"I don't have a drinking problem, 'cept when I can't get a drink…"

by Katie Pizzuto on October 23, 2008

in cocktails

It’s comforting to know that no single technological advancement has yet managed to replace the artist who crafts a cocktail. Watching them from my side of the bar is like watching a dance. They grab some ice cubes—real, square, thick ice cubes—and throw them gently into the Boston shaker. In goes the rye, the vermouth and a dash of the bitters, which they stir so as not to cloud my drink. As they put a cherry at the bottom of the chilled glass they acknowledge a second customer that has pulled up next to us and tells him they’ll be with him in a minute (or two, or three). After straining the mixture into the glass, they grab an orange from a big bowl of gorgeously ripe citrus and cut a piece of peel from it. The newcomer is by now intrigued and becomes a sort of voyeur in this dance. They rub the peel around the rim of the chilled glass, leaving a trail of essential oils as they go and then light a match, hold it under the peel, squeeze the peel to release more oil and let the warm droplets fall into the drink. At this point, I’m not only salivating for the first sip of that manhattan, but I’ve also got a crush on the alchemist that has just made me what is most likely the best manhattan I’ve ever had. The glass is placed atop a crisp white napkin in front of me and I manage to remove my gaze from it for just a moment in order to look up at the bartender in gratitude. The perfect elixir—all for me.

The usual problem, however, is that my neighbor winds up asking for something along the lines of “Grey Goose on the rocks with a twist, please.” If there were a cinematic equivalent for this moment in my head, it would be the one where the background music comes to a hault with the painful scratch of a needle on a record, and the din of conversation is silenced as everyone turns and stares. One day, what I would love to hear in response is, “I’m sorry, sir, we don’t serve vodka. Can I get you something else?”

After reading The Craft of the Cocktail by the renowned Dale Degroff several years ago, I was smitten. It was one of those epiphanies that has you tossing out plastic bottles of “sour mix” and “bloody mary mix” at 1:00am vowing to never again give them a home in your refrigerator door. No more, “just add alcohol”! What the hell had I been thinking all these years, anyway? I wouldn’t ever dream of tossing a “sloppy joe mix” can into my ground beef, so what made me think mediocrity was acceptable in a drink? I poo-pooed Tang as a sacreligious substitute for orange juice, and yet I didn’t hesitate to pull a couple of jugs of Jose Cuervo pre-mixed Margarita off the shelves for a party. But I’ve come back from the dark side, and what I don’t get is vodka.

By US law, vodka must be odorless, colorless and tasteless. Basically, it has to be neutral—like Switzerland, I guess. And they filter the ever-loving shit out of it to make SURE it’s got no discernable character. Why the hell would you put that in a cocktail? If its only purpose is to act like it’s not there (other than get you buzzed) why bother? It’s just ethanol! I realize that now they’ve got all kids of faux flavors for vodka, but they’re still just that—fake. So what I’m wondering is, what’s your cocktail of choice? What drink, when properly made, gets you salivating? God, I hope it’s not a vodka and OJ.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Coupe 60 October 23, 2008

Katie, after reading this all I can think of is Tom Cruise in Cocktail (I actually like that movie BTW)….For a while after that movie came out, a friend of mine used to flip bottles in the air while making drinks….

anyway, as I have gotten older, I really have moved away from mixed drinks in general. I have turned into a wine and beer drinker, who will occasionally dabble with Silver Tequila (Patron when I can get it)….


2 Katie Pizzuto October 23, 2008

Oy, I can’t stand people that flip stuff around….forget the acrobatics and give me a good drink! My brother-in-law tended bar and used to flip the bottles too (and because of the movie, as well!), but he’s kind of a bull-in-a-china-shop guy, so they didn’t tolerate that for too long!


3 erikagwen October 23, 2008

Death’s Door Vodka. Needs nothing added.


4 Katie Pizzuto October 24, 2008

What makes it so special, Erika? I’m curious!


5 Alexander October 24, 2008

Never been a HUGE cocktail guy. I don’t think there’s anything more feminine than ordering a Martini or a Manhattan. Pardon my chauvinism, but those just aren’t manly drinks…and I will always have a snide remark that I utter under my breath to those around me, if I ever witness a man ordering some manicured drink. Truth be TOLD, while most of this blog is devoted to the fine art of wine….I, myself, am a devout beer connoisseur. And I don’t mean that Miller Light, Budweiser, Corona, Heineken crap. I mean the good stuff….preferably American, English, or Irish brewed. Give me the choice between two rebels…a perfectly crafted Rob Roy, or a beautifully poured pint of Sam Adam’s Oktoberfest (with that perfect one inch of head on the top)…and I will take the latter 999 times out of 1000.

