I’ve written much on the why, how and when previously kind and hospitable bartenders mysteriously transform into utter assholes or douchebag mixologists. But, don’t take it just from me. I’m not the only game in this town (or The Wrong Coast for that matter). Enter Eric Alperin of Hey Bartender fame (I’m still waiting to see the movie) and barkeep at L.A.’s The Varnish.
Within the bartending and retro-bar (read: Speakeasy) circles of New York City, one person’s name is uttered more than most as having been the most influential in recent years. That name – the man – is Sasha Petraske. I don’t know a ton about the guy. But, I do know a ton about his venues and reach. I’m a huge fan and infrequent guest. To say he’s had a slight impact on the “haute-imbibery” (which few might describe as douchebaggery in some cases) would be akin to denoting Danny Meyer – and his Union Square Hospitality Group – has had a “small role” in shaping the downtown NYC dining scene. Rather, these folks are 10,000 pound, gargantuan elephants in Hospitality in terms of influence.
“Aviation Aramos Fizz…” and 10 minute, $20 cocktails. “Smoked Salmon Infused Vodka… over Lava Rocks.” “Sazerac with some muddled Sage.” You can pin the blame for the mixologist craze mostly on Jerry mother-fucking Thomas. Yeah… more on him to come. Post-Prohibition revival and modern fainboi’ism of all things late-19th century have also had a hand. In the last few years, Brooklyn and San Francisco hipsterdom (who seem to have committed every passage of Imbibe to memory) took all this shit and ran absolutely raving wild with a ridiculously wide expanse of “throwback,” speakeasy’ish saloons. They’re not done. There seems to be no end in sight to this pseudo-retro explosion. It’s all gone a bit too far. Me? I heart me most of those cool spots as evidenced by my Pub Crawl. I just hate when folks go overboard and refuse to keep it real. I like to believe that I’ve got mad creative skills as well – no doubt. I’ve contributed to many a successful cocktail program. But mostly, I schlep my ass off in busy ass bars. Do yourself a favor and watch this epic video backlash.
Folks calling themselves “Mixologists” are truly strange characters. The truth is that they almost all suffer from an elevated inferiority complex. They bend over backwards to have you identify them, not as the plebian “bartender,” no… but as something much more – someone who studiously and methodically “crafts” your “beverage.” They’ve gathered their Turbinado Sugar, Organic Basil, Candied Ginger, and Fennel Seeds and have them all on tantalizing display in the bar trough – almost always in fancy little mason jars. There’s just one major problem: these people are fucking retarded slow at making drinks.