Category Archives: cocktails

Breaking the Boundaries of Beer Cocktails at beerbistro

For most of my drinking career, my opinion of beer cocktails has been one of mild ambivalence. While I’ve tried and enjoyed a few, I never really saw much point to them as I’ve always looked at beer as a beverage meant to be consumed and enjoyed in its original form.

Recently, though, I’ve been shown that if made by the right set of hands, a beer cocktail can be a truly unique creation that is more than just a lager or ale mixed over ice with a couple of other ingredients. Especially when those hands belong to Michelle Tham, the bar manager at beerbistro.

I first tried Tham’s mixological creations a few weeks ago, when beerbistro hosted a low-key tasting featuring a couple of cocktails that she had crafted using beers from Unibroue. The brewery’s gregarious beer sommelier Sylvain Bouchard was on hand to talk about the drinks and to present and explain some food pairings, but it was Tham’s demo that was the most interesting and enlightening part of the event.

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Shaken or Stirred?

I’ve been a fan of New York Times wine & spirits columnist Eric Azimov for quite a while, primarily because unlike many other booze writers, he has a healthy respect for beer as well and don’t treat it like a second- or third-rate drink.

My respect for him has gone up a couple more notches today thanks to his article about martinis. Or more accurately, his article about a gin tasting where they decided to taste 20 different gins in the form of martinis.

Here is the specific bit that I really enjoyed…

Before we discuss the findings, though, we need to clear up a little matter. It’s come to my attention that some people believe martinis are made with vodka. I hate to get snobbish about it, but a martini should be made with gin or it’s not a martini. Call it a vodkatini if you must, but not a martini. Gin and vodka have as much in common hierarchically as a president and a vice president. Vodka can fill in for gin from time to time and might even be given certain ceremonial duties of its own, but at important moments you need the real thing. Vodka generally makes a poor substitute for gin in a martini or any other gin cocktail.

In a follow-up post on his blog, he continues…

I’m annoyed at myself for even asking this question, but when’s the last time you had a real martini? Not a chocolate cocktail, or watermelon drink or any of the other spurious hangers-on that threaten the integrity of the word martini, but a real honest-to-goodness gin-and-vermouth martini?

What annoys me is that few people really know or care what a martini is anymore. They’ve just appropriated the appeal of the term to sell other cocktails, drinks that may be fine themselves but are decidedly not martinis.

The funny thing is, I’m actually not a huge martini fan. I’ll have one once in a while, but I tend to prefer my gin mixed with tonic. But this whole trend of sticking “-tini” onto the end of the name of any alcoholic drink that’s served in what people consider to be a “martini glass” (which it’s not, by the way – it’s just a cocktail glass) has always gotten under my skin. Especially when I’ve been handed a “Martini List” at a place that really should know better.

So are Azimov and I both cranky old sticks-in-the-mud who should get over it? Or do we have a valid point here?