On this episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” hosts Adam Teeter, Joanna Sciarrino, and Zach Geballe discuss whether cocktails, particularly stirred drinks served up, are smaller in volume than they used to be. The three debate if this is true, and if so, why. Plus, a conversation around mini-sized cocktails and whether they serve any purpose. Tune in for more.
Or Check Out the Conversation Here
Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter.
Joanna Sciarrino: And I’m Joanna Sciarrino.
Zach Geballe: And in Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.
A: And this is the “VinePair Podcast.” And guess what else it is? It’s white mother f*cking truffle season. And if you guys want to get up on white truffles, you want to send me some?
J: Is this an ad?
A: No, I’m just really excited about white truffles because I follow Frank Prisinzano of Frank’s and Supper restaurants and I like to send his videos to Keith and he’s really all about white truffle season right now and I’m just like, “Yeah, man, it is white truffle season, and let’s go.”
Z: Adam, what is your favorite dish to have white truffles on?
A: I mean anything really?
Z: That’s not an answer.
A: I like it on pizza, actually. I like a nice pizza. I also like to make pasta myself, and make a nice little butter sauce. Some white truffles. It’s not like I get white truffles that often, let’s be clear. But Frank says he’s got an in. He knows a guy, so maybe I can get some from him.
J: I feel like it was a year ago that you were telling us about that pasta you made.
A: Yeah, I made white truffles once last year. I would like to make it again. I feel like if anyone in this office knew a guy, it would be Keith. So maybe I should talk to him and see if he knows a dealer. You can’t buy on the open market. That’s what Frank teaches you, if you follow him on Instagram. Can’t buy on the open market.
J: Too expensive.
A: Too expensive.
A: You got to know a guy that brings it over in a cooler from Italy. Brown bag.
J: Brown bag truffles.
A: White truffle season.
Z: Adam, why don’t you just take a trip to Alba during the truffle festival some year?
A: I have been there during the Truffle festival.
Z: Okay, there you go.
A: It was an accident. I didn’t mean to be there then, but I was there, and it was glorious.
A: Naomi says that in her next life she wants to come back as a truffle pig.
J: My God.
Z: So I have been truffle hunting in Alba or in Piedmont.
A: You have been truffle hunting?
Z: Yeah, Caitlin and I went out when we were on a trip there, before we had kids and we went out with a guide and his dogs. So I think they use both dogs and pigs.
A: I think they only actually use dogs, but the pig is a much cooler idea.
Z: Yeah. The dog is the nimbler and less damaging to the forest as it turns out.
J: I didn’t know that.
A: The pigs are so cute.
Z: They are. Well dogs are also cute. I’d like to be clear.
A: I love dogs, but just the idea of a truffle pig.
Z: Yeah, I know it’s definitely a great image if nothing else. But I think the dogs are better in this sort of more mountainous terrain of Piedmont. So, anyhow, it was a lot of fun. We found truffles. I’m still only partially convinced that we actually found them and not that they were planted there, but that’s okay. We got to eat them. That was great. So yeah, it’s all good.
J: They’d do it for you again.
A: Yeah. They don’t want to show you the actual spots.
Z: Oh, well that too.
A: You know what I mean? I bet that’s what it is.
Z: I mean I had no f*cking clue where we were.
A: They don’t want you to see where they actually find them.
Z: Yeah. That’s probably true too.
A: Right? I mean you guys have seen that movie, right? “The Truffle Hunters”?
J: No, I haven’t seen it yet.
A: It’s great.
J: I know you mentioned it.
A: With the dog. It’s so good. It melts your heart.
Z: Much like a truffle shaved onto some freshly made pasta. Just melts.
A: Yeah, I don’t know. So guys, I’m more than happy if you have access to truffles and you want to DM me. I will send you my address. We can talk truffle deals.
J: Would you drink a cocktail with truffle on top?
A: Hell no.
Z: Yeah, how has that not become a thing?
Z: That feels like the ultimate f*ck you garnish.
