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The Indefensible $10 Cocktail

August 27, 2010

A handsome setting, elegant barware and super-ultra-premium spirits all are part of an amazing cocktail experience.  One also needs to be in the presence of a well-trained bartender who is expert in the craft.  Put all of these things together and it would not be uncommon for a drink to set you back $10 or more.

And I don’t mind paying for quality.  I’ve bought $10 cocktails here and elsewhere, and haven’t really thought too much about it. That is, until today.

Today I got an article in my inbox about an “improved” Dark and Stormy.  I was suspicious, so I followed the link.  Frankly I’m still suspicious, because I firmly believe the drink is and only should be one thing: Gosling’s Black Seal rum and Barritts ginger beer on ice.  A Dark and Stormy has no trace of lime.

Serendipitously the barman who claims to have improved this Bahamian regatta classic is none other than Scott Beattie.  If you clicked on that last link, it may or may not have jogged your memory about who this bar chef or master mixologist or what-have-you is.  He is the media darling making seasonal, local, organic cocktails up in California’s wine country.  And while I may personally find that some of his stuff is misguided, it is all beautiful and expertly crafted.

Where am I going with this?  Give me just a moment.

It was with great anticipation that I looked over the cocktail menu at his newest venture spoonbar.  Then I saw the prices, and my jaw dropped.  The plurality of the drinks were under $8.

And these are not unfussy cocktails made with rot-gut swill in a dank and dark setting.  These are stunning classics, some with modern twists, made with the best spirits in a fancy new hotel in a precious little wine country town.  Let me assure you that rents there are not cheap.

I have no idea how they do it.  Here is what their menu has to say about the Margarita

We take great pride in offering delicious, purist Margaritas here at Spoonbar; no bad mixto tequila, no orange liqueur, and no salt, unless you’re wanting to mask the flavor of our tasty drinks. Our classic Margarita is simply Tres Agaves Blanco, Organic Agave Nectar, and fresh lime juice ($7.50/$37.50). We also find Don Julio Blanco an excellent option ($9/$45), or perhaps the local option with St. George Aqua Libre Agave Spirit (essentially, a tequila made in the East Bay) for $11/$55.

For those unfamiliar with Tres Agaves Blanco tequila, it’s not some cheap knock off, but a super duper ultra premium deluxe bottle that retails for about $30 a bottle.  There are other notable cocktails too, like their $7.50 Aviation that also contains a $30 retail gin in addition to the Tempus Fugit Liqueur de Violette.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  Really you should check out the cocktail menu because it is really stunning.

How they are able to deliver these drinks for such a reasonable price is truly astonishing.  Given the location, the ingredients, and the fame of the bartender, one could easily see spoonbar charging 50% more for each drink than they currently do.  The fact that they don’t is admirable.

With the launch of this new high end temple of spirits and cocktails the bar has been raised and lowered in one fell swoop.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. mirdreams permalink
    September 1, 2010 2:46 pm

    I know it’s not a purist’s Dark and Stormy but I do like one made with Saranac Ginger Beer and Kracken Black Rum.

  2. pjt permalink
    September 4, 2010 9:12 am

    The New York Time’s “T Magazine”, of August 23, has an article & recipe on making your own ginger beer for making Black & Stormy’s. The author, Tony Cecchini, claims that only one commercial ginger ale, made by Blemheim, is strong enough for making a Black & Stormy. But finding Blemheim’s is a different story, he says “good luck finding it”. Instead he offers an easy recipe for making your own ginger beer.


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