The Mystery of Mixology

People frequently ask me the secret of inventing new drinks. “How in the world do you come up with this stuff?” they ask after looking at the menu, their faces expressive with amazement and/or confusion. Sometimes I tell them I don’t know, sometimes I explain to them that it’s my job, and sometimes I get all poetic and actually elaborate on the process a little. Where does anyone who does anything creative find inspiration? There is basic knowledge that is necessary; familiarizing yourself with ingredients is key. If you don’t know what gin tastes like, it is difficult to guess what flavors are complementary to it. Curiosity is necessary. Working with the knowledge that you don’t know everything and that there are myriad flavors that you have not yet experienced is helpful. And, finally, being willing to fail, to totally blow it, to create something that is so vile and wretched that you would never serve it to anyone helps, too. It’s very possible that this will happen at least a few times.

I think there is a great similarity in our willingness to take the time to taste everything behind the bar and our willingness to take the time to know ourselves. There is one striking difference: we can’t saddle up to a bar and pay someone to do it for us. We have to educate ourselves, make the mistakes, learn what works and what doesn’t, and create something we are proud to put on the menu.