Z: Why isn’t someone like, “I’m already done with my caviar bump. Give me a truffle float.”
J: A truffle float?
A: You know what? If there’s a place that starts shaving truffles on top of their cocktail, I’m going to walk in there, order the drink and smash it on the floor.
A: That’s it.
A: That’s it. That’s just horrible. But I will only drink Nebs with it.
Z: Yeah you didn’t realize Adam was in a personal relationship with a variety.
A: Yeah, it’s called Nebs to me.
A: Anyway, so what have you been drinking Zach?
Z: God, we’re even more off the rails than normal. So I had the opportunity to go to a really fun dinner the other night that was put on here in Seattle by Averna, the amaro from Sicily, or an amaro from Sicily.
Z: Yeah. And they were doing actually…
A: A Black Manhattan.
Z: I did have a Black Manhattan. You damn well better believe it.
Z: So it was a dinner that was put on actually at a restaurant I used to work at, which was kind of fun. And in conjunction with Seattle Restaurant Week, which is a promotion here that is actually really cool. They’ve totally revamped it. And one of the things they’re doing here locally that I really appreciate is they’ve sort of created a whole bunch of different price tiers as opposed to what it used to be, which was just kind of one price that was across the board for all the restaurants that participated.
Z: And so there’s like food trucks and pop-ups and fine dining restaurants and everything in between participating.
J: That’s fun.
Z: So that’s really pretty cool. And they’ve done a really good job of, I think, some financial and promotional support for some restaurants and people who are producing food from cuisines that may not always participate in it. So I think it’s a kind of cool revamp of a promotion that, quite honestly, from my perspective, in the restaurants, by the time the last time I did it, was feeling pretty stale. And I think it felt that way to diners too, to some extent. In any case, it was a fun dinner. I definitely drank a few different presentations of Averna, neat or actually I think on a couple of cubes, and a Black Manhattan, and a few other cocktails. Really tasty, and just a fun night. I got to go out and do a thing as an adult, and didn’t have to deal with children or even frankly my wife. And that was nice too. So a rare treat for me. How about you Joanna?
J: Well I feel like you don’t see Averna in a ton of stuff.
Z: As a cocktail?
J: In a ton of cocktails. Yeah.
A: No you don’t.
Z: I think it’s because it has such a…
J: It’s sweet.
Z: The southern Italian Amari tend to be a little sweeter generally. They have a lot of kind of nuttiness and more of that sort of dark, rich tones, almost chocolaty. And not that you can’t use it in cocktails, but I think that you see more of the central and northern Italian Amari get popularized because they’re a little lighter. And so they’re maybe a little easier to integrate into a cocktail, or into some cocktails. I think with Averna, you kind of need a brown spirit, whiskey generally.
Z: Whereas with a Nonino or something, you could certainly use it with whiskey, as famously in the Paper Plane, but you could also use it with gin and it wouldn’t necessarily kind of overwhelm the base.
J: Overpower, yeah.
Z: Where I think with Averna you would just kind of, I’m sure it could be done, I’m sure that Averna folks that are listening to this are angrily firing up an email for us, but I think it’s hard there. It’s not that you can’t make great drinks, as obviously the Black Manhattan is a great cocktail, but I think maybe it’s a little harder to have as many base spirits that play well with it as maybe some other amari.
A: I mean you better be sure if you’re an amaro, that you would like to be in a very well-known cocktail.
A: And I feel like the Paper Plane basically elevated Nonino to heights that it never would’ve been at had that cocktail not existed.
A: I mean a modern classic, as we’ve discussed on the podcast. And I think definitely I would say much more well known than the Black Manhattan. By far.
Z: For sure.
J: I have those two bottles, though, for those two cocktails.
J: Yeah, I’ve wanted to make them at home so I have to have those things.
A: Here’s my thing about it, though. I like both of those cocktails. I think I like the Paper Plane more. I do. I don’t think, I know.
A: But I also will drink Nonino on its own.
