On Saturday, I happened to listen in on a conversation at the market about someone’s fairly ridiculous suggestion for creating some sort of weird meat/bourbon/breakfast infused cocktail. I’m also skeptical that other than pure alcoholics, who would want to start their day with a sausage and egg cocktail? And then yesterday, I saw this article on boston.com detailing how there is a smoked salmon vodka coming from Alaska.
Honestly, I’m torn. Part of me says the exploration of flavor is exciting in the right doses and for the proper purposes. I am very principled when it comes to being open and trying new things, so I am extremely open to progressive combinations. I really like savory, refreshing and adventurous cocktails (which by the way, will be featured at CUESA’s July 7th Savory Cocktail event. Free plug for a cool sounding event, tickets here. You’re welcome.) But frankly, a lot of the weird protein shit going on with spirits sounds disgusting. I’ve had bacon infused whisky and other forms of savory cocktails, but I’ve never ventured past a small sip. And, I’m not sure there are many patrons in this world who walk into the bar looking for a bacon or salmon drink.
The idea of a protein based cocktail (as noted in the article) is most prevalent in different variations of the Bloody Mary (clam juice being the common ingredient), but I’d argue the clam juice is only a minor supporting character in the makeup of the drink. I’m not even sure if some recipes call for it.
If we were to apply some sort of cross/reverse engineering to the idea of a meat-based spirit, we should look at how spirits/alcohol are traditionally approached in cooking. I’d say that for 98% of the time, the process in which spirits/wine are used in cooking requires that most of alcohol component be cooked off – accenting the primary flavors of the spirit. I’m pretty confident veal stock in whiskey or slices of smoked salmon sitting in cold vodka aren’t particularly pleasing.
Looking beyond the gimmick, is there a measurable quality to the spirit? Much like any other flavored vodka, there is no sense in discerning any type of quality/craftsmanship to the spirit when there is no standard to its creation. Spirits seem to often be judged on being nuanced and accentuated by their creation process, subtle ingredients, complex (and elegant) flavor, skill or patience used to craft them. But, when you produce an item that doesn’t necessarily need to identify with any of those elements, is there really any value to the cocktail it produces? Is there a point to drink a meaty bourbon cocktail when the primary qualities of bourbon are robbed by the overwhelming flavor of bacon? Please don’t let this be the Zoobas-pant trend of 2010.
I think the exploration for interesting and balanced flavors makes a lot of sense whether they are savory or sweet, but I’d caution on the pretentious overindulgence and culinary masturbation associated with trying to force fit flavors like they were triangular pieces into a square hole.