Cocktail Hall of Shame
by Darcy O'Neil on August 2011
When you write a blog, you try to keep things interesting by writing about a bunch of different subjects. Most of the time I write about cocktails and drinks I like, or what’s popular. That can get old. So I decided that I should occasionally write about things I don’t like and see what we can learn from it. Hence, the Cocktail Hall of Shame. This may become a semi-regular subject looking at bad cocktails and/or bad bartenders. These regular subjects really help when writers block or apathy set in.
The Ying Yang Cocktail
This one is a creation of my former boss. This is a sickly sweet concoction straight out of the 1980’s with a garnish that reminded me of big teased hair. It wasn’t stringy or anything, just unnecessarily overdone. I never learned the recipe, but from watching him make it, it was fruit juice (orange, pineapple) and assorted fruit liqueurs with Creme de Banana being a key addition.
So why does the Ying Yang Cocktail win this edition of the Cocktail Hall of Shame? Well partly for therapy reasons, I’m still irritated at how I was replaced at Mint, but also because there is a good story to go along with it. I didn’t write about Mint previously because the “boss” wanted control of everything said and written about Mint, and I didn’t want to have any editorial control over my writing. Unless someone wants to correct my grammar and spelling mistakes, I don’t need an editor.
Anyway, one night last September a couple came into the bar for cocktails and apps. They were elegantly dressed, looked sophisticated and had the “hardware” that communicated “well to do”. A good bartender should always size up their guests so they can make the proper drink recommendations. They seated themselves at the bar and discuss what they want to drink and they decided they want a great cocktail, not martinis. Well of course that perked my ears up because I love making great cocktails.
After a little thought and a few simple questions about spirit preferences, I surmised that they’d enjoy Classic Mai Tai’s using Havana Club seven year old rum. They seemed to be the types that would appreciate a decent rum and could handle the high alcohol strength this drink packs.
I carefully craft two Mai Tai’s using the best ingredients on hand. When I serve them, they took their sips and even before they spoke, I could tell I hit the mark by just looking into at their face. They confirm my conclusion and threw a few compliments my way.
A few minutes later my boss walks by and the two guests stop him and pass a compliment to him, regarding my bartending skills. Well, most managers would be happy about this, but no, not Frank, he sees it as a challenge to his years behind the bar. Nobody is quiet sure how many years he worked as a bartender because it changes depending on who he talking to. Anyway, he decided that he was going to show me up and make a “better” cocktail to prove who has the biggest….
The Ying Yang Cocktail was his weapon of choice, his own creation from days gone by. At this point in time, I’ve never seen Frank’s Ying Yang, but based on his vocalizations, it’s a crowd pleaser. I wasn't worried, I had already received accolades for the Mai Tai's.
Once Frank whipped out his Ying Yang I realized I had nothing to worry about. Franks Ying Yang is a limp Creme de Banana based cocktail. He slid it across the bar to the lady and you could tell that she wasn’t going for it, Frank’s Ying Yang cocktail didn’t excite her.
Being a busy restaurant, Frank had to keep his encounters very short, so he said he’ll come back once he seats another couple. About ten minutes later he wanders back to the bar and sees his Ying Yang Cocktail pretty much the way he left it. I think they took two sips each and it wasn’t to their liking. Frank realized that they didn’t like it and basically stated so, and told me not to charge them for the drink.
Frank made a whole lot of mistakes in this situation. He didn’t size up the guests, he made a drink that appeals to kids, not adults, he made it a competition and he hasn’t updated his skills in years, possibly decades. The drink isn’t anything special, just sweet, and following a Mai Tai would probably seem a magnitude sweeter than normal. Poor observation skills.
And that’s why the Ying Yang Cocktail wins this edition of the Cocktail Hall of Shame.