The Art of Mixology
"Breakfast at Tiffany’s." "Casablanca." "The Godfather." These are generally recognized as classic movies titles, but in more recent years, these films' vintage influence has inspired the names of classic craft cocktails.
The development of mixology has transformed one man’s recreation into another man’s occupation. Just as a sommelier specializes in the aspects of wine, mixologists create craft cocktails through a conscious process.
Mixology, a craft popularized by Dale "King Cocktail" DeGroff in his book "The Craft of the Cocktail," is a drink phenomenon that calls for craftsmanship and interesting taste blending in the craft of cocktail-making.
To understand the psychology of mixology, it's important to step inside the mind of a mixologist.
Chad Elsner, 37, is a sommelier and a mixologist who has worked in the food and beverage industry for 20 years. When crafting a cocktail, Elsner aims to cater to the wants and needs of the spirit.
"The formula I use asks two easy questions: what does it want and what does it need?" Elsner said. "What does it want is asking what aromas, flavors, textures etc will complement the ingredient. What does it need is all about balancing the ingredient to make the cocktail taste good."
He went on to talk about the difference of ingredients in his drinks.
"If the ingredient is a particularly oak-forward whiskey for example, I might find it pairs well with cinnamon or clove," he said. "If the ingredient is a sweet syrup, acid or bitters would be a good way to even out an ingredient which could be cloying without a balancing agent."
He said achieving a successful cocktail focuses on finding balance. Mixed drinks are not a new concept, but mixology puts a new spin on classic oldies. Trends within mixology are a constant outlet for creativity.
"Trends are huge in the mixology world and one that's popular now is paying homage to the 1950s tiki trend," Elsner said. "Rum-based cocktails with sweeteners like Velvet Falernum and exotic juices are in most high-end cocktail bars now."
These drinks have received a reputation by some for being pretentious because of their complex content.
"Craft cocktails don't necessarily have to involve 50 ingredients or syrup made from Norwegian whale vomit," Elsner said. "A well-made margarita is still a craft cocktail when made properly and with fresh ingredients."
The Phoenix Public Market Café, at the corner of Pierce Street and Central Avenue, offers eight cocktails that are $5 during happy hour, which is 3 p.m. to close.
Dominic Armstrong, 25-year-old-bartender at this downtown Phoenix café, said creating cocktails is about "bringing what people see in their environment onto their plate and into their glass."
Franchises like TGI Fridays, and privately owned restaurants like Citizen Public House have recognized this growing trend and incorporated permanent craft cocktails into their daily menus.
Some of the consumer market also makes judgement on the prices of the cocktails.
"Quality carries a price tag," Elsner said. "Fine clothes, fancy cars and great wine all cost more than their cheap counterparts, and cocktails are no different."
So what is the lure of these craft cocktails over a simple vodka soda?
For Braden Apana, 24-year-old bartender at The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Scottsdale, exploring the craft of the cocktail is not only a job but a passionate hobby. He agrees that the difference comes down to the quality.
"When you drink a glass of hand-squeezed grapefruit juice versus a can, there is an astronomical difference," Apana said
The standards for better quality ingredients have changed the game. The new rules require a conscious decision to appreciate the details in fabric.
"Everything makes a difference, you just have to be willing to notice it," Apana said.
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