SpotLight: Cocktails of Origin.
By Sarah Muxlow ~ weekly column exclusive at 4Hoteliers.com.
Wednesday, 12th July 2006
I had to wonder how many applications were received in response a recent job offer advertising a salary of 100 000$US per year to work as a cocktail consultant.

The job description entails researching the cocktail culture across the US and writing a twice yearly report on trends, with an emphasis on vodka based beverages.  

We're living in a drinking generation of mixing our drinks and moving toward a tendency of increasing the alcohol content per glass. Hence cocktails are back in fashion. It's not that they ever went out but few classic ever make it to classic status. The Harvey Wallbanger, Singapore Sling, Tom Collins and Bloody Mary are around to stay and remain the basis for new inventions.

Speculating for a moment on the impact of this rising trend, the current increased consumption of spirits and wine has lead to decreased beer sales. In response to the slump, beers are becoming ‘extreme beers', in a bid to appeal to cocktail drinkers. Adding liquor blends to the original recipe, the alcohol content of ‘extreme beers' can be as high as 25%.

It is fair to say that it is a crude assumption that cocktail drinkers crave the high levels of alcohol. Frequently the drinker's image is distorted by the underage guzzling of pre-mixed bright coloured substances, simply to get drunk. The mass market drinkers, who at times are irresponsible, are not necessarily drinking to appreciate the unusual. But they will buy and buy some more.

The contemporary image has cheapened the Cocktail experience in order to make it accessible even if not appreciated. Drinking houses, whether pubs, clubs or bars are rated by many drinkers on what range of products they sell. Their promotional strategies push the pre-mixed beverages at happy hours and on special nights.

However, the cocktail lounge is re-emerging and fighting its way from underneath the ‘happy hour' pre-mixed bottled sugary fizz. The Cocktail lounge, has fashion and style, cigar smoke, music and clients with appropriate dress. The Cocktail scene suggests extravagance not low key.

Fresh cocktails require bar staff with skill and mixed liquors are a price. Mixing the right quantities requires the right equipment. Laws exist in many countries on the strict measuring of several top shelf drinks. Whilst establishments offer a wide variety of in-house made cocktails, what is essential are good base ingredients of fresh fruit and juice. Try freezing a pre-mixed for a refreshing frozen summer Cocktail and you'll be disappointed by the sugary goo you end up with.

Around since the early 1900's cocktails have been extending the palate range of consumers. Cocktails by definition are drinks that combine the subtle flavours of a limited number of ingredients. In combining, the aim is for the flavours to influence each other and together become an enjoyable beverage. The ever expanding range of liqueurs ensures there is always more to try.

The cocktail industry is very fashion conscious and it moves us on as drinks evolve and new combinations are experimented with. Classical original drinks are regularly reinvented according to the season and culture. A summer Pina Colada or Bacardi blend and winter warmers with brandy and Irish cream are easily reproduced.

Hotels and resorts surrounded by sandy beaches are the ideal location for a refreshing tropical before dinner drink beside the pool. The paper umbrella, sliced fruit in the dainty glass and colourful liquor is sure to appeal. Then there are just some places where a vodka martini, shaken not stirred, can be drunk.

History records that in 1874 Sir Winston Churchill's mother requested a new drink at a party. She was served a Manhattan Cocktail. The Singapore sling was created by Mr Ngiam Tong Boon for the Raffles Hotel in Singapore back in either 1913 or 1915, depending on who you ask. The Singapore sling started out as a woman's drink due to its colour; the original was a cocktail of Gin, Cherry Brandy, Cointreau and Benedictine.

In 1916, Paris offered drinkers ‘between the sheets'. The 1930's brought the Tom Collins Gin and lemon from the US. The 1940's the Rum Swizzle. Whilst typically Martinis were made with Gin, by the 60's, they converted to the Vodka blend. Then the 90's brought the provocative range of cocktails to many countries; drinkers were having a ‘screaming orgasm' in cocktail bars and the dormant world were left standing.

SpotLight is the weekly column exclusively written for 4Hoteliers.com by Sarah Muxlow, it is highlighting the challenges and issues which the global hospitality is facing today.

Sarah is writing for hotel and restaurant owners, hotel chain managers, producers/growers/sellers of food & beverage, restaurant associations, governing bodies and hotel schools. She is looking at the problems they face...competition, trends of branding, staff shortages, unskilled staff, turning out students who are looking for good in-house management training schemes with hotel chains, what makes a good quality training course at a hotel school and more... 

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