What Makes a Cocktail Snob so Obnoxious?

brown apr3 snobs.jpg

Photo by savvyhousekeeping.com


I have to admit, albeit begrudgingly, that it is sometimes those with the most distinctive tastes--and sometimes the most abrasive attitudes--that make us better bartenders. I'm talking about snobs. It's their insistence on attention to the finest details, their unrealistic notion of what is possible behind the bar, and their singular expression of taste that assure we will work twice as hard, twisting over backwards in some slinky-like stair crawl to meet their expectations. That is, if we make the effort and don't dismiss them out of hand.

Take the example of David Embury, famous cocktail snob, who wrote the much-revered bartender's guide The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, first published in 1948. He was never a bartender, and it shows. His recipes are frequently too boozy or tart, his insistence on certain products or procedures obscure.

Try making his absurd Sidecar recipe (eight parts brandy to two parts lemon and one part triple-sec) and you will find yourself choking down a glass of brandy with a dash of orange liqueur and lemon juice.

At the section opener on the Sidecar, he chides:

This cocktail is the most perfect example I know of a magnificent drink gone wrong.

Cocktail-savvy editors should have asked him to move this sentence to the end of the section.

Yet because of this one line and the subsequent recipe, I have made a heroic effort to study the proportions and best his recipe. It pushed me to explore various recipes and evaluate each one separately. If one takes it in the right spirit, snobs become connoisseurs and their solipsism appears to stem from the dictum: know thyself.

Here's my own Sidecar recipe:

2 oz. brandy
1 oz. Cointreau
½ oz. lemon juice
Combine ingredients, shake, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This is still a little tart, and some might prefer to serve it with a sugared rim.

Presented by

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He sits on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail. More

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He travels throughout the country and around the world in search of great drinks, and the stories behind them. Derek's methodical approach to cocktails was profiled in the Wall Street Journal's "A Master of Mixological Science" and his martini lauded as the best in America by GQ. He's been in numerous media outlets featuring his approach to better drinking, including CNN, The Rachel Maddow Show and FOX. Derek is a founding member of the D.C. Craft Bartender's Guild and on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Health

Just In