A: Much more often than I would Averna, I would think. For the same thing that you’re talking about, Zach. For me it’s a little too sweet.
Z: Yeah. We’re getting into that time of year, though, where on a cold winter day it might be nice. Anyhow.
Z: Joanna, what are you drinking?
A: Drinking for the pod, so much pressure.
J: Actually this past weekend, Evan and I went to a concert at Webster Hall and so I was like, “I think we need to go to a cocktail bar before because I need to talk about something on the podcast.” So we went to Temple Bar, which I hadn’t been to in a while, and I just really like it there.
Z: It’s nice.
J: We went early enough that it wasn’t super crowded.
A: The fashion scene hadn’t arrived yet.
J: Exactly. And I love their cocktails there. I had a take on a Piña Colada.
J: Which was very good. And a passion fruit spritz, which was also good.
J: And I’m calling it now that passion fruit is the next big flavor. I think we’re seeing it a lot on menus. I think we were discussing it earlier this week; when will the Pornstar Martini have its moment in the States. Because it’s very popular everywhere else. But I think it’s coming. We’ll see.
Z: Joanna, you had this take two months ago.
J: I know.
Z: You’ve been on it for a while.
J: And I continue to have it.
Z: You’re just getting validation at this point.
J: Yes, exactly. Also, the last thing I’ll say about Temple Bar and why I like it so much and why I liked the original version of it is because they do bar snacks. You get popcorn when you go there. And I just think that’s a really nice part of a drinking experience.
A: I love that too. I think that that’s something that we don’t do here enough.
A: That always happens in Europe.
A: It’s like you got to have a little something while you drink.
Z: Do bars not do this anymore? I feel like I don’t go to enough bars.
J: Few and far between.
A: Very few and far between.
Z: That’s a bummer.
A: Very few and far between.
J: I think it’s like the places. It’s nice at Temple Bar, the drinks are kind of expensive, like $21. It’s nice when you get a little thing of popcorn with it.
J: But I also had a Snaquiri.
J: Because they do have a section of mini cocktails on their menu.
A: Wow. So we’re going to talk about that soon.
J: So we could talk about that in the context of our conversation today. But first, why don’t you tell us what you’ve been drinking, Adam.
A: So I went to one of my favorite Italian restaurants earlier this week, LaRina Pastificio & Vino. And I had really awesome wines there. I had a Timorasso that was just incredible.
J: He’s doing a chef’s kiss right now.
A: Chef’s kiss, yeah, that was awesome. Andrea, who’s one of the owners, and the beverage director there is the best. And his list is awesome. And it’s been interesting to me, and I’m curious to explore this and on another podcast episode, but I find actually, at least right now in New York, restaurants like LaRina actually have more interesting wine lists, currently.
J: A tiny spot.
A: Than fancy restaurants do. I think the fancy restaurants have pretty boring wine lists right now.
J: Is it a volume thing?
A: I think it’s a volume thing. They’re all trying to buy Burgundy. So they’re all competing for the same pile. Whereas it’s these spots that are just the place that you would go to every week.
A: It’s affordable, they have these deep lists where, yeah, you could drink something expensive if you wanted to. It’s on the list. They have some old stuff. But then they just have really great value and pretty deep lists, if they have space.
J: Was the bottle you had expensive?
A: It was like 70 bucks or 65 bucks. But then we did have one that we did a little splurge on, which was a 1990 Montebuono.
A: Which was awesome. But he had a vertical of these wines.
A: He had 1990, 1991. It was just really cool.
J: That’s fun.
A: And again, he has it because, I don’t know, perhaps it’s too much of a hard sell at Ci Siamo or your other trendy high-end Italian restaurant in New York that’s too big and therefore inconsistent. They have a core clientele. I feel like Popina is the same way; we’ve talked about this before, right? So small spot, but super- quality food. They have a very loyal clientele and they have an amazing wine list. And I would say, again, a wine list I think can compete very easily with some of the top restaurants in the city because they care and they have a clientele that cares. So that was awesome. Those were the two best things I drank this week. Then, I had some cocktails earlier in the week but nothing else-
J: Nothing to speak of.
