Someone needs to find a large, smelly fish, write ‘get over yourself on it’ and slap this guy right in the chops with it.
In a staggeringly painful New York Times article, Mr Alex Ott can be seen cloistered in his ‘cocktail laboratory’, apparently attempting to distil every ounce of joy from some form alcohol or other.
Now, I don’t know Ott. I’d never heard of him until someone sent me a link to the NYT article, but the line “Bartenders should never be people who come up with cocktails, because they have no education” is a bit of an attention grabber and I forced myself to read on.
Paraphrasing the article, Alex Ott has been there, seen it and done it. Apparently there isn’t a Hollywood A-lister he hasn’t served, and over time, customers, to him at any rate, have become “individual biospheres that I could manipulate with my drinks”.
It may well be that Mr Ott has been misrepresented by a journalist – his remarks may have been made with tongue firmly in cheek, or at the behest of the owner of the amazing new ‘anti-hangover’ drink he is pleased to be associated with (fizzy milk thistle, which he made palatable by adding lemon juice), but somehow, I don’t think so.
His interview reminds me of a certain type of person you increasingly encounter in the bar industry – someone who should have got out before they forgot what bars are all about, namely having a good time.
I can understand and applaud certain bartenders’ desire to look back at drinks from the past in order to develop their skills and find inspiration, or those who constantly search for different and unusual ingredients in order to push the boundaries of accepted cocktail wisdom.
However I can’t understand, and can’t abide, the type of bartender who has fallen so far up himself that he (or she) has forgotten that they should be doing all of this exploring and experimenting for one reason – to deliver the best possible experience to the punter on the other side of the bar who is paying for the drink.
This might seem like a moot point right now, because there are members of the public, normally seen with ironic 70s facial hair and v-neck sweaters, who will quite happily pay to experience this sort of nonsense.
But it won’t last. I queued for half an hour in the cold and rain to get into a distinctly ‘not full’ Experimental Cocktail Club a few weeks ago, only to be told by a man dressed like a leprechaun that I was not permitted to have a daiquiri made with the rum of my choosing.
Now I absolutely encourage and welcome suggestions from bartenders, but I know how I like my daiquiris, and to be told point blank “we don’t make them like that’… Well frankly you can fuck right off. I’ll never spend money there again.
The thing is, over the next year or so, every Hipster in the world will have gone to every Alex Ott-tended bar in the world, and they will realise that once the mystique has gone, they really aren’t very enjoyable to frequent, and slowly but surely they will close.
Contrast that to bars like Trailer Happiness or Socio Rehab, who manage to make great drinks and show you a bloody good time as well… Those bars have been around for years, and will keep going for years more because having fun never goes out of fashion.
I shall leave you now with a few words from Mr Ott himself. His talents know no bounds, he’s even familiar with your mum:
“I can make a cocktail that will take you back 30 years… If you tell me what you had as a child, I can take you there in one second — take you back to when your mommy tucked you in and gave you a hot chocolate. The same exact scent.”