Finding Balance and Presence in New Orleans' Cocktails and Bars
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Individual taste is just that: yours. What you like is what you like. Which is a similar sentiment to that “new” expression, “It is what it is.” Huh?
Still, no one else but you can be a judge of what goes on with your nose and your mouth. Only you are the final arbiter of those senses. Hate to state the obvious but here’s where we are going with that:
Besides the ingredients, there are other aspects to cocktails and wines that are definitive, even in terms of your tastes.
Most significantly to both senses is that no single aspect of the beverage “sticks out,” causing other pieces to be overshadowed. For instance, in a cocktail, does any single ingredient, like alcohol, completely sublimate the other flavors that comprise the drink’s character, like herbs?
In a cocktail if all you are getting is the kick of a mule in your mouth, yes, even for a drink called Moscow Mule, the drink is all wrong. Sure, you are right in that we are drinking cocktails and not soft drinks for the alcohol. But if that is the overwhelming aspect of the cocktail, then it is either made incorrectly or is designed in error.
It is most important to achieve balance. Every ingredient has to play a role in the drink. Not necessarily an equal role. Some items are simply more important than others. A squeeze of lemon is not equal to a jigger of gin. Yet, it all has to be in balance, blended to make the entire drink pleasurable.
Same is true in wine. If there is a strong alcohol finish, or if the wine has too much oak component, it is not in balance, and, at the end of the tasting experience, makes the wine not good. You may say it’s not so bad. But you are being kind, making excuses for bad winemaking.
Every ingredient, every process plays a role. That role is not to dominate but rather to support the weight of the entire structure. Too much of any one thing overshadowing other things is a sign of weakness in the preparation or in the concept.
Hey, this is all supposed to be good and fun. And balanced.
With all the hoopla surrounding the New Orleans restaurant scene, and it has to be one of the most dynamic restaurant scenes in America, a bit overlooked in the celebration has been the parallel expansion of the bar scene in this city.
Consider: with all the restaurants opening, there are bars prominent in just about every one. And most of them have installed special bar-bite programs and menus to encourage patrons to stay at the bar, eating and drinking their way through the evening.
Newbies such as R’evolution, Annunciation, Rene’s Bistrot, SoBou, Maurepas, Booty’s Street Food, Café B’s, Serendipity, La Fin du Monde, Sylvain, and Root all boast craft cocktails and most have a bar area on their list of most pleasurable offerings. Astounding cuisine coupled with well-made cocktails seems to be the wonderful direction.
But then, not to be forgotten, are the new places where food is secondary, if it is present at all, and cocktails and wine take center stage.
The newly renovated Carousel in the Monteleone is part of a restaurant, Criolla, but you never see the dining facility, and the new bar stretches on, covering a lot of real estate, dwarfing the beloved area where the rotating bar is located.
There’s also Bellocq, Patrick’s Bar Vin, Publiq House, Perestroika in place of the old Pravda, Victory, Vitascope Hall, and a soon-to-open Tiki Bar on the second floor of Felipe’s French Quarter location.
Looks like the old storied joints of the three-beer-taps-six-bar-glasses-dirty-bar-rag are no longer the standard-bearers of the bar scene. Of course in New Orleans, if that is what you seek, those places are not hard to find in any neighborhood.
Some towns have gas stations on every corner. Then again, what do they know about life?