Just mud­dling along

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

Read­ing reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor Ka­t­rina Lob­ley’s piece this week on As­pen (Page 6), I was in­trigued by the no­tion of a $US47 ($62) mar­garita crowned with a twist of sil­ver leaf. “The price in­cludes a ta­ble­side cock­tail-cart per­for­mance com­plete with dra­matic liq­uid-ni­tro­gen fog,” Ka­t­rina tells us. Oh, my.

I’ve trav­elled quite a bit this year and ev­ery­where I ven­ture there is a buzz about cock­tail crafts­men, al­co­hol al­chemists and mixol­o­gists and ever more in­ven­tive tip­ples con­tain­ing the likes of, say, par­ti­cles of gold leaf, wild el­der­flow­ers plucked by or­ganic elves in deep­est Devon or su­gar snap peas mud­dled with tar­ragon. To mud­dle is all the go, ac­tu­ally, and means to smash or stir the in­gre­di­ents as well as, iron­i­cally, to con­fuse or cause dis­or­der.

If you search on­line for un­usual cock­tail in­gre­di­ents you’ll find the (un­likely) likes of foie gras. If you add frozen flake of foie gras to a bour­bon cock­tail, you have a con­coc­tion known as Foie the Hell of It. There are hun­dreds more, I’m afraid. In­fused syrups are all the go, too, from laven­der to ly­chee. No plain old mar­tini is safe. Watch out, here comes smashed av­o­cado and a crush of bell pep­pers.

I have just been read­ing in a US mag­a­zine that bar carts are back. We would know these as drinks trol­leys or tray­mo­biles and these retro wag­ons on wheels are now pushed about by so-called car­tenders who will “com­pose” your drinks or “cu­rate” your coast­ers or “ad­vo­cate” your olives or what­ever other ar­ti­san-led non­sense you should re­quire. I hope they have sup­plies of soft lol­lies as the gummy bear mar­tini I had in 2014 at RIMBA in Bali sticks with me still. The other big thing is flair bar­tend­ing which leaves the likes of Tom Cruise and Bryan Brown in the 1988 movie Cock­tail well in the shade.

Flair bar­tend­ing has been de­scribed as “the ma­nip­u­la­tion of bar tools”, which sounds un­com­fort­able. It in­volves jug­gling cock­tail shak­ers and bot­tles and of­ten set­ting fire to things (drinks, mostly) and can be re­ferred to as “ex­treme bar­tend­ing”. I have not seen this in ac­tion but pre­sume it’s a bit like Ja­panese chefs at tep­pa­nyaki bars who twirl about their knives and gi­ant pep­per bills and crack eggs from on high. I ob­served one such chap on the Pride of Amer­ica cruise ship off Hawaii last year and he had his work cut out in much the same way as at-sea cir­cus per­form­ers and jug­glers. A high­wire act on the high seas? You’d have to be bonkers.

Some flair bar­tenders also per­form close-up tricks, known as bar magic. I pre­sume they make that maraschino cherry dis­ap­pear up your nose or pro­duce a mer­maid swiz­zle stick from be­hind your ear.

Speak­ing of adorn­ments, we had a fab­u­lous Christ­mas soiree last year in which I dec­o­rated all the drinks with lit­tle para­sols and other things on tooth­picks, such as pa­per pineap­ples that bal­looned out and bobbed about, un­til they gave up and sank. My retro swiz­zle stick col­lec­tion got quite an air­ing, in­clud­ing the dol­phin-shaped ones from Hawaii in­scribed with the merry mes­sage: Here To­day. Gone to Maui. I didn’t set fire to any­thing, ex­cept the Christ­mas pud­ding, which flared with flair.

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