Tastes Just Like A…

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Why is it that drinks these days have to taste like some sort of junk food in order to be understood by the average person? Take this little story:

We were at our local dive bar, playing some video golf and having a beer. The bartender, who had obviously been behind the stick for a whole six months, offered us a sample pair of the new shot he had been tirelessly working on all night,

“It’s called a Starburst, because it tastes just like a pink Starburst”

We glanced cautiously at one another and gulped down our pale pink shots. Sure enough, they tasted like pink Starburst candies. At least, I think they did. I haven’t been in a 7-Eleven in a long time, but I’m pretty certain it’s still as brightly-lit and full of miscreants, fake cheese and junk food as it was the last time I was there.

We thanked the barkeep, tipped appropriately, and continued our eighteen holes at Pebble Beach while we discussed the awkward taste in our mouths.

Why is it that cocktails these days have to relate back to junk food? Are we not smart enough to talk about flavors any more, or do drinks just not stand on their own merit any longer? Why, in order to impress a customer or be impressed as a customer, do cocktails have to “taste just like a…”?

Are there people in the world that interact with food like this? “You should try this beef roulade, it taste just like a Big Mac without the bun”

Can you imagine the uproar? Why is this not outrageous when applied to drinks? I gave a sample of Parfait Amour to someone tonight, and she spent a half hour trying to figure out what candy it reminded her of. This is a gorgeous liqueur made from Seville oranges, and she was trying to conjure up the taste of Necco wafers in her mind!

I don’t know. I’d be interested in hearing what you all think.

9 Replies to “Tastes Just Like A…”

  • Ceetar says:

    Liquor is an acquired taste. A lot of people don’t really like the taste of most of them, or think they don’t from memories of doing shots of really really bad Tequila in college. This is probably how they acquired the taste for that crappy beer they’re drinking, through beer pong and other college antics.

    Because of this, a lot of people will jump at the idea of a drink that tastes like something yummy(and sweet) and still can get them drunk.

    But then who am I to judge? My favorite shot is a Chocolate Cake Shot. Of course, there’s never a bad time for chocolate, and I generally try to appreciate most cocktails as long as they don’t have orange juice.

  • Jeffrey says:

    Ceetar, I will agree with you that liquor is an acquired taste. I just think that a lot of people these days don’t try to acquire that taste – they stop at Chocolate Cake Shots.

    I mean, when I see a grown man (and I see this more often than I should) putting down three or four Lemon Drops over the span of a beautiful three-course meal, it makes me really sad.

    Because here’s a guy that’s never going to learn the joy of a before-dinner drink, the beauty of a perfect wine pairing, or the sublime finish of a digestif. All he’s going to know is heartburn and stomach aches, and never understand why.

    Believe me, when I see this I always try to pull out a new drink or an appropriate glass of wine, but more often than not the customer is set on his Lemon Drops.

    It’s just sad to me. Heartburn and stomach aches should never be a part of the dining experience.

  • Smach says:

    Maybe what one is trying to say in comparing a complex flavor, or blend of flavors, with a widely known candy or dessert is “Mmmmm, this is as enjoyable as a …” It’s better than saying “It tastes , um, purple”, right?

  • Dan says:

    I had some friends over the night who are accustomed to cheap beer and ‘mixed drinks’ that consist of a few ounces of Captain Morgans, a whole can of coke, and no ice.

    After we ate dinner I asked if anybody else wanted a drink while I was fixing myself up a Manhattan. A few of them asked what it tasted like, trying to compare it to something they had previously had, but all I had to offer was, “It tastes like a Manhattan and it’s god damn delicious.”

  • Lindsey Mitchell says:

    I completely agree with you on the need to acquire a taste for a decent drink, believe me – there is nothing better then a REAL, TRUE dry martini at cocktail hour.

    Half the time I don’t even go out to bars anymore because of the ‘tastes just like a…’ phenom going on out there…forgive me if I want my vodka, soda to taste like a vodka with soda.

    What happened to the days of Tom Collins’ and Sidecars?

    Damn, now I want a Manhatten.

  • Chuck P. says:

    My comment would be that, like with all things in life, some people just don’t get it. There are too many facets in the diamond of life for everyone to properly appreciate the details in each one. I am sure photography buffs can’t understand why most of us pay $700 for a camera, but take all our pictures using the “Auto” setting because we can’t appreciate all the different settings on the damn thing.

    The best bet is to appreciate what you appreciate and leave everyone else to their own devices. I learned long ago that when I go to the bar and get shots, its woodford on ice for me, and a plastic shot glass of sugar and cheap vodka for everyone else…

    CP

  • Dominik MJ says:

    I think this topic is very controversial!
    The extrems are very clear: candy drinks against distinctive classics – but this is just the tip of the iceberg!

    I confess that I am a dinosaur in bartending. So I would like, that my drinks taste like the base alcohol! I want that the expression is like the ingredients and I prefer a drink with 2 ingredients over a drink with 5 (and a drink with 7 ingredients is absolute inappropriate for me!).

    These adjustments in mixology is giving me headache – this amount of liqueur, plus a dash of syrup, plus a pinch of sugar? That is crappy for me! 2 Liqueurs along with one spirit -> not my direction; 2 spirit in one drink -> Almost impossible (ok, you could use a flavored vodka along with another spirit- but then don’t add an additional syrup).

    My controversial attitude: Mixology shouldn’t be related to much to cuisine – as I see mixology more referring to the profile of wines! Wines have distinctive flavors, and you as consumer has to adapt to this flavor (not vice versa) if you want to drink this respective bottle of wine.

    So an old fashioned tast like rye, so does the Manhattan, a Martini Cocktail taste like gin and a Singapore Sling taste like gin and cherry brandy and so on!

  • canary says:

    as you say in comment above, there is an opportunity for customers “to learn the joy of a before-dinner drink, the beauty of a perfect wine pairing, or the sublime finish of a digestif.”

    why not host (at el vaq) a cocktail-pairing dinner? In the same vein as the currently fashionable wine-pairing dinners.

  • cha-chi says:

    I’ll tell you why we don’t pair cocktails @ dinner… because most of you pussy’s couldn’t handle another.

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