Further complicating the question, I’ve recently seen several new appliances on the market that claim to make “craft” cocktails. But it just doesn’t feel right to me – a “craft” cocktail just can’t be made by an appliance – can it?
I think the real question is: What is ‘Craft’?
Seeing as how I’ve been mulling on this question for several weeks, I decided to cheat and outsource my question to perhaps the most trustworthy “crowdsourced” bartending resource out there: Facebook. (And since Chris has more bartending friends, I had him do the dirty work!)
“Craft” is Expensive
We got a couple comments immediately that referenced “Craft” as being pricey:
“’Craft’ costs $4 more”
I’m sure some of these were tongue-in-cheek, but they highlight a point. “Craft” comes with a price.
This may be true – but so many factors go into the price of a cocktail. I’ve had a $20 Rum and Coke – and I’ll tell you right now, it was not craft. (It was in a tourist trap nightclub – so I was paying for marketing and rent, I suspect.) I suspect the “Craft is expensive” argument is more of a “correlation” than “causation” thing.
“Craft” uses Fresh, Handmade Ingredients
A few more comments focused on the ingredients. A “craft” cocktail is made with fresh ingredients. It avoids prepackaged, commercial products and things that have been preserved.
Perhaps Anthony, a bartender from Connecticut said it best:
Is that because it’s made with preservatives and bought off a shelf? Or is it because the cocktail maker did not physically make the sour mix?
It’s very, very relative – but I think Anthony makes a really great point: when considering whether a cocktail is “craft”, it’s worth considering every ingredient that goes in the glass.
Side note: if most of the ingredients are craft, does that make a cocktail “craft-ish”? Is that a thing? Maybe we should make it a thing…
“Craft” is Care
I hadn’t thought about “Craft” as it relates to the word “Craftsman” – but Kala, (a bartender in Tennessee) highlighted the concept of “craftsmanship” in her comment, which I think was definitely one of my favorites:
Furthermore, it doesn’t mention exclusivity. The definition does not say “an activity involving skill in making things by hand … where every single piece of that thing has been handmade.”
So can a cocktail be “crafted” if great care and effort is taken, but the bartender uses pasteurized, shelf-stable sweet & sour mix?
Craft is The Whole Package
Frederic Yarm (of Cocktail Virgin Slut) brought it home with a great “all encompassing” reply: It’s the whole shebang.
So what is Craft then?
If there’s one thing I’m sure of – it’s that I’m not really sure. But it’s really important to note something before I go. “Craft” does not mean “better”. A “craft cocktail bar” is not better than a “cocktail bar” just like you couldn’t say a hotel bar is better than a restaurant bar. Using the word tells a story of how the cocktails are made – but it’s a very subjective story that means something different to everyone.
By the way – I still don’t have an answer to the “robot bartender” question. Does the craftsmanship of the folks who designed the robot count? … Not sure about this one.
At the end of the day, Craft is what YOU believe it to be. As for me? I know it when I see it.