Tasting drinks - is the straw method a real help?

There is one statement, which I directly have to do, when it comes to this topic: I hate if bartenders consistently tasting all their drinks! And even worse is, when the rest of the staff is also tasting. I believe that this is not professional.
And why tasting?
You do have verified recipes, which makes pretty much tasting superfluous.
Some could argue, that fresh juices, especially lemon and lime juice aren't consistent. But I found, that lemon and lime is quite consistent, if you are selecting the same genus.
But yes, other juices might be not as consistent- if you are pressing fresh orange juice, the oranges might widely vary- from sweet, to zesty and sometimes just not so great (that is why you have to try all fresh ingredients all the time before the shift and even mid-shift. For a 20 ml pour, the difference might not be that great - however if you are using such juice as filler, it makes a major difference! The perfect method would be a refractometer... But I guess that nobody wants to measure their juices for the brix degree (sugar content)? And I do understand this notion- finally some say, that bartending is no rocket science....

Additionally cocktails like Bloody Mary's , which have a pinch of salt and other spices really need a tasting. There is nothing more disappointing like an underseasoned Mary!

So the question here is, how do I taste a drink?

Obviously we won't drink out of the shaker nor out of the guest glass, duh!
The classic bartender's method is, to take a straw, dump the tip a couple of cm into the drink, close the top with the thumb and lift the tip into your mouth and release your thumb. It is pretty much the same method labs are using with their "straw pipettes".
The advantages are: it is stealth enough to look professional (if only the bartender is doing  it and not 2 or 3 staff members who happen to wait at the bar). You have to use every time of trying a new straw, hence it is hygienic, but also wasteful- which is one of the disadvantages. Another big one: this method pretty much exclude the nose- but the nose is the protagonist, if it comes to determine aromas. Yes you can taste, if the drink is too sour or not sour enough, too sweet or not sweet enough, too salty or not salty enough - but this is about it.

This picture of brainfacts.org pretty much explains the way how we taste... It is especially freaky due to the lack of eyes... Hahaha.

Hence, to try traditionally (out of a glass) would be a big advantage.
I especially like the method of Jamie Boudreau, who has a small metal goblet to taste his mixtures.
This looks even more professional, is easier to clean than glass (and less prone to breakage) and includes the full sensorial abilities, which we own. Be carefully though with the metal- I find most metals are reacting (sometimes ever so slightly) with acids and egg white.

Otherwise a consistently rinsed a regularly washed nosing glass is maybe even a better option.




Comments

  1. thank you for your very informed website and in-depth analysis of drinks, techniques and ingredients.
    On the topic of tasting I can say that the best bartenders I see here in Germany use the following technique:

    They quickly swipe the back of the bar spoon over the back of their hand and taste from there. I believe that allows the full sensorial experience of taste and smell, uses only a homeopathic quantity of the drink and looks very elegant. Best, Hendrik (www.pHenomenalTonic.com)

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    Replies
    1. Dear Hendrik,

      thanks so much for your comment.
      Yes, I do know the method to use a bar spoon and the back of the hand. To be honest, I am also not that convinced; it is however more sustainable and elegant than the straw method.
      Anyway - comments like yours are giving me the motivation to continue!

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