Moderation, Citric Acid & The Pickleback

A few interesting booze & cocktail articles from the inter-web that have come across our radar this past week.

Moderation, Citric Acid & The Pickleback By: Tiff Christie|August 12,2019

How Ranch Water Became the Unofficial Cocktail of West Texas

Anyone who’s spent time in West Texas between May and September has experienced the relentless desert sun, offset ever-so-briefly by a bone-dry, tumbleweed-stirring breeze. This is not the kind of heat quenched by mere H2O. Enter Ranch Water.

Though the exact birthplace of the tequila-based refresher is unknown, this unofficial drink of West Texas dive bars and house parties carries some Texas-sized fables.

“There’s a rumor that it was concocted by a wild-haired rancher in Fort Davis in the 1960s,” says Phillip Moellering, Manager and Food & Beverage Director of the Gage Hotel in Marathon, Texas. “Allegedly, the spirit of the drink had him following the West Texas stars all the way from Fort Davis to Marathon by foot, where he was found asleep under a piñon tree.”

Founded in 1927 by rancher Alfred Gage, the Gage Hotel has long been a stopping point for adventurers and artists like Western novelist Zane Grey and Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum. Ranch Water was a standard order at the historic hotel’s White Buffalo Bar for years, but it wasn’t until 2010 that the bar finally decided to make the word-of-mouth drink official on the cocktail menu, adding a bit of orange liqueur for deeper flavor.

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How To Use Citric Acid In Cocktails

Citric acid, the same acid found in lemon juice, is one of those ubiquitous ingredients on food and drink labels, and lately, it’s also been popping up in cocktails as bartenders use it to mimic the flavor of citrus.

At Otaku Ramen in Nashville, bartender and partner Ben Clemons says citric acid is especially useful in batched cocktails. “Punches and large-format cocktails are only good for a few hours because fresh juice, just like anything else ‘living,’ begins to go bad the moment it’s juiced,” he says. “Citric acid allows you to balance sour with sweet without using organic, shelf-unstable ingredients.”

Citric acid (as well as malic acid) can also be used to amp up the acidity level of fresh juice. Picture pineapple juice but with the tangy zip of lemon, or fresh orange juice that can balance a cocktail with the acidity levels of lime juice. “The addition of citric or malic acids aids in ensuring consistent flavor and pH,” says Gaby Mlynarczyk, Los Angeles-based bartender and menu consultant at spots like Accomplice and Vacation. “It does maintain flavor [of the juice], but it needs to be used sooner rather than later, as it tends to lose its zip.”

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The Modern Moderation Movement Is Real. This Is What You Need To Know About It.

Boozehounds, like 18th-century classical composers, love a good movement: the craft beer movement, the natural wine movement, the artisanal tequila turned mezcal turned alternative agave spirits movement. Give us a juicy trend with legs, one that promises to change the way we look at what’s in our glass, and we’ll be the first to fill that glass to the rim and raise a toast.

But there’s one movement that has many in the booze biz on high alert: the moderation movement. After a decades-long boom in consumption, new data shows that Americans are increasingly laying off the sauce—or at the very least, embracing it less heartily than they once did. In 2018, alcohol volumes in the United States dropped by 0.8%, a third straight year of decline.

That might sound like drops from a keg. But when you consider that sales growth across all alcoholic categories is slowing at a time when Americans are embracing wellness as an existential ideal, it signals a perceptible shift in our drinking culture. And it leaves those of us who make, market and write about adult beverages looking for answers. These are five things you need to know about the moderation movement.

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Blended Scotch Producers Challenge Category Misconceptions

Blends or single malts – which whisky is better? Let us follow the train of thought of Chris Anderson, head of Edrington brands, to break down this common conundrum: by comparing whisky to Italian cuisine.

“Grain whisky for me is like pasta, it gives a base, heart and body to a dish,” Anderson explains, referring to the fact that blended Scotch contains grain and malt whisky, which, he says, plays are similar role to “arrabbiata, or Bolognese sauce”. On their own, the pasta and chosen sauce are delicious components. But combined, they create a much more flavoursome dish. “When you think about the final meal, it’s much better to have a pasta dish with both elements,” Anderson says. “In a similar way, blended whisky is a combination of two very strong whisky components that bring great balance and complement each other.”

But single malts remain in fashion – and while this sub­-sector of Scotch whisky has been put on a pedestal, consumers are often quick to denigrate blends for being of ‘lesser quality’.

Growing volumes

However, blends are still the bedrock of the Scotch whisky sector, shifting enviable volumes worldwide. During 2018, exports of blended Scotch whisky grew by 5.8% to £3.04 billion (US$3.8bn), according to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) figures from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA). Data from market research provider Euromonitor also shows that volumes of blended Scotch globally grew from 83.43bn nine-­litre cases in 2017 to 84.61bn in 2018.

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Who Invented The Pickleback?

In 2009, the media discovered a new low-brow, two-step shot, in which a dram of whiskey was chased by a shot of straight pickle brine. A score of articles were written about it in record time in outlets like The New York Times, New York Magazine, The New York Post and more. By 2010, you couldn’t escape the Pickleback. It had infiltrated watering holes of all stripes—restaurant bars, sports bars, pubs and, perhaps most importantly, buttoned-up cocktails bars that otherwise took themselves quite seriously. The latter made an exception where the Pickleback was concerned, however, because the shot was waggish and tongue-in-cheek; it helped to soften the then-haughty reputation the mixology crowd had built up and was trying to shake; and, well, it moved a lot of whiskey.

Today, the novelty drink remains a staple the world over, a bonafide modern classic of sorts. Thirst for it or cringe at it, you can’t deny its staying power. It’s the drink that has birthed a million rousing toasts and the sole reason many bars keep pickle brine in stock by the gallon.

The unlikely phenomenon began 13 years ago in a pretentiously unpretentious would-be dive bar in Brooklyn called the Bushwick Country Club, a bar that had unwittingly become a stopgap storage facility for a fledging pickle company.

To untangle the drink’s origins, we talked to John Roberts, owner of the Bushwick Country Club; Reggie Cunningham, a bartender who served the first one and gave the drink its name; Bob McClure, co-founder of McClure’s pickles, the first brine used in the Pickleback; bartenders TJ Lynch and Jason Littrell, accomplices in the rapid spread of the Pickleback; and Chris Patino, a then representative of the liquid conglomerate Pernod Ricard, which owns Jameson Irish whisky and quickly co-opted the drink to, well, move a lot of whiskey.

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Moderation, Citric Acid & The Pickleback

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