More than any other drink, the cocktail is about attitude. In this hyper-branded world of beer and ready-to-drink mixes, the cocktail still sticks out for its lack of logo. Yet traditional use of glassware and garnishes are signals to everyone else that you’ve got something special in your hand.
Colour is important too. The pinkish hues of the Cosmopolitan scream “pay attention me!” whereas the icy transparency of the martini imply sophistication.
If the advertising people are right, and our drinks say something about who we are, then cocktails can be the closest indication of who you are at a particular moment in time. It’s just a matter numbers and choosing the most appropriate drink. Consider the following:
Bob always drinks beer, and given a choice he’ll always drink Heineken. Most of the time that’s fine since most of Bob’s friends drink beer too. But when he finds himself at a wedding – he’s The Guy Who Drinks Beer All the Time – particularly noticeable in the raised forests of flutes during toasting time.
The fancy suit and the freshly ironed shirt. Even carefully chosen tie all go form part of the glamor of the occasion. Bob’s beer is sticks out. It makes a statement, but perhaps not in the intended direction.
When I was younger, I used to joke that cocktails were an excuse to be pretentious. Then I met some wine snobs and I had to revise my thinking. Cocktails are a way to stand from the sea of Bobs. Make no mistake when you order a cocktail you are making a statement.
The Right Time
A cocktail isn’t always the answer. Sometimes politeness and consideration to your surroundings are more important. Especially if we are joining Bob and his friends for a drink at their local pub. And sometimes, after the grass has been cut, but before the barbecue has been lit, a beer is the only way to go.
But then there are those times when ritual and ceremony almost demand something special. The fictional champion of the cocktail James Bond had an instinctual feel for when that was and when he drinks his martini, he does it with attitude.
Cocktails, despite their American heritage, play in the same elitist world as fine dining and fine wine. This is world where service and presentation are still intimately intertwined with the experience. Unlike a white table clothed service though, a cocktail won’t set you back a couple of hundred dollars. It’s not however something you want to order if you are counting your pennies. You can buy an awful lot of beer for the $15 that got you that tiny little glass with several ounces liquor. But that spectacularly misses the point. If you want to get your money’s worth out of that cocktail, you really need to buy into the whole sophisticated attitude. You need a cocktail attitude. Awake those taste buds!
Cocktail as Theater
One way to think of your cocktail experience is as a performance. There are three actors: the bartender, the patron(you), and the critic (your taste buds). You and the bartender set the scene when you make the order. It all starts when you say you’d like a cocktail. What you ask for and they way you ask for it will have an outcome as to how happily it will end. The first act is all about the bartender, when he’s making your drink, it’s his show – it’s all about him. If you are lucky, and it’s a slow night, you might get him to tell you a little bit about what he’s doing.
Somebody just made you a drink! It’s the second act it’s all about you. This moment will not be repeated. Trust us, it’s a zen thing – you can’t have the same cocktail twice. But never mind that your drink is now� getting steadily warmer and less enjoyable. It’s important that you have an opinion on the drink but depending on the circumstance you might not have a speaking part. A nod and raised eyebrow are sometimes all that are necessary. Let the bartender know you appreciate their efforts – it’s just good manners.
As you and your bartender part ways (and cash) consider this fact: You are different. You’ve got what nobody else has and for the exact moment, all things going well. You’ve got the best drink in the house. All bets are off if everyone else is drinking cocktails – and then a good time should be guaranteed and you don’t need this website.
Of course part of the attitude is prentending that you do this all the time and practise makes perfect.