper Whiskey, a range of decent bitters, and not topped with Sprite.

KLDAVIS said...

Althouse, those glasses are ridiculously large. A properly made Martini is about 4-5 oz in total volume. Unless you're into getting totally hammered or drinking warm gin, smaller vessels are the way to go...something like this.

virgil xenophon said...


If I marry you will you meet me at the door at the end of the day wrapped in naught but cellophane with a Martini in hand?

PS: On second thought, to hell with the cellophane, lol

virgil xenophon said...

PS: But GOT to have high heels on! :)

Tank said...

Grissini restaurant is featuring a truffle-tini for just $130 here in NJ. See the article in The Record.

I'll pass on that.

MadisonMan said...

The packaging, I'm thinking, outdoes the drink.

The Godfather said...

I don't drink cocktails much anymore, but when I did (and on the occasions when I do), I drink a very dry Tanqueray Gibson -- that's a Martini with cocktail onions instead of olives or a lemon twist (and Tanqueray is a gin with a higher alcohol content than most). Only I've found that some bartenders don't know what a Gibson is, these days. I've been given a Gimlet when I've ordered a Gibson! Also, in a civilized world these cocktails are made with Gin unless Vodka is specifically requested by the customer. Still, I don't mind being asked, Vodka or Gin?, but I hate to get the drink and discover that it's made with Vodka.

On the other hand, I'm perfectly happy with whatever cheap white wine the bar is serving.

virgil xenophon said...

@The Godfather/

I'm not a big Martini drinker, but when I do I like the gin version with Tanqueray as I find it soo much smoother..

The Godfather said...

@ virgil xenophon:

You are clearly a gentleman of taste.

virgil xenophon said...

@The Godfather/

Don't be too soon to leap to conclusions. It took an Act of Congress to make me a gentleman. :)