Speaking of Sam Adams, has anyone out there tried Utopia??? Its really expensive and only limited quantities are released yearly (usually around Xmas time), but I am dying for some. It is basically “oak barrell-aged” beer, like the Gregorian monks used to make while they chanted!! LOL. Mmmmmmm-mmmmmmmm!!!!


6 Katie Pizzuto October 24, 2008

Perhaps it’s the glass a martini/manhattan is served in that makes it appear feminine to you, Alex? Cuz the drink itself is certainly powerful enough to “put hair on your chest”. And speaking of beers, I happened to mention in a previous post that one of my favorite concoctions this time of year is Sam’s Cherry Wheat combined with Chocolate Stout for an amazing autumn black & tan.

As for the Utopia, haven’t tried it, but I have tried Sam’s Triple Bock (back in 1995 I think) and that was also aged in old oak whiskey barrels. Didn’t impress at all….it was a sugary, dark, soy sauce kind of beverage. Really thick, no carbonation at all. Can’t imagine what it would taste like now if you could still find any. My suggestion would be not to spend the money and wait for someone else to take the bait…then try theirs!


7 Alexander October 24, 2008

Absolutely its perception!! You never would’ve seen Cool Hand Luke order a Manhattan. Nothing pleases me more than looking down my nose at some dude sitting their with a piece of fruit in their drink. First thing that comes to my mind is….”I can take THAT guy in a fight”…LOL. Its just not done in the male world. Can any guys out there back me up on this?


8 Alexander October 24, 2008




9 Katie Pizzuto October 24, 2008

Well, I think my hubby might have something to say about it….no fruit in his drink, but he does love his mojitos, and that’s got droopy mint in it! Hey may almost be 38, but he’s as mean as he is strong 😉


10 erikagwen October 24, 2008

Katie- I don’t know if you can get Death’s Door where you are. I’m not sure of their distribution… Anyway, the vodka (and their gin) is made from locally grown (Washington Island, WI) ingredients and has a nice smooth almost sweet flavor.


11 Chris Walker October 24, 2008

Katie: I’m pretty sure I’m in love with you, although we’ve never met.

My “salivation” cocktail is a Negroni however; I’ve been indulging in the Aviation lately. You just have to make sure your bar has Luxxardo.


12 Katie Pizzuto October 24, 2008

@Chris….wow, nothing like flattery on a Friday! I love the Negroni…a classic, but have never heard of the Aviation….clue us in!! (and yeah, I’ve got Luxxardo…brought it back from a trip to Italy).


13 Chris Walker October 24, 2008

After leaving my comment I just read the other comments. People never cease to amaze.

First of all, I want to know what “Silver” tequila is. I’ve heard of blanco, reposado, and anejo. But silver, what is that? Oh, it must be a dumbed down American term.

Second, a Manhattan isn’t manly? Are you kidding me? Since when? A Manhattan is undoubtedly manly, whether in a cocktail glass or a highball. Babies drink Sam Adam’s Oktoberfest. Men drink whiskey or classic cocktails made with whiskey, and they don’t type “LOL”.

And while I’m at it, I’m not so appalled by vodka on the rocks as I am Cosmopolitans and Lemon Drops, you want to talk about abominations. Vodka serves it’s purpose in airport bars and on long plane rides. And that’s about it.


14 Chris Walker October 24, 2008

An Aviation is two ounces gin, half an ounce Luxxardo (or any maraschino liqueur), half an ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Shaken and served in one of these evidently faggy cocktail glasses. Twist of lemon optional.


15 Katie Pizzuto October 24, 2008

Sounds salivation-worthy to me! Will give that a dance in my glass tonight with an extra dose of testosterone….thanks Chris.


16 Coupe 60 October 24, 2008

@chris: I am very happy that I amaze you by simply using a products name:


I guess us dumb Americans aren’t smart enough to go assigning it fancy other terms such as blanco, reposado, and anejo…we just stick to the product name

You are obviously way smarter and more manly than I(as I have on occasion ordered a Sam’s Oktoberfest) so it is a good thing that you love Katie…

cheers mate…


17 Chris Walker October 24, 2008

Coupe 60: Thank you. I’m very much aware of what Patron Silver is.

Blanco, reposado, and anejo aren’t fancy terms, those are just the different types of tequila, traditionally. My comment wasn’t really meant to be an insult directed at you, more so at Patron and their marketing.

Basically, Patron is to Mexicans what Fosters beer is to Australians. They don’t drink it.


18 Jazzy October 30, 2008

Cocktail of choice? Hmmm, I usually opt for a Pomegranate martini, but I only drink Effen vodka…it has a much smoother taste.


19 Jean October 31, 2008

I have to agree with Chris; the Negroni is the way to go. So much depth and complexity from 3 ingredients! The Americano is a great way to go as well, especially for an aperitif.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: