Cocktails are fun. Cocktails are interesting. Cocktails are delicious.
What I like about cocktails—besides their wonderfully various tastes and styles and the relaxation and pleasure that are derived from them, of course—is that cocktails are interesting. Here is a human endeavor that really has little cosmic importance, but that doesn’t stop us thinking primates from spending time and attention and enjoyment with this practice. In fact, the amount of time and attention for some of us is kind of absurd, but then when has that ever stopped anything.
A couple of decades back, on my life timeline marker of turning 40 years of age, friends and family threw a party for me and the gift theme was bourbon and cowboy boots. The latter—the boots–was literally a misstep, but the bourbon marked my serious (if you will) turn of attention to American straight whiskeys. The subtle and not-so-subtle differences among bourbons I found to be quite entertaining, and certainly a lot more fun than plantar fasciitis.
Whiskey interest begat cocktail interest which begat my exploration of other liquors, which begat this blog, which at the moment sounds more like a book of the Old Testament than anything else, but that’s a Liberal Art education for you.
For most of my adult life I worked in publishing, early on as an acquisitions editor in book publishing, and then turning my attention to electronic (or digital or new media or…) publishing, pretty early on, when the potential was boundless. Early on, I was a trade journalist and then editor of various electronic publishing trade periodicals, and then got involved in some start-ups of my own or with others, and I swear I could have been a contender, but like most start-up participants, wasn’t, and then I got into consulting and working as a digital publishing technologies and business practices analyst, and then I figured out that I had advanced beyond my interests.
And then I moved out of Cambridge, MA, to the hills of the Berkshires and re-built a house, built an art studio, and saw the kids off to college and into their young adult lives. At some point my hodge-podge of jobs and schemes—who knew that sculpture and literary writing tends to pay poorly?—were becoming oppressively unproductive economically and I sought regular work.
I started working as a bartender.
I knew that knowing about drinks and mixing cocktails for friends was not the same as bartending, but the Lord loves a fool, apparently, and I developed my bar chops, did fine, got better, and found that I liked the work.
Let me be honest: the vast majority of bars, and especially those within restaurants, are service centers, where servers want the customer’s drink fast, and customers most often want beer or wine or a Cosmos or Manhattan or something many guests call a Martini, by which most mean a glass of vodka or gin served up cold, with a twist or olives. Despite a lot of cocktail talk, cocktails are still largely terra incognito to most alcohol-consuming adults.
It is the bar guest with curiosity that makes the job really fun, and I’m happy to report that cocktail consciousness has expanded across the land. Nothing makes this bartender happier than when a guest is excited to hear about some drink variant, or bitters, or how even bars need to refrigerate vermouths to keep them from oxidizing and tasting lousy, or some part of the history or myth of the Martini. Eventually, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers, grew into significant numbers to suggest that St. Cocktail Day is upon us.
And thus, TalkTails.
I’ll be talking about great cocktails, what makes great cocktails, and how to make great cocktails. I’ll lecture on the humane treatment of vermouth and other fortified wines and aperitifs essential to great cocktails. I’ll celebrate my liking of liqueur, bitters, and glassware in their proper cocktail roles. The real world aspect of cocktail-making—that is, the bar, bartender, and paying customer—is another central focus of my efforts here. Curating other cocktail sites is an important objective here. And my favorite cocktails, and why these are favorites, of course.
And so, welcome. Welcome to another goddamn blog about cocktails.