Published May 24, 2013
Handcrafted cocktails have been all the rage for years now. Farm-to-table ingredients are more important than ever and bartenders are mixing exotic drinks with as much attention as a James Beards-rated chef.
The fourth annual Manhattan Cocktail Classic drew to a close this week in New York City, but results from the mixers and shakers who flocked to stir, sip, and speculate on what’s next behind the bar may well be coming to a glass near you. And what may be the most notable and welcome trend has more to with attitude than aperitifs.
“What’s exciting is the trend of bartenders getting over ourselves,” laughs Tobin Ellis, president of the Las Vegas-based BarMagic, a high-end cocktail and bar-design consulting firm. “There’s been a backlash, and I’ve been waiting for that to happen for a while.” What Ellis is referring to is a bit of preciousness that’s entered behind-the-bar decorum, where some bartenders prefer to be called mixologists and take 20 minutes to make you a drink.
“Trends come along and people geek-out on them – but we have a lot of people who are excited about flavors and who are very talented, but have no business being behind a bar. It shouldn’t take 16 minutes to make a Sazerac,” says Ellis, a near 20-year veteran of the hospitality and cocktail industry. “Every bartender should be able to use fresh ingredients, make classic cocktails, be innovative, and also help people have a good time. Give them the experience they want, not the one you want.”
With that in mind, the innovation part appears to be alive and well in cocktail culture. During the classic, Ellis hosted an event called Social Mixology: Unchained. The event was a challenge to several prominent bartenders to come up with never-seen-before cocktails. There was the science-geek wizardry of Dave Arnold, owner of David Chang's Booker + Dax, who used nitrogen to muddle fresh herbs and turn them into a potent powder for use in drinks and that wouldn’t oxidize over time. Then there was the venerable Don Lee, creator of the cocktails and spirits program for Momofuku Ssam Bar, who used technology similar to that of a humidifier to turn liquor liquid into a heady mist (although, of course, this might not be particularly satisfying to the very thirsty – but it is pretty cool).
While these might not be your everyday cocktails, these nationally acclaimed drink specialists worked with some of the latest trends in cocktails. What else is on deck? Although less “ta-da!” than the above, and more “it’s about time,” keep your eyes peeled and your shakers ready for the following:
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