My Lubricated Education

Craftofthecocktail It is the seemingly small acts of personal pleasure and quirky pursuits that keep us from dismissing the day as a grind and nothing more. Yes, there are those of us lucky enough to love our work and our career. I don't need any attempts at persuasion to convince me that working in wine public relations and marketing is a treat. But even when you can look a readership in the monitor and guarantee them you are pleased as punch to hold a particular position, there's no getting around the fact that some days—many days—putting aside the pleasure of work and moving on to the personal pursuit of pleasure and distraction is exactly what the doctor ordered.

I am more and more made calm and keenly distracted by the cocktail.

Over the past couple of years I've been drawn to the art of making a drink.

I've been fascinated by walking into an unfamiliar, well appointed and highly recommended joint where I can watch the mixologist give me his take on a Sazerac, Old Fashioned, Manhattan or some other potion. 

I've delved much more deeply into the history of the cocktail, guided by historians and lovers of the mixed Manhattan drink who, like me, have been lucky enough to turn an interest into a career.

And of late, I've found my day perfectly topped off and the grind made smoother by standing at my bar letting new whiskeys, obscure renditions of pastis and startlingly complex bitters role gently around my tongue until I recognize their essence.

Gary Regan calls it the "Joy of Mixology". Dale Degroff names it "The Craft of the Cocktail". I call it My Lubricated Education.

I love the ongoing debate over whether or not fruit ought to be muddled to make an Old Fashioned. I go back and forth over whether or not a real Manhattan should be dry, perfect or wet. By now I can happily tell you the number of cubes that are in my mixing glass by the particular tone that comes out of that mixing vessel as I stir and drink. I'm finding the identical kind of joy I once felt in discovering new wines when I discover and concoct a new cocktail.

Old fashioned What I've really come to appreciate about the cocktail that I really can't experience with wine is the simple fact that I can produce a drink of really stunning perfection and absolute balance, then consume what I made and move on. I've never had this pleasure with wine. And frankly, the more I mix and stir and shake and rock n roll and blend, the more I imagine that the idea of making even a small batch of wine, which will take many, many days to consume (no matter how good), is many, many  days too long because I'm liking the idea of moving on to the next new mix that cocktail production allows. Sidecar

Every now and then I think to myself that I'd like to set aside the books and manuals and try to devise a drink on my own; something that is all mine; an original. But then I realize that there remains a seemingly endless platter of drinks that have been concocted and devised and invented that I've never even attempted to make and even try at the hand of a professional. This personal pursuit of the cocktail that I've been on for a couple years now remains one of discovery, then crafting, then consuming. I'm nowhere near the part of the journey that leads me to trying my hand at invention.

Along the way I've wondered if I might incorporate this new love of mixology into my day job. I think I'd like  too. I've never pursued a spirits or liqueur account via Wark Communications. But I'm positive that the skill and talent I possess where marketing and promotion and writing are concerned would make me and my little firm a spectacular hire for a producer that sought a true believer to implement a communications campaign of authenticity and effect. I'll work on this.

In the mean time, I'm going to soften the daily grind by continuing to amuse myself with cocktails, their history, the discovery of their constituent parts and my own pursuit of making them well then testing and perfecting their balance.

It's all too much fun.

Posted In: Cocktails


10 Responses

  1. @nectarwine - January 27, 2010

    Tom – we’re finishing off our basement bar this year and I look forward to being a mixologist at Le Casa De Wade (my house).
    What is your favorite concoction that you’ve made up on your own? While its true there is nothing new under the sun, it’s always nice to hear of people who have created successful masterpieces.
    Josh @nectarwine

  2. Goodtastereport - January 27, 2010

    Oh! How I love the right cocktail… I completely relate to your comment about putting the books aside and devising a drink on my own, but I’ve recently given in to the exact ratios of the Kings. It’s like baking and I’m no baker. The Last Word, with equal parts gin(Boodles, for me), green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and fresh lime juice. Shake and strain in chilled cocktail glass. Gary Regan and DeGroff are Kings! Great post, Tom!