A: -that was worth writing home about.
A: But we got a reader email.
A: This week, that was a podcast episode idea. So a listener named Chelsea wrote in and wanted us to discuss this move she’s noticing, especially in New York, to, specifically the Martini, but I actually think it’s a trend, pretty much across the board, of shrinking the Martini glass down and serving Martinis now in cordial glasses. And feeling like, is that actually less Martini? And I think it’s a really curious conversation to have, because I had an opposite conversation with Josh, my co-founder on VinePair, when we went out to dinner last week with another member of the industry, talking about Martinis. And Josh’s father makes massive Martinis every night. So basically my thing is, I actually don’t think the Martini is getting smaller. I think that the glass is getting smaller to make the consumer feel like the glass is full. So the traditional Martini, the Martini that I make at home, that most people, the spec that bartenders expect and talk about. Tim talks about it well, as well. It’s like 2 and a half ounces, I think, usually 3 ounces of gin and a half- ounce of vermouth or 0.75 ounces of vermouth. Right? It’s not a massive cocktail. And these huge Martini glasses usually can hold 7, 8, 9 ounces.
A: What we learn from Josh is his Dad makes a Martini that fills the Martini glass because he thinks, having gone out to steakhouses his entire life, the Martini is supposed to go to the rim.
A: And that’s what I think a lot of these old-school restaurants had to convince people, especially when you were not making actual Martinis, you were making basically shake and vodka or gin on ice that you’re then straining into the glass. The bar’s like, “Yeah, screw it, let’s shake it with as much ice as possible, dilute it and just dump it into the glass to the rim.” Now that we’re going to places where Martinis are back, they’re making traditional Martinis, I think that the bar realizes that if they serve it in the traditional glass, it’s going to look like you got stiffed.
A: So they’re looking for glassware that is smaller to make it look completely full because at least one of the bars I think she’s talking about.
J: To the brim.
A: But it is to spec, it is the right amount of ounces, but it’s to the brim. And I think they’re doing that because they want you to feel like you got a full glass but they want to serve you a traditional Martini. ‘Cause if they served you a Martini that was in a big glass, you’d get really f*cked really fast.
A: I think that’s the other thing you can’t forget, these are very boozy cocktails.
A: This isn’t like a Daiquiri that we can maybe do in a traditional Daiquiri glass and we’re shaking it with enough juice and things like that. That were somewhat diluting the spirit.
J: Extending it.
A: The Martini, the Manhattan, this is all spirit.
A: And so I feel like that’s what’s actually happening. But I will also admit that I do feel like there are some cocktails that are getting smaller.
J: Such as?
A: So I think you do see a smaller glass for the Old Fashioned.
A: So maybe there’s a reduction of ounces there. But for the most part I don’t think that people are moving to serve you less. I haven’t experienced that. I have experienced sort of what we talked about, which is that there’s this other section of menus now which are smaller cocktails.
A: Like snack cocktails where you could try minis.
A: I think that’s more of a trend than less cocktail. But I don’t know, maybe you both have seen something different.
J: Yeah, I’ve definitely seen the mini trend and a mini section on menus. Not just from this weekend, but from looking at different cocktail bar menus across the country recently. And what I find kind of fascinating about that, and Chelsea also kind of mentions this in her email, is that these drinks feel hard to justify getting, because they’re very expensive. And so when you have this idea that you’re drinking less for more money, it’s kind of hard to swallow. Why wouldn’t you just make yourself cocktails at home? But for these minis at Temple Bar for example, their full-size cocktails were $21 but the mini Snaquiri was $12. And it was a shot glass, pretty much, of cocktail. And I think in other markets across the country, like $12 is what you’re going to pay for a regular cocktail.
Z: A regular cocktail.
