I have heard many times, that this Martini, that Mojito or this Margarita is the best of the world. But what does this really means?
Let’s face it has been easy to do a better cocktail in the late 90’s or even in the early new millennium. You simply had to use proper recipe, fresh ingredients (I remember to have had many discussions with guests and other bartenders about, if a cocktail “deserves” quality and fresh ingredients - and a lot of people said, that it is “waste” to use good ingredients in a cocktail) - and you usually made it already onto a list. Nowadays it is far more difficult - because there are a lot of bars, which are using the freshest ingredients, quality spirits - often even premium spirits.
So how can I make the best cocktail then?
Please understand, my Padavan, that you are asking the wrong question...
There is nothing such as the best Mojito, the best Margarita and so on.
Point is, that “the best” is not very objective:
- Is it the most popular?
- Is it the best rated (by the majority of consumers)?
- Is it the best rated by a panel of experts?
- Did it won in a competition?
- Is it the most authentic?
- Is it the most progressive?
...and so on.
The most popular: Let’s first of all agree on the first point: to be the most popular doesn’t make you the best. Otherwise we would consider McDonalds as epitome of fine dining. And even the most delusional person, probably would not say, that the Big Mac is the best burger of the world (no McDonald bashing here - it is just an example).
Consumer ratings: What is about the best rated? There are a lot of apps around, which are rating restaurant and bars, etc?
The answer is very similar to previous one. The rating of specific restaurants or even cocktails are far too broad. Customers are usually not getting into specifics - but there are group of people, who are rating a product simply bad, because value for money (in their sense) is out of balance - while others are rating a product bad, because of its reputation, of people who are serving, about their overall experience and whatsoever. It is impossible to take compute the data into a reasonable (scientific sound) result. There are quite some articles (even research papers and books) about randomness of the result of wine competitions (tastings): e.g. here and here - which support my stance.
Expert panels: That is an interesting question. First of all, we are pretty much on the same ground as the last point. But even further, experts are also humans, which have a perception. Bartenders who are presenting themselves very well, are perceived to be the better craft men - additionally every expert has pet peeves. For example, it is unlikely that you are getting Simon Difford’s approval, if you are not double straining your cocktail (in comparison, he suggest that you are adding water to cocktails, which I find borderline idiotic). And experts are influencing experts. That doesn’t seem like a fair race... Additionally if the drink is not rated by one expert (which might or might not be a good indicator for the objective quality of a drink) - but of several, we are back to the point of “averaging a score”.
Competition winners: This point is reflecting exactly the last point as well.
The most authentic: That is also extremely difficult. First of all who will judge if the cocktail is the most authentic? There are a lot of controversies (e.g. the use of brown sugar in bars), which are not even acknowledged of the public. And if there are straight forward cocktails, what makes the difference from bar to bar?
Progressiveness: That is another interesting perspective, even though most people would directly understand why it cannot be the decisive point. First it borders with the last point: who judges the cocktail as most progressive? But then there are further points like: when are changes in a cocktail so grave, that it isn’t anymore the cocktail, it supposed to represent? Personally I do not really care about your strawberry or passionfruit mojitos - well - I hate them, out of the simple reason, that they are not Mojitos (at least in my playbook!). It is like making a Coq au Vin with lemongrass and yuzu - while the result can be quite intriguing, it doesn’t anymore has the character of the original dish!
And what is about consistency?
Is there no chance for the “best whateveryoucallit cocktail?
I thought you would never ask... As I said, this is the wrong question or better said, it is an incomplete question. Because you would need to assess first of all for whom you are creating (recreating, formulating) the drink!
The secret is target audience and market segmentation. As example lets take a cocktail competition. You have to understand those following points to succeed:
- Who is judging the drink?
- How many people?
- Are they from the industry, or are they mixed?
- Where are they coming from?
- Are there people who are influencing others?
- Do they have preferences or specific pet peeves?
- Is there also a “public vote”?
- How are they judging
- Are they judging behind closed doors or in public?
- Do they have to give their feedback to the audience?
- Is there a specific focus on the judging?
- Do they see the cocktail - and are they judging on appearance as well?
- Did they seen how you made the cocktail? Did you had the chance of explaining what you did?
And so on.
There is then also another point: Often not the best cocktail wins, but the best and most experienced presenter.
It seems that we are "walking in circles" here.
The Best is just a very subjective, very broad adjective.
There is only a “best” for ones individual taste (and mood...) - but not an "ultimate best”.
But of all the above points, can help to make a “very good” cocktail, for specific audiences - if you are understanding your different target clienteles and creating specific drinks towards them.