The Case for the Small Cocktail

aperitif_glasses

These aperitif glasses from a 1929 book on etiquette hold 3 ounces.

In bygone times (as recently as, say, yesterday evening), some imbibers would be caught kvetching as they inspected the cocktail in front of them. “Do those glasses seem small?” “Hmm, not so generous on the pour.” Those comments irk me, and here’s why. A new generation of bartenders at quality-focused and Prohibition-style bars has realized that bigger is not better. In that regard, they’re actually doing us a favor. Truly, who hasn’t cringed at the prospect of choking down those last few ounces of a lukewarm Martini or Margarita. Not so tasty.

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New American Vermouths Breaking Ground

From a 1907 Italian book on how to make vermouth

From a 1907 Italian book on how to make vermouth

I think it’s fair to say that many cocktail enthusiasts have never even tasted vermouth on its own–even a tiny sip. People must have visions of pickle juice and olive brine stuck in their minds when they cringe at the thought of trying it, which is too bad. A good vermouth is really good. Alone. Over ice. With a bit of soda. But offer it to friends and they’ll turn up their noses. That’s why I like to trick my guests (in a nice way!) by offering them an aperitif when they come to my house for dinner. Only once they give an opinion about the spicy, herbal, delicious drink they’re quaffing do I reveal that the mystery brew is vermouth.

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