Over the past few years I've developed a fondness for cocktails, like, f'instance, the Wild Irish Rose that I had at Arena Stage when I went to see Ah, Wilderness! which is Irish whiskey and grenadine with a splash of lime juice and topped off with club soda. And very, very yummy.*
My friends are patient with me and generally treat my fondness for antique beverages the way they do my fondness for referring to the clothes under my clothes as "underpinnings."***
But an article in the March 26 edition of Time magazine**** about mixing Victorian-era cocktails with molecular gastronomy caught my eye with this:
For all the suspenders-wearing, Bettie Page worshipping, retro-countercultural aspects of these bars, the cocktail renaissance was started not by a whiskered young idealist but by cost-conscious industry tycoons: the late Joseph Baum and his partner Michael Whiteman, who created some of the world’s top-grossing restaurants (including Windows on the World) and took fast food courts to Europe and Japan. In 1985, when they were mulling the relaunch of the legendary Rainbow Room, they started looking into 19th and early 20th century drinks, in part because they knew the modern value of a good cocktaiL “It makes a festive beginning for the guest and for the owner carries a product cost of between 15% and 18% [of the menu price] with close to zippo labor cost,” Whiteman says. “This compares with food that typically has a product cost of around 27% to 33% and labor cost of another 30% to 35%." While you may need only one bartender, the kitchen has to have an army of dishwashers, busboys servers and cooks. “A really good cocktail,” Whiteman says, “will marry well with a restaurant’s first courses so people will order a second rather than automatically shifting to lower-margin wines.” Those kinds of calculations help explain why most good restaurants have a bar—and why many of them work up a bar menu just to feed drinkers and dawdlers.
I certainly realized that all the fun libations were not suddenly all over menus just to please me (they could please me more simply by not adding flour to dishes I could otherwise order...) and I certainly knew that the mark up on booze is never far from the owner's thoughts, but I didn't realize exactly how much I was helping the bottom line by asking for a Side Car.
* Of course, when I'm part of a group and want to order something that requires no explanation, my go-to drinks remain Scotch (or whiskey) up with rocks on the side; gin & tonic; a Tom Collins; a Martini; or a Shirley Temple.**
** No, not all in the same evening. Of course not. Don't be silly.
****I would link to the article, especially as it has a video of a rather steampunk device (a "balancier") that makes "teeter-totter tea," but their website is a pain and a half, so no.
**** And I was rather touched to see that Eddie Bauer had named their new line of sheer tops "underpinnings."*****
**** Yes, of course, I bought some. Darn cute they are.