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.
To me “craft”means every ingredient in every cocktail is measured, the ingredients and ratios in the recipes wre chosen to give a specific flavor(s). And, as stated above, the maximum number of ingredients are fresh or homemade
I agree with kala. Sometimes we tend to over think things. Craft. That is what is in question. Does a bartender who makes the margarita with the 4 basic ingredients actually craft the cocktail? Does a person who assembled a cabinet from Ikea suddenly become a cabinet maker? I believe craft lies in the person who takes the personal passion of their work and makes sure it is reflected in said work. Quality of ingredients, balance of flavors, knowledge of ingredients and wanting to produce a quality product for self gratification. Just cause we use bitters in a cocktail doesn’t make us a craft bartender. I myself have made a margarita using all commercial products. Some guests have said it was an amazing drink. But it was the awareness of flavors and knowing how to balance the ingredients to produce that great cocktail. In the end I say those who attempt to produce something out of pure passion has CRAFTED something. And I raise my margarita to you.
Thank you for the spotlight. Gray’s on Main in Franklin, TN is my bar. We all agree that it’s all about the craft!
To me, a craft cocktail is one that consists of homemade, or hand crafted, ingredients that are organic when possible, all natural and contain no unhealthy preservatives. But it’s not just about the ingredients; it’s also about using one’s creativity and artistry that conveys not only a passion for concocting the most unique and tasty cocktail to be proud to serve, but also a true sense of appreciation and care for what goes into making it. When all of these elements come together, the end result will speak for itself. At least that’s my interpretation of the term. 🙂
In my opinion a “craft cocktail” is one made from finer quality of spirits and fresh mixers (herbs, fruits (juices) Most important ingredient is passion. If your passionate about the cocktail your creating you’re going to put the time and creativity into it. But having passion….can make a regular margarita taste wonderful as well. It’s all about balancing the flavors not just measuring the alcohol and filling the glass with mixers! Ppl don’t want to pay a lot of $ for a good Bourbon or Tequila and taste sour mix!