Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Historic Tuning Temperaments and Classic Cocktails

Interesting thought about cocktails today. Part of the reason that classic and historic cocktails call me is for their history - for the same reason that early music called me. Doing tiki tropicals properly and doing classic and prohibition-era cocktails properly is about taking them on their own terms - understanding them in context. Understanding what they ACTUALLY TASTED like and what the fuss was all about - and recreating them using those tools to recreate the experience. It is precisely the same thing as stringing with gut strings, playing a theorbo, or using a pre-equal temperament tuning. To hear Lully played on period instruments, at the correct pitch and temperament, and with period phrasing is a powerful time machine, as passionate as can be imagined. To taste an Aviation or (other historic classic) with just the perfect measure of violette and maraschino, and the correct sort of gin, will take an interesting and new-to-you cocktail to the WOW place. Lully played by a Wagnerian orchestra just is not the same experience.

It is also important to remember that these things, while taking their lead from understanding their beginnings, can also take on a life of their own. In order to fully understand how to create cocktails based on classics, one must first understand the classics themselves. We have people like Dale DeGroff and Jeff Beachbum Berry to thank for laying the groundwork of our understanding - many tedious long years of tasting questionable experiments have lent themselves to a publishable history - one that I personally am very thankful for! Cocktail innovation is everywhere, and there are many methods to approach such endeavors, but starting with understanding their history and construction, in my approach, is key. One can create a glorious thing by taking a good Aviation, adding a passionate amount of *this* or *that,* and a new cocktail is born. It won't be an Aviation, but some of your most treasured classics have begun this way.

Raise a glass! I'll see YOU there!

-- Suzanne


  1. I have been harping on this as well (harping!). For instance, 'key' limes were the limes used pre WW-II. They were called "Limes." The modern Persian varietal wasn't readily available. Likewise with White Grapefruit -- the Duncan was "Grapefruit" of the era. Pinks didn't come into play until later.

    My Motto is "KNOW your ingredients." I mean KNOW -- and that means in context of the times as well.

    This post made my day.

  2. Thanks, Craig. You're awesome too! Next time we're both in the same place, let's have some cocktails and harp all about it.