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L.A. Times: A Clear Trend in Southern California's Craft Cocktails Scene

May 21, 2012


From the Los Angeles Times:

Cranberry is not vodka's best friend. Real vodka drinkers know this, but for years their taste has been marginalized by a craft cocktail scene obsessed with whiskey. Change is on the horizon, however. As Los Angeles bartenders vie to keep up with the next trending drink wave, venues all over town are favoring clear spirits.

Well-regarded mixologists including Aidan Demarest and Marcos Tello of the cocktail consulting firm Tello/Demarest Liquid Assets are leading the way, serving as brand ambassadors to Stoli Elit vodka and Bols Genever (a grain-based, gin-like spirit), respectively, and featuring both — and other clear varieties — prominently on their own drink menus, and bartenders including Devon Tarby (the Varnish), Garrett Mckechnie (1886) and Tricia Alley (director of mixology for Southern Wine & Spirits) are enthusiastically creating unique drinks featuring vodka, gin, rum, cachaça, pisco and more and learning to play up their more subtle flavor profiles in drinks.

"I have clear thoughts every single day," says Alley, winking from behind smart black-framed glasses at a recent gathering at the Wine House meant to educate drinkers and bartenders about the remarkable variety of clear spirits. "You hear, 'Oh, mixologists hate vodka.' I love vodka. But I think it should be consumed as simply as possible."

Demarest agrees. He poured two fingers of vodka meant for sipping; it's the same way he likes to serve the spirit at his Glendale bar, Neat. It tasted smooth, with an earthy depth redolent of grain. It would be easy to erase the flavor with any number of other ingredients. Even putting it on ice threatens to do that, says Demarest.

"The colder the vodka gets, the less flavor it has," he says. "You can chill the hell out of it and then it becomes this really beautiful glass of water. I want to taste it."

That's not to say that clear spirits don't have an illustrious past when it comes to drink-making. Particularly gin, which was a beloved intoxicant before Prohibition and enjoyed a much better reputation than vodka when craft cocktails came of age again. Still, light spirits were often misunderstood and misused.
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For more information, visit www.latimes.com.


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