Wednesday, July 29, 2015

crown to crown to crown tonics

Where does it all go?

But first, I want to draw your attention to those huge chunks of ice. Look at them. LOOK AT THEM!! In Spain, they're sold everywhere - gigantic, uniform, perfect cylinders of ice. You see what I'm saying about the Spaniards having superb cocktail culture? It's not just about a town having good bars. For a culture to form, there needs to be traditions, collective behaviours, habits ... an environment that allows top bartenders to succeed, with a clientele that is enthusiastic, and a trade that brings it all together. Si, and those ice-makers too.

Schweppes does this line of flavoured tonic waters that is an exercise in how much of an impact each ingredient of the gin tonic has. As we talked about earlier, the tonic water is the *heart* of the gin tonic, to borrow a sushi shokunin saying. We know who wears the crown in that relationship, so to speak. So naturally, to express each at its fullest, we use only one gin - Citadelle - and the same garnish - a lime wheel. But really, the ice, in my opinion, is an oft-forgotten element, that crucial piece that takes a good gin tonic to the sublime. Why? Well, what purpose does ice serve, in any cocktail? Two purposes, as a matter of fact - dilution and chilling. So why are large ice cubes crucial to a great cocktail? In a word, control. As in all things, the more factors you can control, the more of yourself you can put in. With large ice cubes, one can carefully monitor both dilution and temperature, and can better achieve that most elusive drink - the one that gets better as you drink.

Right. The tonic waters. Schweppes Premium Mixers, in 4 expressions. The Original Tonic - slightly sweet, letting some of the Citadelle's alcohol come through. As you drink though, with more dilution, becomes dryer, more powerful. Well extracted on the palate. Next, the Pimienta Rosa (pink pepper) - aromatic, very peppery, sort of a combination of the aroma of white pepper with the heat of black pepper. A slight note of curry powder as well. Great balance, although too sweet (take a note of personal preference). What you end up with is a really floral tonic water that in some ways obfuscates the gin. Third, the Azahar y Lavanda (lavender and orange blossom) - quite aromatic, but more subtle, bringing forth more of the herbal notes of the Citadelle. Slight bitterness on the palate, which I enjoy. Subtleness rules here. And the final, the Ginger y Cardamomo (ginger and cardamo) - very dry, distinctly floral. I love using cardamom as a garnish, but this tonic doesn't give you so much of those aromas as much as a slight curry power again, with a touch of sweetness on the finish. The alcohol of the Citadelle slips through again, breaking the balance a bit. Overall, for all 4 - great work on the texture, on the finesse of the carbonation, but just a touch too sweet, which obscures the gin, Citadelle being a more neutral example. I would, for instance, never use a Spanish gin such as Gin Mare, or Xoriguer here - far too much going on. You want love-making in your mouth, not a shouting match.

I miss long, quiet, hot summer nights in Barcelona. Last year around this time, I had just wrapped up the final draft of the business case I was authoring, Oliver Conti - A Dream with a Glow. I was getting ready to move to the town of Zaragoza, to begin my second project. So as I send out yet another application/CV/cover letter, I'm reminded of how great, how lucky I was to do an MBA, to study at IESE, and to have lived in Barcelona. The times we spent in class. With friends. With gin tonics in hand. 

Where did it all go?! 


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