BarCode: take the cue.

The janitor is rusty.  I just got back from a working vacation, put in a massive order Monday afternoon, and was then happily surprised with some sweet tickets to the Nuggets game Monday evening. Tuesday was a day of laundry, recovery, and book keeping at the restaurant, and tonight I return to being behind the stick again for the first time in over a week.  It has been too long, dear barspoon, since I have twiddled you with my fingers. Alas, before I digress and start monologuing, I wish to share some insight from my drinking adventures over the past week.

1. Taste your drink before modifying it. My companion ordered a gimlet at a respectable Manhattan cocktail joint and was surprised (somewhat dismayed) that it wasn’t garnished with a piece of lime. She was ostensibly worried that it wouldn’t be sour. After suggesting that she at least taste it, she declared that it was perfect.  It made me realize the number of times that I see patrons squeeze that chunk of lemon or lime into their drink without tasting it first.  I wonder if they are as pleased with the balance after modifying it than before.

2. One of this janitor’s biggest peeves is the use and abuse of straws, or swizzle sticks.  In a perfect world a Gin and Tonic would be given a brief stir before being served so the guest does not have to complete the cocktail on their own accord, it should arrive pristine, and ready to go. Scotch and Soda should not be sipped through a straw, it’s not milk.  The assumed rule and understanding, in a good bar, if you are given a straw with your drink, there is a good chance that the drink was designed to be drunk through the straw.

Case-in-point

Title: Queen’s Park Swizzle (aka, proof that God loves us)

Glass: Tall Collins

Ingredients:

  • 2.5oz Demerara Rum (El Dorado is the only one available in Colorado. Jamaican will work in a pinch)
  • 0.5oz Fresh Lime
  • 0.5oz Rich Simple Syrup
  • 8-10 Awesome sprigs of mint, some reserved for garnish.
  • Angostura/Peychaud’s bitters

Method: Lightly press the mint in the base of the glass with the sugar and lime, add rum and allow to marinate. Grab your lewis bag, fill it with fresh ice, and pulverize it into beautiful flakes of snow.  Add the crushed ice to your glass and insert your spoon into the glass, Rapidly swizzling until the glass frosts and is rapidly chilled. Take your bitters and dash heavily on the top, adding a bit more crushed ice, and finally garnish with 2 bloomed mint sprigs and a straw.

As you can see this drink is beautiful, truly a work of art. You have the multiple bands of color and flavor and it’s primed to stimulate all of your senses. You lean into the drink and inhale deeply, the cinnamon, ginger, and anise from the bitters mingle with the fresh, vibrant mint. Subtle hints of molasses waft forward from the rum.  You sip deeply from the straw inhaling, and you are rewarded with a burst of complex flavors, the smells of the bitters and mint being compounded with the heavier molasses notes from the rum, all of it brightened with the small dose of lime.  It’s cold, thanks to the crushed ice chilling and frosting the glass. Bracing and complex, you feel refreshed, the last couple of slurps through the straw taste slightly of the bitters leaving your palate clean and refreshed. You are left with a feeling of ‘more-ish’ you want something more, something new, or another of the same. Your knees feel a little weak, you slink back into the chair, your tired shoulders relax from the long week and you let out a deep, sub-conscious sigh. Welcome to swizzle-nirvana.

OR. You take that straw, and mash that beautiful garnish in to the glass, mixing up the bitters and the lines like a ham-fisted dolt.  Taking the straw out of the glass cause only dainty lasses use straws you tilt the glass up to your face like the butch bro-hahn that you are.  You swiftly get a mouthful of bitters with some of the crushed ice bumping into your face.  You awkwardly look around at everyone.  Your palate is searing from the mouthful of bitters that you just took, you just don’t get why this should taste good. The bartender said it would remind you of a mojito in some ways. It tastes like post-marathon-swamp-ass and you curse the bartender for pouring you such a shitty drink. You want your money back and are definitely going to go on Yelp, ranting about this shitstorm of a bartender, can’t even make a ‘goddamn drink’ you say. You think this bartender is going to make you drink a fucking boat drink? You show him, and pound that shit cause that’s what you did in college. You struggle through this swamp water concoction staring in disbelief as your dining companions are rolling their eyes back in pleasure and rapture. You just don’t get it. You are that guy who’s Medium-well-fuck-all steak ‘tasted a little dry.’ Don’t be that guy.

Functional garnish kids.  That 151-proof Lemon-hart float on the top of your tiki drink? That shit’s for aroma, not flavor. Massive beautiful sprigs of mint on your mint julep? Aroma, Sip it through the straw: your drink is going to be 78% more minty* if you can smell mint and taste mint at the same time.

*This fact is not meant to be factual at all.  The only scientific experiments conducted are the countless juleps consumed by your janitor here. KellyPinkPants probably has more factual evidence as far as the volume that we taste with our tongue vs. the volume tasted with our sense of smell.  Mint doesn’t taste like much, clamp your nose shut and go chew on some.  Taste’s like …. meh.  But smell some fresh mint. Oh the glories, that’s what garnish is all about.

About Kevin Burke


Kevin is an occasional barman and fulltime practitioner of the Janitorial Arts at Colt & Gray.

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