J: A regular cocktail. So that’s what I find really fascinating about this movement towards mini cocktails on menus. Because they’re pretty expensive for what you’re getting there. But I don’t know. When I ordered it, the waitress asked me, “Why?” She was like, “It’s really small. Are you trying to drink something like lower ABV? Is that why?” And I was like, “No, I just wanted to try it.” But I’m curious to know why these mini cocktails have made their way onto menus.
A: I’m also curious to understand why you have it on the menu if you think your service staff will question why people are going to order it.
Z: That’s a different thing entirely. But yeah, that is strange.
J: It was weird.
A: Yeah, I don’t know. What do you think, Zach?
Z: Well I think, I can’t speak to Chelsea’s specific email because she’s really talking about New York City and as everyone is painfully aware, that’s not where I am. And so I haven’t seen any of that kind of trend at this point. I still make my cocktails at home the same size as always, generally. Sometimes bigger, honestly. But what I would say is that there are probably two kinds of competing and unresolvable tensions here. One is, we are in this period of, you could at least say fairly there’s some economic uncertainty going on at the moment.
Z: There’s a lot of talk about whether we’re entering, or are in a recession, whether one is coming. And that affects both consumers and proprietors. And would it shock me to know bars have to be very conscientious about pour cost and while an extra quarter- or a half-ounce of spirit and a drink to you or me might not seem like a big deal, when you multiply that out over a number of drinks over the course of an evening, over a week, over a month, over a year, it really does add up. And it wasn’t until I started really kind of being on the managerial side that I saw that. You really see the math and you go, “Sh*t, yeah, it really makes a difference what spirit we use in this cocktail.” And if we use a spirit that’s $3 more a bottle, well it doesn’t take that long for that amount of money to actually matter, if we’re making enough of them. And so I think you have always seen proprietors, bars, etc. not just looking for ways to make their cocktails a little bit less expensive on a costing side, but also frankly walking that line between keeping costs in check and also making guests feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. And we’ve talked about it in this context, using slightly smaller glassware so that people don’t feel like they’re not getting enough volume. It’s also sometimes using odd-shaped glassware where someone doesn’t have an intuitive sense about how much volume it really holds. It’s about how much ice you put in the glass if it’s a cocktail that you’re serving on the rocks.
Z: There’s a lot of ways. We talked about this a few episodes ago with the Mint Julep, right? Here’s a drink that seems like it should be really big. It comes in this pretty good-sized goblet and yet it’s like a three sipper, sometimes.
Z: And this all goes back to just this balancing act. And the Martini is a great example of it. Even, Adam, when you were talking about what the specs for it are. While listening to it, I was like, “Well there’s a huge amount of variability there. What ratio of spirit to vermouth is the bar using and where are they starting those ratios at?” Because it’s one thing to say, “I want a four to one Manhattan or a six to one or an eight to one or whatever.” But of course a big operative factor in there is how much booze are they willing to use? How much gin or vodka are they willing to use in the first place? And I would say 3 ounces seems like it’s on the high side. I would be impressed if there were a lot of bars that were giving you a 3-ounce spirit pour to go along with whatever you’re having. And again, maybe it’s different if you’re getting a two to one or something like that. Maybe they’re not giving you 3 ounces of gin in an ounce and a half of vermouth. Maybe they are, I don’t know. Point is, I think it’s definitely possible that in this moment you are seeing bars look for ways to perhaps not raise menu prices but lower costs. Because again, 21 bucks for a cocktail might have felt to you, Joanna, like “Okay, that’s kind of just the deal. We’re out, I’m going to do it.”
Z: But even in New York City getting up over 20 bucks for a cocktail doesn’t seem like something necessarily too special. That might be a hard line to cross for a lot of bars and for a lot of drinkers; $18 dollars maybe feels more acceptable. But if you need to make that drink 10 percent, 15 percent, 20 percent smaller to hit your metrics as a bar, there are ways you can do that. And I think we are not going to ever have an accurate survey of the exact volume without doing a lot of on-the-ground research. And hey, I’m happy to come out and help with on-the-ground research, about what the volume of a Martini is, in 50 different Manhattan bars or whatever. Anecdotally, we’re going to just sort of hear about this or not. But I think it’s not inconceivable to me that some bars are just like, “Hey, we have to reduce the portion size slightly.”
