This is a guest post by Eric Jeffus
Few of us are born with a taste for the subtle charms of a properly mixed cocktail — that bewitching alchemy between spirits, aromatized wines, citrus juices and sweetened liqueurs. I remember being pleasantly surprised in college when someone handed me a 7 and 7, a simple concoction of Seagram’s Seven Crown Blended Whiskey and 7-Up. Thus began my own spirituous journey. Over the years, I paddled innocently around the shallow end of the cocktailian pool: Midori Sours featured heavily, and, up until a couple years ago, I was still drinking Amaretto Sours and feeling pretty badass. But as my fascination with the culinary world deepened, I realised that I needed to step up my game in the area of alcohol. I owed that much to myself. But where to start? The vast tapestry of cocktails can be intimidating to an outsider, and it may seem all too tempting to just sidestep the issue and order a vodka tonic — those are good enough, right?
Depending on your goal, maybe so. If you just want to get drunk without truly tasting the alcohol responsible, then sure, a vodka tonic will do the trick. But if you care to savor the unique flavour of a hand-crafted spirit, each variety of which has its own unique character and nuances, then somehow you need to cultivate a taste for alcohol. It’s not necessarily going to come as second nature; our ancestors nicknamed their newly discovered spirits aqua ardens, or “flaming water,” for a reason — the stuff has a heat all its own that demands our respect.
But no one’s asking you to knock back shots of Wild Turkey and still-burning crucibles of Bacardi 151. Honestly, didn’t you do enough of those in college? (Some of us have the burns to prove it.) Hell, half of the inspiration for the Cocktail — which, before it became a generic term for mixed drinks, originally signified a specific combination of spirits, water, sugar and bitters; the Old-Fashioned, muddled fruit notwithstanding, more or less follows that ancient formula — was to tame the alcohol’s fire, if only slightly, and render it more palatable.
So let’s talk cocktails. And not Flirtinis, Chocotinis, or whatever other sickly-sweet, neon-tinged “-tinis” they’re making these days in those bars. Let’s talk real cocktails — small but strong, complex and balanced drinks meant to be imbibed quickly, before they become too warm. (No 14-ounce glasses here.) The classics that have survived the centuries — the oldest cocktails are almost 200 years old — by the benefit of their timeless elegance and panache. (To say nothing of their ability to lay you flat.) I’ve studied vintage cocktails, their history and philosophy, their whys and wherefores, and become ensorcelled by their subtlety and checkered past.
In future articles I intend to share that sorcery with you good people, so you can stride up to a bar and order with the confidence and knowledge of a connoisseur. You wouldn’t be reading Drink Up Columbus if you didn’t love the drink; all of us here surely do. Don’t you want to learn more about the things you love?