Creation vs Curation of drinks or “If it aint broke, don’t fix it”
How many different riffs on a Manhattan or a Negroni have you had in your lifetime? If you’re reading this, then you probably have at least a passing interest in mixed drinks so the chances of that number being fairly significant are quite high.
It’s a testament to the infinite creativity and adventurous nature of our industry that of the thousands and thousands of drinking holes in this city alone, each one (with the exception of copy and paste chain bars, there’s a place for these, I’m not knocking them) offers at least something different from the place next door when it comes to their drinks offering.
I know for a fact I’ve tasted countless twists on just about every classic imaginable, some of which have been very good and some which have been frankly, horrible. The question that I would like to pose to you here, is this: How often is the new twist as good, or even more unusual, better than the original? And why, if the template drink is so much better, would a weird twist make it onto a menu and the original is nowhere to be seen?
There are of course some exceptions to this rule, a blue Margarita is factually better than a normal one, because, well, it’s blue. And a crème de banane-hattan is another story altogether. But these aside, sometimes sticking to the tried-and-tested drinks is an infinitely smarter way of working than consistently aiming to innovate, where innovation isn’t needed.
Case in point: Recently, we got to write a menu in conjunction with another excellent bartender (He’ll know who he is if he reads this, and will thoroughly enjoy being called excellent) and on said menu, other bartender and I wanted to do a riff on a vodka espresso (espresso martini to the rest of you).
What we came up with was a drink that involved Barbadian rum, that delicious dark cherry syrup from Luxardo’s worldie maraschino cherries and fresh, dark espresso. We put it over ice in a rocks glass to further differentiate it from its heritage, and threw a cherry in as a garnish for good measure.
The resulting drink, provided you made it with care and didn’t overdo the cherry was definitely tasty. But ultimately, however, it came off of the menu, only to be replaced by the original vodka espresso – a whole day’s development usurped by the very base drink that we had started with. A drink which costs less to make, has the benefit of familiarity (so sells itself) and is much, much easier to balance well. Put simply – it’s the perfect drink for that particular bar/restaurant, and in this context, it is better in almost every way.
Now the point of this article isn’t to throw water on the flames of creativity in the bar industry, quite the opposite. The lesson here is that there is a skill in knowing when to innovate, just as much as there is skill in innovation itself. The bartender’s job should be equal parts creation and curation, with a dash more of one or a pinch more of another when the situation calls for it.
Don’t turn down the perfect drink for your venue or your next menu just because someone’s done it before. If your guests are already familiar with a drink or an idea you want to do, then impress them with how well you do it rather than the scope of your creativity and save the crazy, cutting-edge stuff for when it’s appropriate.
You’ll find that writing menus and choosing drinks becomes a lot easier and the results will be better if you don’t expect every item on your menu to be ground-breaking. You should always, however, expect every item to be delicious.
We hope you enjoyed reading our little weekly rant, don’t forget, you don’t have to do all of this stuff yourself – you can always get us down to do it for you. All of the details can be found on other parts of the site, so have a look around and get in touch with us @copperpotbar across social media or email me directly – email@example.com.
We look forward to hearing from you.