Is the best food in the world being served in restaurants? I imagine that the answer would vary, depending upon whom you ask. But to those with fond memories of the food that their grandmothers and other family members made, restaurant food might not be the clear winner – regardless of hype and price point. Though it can play a role in food culture development in many capitalist economies, the restaurant industry has rarely established any major part of any food culture. It tends to take existing food culture, modify it, hype it, and sell it. This is not always to advantage. Consider the Hamburger sandwich as evolved for fast service at drive-through restaurants – or the fine cuisine so pretentious that it is served with intricate instructions as to how it should be eaten.
Is there any reason it should be any different with drinks?
Average Americans forgot their own mixed-drinks culture as a result of both prohibition and its repeal. That includes bartenders. It is true that many bar owners are cashing in on the image of doing things the traditional, pre-prohibtion way – but they and their bartenders often have only a slightly better idea of what that should mean than do their customers.
Many industry professionals come to my courses, and I am always happy and humbled to play my own little part in pushing for tradition and excellence in professionally-made drinks. But, one of the greatest joys I get from what I do is when (as happens in virtually every class session) someone asks if there is somewhere they can reliably get the drink they have just made using traditional American mixology (the understanding thereof – not just the following of an old recipe) and have it be as good as they find the one in their hand to be. I smile and say, “Yes, at your house.”