Is there life after the mojito? The Cuban mint, lime, and rum up-drink swept bar land round about the millennium, and was adopted by everyone from soccer moms to Prada junkies. But it’s time to move on. Yeah, I loved it, too, but I also loved cosmos, and have you seen me with one in my hand since ’97? Face it: The martini will never go out of style, but all those other cocktails are subject to the whims of fashion.
The New York papers are abuzz with hot drink trends such as using tropical fruits, sake, or pomegranate molasses. San Francisco cocktail mixtresses like Alberta Straub of the Orbit Room are pointing to the fad for what she calls “extreme cocktails.” “I keep having to go to the herb section of my supermarket to look for new things to interest my customers,” she says bemusedly.
But the East Bay? Well, fashion just isn’t our thing. “I generally try to ignore trends in favor of well-made drinks with solid ingredients and fresh juices,” says Michael Speyser, bar manager of Fonda. Switch out “sustainably grown meat” for “high-quality well liquor” and you have the California-cuisine ethos intact.
In fact, according to Claremont Hotel bar manager Rob Madison, the mojito craze hasn’t died yet — unfortunately. (Incidentally, you labor-loving lefties, many bartenders hate the mojito because it means standing around muddling mint, a sure recipe for carpal tunnel syndrome.) Or the fad has mutated: Speyser cites the rise of the “gin mojito, a weird splinter faction of the mojito thing.”
Whiskey drinks, though, are staging a comeback, as the cocktail nation searches farther afield for more recherché classics. Three of the bartenders I talked to said they’d been making Manhattans of late, and the old-fashioned seems to have reemerged, too.
Certain bars, of course, attract their own specialties: Kingman’s Lucky Lounge in Oakland sells a lot of crushed velvets (a lemon drop with a splash of Chambord), the Albatross a herd of Moscow Mules (vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice), and Radio bar buckets of Madrases (vodka, cranberry, and orange juice).
In conclusion, there seems to be little chance of lemongrass-tarragon shooters coming your way, and the newest It drink has yet to be sighted. At heart, we’re still a beer and margarita crowd, just as long as the beer is microbrew and the margarita is made with Herradura Silver and hand-squeezed key limes. Perhaps we’re simply too DIY to follow fads. “I just make drinks up and try to convince the entire bar that they need them,” says Ena Dallas of Cafe Van Kleef. And does she have any cocktail-trend predictions? “Why don’t you come down,” she replies, “and we’ll make something up.”