The Craft Cocktail Movement – Op-Ed

A week or two ago, an article from Thrillist popped into my inbox, and I gave it a read. “The Crappy Craft Cocktail Revolution is Upon Us.

The author, Dan Dunn, is basically saying that a lot of places say they have craft cocktails but really they’re just pretending, they’re making them not well and only to make money. While this is probably true of some bars, I think it’s a gross generalization, and that he’s coming at it from a really odd angle. Honestly, it basically seems like he’s saying that the younger generation (millennials, us) doesn’t deserve to make cocktails, because they weren’t around when the cocktail revolution happened in the 80s.

He goes on two main tangents in the article, one about punk music selling out which is… whatever, and the other one which I think is bullshit. He complains that his bartender has sleeve tattoos but “[t]here was no way in his short time on the earth that he could have come by those babies honestly.” What the hell does that mean? You have no idea what this guy’s story is, what his reasons for getting the tattoos are, what he’s been through. Which is almost besides the point but it isn’t — his whole stance on the cocktail movement is that the new bartenders, the new mixologists can’t possibly have had the experience they need to really be bartenders. Which, again, is bullshit.

We make drinks because it’s fun, because it’s interesting, and it’s a way to experiment and show off new ideas. We’re not doing it just to make money, but we equally can’t very well do it without making money. He’s very hung up on selling out and being indebted to The Man, and I’m pretty sure that’s just called having a job.

He also seems very incensed by the fact that this particular Last Word, a cocktail that I’ve never had but seems kind of interesting, had too much green chartreuse. What’s the big deal? Sometimes people don’t make cocktails super well. You can’t expect every bartender in the city, even every bartender in an establishment to be at the top of their game. Some bartenders don’t know certain drinks. I was at Patina once, a classy Los Angeles spot, and they couldn’t make me a Vieux Carré, my favorite drink, because they didn’t know what it was. Did I make a fuss? No. It’s natural to not know everything, however much you might want someone to.

We also need to be taught. It’s not always said, but let’s face it. I’m here learning tricks from Jerry Thomas. If I worked at a bar, I’d expect to learn a thing or two from the older bartenders, find out about some new drinks, and so on. But what does Dan Dunn do when his drink isn’t made correctly? He says nothing about it, and instead makes some asinine joke about a drink that involves punching the bartender in the head. It might just be a literary device, rather than what happened, but either way that’s not how you get a good Last Word. Tell us what we’re doing wrong, and maybe we’ll make it right.

Finally, I just looked at his other articles on Thrillist. He only has two, this one lamenting the loss of the “true” craft cocktail movement, and another lamenting the loss of the cool culture in Abbot Kinney, stating that “Venice is dying.” It must be a sad life to be Dan Dunn.

I’m not saying it’s all him. I’ve definitely seen some overpriced “craft” cocktails before, Moscow Mules being toted as awesome new inventions, and the like. And I’ll probably still take those over an equally crappy rum and coke. But for Dunn to just scoff and reminisce about the good old days instead of doing something about it, that doesn’t help us. We want to learn, we want to make great drinks, and we try every day to do so. Don’t knock us down just because we don’t fit with your ideal of the classic bartender.

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