Z: In the same way that restaurants do with food all the time. They go from serving you 6 ounces of fish to 5. And they figure you probably won’t notice the difference, we’ll charge you the same amount. And that’s more palatable, they think, for their diners than charging you 20 percent more. It’s just giving you 20 percent less. Now people might feel differently, but one of them is harder for the average diner to detect in the same way that a slightly smaller drink is, I think harder for most drinkers to detect, whereas a higher menu price, everyone will notice.
A: Yeah, in terms of some of these places, I really do think it’s more about wanting the consumer to feel like they got a full glass than wanting to reduce.
A: I think that those places are raising the prices. But I think there are two things, one that you each brought up. One, just to quickly address Joanna, Snaquiri cocktails are stupid on menus. I don’t get why anyone’s doing them. I think for $12 it’s ridiculous. You should just have them as either a secret bartender handshake, someone can ask you for them. That is really dumb. And I think it’s showing that bars have run out of ideas, and bars are trying to be cute. The thing, though, that I think of in terms of the lowering cost, Zach, that I’m seeing more of, and bars are getting away with is this. It’s $30 but it serves two and it comes in a special carafe with two smaller glasses. That I’m starting to see a lot. These services for two.
J: Drink service for two.
A: Yes. Which is probably one and a half drinks in, like, a normal world, but they bring you glasses and they’re like, “You poured it yourself so it didn’t have to come to the rim.” Do you know what I mean?
A: I think that you’re seeing that a lot more. And that seems to me to be a more clever solution than just continuing to shrink the glassware. It’s like, “Okay, cool, but it was for two, so we didn’t tell you it was a full drink for two.” And people start doing the math, and they’re like, “Well then this makes the cocktail $15 each.”
A: And that is happening a lot, especially I’m seeing this a lot with Martinis.
J: Martinis, yes.
A: A lot with Manhattan’s, of this service for two. And I wonder if we’ll see that more because what they’re using for the most part, I don’t know if you’re seeing this at all, Zach, in Seattle, but what I’m seeing a lot is, you know those carafes that sometimes wine bars used to bust out when you’d order a glass of wine?
J: Yeah, like a little side car on crushed ice.
A: That’s what they’re bringing the cocktail in. And then they’re just saying, “Cool, you serve yourself, and here’s a bunch of garnishes.” They’re playing with what’s cheap. Or not cheap, but more affordable. They can give you a bunch of olives, you can add as many olives as you want to your drink. They’re giving you cherries and orange peels and lemon peels, or whatever, letting you finish the drink. And so it feels very interactive. We’ve talked about interactive before, but also it is, I think, a very smart way to save some money in these times without consumers being that aware that that’s what’s happening.
Z: Yeah and it definitely plays on the fact that when you get people outside of their comfort zone in terms of pricing and, frankly, volume, it’s very easy to convince them that they’re getting a bargain when in fact they are not.
Z: And obviously we see this in all kinds of consumer packaged goods with all kinds of things like, “This thing is 20 percent bigger and costs 30 percent more.” But unless you sit and actually do the math, it’s hard to tell. Or the famous examples of the bags of chips that are 50 percent air and they look big on the store shelves and you think, “I’m getting a good deal here.” But I’m actually only getting a very small volume increase over the smaller bag or whatever. So I definitely have seen that. I think we have started to see this in various ways with the punch bowl craze from a few years ago of like, “It’s a cocktail for four.” Or something like that.And I don’t mean to say there’s no place for any of that stuff. I think there are reasons why that stuff can be kind of cool. But I definitely agree that it is a way to convince people they’re getting a bargain when I don’t think they are.
