Some fads are just silly.
When the bartender’s easy-going air disappears and he or she looks down the nose at you and says the magic words: “It’s supposed to taste like that.” Then it’s official, you’ve been wildly overcharged by some fashionable twit for the privilege of having your drink ruined. It’s one of the few enduring take-aways I’ve got from having written about booze and cocktails for magazines and newspapers all these years.
It used to be the wine industry, with its Francophile dominance, that was the preserve of such shameless douchbaggery. Then it happened to the beer industry about the time that the Republic was really coming into its own out of those handful of watered-down American lagers. I would be enjoying a perfectly good IPA when some tattooed fiend in a taproom that used to be gas station would find out I was a booze writer and would force some tongue-sucking sour gose on me with a lecture about being on the wrong side of hipster history if I don’t like it.
Now I watch myself bartenders charging $20 a cocktail to light up a bunch of herbs and place them, shaman like, under a bell jar to infuse the cocktail with smoke. Never having been an unqualified fan of the smoking orb at high mass, it wasn’t for me, although there is the feeling of penitent charity in the prices. The trend is so incredibly stupid it couldn’t last. I’m all for clever tinkering with an old standby (you first read about the Clemmie here) but there is only so much tinkering a proven formula can take before the it becomes ridiculous: Like infusing liquor with the stuff well-adjusted people use to make a jus.
So it was, while scrolling through that hell-wash that is social media, I stumbled on the latest ill-advised trend being flogged by the good people at Garden & Gun this summer. If you are going to be on the cutting edge of the craft cocktail movement (but why?) you need to force down a glass of fat-washed bourbon.
For one thing, this isn’t that new. I was first tasked with writing about it about ten years ago when it was called bacon-infused bourbon. That was when they were putting bacon in figuratively everything. And here is how you do it. The recipe is more or less the one G & G is flogging and, I assume, it’s the same effect. It’s billed as creamier and smoky. Creamier is one way to put it – slick is more accurate. There is a smokiness to it, but you are too distracted by the feeling of needing to brush your teeth with Dawn liquid to really enjoy the nuance of the thing.
My personal theory is that no one actually likes this stuff, but that not the sort of thing the terminally hep like to admit.
Professional results may vary, but you get the impression that the bartender has taken an otherwise $10 glass of bourbon, drizzled the renderings from the kitchen that cost… well, trash is free… and then doubled the price of your drink while ruining it in one elegant motion. I write a lot more about markets than I do about cocktails these days, and while I’ve always been a closet bartender, I’m a Machiavellian one: And I do have to admire the economics of the maneuver.
The cocktail less so.