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The Buzz of Less Booze

January 10, 2014

Have I mentioned my head cold? Man, this sucks. I have a fridge full of beer, a wine locker full of bottles and a liquor cabinet full of gin. And I’m not drinking any of it. Can’t really taste much with a plugged nose, so what’s the point.

Yet still, today I’m writing about cocktails. Mostly because I’ve always thought of this blog as a way to help other people. Yes, I know that there are some folks who occasionally end up on the wrong side of the stick, and they may be hard to convince of this fact. But my intentions are good.

So I’ve been ruminating on Albany Jane’s recent tweet, only mildly upset that she didn’t come to me directly for solutions to her current cocktail problem.

2014 is starting off as the year I don’t really like booze. I want cocktail tastes, but not the alcohol (bc of my pitifully low tolerance).

Well, isn’t AJ going to feel silly when she realizes that she’s far from alone.

Did you know there is a low-alcohol content cocktail movement? They have even created a name for them. Albany Jane, meet the shim.

Let’s get one thing straight. These aren’t the bastardized cocktails from the 90s that replace spirits with sake (or the subsequent bastardized cocktails that replaced booze with soju). These hail from the same hand crafted high-touch bartending approach that has saved the cocktail from itself.

More people are starting to see the advantage of drinking less potent cocktails. In fact, just yesterday I noted that living in the Capital Region generally means driving to bars. As a result, I find myself going less frequently and ordering fewer drinks when I’m out. Like many others, I’m not lamenting the lack of buzz, but I wish I could try a few more concoctions at the Speakeasy without having to find a place to sober up for an hour (or two) afterwards.

Perhaps then it is not a coincidence that The Globe credits Atlanta, GA for being at ground zero of this trend. The article describes it as,

a city with an entrenched car culture where spirit-forward classic-inspired cocktails were a tough sell. As such, a small group of bartenders invented suppressor cocktails designed to muffle alcohol, without resorting to a drowned-out mixed drink.

These aren’t necessarily drinks without spirits either. One form of a shim comes from reversing the proportions of a classic cocktail. For example, an upside down Manhattan prominently features a vermouth, and uses whiskey as a flavor enhancer.

Some are classic cocktails in and of themselves which are just now being promoted with the renewed interest in lower octane drinks, like the Diplomat. It is a simple combination of dry and sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur and orange bitters.

This trend is helped greatly by the rise of better vermouths, complex amari, a battery of bitters, and the recreation of long lost liqueurs. All of these have multi-layered flavors that can be combined to deliver sophisticated tastes across many profiles.

It’s a very exciting time to be a drinker.

The big cities are already all over this trend. They’ve got them in New York City. They’ve got them in San Francisco. And with the Speakeasy in Albany, for all I know they’ve already landed back home. Honestly, it wasn’t something I was tracking. But when I return, I’ll be looking forward to my first Tres Jolie (or something similar).

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2014 10:53 am

    Oh. Awesome. Weird book title.

    Hooray for other people with low intolerance but a desire to imbibe tasty drinks!

  2. January 10, 2014 11:37 am

    Warm gin, a la a toddy, is an excellent head-cold cure. All that juniper really opens things up.

  3. enough already! permalink
    January 10, 2014 11:41 pm

    Big glass of bourbon (or two…) – then you won’t care about the cold!!!

  4. EPT permalink
    January 13, 2014 9:43 am

    I’d vote for a Manhattan, Rittenhouse 100 proof Rye, Carpano Antica, and Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Bitters…Perfect

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