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Cocktail Menu Mishaps

April 16, 2010

Call it kismet.  Earlier this week I was criticized for being unduly harsh on a local restaurant that is doing good things.  And today I get to commend that same restaurant for succeeding in another area, where others fail.

Before I do that however, I would like to clear up a couple of issues from Menu Muddle.  First, the title was not intended to be pejorative, but I can see how it can be taken that way.  Some people have suggested that adjectives on menus are more marketing than an actual indication of quality, and in this case I wanted to try and clear up that confusion.  Second, my slight criticism of the veal doesn’t stem from which of Marcho Farms veal products is used at the restaurant.  Rather my response stems from the likely consumer perception that Marcho Farms is a small-scale family farm, when the reality is very different.

Okay then, moving on.

This week I went out to dinner with a group of lovely ladies to a local restaurant called The Standard.  Today they will get unfairly blamed for the sins of countless restaurants that engage in a very similar practice: defame classic cocktails.  Or maybe it is fair, because while others may do it haplessly, The Standard has the temerity to list these drinks under the “Classic Cocktails” section of their menu.

What follows is a direct comparison of this section of their cocktail menu to the corresponding drinks under “Neo-Classic Cocktails” at dp Brasserie.

Some of the drinks listed under “Classic Cocktails” at The Standard are obvious perversions.

The Standard’s Blood Orange Sidecar
A classic blend of blood orange puree, Hennessy VS cognac, Cointreau, fresh lemon and lime

dp Brasserie’s Side Car
Germain Robin brandy, Grand Marnier, lemon juice with a sugared rim

Just for the record, there is nothing classic about using blood orange puree in a sidecar.  The Standard’s cocktail is a tasty drink in a striking deep shade of red.  But it is also a bit thick, given that it truly uses a puree, rather than just the juice, of blood oranges.  The Sidecar should be made with Cointreau, but I can understand why dp went with Grand Marnier, since the cocktail is a brandy based drink.  But by working under the label of “Neo-Classic” their sidecar passes muster.

The Standard’s Watermelon Caipirinha
Watermelon liqueur, cachaça sugar cane liqueur, simple syrup, and muddled limes

dp Brasserie’s Caipiriñha
Leblon cachaça, fresh lime, cane sugar

Egads.  Even if you could convince me that a watermelon caipirinha was classic, it would call for fresh watermelon to be muddled with the lime – not some sticky sweet watermelon liqueur.  Blech.  To call cachaça a sugar cane liqueur is just wrong.  Liqueurs are sweet. And even though cachaça is distilled from fermented sugar cane juice, sweet it is not.  In this case dp nails the simple and rustic Brazilian favorite.

Others cocktails are much more misleading.

The Standard’s Lime Rickey
Tanqueray gin, mango puree, sour, lime juice

Creo’s Rangpur Rickey
Tanqueray Rangpur, fresh lime juice, club soda

dp Brasserie doesn’t offer a rickey on their menu.  And as much as I do not love Creo, they make an impressively authentic rickey.  Mango?  You have to be kidding me.  And don’t even get me started on sour.

What gets me all up in arms about these cocktails is my belief that restaurants and bars are the gatekeepers for many people’s experiences with food and drinks.  I don’t begrudge The Standard their creative license in making cocktails.  I am not trying to impose my taste onto other people.

But to label these cocktails as classics, and to give these drinks a hallowed name that only has a tangential resemblance to what is in the glass is wrong.

It’s like the martini thing all over again.

Thank you dp Brasserie for holding the line.  Thank you for taking only minor liberties with classic drinks and then having the decency to call them “Neo-Classic Cocktails.”  Thank you for putting quotation marks around the word martini when describing all the fanciful creative drinks that just happen to be served in a cocktail glass.  Thank you for using fresh citrus juices.  And thank you for using finely crafted spirits.

For all of these reasons, you have my vote on the FUSSYlittleBALLOT for “Best Cocktails in the Capital Region” in the 2010 Times Union poll.

Speaking of which, there are only eight more days remaining to vote.  So please get out there and help spread the word about what the FUSSYlittleBALLOT is trying to achieve.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. StanfordSteph permalink
    April 16, 2010 9:34 am

    OMG dp Brasserie has Caipiriñhas? I must go there. That’s my favorite drink and the Standard version was not good. The muddling was sadly inadequate.

  2. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    April 16, 2010 9:40 am

    You are so right, Daniel B. All The Standard needs to do is drop the word “Classic,” because it is anything but. Once martinis started being acceptable made with vodka, it was all downhill. Now anything goes.

  3. April 16, 2010 2:28 pm

    The only problem with your criticism here is that the standard is in the mall. people who drink there don’t care about any of this, and the owners will cut costs while giving the people what they want (sticky sweet).

  4. May 4, 2010 1:08 pm

    I think a restaurant in the mall is held to much lower standards than your stand alone eatery. I would agree that patrons aren’t looking for anything extremely special at this place, other than sweet and quick.

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