May 19th, 2006
Fast Company – “The cult of the cocktail”
Fast Company’s May cover story is on food, which the magazine says “has become the great American art form — and a wildly innovative business.” There’s a thoughtful, thorough and positive article on Homaro Cantu, chef of Moto restaurant in Chicago, who cooks with liquid nitrogen and lasers and who “wants to use his strange brew of self-taught rocket science and professional culinary training to change the way the world thinks about food.” Cantu’s take on the peanut butter and jelly sandwich is pictured; the sandwich filling sits atop a small rectangle of bread and consists of peanut butter encased in a “hemisphere” of frozen jelly. His restaurant features a grand tasting menu for $160 a head.
In the same issue is a funny, snarky one-page article called “Mix Mastery – The cult of the cocktail runs amok.” It pokes fun at the seriousness with which some have come to view the art of mixing a drink. “Handcrafted cocktails, once a lost art, have resurfaced as absurdist comedy, with top-shelf bartenders — ‘cocktail consultants’ in this brave new world — making thousands of dollars a day peddling the likes of the Earl Grey MarTEAni (tea-infused gin, egg white, lemon juice, and simple syrup) or the ‘sake martini with lychee puree and muddled cucumbers.’ The things fetch up to $20 apiece…”
I’ll be the first to agree that a $20 Earl Grey MarTEAni is a sucker’s drink. And I still have a hard time keeping a straight face when someone refers to a bartender as a mixologist. But then I got to thinking: why is it OK to get all gee-whiz over a celebrity chef and his “wildly innovative menu” but snicker at a “cocktail consultant” who’s doing something similar with booze — that is, inventing new and unusual drinks and earning fame and fortune in the process? Is a $20 cocktail any more “absurdist comedy” than a $160 tasting menu featuring liquid nitrogen-cooled PB&J?