That's the question posed by 7x7's Sara Deseran, and thank God she did. Swimming in a sea of artisan hooch concoctions, Deseran points our attention to the old-fashion bartenders -- specifically, bartender Scott Wolf, her Sam Malone in a sea of infusions and muddling.
I'm taking a leap here to say that Scott probably doesn't consider himself a mixologist. For one, the restaurants he's worked at to my knowledge (Chaya, Perbacco, Betelnut) don't have those kind of bars, dominated by bartenders in the telltale vest/cap/mustache/tattoo getup. For another, he's always watching to make sure everyone's happy, rather than losing himself, head down, as he crafts an "artisinal" cocktail. I watched him that night and he was constantly on the move.
The cocktail movement has definitely raised the bar in this town (overused pun intended)—and for this I'm grateful—but it's also created a backlog of frustrated bar goers like myself, who often find themselves waiting in line to put in their order, and once they do, having to stand aside to wait some more as the bartender painstakingly takes his or her time making a heady cocktail into a 15 minute art project: peeling the perfect twist, rubbing the essential oils onto the rim, snipping fresh Thai basil from an herb garden, cracking pepper in a mortar and pestle, picking ice from a glacier-sized chunk flown in from Alaska, lighting it all on fire, or whatever is required to prove their muster. So often it's a drink that's about the bartender's ego before the customer's satisfaction.
To be fair, self-described mixologists aren't everywhere. And, yes, most of you presumably hit watering holes each night featuring some of the best pourers in town. (From our extensive, liver-blackening research, we can safely declare Bill Landers at Orson the best bartender in town.) While we cock our eyebrows semi-excitedly whenever we see egg whites adorn a martini glass, there's something to be said for a simple beer, vodka rocks, or (dare we say) cosmopolitans that some mixologists refuse to make on aesthetic grounds. Remember, folks, in the end it's all about the buzz; let us never forget that.
This begs the question, will Chris Daly hire bartenders or mixologists at his new bar? Inquiring/tipsy minds want to know, Supervisor!