I'd hazard a guess that most people reading this let their drinks play a very poor second fiddle to their food. Sure, your drink choice isn't a necessity as much as your food is (well, hopefully it's not a necessity) but then again, much of the recent food movement has pushed food from simply being a necessity into something we can explore much more enjoyably. It has always struck me as strange that even those who have taken on a new food mentality still plump for a mediocre bottle of wine, and haven't carried their discovery of tastes through into their drinks.
Of course, I'm biased. I focus on drinks, and primarily cocktails. I do, however love wine too, as well as beer and other stand alone beverages. But much of the time, a bottle of wine or a beer becomes the default position for every occasion. The beautiful thing about cocktails is that they suit an occasion incredibly - there's literally a drink for every scenario. Crucially though, what is missing, is the same attitudes and keen exploration being applied to the drink you take at home (we'll cover branching out whilst in the bar another time...) as has been with the change in attitudes to food.
One of the best consequences of the food movement is that people are starting to really concentrate on their ingredients. There is so much more choice readily available- new flavours and products from around the globe, but also a whole host of new craft products on your doorstop - that have entered the everyday mentality. Even friends who certainly wouldn't call themselves 'foodies' have started to explore the new range of products that vie for their place in the shopping basket and, importantly, that cater to their own tastes.
The really beautiful part is that these producers of the weird and wonderful are passionate and open - they're willing to show you around, let you taste the products and are keen to tell you how they make them. It's also made the bigger, historic producers realise that people are interested in these aspects. There's more products, variety and information out there than ever before, but strangely, people aren't using these wonderful ingredients like, well, ingredients.
Take when you pick up some ingredients for dinner; you'll pick out some well reared meat, some local vegetables, maybe a new favourite spice and you'll put together a dish you know you and your close ones are going to love. You might twist a recipe, you might make an old favourite using these new ingredients or you might try something completely new. The outcome might not even work out entirely, but that's an understood part of the process. However, the same process seems to fail drinks. I've had friends who'll pick up an artisanal gin (for example) and drink it with one cube of ice and some old tonic.
Now, it's very easy to damn. Of course, I'm sure everyone has a tendency to criticise when they see others butcher their craft, but the difficulty with drinks is that with minor attention, and the same applications people are utilising with their food, the quality of their drinks would mirror that of their dining experiences. This doesn't mean that they necessarily need to be matching a carefully crafted cocktail to their food, but it means that even the humble gin and tonic with a few simple steps can be the wonderfully revitalising drink it should be.
To me, the real crux of the food revival hasn't been that more people own a kitchen blowtorch or a bottle of truffle oil than before, but that people are focussing on their own tastes much closely. Of course, there are social movements in terms of tastes and habits (I've been seeing an awful lot of salted caramel for quite a while now), but people have gained the confidence and vocabulary to be able to genuinely choose flavours that are suited to them.
My real hope is that with a few pointers, I can get people doing the same with their drinks- choosing ingredients that they are excited by, and creating their favourite serves for themselves and their friends- drinks that match the calibre of their food. Now wouldn't that be nice...
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