Nov 29, 2006

The Sad Fate of the Bartender's Ingenuity


Bartenders are often treated like the rock stars of blue collar hospitality, falling somewhere between celebrity chefs and celebrity restaurant owners. Customers want to get into both our pants and our good graces. So why, then, do they balk when we offer them the unfamiliar—our own personal cocktail concoction?

My pop sent me an article published in today's NY Times titled Knock It, Then Try It (try BugMeNot if you need to register to read it). In it, columnist Pete Wells laments this very phenomenon and suggests that perhaps it has something to do with the fact that bartenders often create drinks from scary ingredients.

There might be some truth to this. When I was bartending, I had so many different liquors, liqeuers and mixers at my disposal that it seemed like a shame not to experiment. My regulars regularly received the fruits of my labors, sometimes to their chagrin. But every now and then I hit, and hit big. I remember a concoction one of my regulars dubbed The Lifesaver: Absolut Melon, cranberry and orange juices, and a splash each of grenadine and grapefruit juice. Or something like that—after a few of those, my memory got fuzzy.

But it's the grown-up cocktails—the ones featuring booze that puts hair on your chest, like gin or tequila—that customers shy away from. And it's too bad, because these are often the best of the bunch. Elegant, assembled with care, demanding an expert's light touch to balance the flavors, these cocktails would make Dale DeGroff proud. Yet every night they slip quietly away into the shadows, slipping behind the speedrail never to be sipped again. And all because of a scared clientele.

In honor of all those unsung heroes of mixology who've created unappreciated masterpieces, I give you The Green Lantern, a lil' sip of heaven I created one gray afternoon while behind the bar. It's nothing earth-shattering, but it's rather soothing and so I suspect it will never catch on.

The Green Lantern

1 1/4 oz. Tanqueray gin
3/4 oz. green Chartreuse
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Serve straight up in a chilled cocktail glass with an ever-so-slight splash of soda. Garnish with a twist.

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