Throughout my professional career I have always paid my respects to the 1988 Movie ‘Cocktail’ starring Tom Cruise. Making references to the iconic movie is something I have done more often than not, sometimes covertly but again more often than not.
In fact, with perfect timing, I answered the calls of ‘speech’ that rang out during my bachelor’s address, taking the opportunity to recite the poem verbatim to my whole bachelor party which was okay seeing that most of the group were aptly made up of bartenders anyway.
If you’ve never seen the scene in the movie where Tom Cruise counter offers a poem to retort a ‘pompous’ accountant type, standing on the bar counter and delivering the ‘last barman poem’ to a packed nightclub, firstly go sit in the corner and contemplate your life, and when you’re done with that click on the link below. It’s Iconic!
For such a relevant movie to the bartending industry I am always saddened by the swanky hipster Instagram bartender types, who look down their noses on the period piece while delivering their criticism of the film mainly because of its propensity toward showcasing the art of flair as a defining factor of being a great bartender rather than mixology.
I wonder what 11 drinks would make up a contemporary cocktail poem of today? But before you get started on your monologue one needs to consider the period in which this movie was made. The drinks in the movie and poem are indicative of the times. Not all bartenders are in love with every period of drinks in the cocktail canon, but they’re all still a part of our profession and a part of the history of drinks. You can’t watch the movie Titanic and then say how you don’t like how it ends with the ship crashing into an iceberg and sinking, that’s how it happened. If you don’t like the drinks in the movie, then go back to your corner and continue to contemplate your life, this time with a penalty shot of blue curacao.
In the meantime I thought of perhaps revisiting those drinks we don’t speak of. So here is my take on the 11 drinks in the poem from the 80’s, with a look at how they would be considered more acceptable in today’s cocktail culture.
The Iced Tea
There’s no doubt while watching this scene as to which Iced Tea Tom Cruise is referring to. Yes there are a host of different Iced Teas, but we all know which one he is talking about and that is the Long Island Iced Tea.
For a twist on this classic I thought I’d clarify some cola, because clarification is an Instagram bartender’s dream right now, but my skillset let me down here and I ended up with a sort of brown pale liquid resembling one of those soda drinks you give kids called a Brown Cow.
So instead I made my own cola syrup, from the peels of 4 different citruses and tons of spices. It’s not completely clear, it looks like apple juice; it’s translucent, super concentrated and delicious. When you mix the syrup with the lemon juice and 5 the white spirits you will get a ‘clarified’ Long Island Iced Tea.
This was an easy one, with being such a venerable classic the best thing to do was just leave it alone.
The reality is that the 80’s wasn’t exactly known for stylish cocktails served straight up in a stemmed glass.
The more flavored syrups, liqueurs and juices you could pack into an oversized, over-iced and over garnished drink the better. However the flavors contained within the Alabama Slammer are generally quite good, and so making a fancy drink out of it made sense.
The flavors of Sloe, orange, peach and almond could be reworked into a sexier rendition for sure. So I suggest making an apricot pomace using Bourbon as a base and imparting the pomace flavors into the spirit using a sonic prep or sous vide.
Make a bitter Blue Curacao using orange cream citrate and grapefruit oil. Stir it all together along with Bianco Vermouth and Sloe Gin serve straight up in a stemmed glass for a stiff Martinez style Alabama Slammer.
I don’t know why cream was so popular in cocktails in the 80’s, it seems to me that all these cocktails got shorter and shorter into the 90’s and then were just converted into shots with a 1/3 split across the board as a ‘go-to’ shooter, until we hit the turn of the century and cocktails like these were almost totally removed from menus across the globe.
Adding creams to drinks creates such a heavy drinking experience and let’s be very honest, one can only handle one of these types of drinks in one session. So for my rendition I removed the heaviness attached with creamy ingredients and swapped it out for an ingredient which could offer just as much smooth mouthfeel but without the heavy dairy hangover, and that ingredient is coconut water.
Light, waxy, and fresh, coconut water is also super healthy. So to add a new dimension I grated some lime peels and let them steep (refrigerated) in the coconut water to produce a ‘super water’ which is all things zesty, oily, sweet and sour. Add to this some chocolate bitters and a Rum infused with Amaretto and presto, the Pink Squirrel v2.0.
The Three Toed Sloth
Here we go again with the good ol’ shooter with the golden proportional split of Apple Schnapps, Sloe Gin and Rum.
While trying to design a cocktail from these ingredients one won’t have to go far before settling on the Suffering Bastard. A true tiki classic, we will push the fresh elements of green apples, fennel, lime and root ginger through a centrifugal juicer.
After a day of resting in the fridge golden nectar will split from the pulpiness of the press. We’ll build this golden nectar over an ice spear with Bourbon and London Dry Gin and top the mix with sparkling tonic water for the freshest Suffering Bastard aka Suffering Bar Steward.
Although this sounds like such a 'hand over face' thing to admit, when I was growing up in bars we used to serve this drink along with the most elaborate show.
The show would culminate in a daring move with the bartender planking on top of the guest who was lying along the bar counter, with the drink being poured from a cocktail shaker rocking in the belt of a bartender into a Martini glass nestled between the legs of the guest ordering it.
Horrible I know, but for every bachelorette party in the world, this was a spectacular hit.
Amaretto, Baileys and Kahlua saw their greatest sales in those days I’m sure, but for my rendition I will go with a traditional whole egg Flip. Scotch, Gardenia (Butter, Vanilla & Coffee Syrup) and chilled stout, shaken cold with a whole egg to complete this frothy, creamy delight, served straight up and strained fine into a tall chilled goblet, then dusted with nutmeg.
Hold your nose because here comes more cream, ice cream this time, vanilla ice cream to be more specific. If that doesn’t sound sweet enough already, add some Cointreau and Crème de Cacao to completely kill your taste buds so that you don’t even know that there is Brandy inside as well.
For my riff I’ll heat up some milk with vanilla and toasted coconut shavings. Then I’ll add some fresh lime juice in some water to split the mix into curds and whey. I’ll add the Brandy and the Cointreau in just before running the mix through a super filter to make, what is essentially, a clarified Side Car.
Like most drinks of the time, this drink is both comprised of popular ingredients of the time period and as well is branded with a name connoted with sexual innuendo. But the difference with this drink is that it isn’t half bad in its orientation; a clear sparkling tall drink of vodka, peach, lemon, and lime – okay I’m cool with that. I’m going to stick close to the original recipe and add some rounding flavors of a wooded chardonnay and fresh ginger infused into the V