Monday, February 16, 2009

Too much of a good thing

I was at a lesser known chain Friday night with Richard Dicks, his wife, and my girlfriend. It was the kind of place that had just a little more soul than somewhere like Olive Garden, but not nearly as much as a small local restaurant. The waitress approached, introduced herself, and asked if we would like to order drinks. Richard ordered a 7&7, his wife had a glass of wine, I settled on a vodka martini, and my girlfriend decided to try one of the chain-specific beverages on the drink menu. Some concoction devised at franchise headquarters... wherever. A "Blue Hurricane". Why not?

The drinks came promptly. The 7&7 was acceptable, the martini was above average, and the wine, well, it was mostly in the glass... how can you fuck up a glass of wine? The Blue Hurricane came in a water glass, so even if it wasn't terribly tasty, it was guaranteed to do the job by sheer volume alone. But as the four of us sat staring at it, I noticed it was awfully blue. This was a warning sign.

My girlfriend took a taste, and pushed the glass away from her. I took a sip and pondered. It was fairly standard hurricane with a blue coloring agent; and just as I suspected, that's where the whole thing had gone wrong. Larger chains might have opted for blue food coloring, or some blue syrup the parent company pumped out of a factory. But being a smaller chain, they had opted for Bols. More specifically, they had opted for way too much Bols.

Now I have nothing against Bols, it has a delicious orange flavor that's much more more restrained than something like Cointreau, and it adds a wonderful blue color to your drink. But its flavor isn't pure orange, it's bitter, tangy, and quite syrupy. So you can't be heavy-handed with the Bols. Moderation is key. Too much Bols can leave a tart flavor in your mouth, overpowering the rest of your beverage. And sure enough, I could taste the pineapple and rum, but the whole thing was just completely overpowered by the flavor of Bols. And as anyone who has spent any time mixing drinks knows, its important to maintain balance when making a cocktail. Sure, it can add wonderful flavor, texture, and color to your drink, but it is possible- in fact, quite easy to have too much Bols.

But whose fault was it? The 7&7 and martini were passable, so that leads me to believe it is the franchise drink designers, and not the establishment's bartender, who can't get enough Bols. And maybe that's fine for them, but in a chain your job isn't to force your particular preclusions upon the patrons, but instead to design something everyone can enjoy. And not everyone likes a big cup full of Bols.

I'm sure there are lovers of Bols out there- people who can't get enough Bols, who are yelling obscenities at their computer screen right now, but it's true! You have to be careful with Bols. Sure, Bols can add a twist, and an great deal of visual appeal; but its something that usually has to be accompanied by other flavors to really be enjoyable. And even then, you have to carefully measure your Bols and use great care and finesse. You can't put Bols in everything and expect it to work, you have to carefully choose when and where to work your Bols in. And don't try to be "generous" with your Bols, that's how the Blue Hurricane ended up being ruined. Try to always keep in mind that just plain Bols isn't something most people like.

Now you might still be able to blame the bartender for not augmenting the recipe of their own volition, but that is all dependent on how closely management watches their Bols. If a drink went by that didn't appear to have enough, they might grab some more Bols to put in it; possibly reprimanding the bartender in the process. So maybe the Bols in the drink weren't the bartender's fault, but someone was to blame.

Will their Bols hurt their business? Probably not. It's not as if every drink they have prominently features Bols. But no one at that table that night will be ordering a Blue Hurricane in the future; it was far too much Bols for any of us.

So whether you're a bartender at a chain, a local restaurant, or just a plain old bar; please, take it easy with your Bols. It's just not everyone's cup of tea.

...or Bols.

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