D
econstructing the cocktail, then building it back up
again with added bells and whistles, has been the
focus of the bar world for many years now. This
“cocktail renaissance” has spawned the speak-
easy, molecular mixology and the much-parodied
world of bartenders with exotic facial hair and ironic arm
bands. But in the last year or so, a quiet movement toward
simpler, stripped-down drinks has taken hold.
Many bartenders, like Angus Winchester, Tanqueray
global brand ambassador, say this trend has a lot to do
with increased knowledge behind the bar—
more ingredients don’t necessarily trans-
late to a better cocktail. “These simplified
drinks highlight the masterpiece of spirits
and ingredients rather than muddling them
up unnecessarily. This can be seen as a nod
of respect for the ingredients, as well as an
acknowledgement of time pressures in craft
bars,” he explains.
One of the biggest complaints from cus-
tomers at craft bars has been the time it takes
to get a cocktail, as well as the price. This
backlash has led many operators to rethink
their beverage program. Libations consul-
tant Aidan Demarest, the man responsible
for some of Los Angeles’s most prominent cocktail haunts (Spare
Room, Seven Grand, The Edison), opened his own place, Neat
Bar, in October 2011. Located in suburban Glendale, Neat Bar
focuses on a decidedly uncomplicated way to serve drinks: choose
your spirit, neat or on the rocks; mixers are served on the side.
Purity of Content
Taking away the clutter of a cocktail menu, Demarest instead cu-
rated a stellar spirits collection and high-quality mixers. This allows
bartenders to spend more time talking and
tasting customers on spirits. A simple pour is
set on a wood tray, with space for a second
glass of ice or a chaser. Neat Bar hasn’t totally
abandoned cocktails however; each week a
well-known bartender plays host and can cre-
ate a special cocktail for the night.
At the root of many classic cocktail
recipes like the Old Fashioned (spirit, sugar,
waters and bitters) are simple ingredients.
Misty Kalkofen, bar manager at Brick and
Mortar in Cambridge, MA, calls this a cy-
clical process. She was one of the original
bartenders at the legendary B-Side Lounge,
opened by Patrick Sullivan in 1998.
“When the B-Side first opened we had a
cocktail list of six drinks, all classics featuring
MINIMALIST
MIXOLOGY
Straight spirits and simple cocktails
make a statement
BY BRANDY RAND
JACK ROSE & KINGSTON DAIQUIRI PHOTOGRAPH BY JON SANTER / NEAT BAR PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON TELL
JACK ROSE
Calvados, lime, grenadine
Prizefighter in
Emeryville, CA
The Tanqueray Bramble cocktail
contains gin, lemon juice,
simple syrup and crème de
mûre (blackberry liqueur).
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