No, it is not an oxymoron, but rather a trend I’ve been noticing. And, I’d like to add, loving. Culinary cocktails, I’ve dubbed them. They are cocktails which are really culinary masterpieces. Drinks with the subtle nuances and hidden complexities of a great glass of wine, crafted with the skill of a fabulous chef.
More and more, as I go out to eat where I might have before ordered wine to go with my meal, I find myself thinking that a masterly crafted cocktail is the more appropriate way to go. Did I mention that choosing and pairing a cocktail is so much easier than dredging through and endless and mystifying wine list?
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend a cocktail crawl. I happen to be blessed, as Seattle is well endowed with fabulous artists of the cocktailing persuasion, and I got the chance to sample their wares. But the comparison to top notch chefs was truly cemented when I was at happy hour at a different, high-end, newish restaurant which did not have such a master behind the bar. My drink, I sipped it, it was, well, okay. Oh, the flavors described were there, but the magic of joining together and packing a delicious punch was missing. Instead of enhancing my food and experience, it detracted.
A good cocktail, like a good meal, requires top notch ingredients and skill by both the person creating the dish (drink) and the person assembling it. Like any food, a great cocktail can make you look at a formerly disliked ingredient and make you love it in a new context. I’ve never been a whiskey drinker (sorry Kate!) but I’ve come to appreciate its presence in my cocktails, as it loans the appropriate mixing flavors to many of the cocktails I love.
As the cocktail becomes more and more prevalent and restaurants make sure to employ a person behind the bar with the skill to match their skill in the kitchen, I think we’ll see it following in the footsteps of wine as our hallowed drink of choice at high-end restaurants.