  3. Benito - January 28, 2010

    One amazing aspect of the hand-crafted cocktail is that, as much fun as it is to make, it’s even more of a pleasure to receive. If you’ve ever walked in after a long day at work and had a friend or loved one make you the perfect cocktail within minutes of your arrival, it’s magical. It’s got an emotional resonance that doesn’t exist with just cracking open a beer, pouring a glass of wine, or downing a quick shot of spirits. It’s like someone else bringing you a hot bowl of soup when you’re sick–yes, you could fix it yourself, but that small act of kindness and accommodation makes you feel better.
    So of course, the best thing is to make cocktails with friends and loved ones so you occasionally reap the benefits of receiving one at the right moment.
    On the subject of books, one of my favorites is Ted Haigh’s “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie”. Get the wire-bound hardback edition so it will lay flat. It’s particularly useful when you start accumulating a bunch of weird bottles and think, “I want Campari but don’t just want another Negroni…”

  4. Samantha - January 28, 2010

    Totally misleading post name Tom, but since I’m here now I might as well comment. Could not agree with you more about the cocktail kid, I find that quite a few people in our business seem to have this almost anti-cocktail attitude, like somehow they have evolved past the blue collar cocktail, (like they are all Irish Car Bombs) and on to the more civilized, white collar wine. This just chaps my hide, which is why I was drawn to your, “Lube” insinuating title of this post…but anyway. I’ve always thought and said that a Martini is more than a drink, it’s an attitude, a feeling and sometimes, well sometimes nothing but a well made cocktail will do.
    The other thing that is rarely talked about, in my circles anyway, is how beautifully some cocktails pair with certain foods; icy cold Gin, (the real) Martini with oysters on the half shell and cold cracked crab or the perfectly spiced Bloody Mary on a Sunday morning with poached eggs and crispy potatoes, freaking sublime.

  5. Chef E - January 28, 2010

    Amen brother, and sometimes face it, our palates have a soul of their own, and boredom be rewarded with some felicitous comp time…look forward to more…
    btw I linked you, and one of your post to my latest piece…I am a late bloomer, but glad I found you!

  6. K. Mahoney - January 28, 2010

    is it 5:00 yet? you’re making me thirsty..

  7. casey - January 28, 2010

    During the warm months in NorCal I will consume a cocktail after each work day, or occasionally a glass of white wine. Red Wine consumed usually with meals or special occasions.
    During the cooler months I switch almost exclusively to Red Wine, occasionally an aged rum served neat.
    Two favorite summer mixes I’ve made up (I’m sure they existed elsewhere before)
    -Tanqueray Ten Gin or Tanqueray Rangpur
    -Ginger ale
    -Basil leaves
    (Like a Gin Buck but no lemon and adds the aromatic basil leaves)
    -Vodka (I prefer Pearl, Vox or Kettle One)
    -Tonic Water(must use Q, Stirrings or Fever Tree)
    -St Germain Elderflower Liquor
    I’ve also enjoyed infusing Vodka with whole fruit tea blends which not only add fruit and floral flavors to the vodka but give it a rich blood red color. Float the red vodka over a glass of soda water and you have a drink that is tasty and gorgeous to look at.

  8. El Jefe - January 30, 2010

    As I enjoyed a perfectly made Sazerac (absinthe and rye) after participating in a charity tasting event two nights ago, my companions wondered why I was not drinking wine. I told them that “I would definitely be drinking wine this evening, but that this cocktail is my reward.”

  9. Nancy - January 31, 2010

    Tom, you will know this already, but the book you want to consult for more and more cocktail pleasure is American Bar by Charles Schumann. My current favorite is the Sombrero — port, brandy, and cream — though it’s perhaps a bit girly for some tastes.

  10. adapter - January 31, 2010

    current favorite is the Sombrero — port, brandy, and cream laptop battery sony laptop battery sony vgp-bps9/s sony vgp-bps9/b battery

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