The Cocktail Craftsman
What are Craft Cocktails?
Updated: Feb 15
To answer this let's start by looking at the difference between a worker and a craftsman. They both are someone who earns a living by labor, usually manual labor. However, in theory, you can take anyone off the street to be a worker, but to become a craftsman you have to be trained to develop a skill for a specialized trade.
Simply put, a Craft Cocktail is one that is made by a Cocktail Craftsman. I know this sounds tongue-in-cheek, but it's true. It isn't necessarily the ingredients in a cocktail that make it "Craft," it is the care, precision, preparation, and handmade way of the person creating your libation.
You can just tell when the person behind the bar is passionate about what they do. That passion to please their guests speaks volumes. It comes out in their desire to create something new, to deliver the best drink possible for the guest. They take their time, and ask pertinent questions about your flavor likes and dislikes.
Being a Cocktail Craftsman isn't a talent, it is a skill. Talents you are born with, but skills are practiced. It is said that you need 10,000 hours of doing a task to become an expert in it. Sure there are some talents, like a good taste palate, that can help you along the way. However, to be a Craftsman takes training.
There are lots of bartending schools out there. Unfortunately, many of them are shams. If you do seek formal training, be very careful and make sure they are presenting the craft as you'd like to see it.
One of the best ways to get training is to find a Craft Cocktail bar that you respect, one that exhibits a passion for the craft. Once you find it, see if they have any positions open to be a barback. Being an apprentice to a Cocktail Craftsman is your best chance to learn.
If you are a home bar hobbyist and you are looking to elevate your game; you are in the right place. Read articles and blogs like this, watch YouTube videos, and join Craft Cocktail groups on Facebook. You will be amazed at the amount of freely available knowledge being shared.
Fresh, Handmade Ingredients
Bottled juices are a travesty. There are so many other chemicals that have to go into those bottles to make them shelf-stable that it ruins the experience. Craft Cocktails are made with fresh, handmade ingredients. A Cocktail Craftsman will take the time and not skip this step. Fresh fruit is relatively cheap. For the lemon juice, you are looking at about $0.43 per lemon with each yielding about 1 ounce. Cocktail Craftsmen will let their guests know that it is fresh by squeezing on demand. Keeping the lemons cool, they can stay good to use for about 3 weeks. However, before juicing, they need to be at room temperature for the best juicing. This hand juicer is perfect for on-demand drink making
If you are expecting a lot of guests or work in a high-volume bar then you can pre-juice. For a Cocktail Craftsman, this means you have to show up for your shift early and do the prep work necessary to give your guests the best experience. This hands-free juicer can help if you do a ton of juicing.
Also, handmade ingredients go well beyond just fresh juices. A Cocktail Craftsman will also make their own infusions, syrups, and bitters as well. For example, having handmade Rosemary-Clove Syrup that you personally made for signature Craft Cocktails is key to elevating your game behind the stick.
Quality Over Quantity
Making quality cocktails takes time; making Craft Cocktails is a labor of love. Done right, guests don't mind waiting and have a deep appreciation for the time and attention that goes into each and every glass.
A Cocktail Craftsman will do a ton of homework on flavors and ingredient combinations. They will pour over cocktail books to find that classic or less-known cocktail that they can revive. Being a Cocktail Craftsman is like being a chef in a high-end kitchen. You are always looking for the freshest, in-season ingredients that you can pair and mix to make your signature dish.
Once the guest orders a signature Craft Cocktail the Cocktail Craftsman will take their time and make a consistent and precise replication of the cocktail. Accidentally getting an amazing flavor combination once is one thing, but being able to replicate it over and over is a true skill of the Cocktail Craftsman.
We hope that this answers the question properly. If you haven't had the opportunity to have a Craft Cocktail, you are in luck. Over the past 10 years or so there has been a Craft Cocktail revival. Head over to google and just type in "Craft Cocktail bars near me," and check one out. Be sure to sit at the bar and watch the Cocktail Craftsman at work. You'll be amazed!
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