Maybe it’s just me but it seems like every time I turn around something else has gone “craft”. Maybe you’ve seen it too. The neighborhood brunch spot suddenly sporting a full line of morning mixes to wash down your eggs and french toast. PB&J shots. Mimosa with Rhubarb syrup and pureed buddha hand. What the heck is buddha hand anyway?
But all the attention to ingredient freshness, flavor profiles and overall heightened attention to detail isn’t a bad thing – particularly when it comes to beverages.
So what is a craft cocktail?
There’s a joke in the industry that a craft cocktail is any drink that takes 10 or more minutes to make. They’re usually undersized and over priced. And the stranger the better (see buddha hand above).
But joking aside the current craft cocktail movement has done wonders to raise the bar and elevate mere cocktails to soaring new heights as bartenders around the globe push the envelope of flavor, presentation and creativity.
To me a craft cocktail is very simply any cocktail made with skill (or craft). It’s when the bartender respects the ingredients and the patron enough to slow down and do the drink justice. After all anyone can dump whiskey and sweet vermouth together and call it a Manhattan but a craft bartender might take a more thoughtful approach to pairing whiskey known for a particular characteristic with a complimentary vermouth.
Craft mixology often includes house made specialties not available at big box beverage depots and corner liquor stores- specifically syrups, small batch bitters, and premixed barrel aged cocktails to name a few.
And then there’s presentation. Craft mixology places an emphasis, not only on how the drink tastes, but also how it looks since we eat (and drink) with our eyes first. For the bartender that means appropriate glassware selected for each drink rather than the pour and dump into oversized fishbowls left over from the 90’s. Coupes, collins, snifters and Nick and Nora glassware is all making it’s way back behind the stick and are being put to good use.
That’s still a pretty broad definition – and I’m ok with that. But no matter how you choose to define craft cocktails the one piece that’s impossible to ignore is the pure fanaticism of those involved in the movement. Passionate might be the word describe the creators of the new craft but obsessive seems to fit better. The level of commitment that bartenders of the craft movement is staggering and quite frankly impressive.
But after all the joking and the neuroticism has ended and the completed drink rests in front of you – take a sip. And that is a craft cocktail.