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The Myths of the Bar, Debunked

on 19/12/11 at 1:39 pm

Booze News

EDUCATING the average drinker on the qualities of firewater, and how to best enjoy it, has been one of the central credos of the new generation of mixologists. “Knowledge!” they cry, as they throw back shots of Fernet-Branca.

But some booze-addled misconceptions continue to cling to the lizard brain of the American tippler. An army of bartenders can protest that a wetter martini is both more delectable and historically accurate, but certain committed fanciers of the cocktail, channeling their inner Gray Flannel Suit, will still maintain the drink attains perfection only at its driest, when vermouth is banished from the barroom.

Such antiquated contentions are like “nails on a chalkboard,” said Eric Alperin, an owner of the Varnish in Los Angeles. “I think the reason people stand by those myths is because it is a sound bite they’ve acquired, and a bar is a place to feel confident with yourself and exude a little know-how.”

Many reinforce a drinker’s virility, particularly with regard to the most manly of spirits — whiskey.

Some of those idées fixes:

OLDER IS BETTER “It’s absolute nonsense,” said Ronnie Cox, director of the Glenrothes, a Speyside Scotch. “It’s not about oldness, it’s about maturity. Age doesn’t mean anything other than that whiskey’s been in that cask for that amount of time.” Making whiskey requires finding the right balance among myriad elements. A few whiskeys prosper with advanced age, but many fall off a cliff into sensory disharmony at a certain point. Rittenhouse Rye 100, from Kentucky, takes only four years to reach the chewy, spicy sweet spot bartenders swear by. But the Old Pulteney 21-year-old Scotch probably needed to attain drinking age to hit its briny perfection.

Tonia Guffey, a bartender at Dram in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, offered an anthropomorphic analogy. “Not every human hits their peak of beauty at the same age,” she said, “and neither does every spirit.”


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