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Oct 15, 2007 01:58 PM

Trendy drinks right now?

What's out and what's in?

I feel like not as many people are drinking Cosmos now, and that mojitos are hitting the peak of their hipness and are about to go the way of the Cosmo.

Pimm's Cups? Capinhias? Pomegranate martinis? Something I dont know about?

I guess it depends on your locale as well.

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  1. Throughout Los Angeles and Portland, there's been a rise in use of brown liquor in cocktails, whether it be whiskey, bourbon or rye. Also, depending on the locale, the focus is steering towards doing artisanal mixology, using a lot of freshly squeeze seasonal fruits, infusions, fresh muddles, and even house-made mixers like tonic water.

    As far as beer goes, Newcastle used to be the hot thing. When the frat set took that on, Stella became the hot thing. Now that the frat set has once again taken Stella on as the drink of choice, Chimay has become the go-to beer. Also, I'm seeing a lot of Pabst Blue Ribbon at high end places, in one of those ironic twists of fate. But Belgians and microbrews in general are the hot beers of the moment.

    Wine wise, we're coming up on the end of rosé season, and even here in Los Angeles, big reds are coming back into vogue. There seems to be a bumper crop of Cabernet Franc across the board, so I'm seeing a lot of that. But those who want to drink wine but not really care will always order the same varietal no matter what's "in".

    2 Replies
    1. re: SauceSupreme

      Funny that you mention Stella. I went to England earlier this year with my wife who was on business. We were at a pub with her co-workers and I ordered a Stella. Everyone there started snickering because evidently Stella is thought of as a hooligan/wife beater/white trash beer. Very different image then the US! :)

      1. re: ac106

        Here in LA, if you've just finished reading Maxim magazine and covered yourself with Axe body spray, you also order a Stella (if you get my drift...)

    2. Seems to me classic cocktails like Manhattans and Old Fashioneds (!) are making a comeback.

      2 Replies
      1. Plenty of people are drinking Cosmos right now: my 76-year-old grandma and her friends.

        Seriously, to be fair, the answer to this question depends a lot on where you live, how old you are, and what kind of bars you frequent. There are many people around the country including in Boston (where I live) who still believe Cosmos are edgy and sophisticated. I'm not inclined to publicly sneer at them: whatever makes you happy is okay by me, as long as you behave reasonably civilly when you're in your cups.

        My own feeling is that innovation, interesting new ingredients and techniques, and great skill and creativity in cocktail making usually don't have much to do with what's trendy. The masses that give momentum to a particular drink are usually years behind the curve. I'd have called Mojitos edgy and interesting when I first ran across them in Boston ten years ago, but they didn't really catch on here until a couple of summers back, and seem kind of overdone and passe now.

        Boston is not a great cocktail town; you can count the bars doing really serious cocktails (running the spectrum from 19th-century Golden Age classics to modern, original creations) on your fingers. I do patronize that handful of places regularly, as dedicated, scholarly pros are always the best source of intelligence on wonderful cocktails that are new to me, even if they were invented 130 years ago. There's a growing community of cocktail bloggers written by similarly obsessive cocktail drinkers: is a local one I enjoy; they're fun and a good source of tips on new drinks, techniques, spirits, and other ingredients. I make regular pilgrimages to places like Pegu Club in Manhattan that represent the cutting edge of sophisticated cocktail making, in my mind.

        Keep an open mind, try lots of things, and don't get stuck in that dullest of traps, the oversweetened cocktail based on flavored vodka. These represent the worst cliche in the cocktail business, as ubiquitous and inescapable as they are. Think of them as a useful gateway to the uninitiated palate, but only that: a stepping stone to more interesting, more balanced cocktails. There's a world of spirits out there: I feel as though folks who never move beyond these rookie drinks are really missing out.

        Ultimately, you should drink what the heck you want, regardless of trends and what posters like me on Chowhound have to say about it.

        19 Replies
        1. re: MC Slim JB

          Thanks - I only drink a few things (manhattans, cosmos, v&t, bourbon & coke, beer/wine) but it interests me what's happening with cocktails these days, especially in the larger markets.

          1. re: cor

            Hmm. In Boston, those flavored-vodka cocktails still rule at most bars. They're designed to appeal to younger drinkers who like their drinks sweet, and drinkers who like the look of a cocktail glass but don't much like the taste of booze. A sure signal you're in this territory is the use of the term "Martini" to refer to anything served in a cocktail glass, rather than strictly to refer to the classic cocktail made from gin, vermouth, and bitters. The hallmarks of these places are huge selections of flavored vodkas and heavy use of cream liqueurs (like Bailey's) and syrupy cordials (Pom, butterscotch schnapps, Frangelico, etc.).

            I also see a similarly annoying trend of referring to anything with muddled fresh fruit or herbs as a "Mojito", including drinks like caipirinhas which aren't Cuban in origin (the caipirinha is from Brazil). You see endless variants of the Mojito to make it sweeter and fruitier.

            At the most sophisticated cocktail bars, there's a lot going on. The most significant trend in the revival of forgotten classics ranging in origin from the 19th-century Golden Age of cocktails to about the start of Prohibition. By definition, these entail the use of a wider variety of potable and non-potable bitters, once-popular spirits that have faded in the modern age of vodka dominance (rye whiskey, aged rums, various brandies, etc), more precision in drink construction, and more careful selection and preparation of garnishes. It's not unusual to see raw eggs (whites and whole) used in a variety of cocktails like flips and fizzes. The bartender's palette is much more eclectic, including interesting fermented products (sake), wines (still, sparkling, aromatized, fortified), and distilled spirits from around the world (pisco, cachaca, soju, various potable bitters, applejack, raki, pastis, etc.).

            Fresh fruit, botanicals, and aromatics draw from further afield and include tropical fruits, rhizomes like ginger, spices, nuts, fresh herbs, and so on. You're much likelier to see food-preparation techniques brought into cocktail preparation, including molecular-gastronomy fillips like foams and emulsions for the top layer of drinks, and housemade ingredients like maraschino cherries, infused spirits, fruit cordials, and non-potable bitters. There's a lot of thought given to the selection of glassware (and for hot drinks, crockery), presentation, and the overall hospitality component of the bar experience. Even ice is given special attention, made from various spring waters and/or hand chipped, shaved, crushed, or made into various-sized cubes depending on the needs of the drink.

            In general, these places require a different kind of bartender, with much more training, dedication, experience, and passion -- a combination of cocktail scholar, masterful host/server, and highly-skilled technician. It's a new frontier, and I have only seen it in the largest American cities, primarily on the two coasts. I only hope this trend continues and expands: it takes the enjoyment of cocktails to a completely different level.

            1. re: MC Slim JB

              Sounds like fun. So what should we order? How about a Top 5 of specific drinks that would embody some of what you discussed in the above post...

              1. re: yamalam

                I'll throw out a few older ones that I like that might give you a starting point and don't require punishingly obscure ingredients:

                Jack Rose -- a sour (a class of cocktail of which the Margarita is a popular example) based on applejack, an American brandy distilled from cider, plus lime juice and (optimally housemade) Grenadine.

                Pisco Sour -- another sour, this one based on pisco, an unaged grape brandy mainly made in Peru and Chile. Done properly, this cocktail is frothed with the addition of egg white, and always includes Angostura, the one non-potable bitters that every bar seems to have.

                Sazerac -- one of the oldest known cocktails, based on rye (originally Cognac) and requiring a comparatively rare non-potable bitters called Peychaud's and a rinse of pastis or (now that it's legal in the States again) absinthe.

                Ramos Fizz -- another really old-school concoction involving gin, cream, lime and lemon juices, sugar, egg white, and the wonderful accent of orange flower water, the fizz coming from a dose of seltzer. Probably the hardest one to find, as it requires considerable care, skill, and time to make properly. Sounds terrible, but it is delicious and refreshing, a superb example of Golden Age cocktail craft.

                Green Point -- one of many variants on the Manhattan/Brooklyn cocktail family, this one involves rye, Punt e Mes (a highly aromatized Italian sweet vermouth), a couple of kinds of bitters, and a bit of Chartreuse, a French liqueur with the flavor of hundreds of botanicals.

                Hope that helps!

              2. re: MC Slim JB

                "...a different type of bartender..."

                The majority of the bartenders in Boston answer their personal phones while working and gained their "followings" by giving away alcohol that doesn't belong to them so as to encourage a bribe tipping "relationship."

                1. re: postemotional1

                  Agreed, there's a lot of bad bartenders in Boston, and the kind of graft and rudeness you mention (you left out criminal behavior, like drug-dealing) is as old as the hills and hardly unique to our city.

                  The "different kind of bartender" I was referring to falls into Tier 1 of my informal bartending-skill taxonomy:

                  Tier 1: top 1%, know how to make a Pegu Club without looking it up, actually know something about the history of the cocktail, and understand that the hospitality component of bartending is just as important as technical chops.

                  Tier 2: maybe 10%, have fine chops, can make quality shaker drinks, but aren't cocktail historians and/or don't work in the sort of bars that carry the necessary obscure ingredients, are serious professionals who deserve respect.

                  Tier 3: the rest: the draft pullers and highball builders who haven't a clue about proper cocktail construction, even if they've mastered a list of flavored-vodka fauxtinis. They serve a purpose, too, even if the demands of their jobs are more workmanlike.

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    The Pegu is one of my favorites. I so want to see it be the next really big thing, I do. It's a glorious cocktail when it's made right.

                    1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                      The problem with the pegu is that when it is bad, which most of the time it is, it is really bad. Similarly I like a good negroni, but the problem is finding a bartender that can make a quality drink.

                      I bartend in central jersey and follow a different style of bartending, one that I hope would catch on. Personally I like a cocktail that plays with my palate and one where you can taste each element of the libation. Subtle flavors always go a long way.

                      The qualified mixologists that are out there have one major flaw to them. They refuse to share recipes out of fear that someone will be recreate their masterpiece and they will receive no credit for it. I share any and every recipe and bit of knowledge in the hope that someone else will benefit and be able to recreate some great works of my own. Then maybe just maybe I will be able to gout and order a cocktail with confidence that it will be made properly.

                      1. re: chris the bartender

                        I hope to have a drink at your bar sometime! Any particular cocktails you've been enjoying lately that meet your criteria of playing with your palate and where you can taste very element?

                        1. re: chris the bartender

                          Chris- I have never had a single problem getting a recipe from any upper tier mixologist. Usually they are more than happy to share. I guess that maybe some of the ones who are struggling to get known may have a problem sharing recipes, but if so I haven't encountered it.

                          1. re: chris the bartender

                            I also have never had a problem with procuring recipes from top tier bartenders. Obviously, you have to frame the question properly. Audrey Saunders herself answered a recipe query of mine once.

                          2. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                            Agreed, had my first Pegu at the Pegu Club, NYC in 2006. I am also big on the Corpse Reviver #2.

                          3. re: MC Slim JB

                            So just for idle local gossip's sake, Slim: what's your opinion of Lolly Mason?

                            Allstonian and I used to make a point of watching her cable access show just to see what insane thing she was going to make this week, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't drink one of her specials on a bet.

                            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                              I'm sorry to admit I have never heard of her. Who is she and what is she about?

                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                I think her period of greatest renown was some years back. Last I knew, she was working at Upstairs on the Square. Early middle age, giant dyed-red hair, wears a lot of black lace and bangles, cute but with a certain mutton-dressed-as-lamb quality.

                                She has/had a show on Channel 23 in Boston, Friday nights at 11:30, called Lolly's Remedies. Mostly consists of her, in her kitchen somewhere in Allston, making the most insane-looking drinks out of sometimes up to a dozen sweet liqueurs and then topped with, like, gummi worms. Seriously. She seems nice enough, but her taste in drinks is utterly bonkers.

                                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                  I think I know this bartender, though I haven't seen her at the Monday Club bar on any of several visits this year. Multi-liqueur drinks: blecch.

                        2. re: MC Slim JB

                          When you refer to flavored vodka based drinks, may I assume you are talking about crap like appletinis and their ilk? I make infused vodkas that I think are much more subtle and have very individual characteristics, like a cardamom/ plum infused or a white peach ginger, or a cherry-cinamon infused. none have any addded sugar, just the natural fruit and spice flavors. I serve them shaken and up, usually with a related fruit garnish. they make great, but unfortunately deadly, summer coolers and the spice ones(like the cumin/fenugreek/ginger/cardamom/mustard seed/nutmeg one) are nice in the winter, the last, served as an aperitif for an Indian meal. there are several restaurant bars that are making their own infusions, though, unfortunately, they seem inclined to mix the infusions with juices or sodas to sweeten or dilute them

                          1. re: chazzerking

                            You are correct: when I say "flavored vodka drinks", I mean rookie junk made with pre-flavored vodkas and sugary liqueurs. Home-infused liquors are another thing entirely: I regularly infuse vodka and other liquors at home myself (see for my post on a cocktail made with a home-infused ginger vodka).

                            I think it's possible to make a well-balanced cocktail even with Stoli-O and its ilk, but that's not generally how they're used in the countless specialty cocktail menus. I guess drinking something chilled, dosed with Pucker, and served in a cocktail glass is a step up from slamming shots of root-beer-flavored Schnapps, but it's a very small step.

                            Likewise, I'm happy to make Cosmos for my grandma: they make her happy and feel like she's "with it". In fact, Cosmos have been my go-to Grandma Drink for about eight years now.

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              I like that, my Grandmother once gave me a flask etched "for those moments you need to be discreet"

                              Here's to with-it and relaxed grandmothers!

                      1. re: foodeye

                        Oh gawd, no kidding! My mother had it over the holidays. And she has just recently moved on from White Zinfandel. 'Nuff said.

                      2. I think that trends can be very helpful when they bring to light things that we may have never thought about drinking before. For me it was the manhattan which I'd considered an "old man" drink. But when it goes the other way and discourages us from drinking certain things that it can be bad (i.e.: "abc" [anything but Chardonnay], the merlot slide after "Sideways").

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Chinon00

                          And the great deals that could be found on actually good merlot just after the slide from Sideways and the lately lamented great deals that could be found on chablis.