Z: But I actually want to defend the mini cocktails. So I actually disagree. We can talk about whether they’re of good value for the consumer or not. I think that’s a different discussion. But I actually think that this is something that I have felt for a long time, which is, it pisses me off when establishments don’t accommodate drinkers who might want to have an option that isn’t just one size. And so I think it bugs me when places won’t serve you a half-glass of wine, especially if you’ve already had a glass or two and you’re like, “I just want a little more, I don’t really want another full glass.” I can understand that there might be, in certain circumstances, specific reasons why for an individual wine, that might not be an option. But in general, if you’re pouring wine by the glass, it seems sort of ridiculous to me to tell someone that they can’t pay essentially half price or half the menu price plus a dollar or whatever for half the amount.
A: I agree with that.
Z: You’re not ordering half a steak, I get that that’s not an option. That’s fine. But are there some cocktails that maybe are too hard to make, or just getting it right needs volume? Like, say, an egg white cocktail, maybe you don’t want to order a half a Pisco Sour. I can get that from both an ingredient and labor standpoint. That’s fine. But again, if someone says, “I want half a Martini.” I don’t really understand why that’s a problem. Where is the issue here for a bar? Yes, maybe some of the time that person says, “Okay, I’ll just take another one entirely.” But are you really feeling good about forcing someone to order more alcohol than they feel comfortable with?
Z: And conversely, some of the time they’ll say, “Okay, never mind.” And then that’s just a sale that you’ve lost. And yeah, it’s not a full sale, but half a one I think should still be positive for the business. And I’m not saying that every bar should make you a half-size version of any drink you want at any time, but certainly if they’re on the menu, that’s totally valid. And I’m kind of shocked that your server questioned you, Joanna. But also I do think that even in general, if you ask about it, I think, like with all things, if the bar’s crazy busy, maybe you don’t want to make an off-menu request. But in the same way that I think someone could feel okay saying, “Hey, I want to have this drink, but here’s my preferred way of making it.” I think if you said, “I want half a Martini,” you should be able to do that, that seems like not a big ask.
J: Have you ever encountered that? I’m just curious. I would never even think to order half a drink.
Z: Yeah, in bartending, because people will… I don’t mean to say that it was like 10 times a day, but it was not wildly uncommon. And sometimes I’d offer it to a guest. You’d see someone who was sort of wavering honestly on whether they wanted to have another drink or not. And I thought, “Well, if I could sell them a half a drink.” I’m like, “Would you like another?” And they’re like “I don’t know.” I’d say, “How about half?” That’s a very easy sort of point for someone to get to a yes on. And again, it was my job to sell drinks. That was my responsibility. So whether it was another half glass of wine or a half a cocktail or a half a beer or something, right? That’s all just profit or whatever, that’s my job. And again, I don’t necessarily know that I would’ve offered to make half-drinks out of every drink on our menu all the time, no matter what. Or I might have had to say no from time to time. But in general, it shouldn’t be that difficult to do. And unless the bar is super busy, I think that should be something that a bartender could accommodate.
J: What I think is interesting about the mini drinks being added to menus is that some people are saying that now you can do the two-Martini lunch again, right? Because they’re implying that the drink’s size has grown so much in the past, whatever, 50 years? That we’re calling it mini now. But really that’s how big drinks were back then. And I think that’s kind of interesting. And it’s interesting to see it now, as we’re also having these conversations around lower ABV, drinking less, who’s actually drinking less, more moderation. So I think that’s kind of interesting to me. Because really, it’s just the size of, well, not this particular Snaquiri, but I think in some of these cases like Martinis, they seem smaller, but really they’re just the size that they used to be. Because like Adam said earlier, a lot of people have grown accustomed to these monstrous drinks.
A: I think so.
Z: But I also think, one last note here too, which is especially with Martinis, I would suspect, although I’m not the expert, that a lot of those Martinis back in the two Martini lunch days were much more diluted than they are now.
J: For sure.
Z: People were using much worse ice. The craft in general of bartending was much less. And I think you got more diluted drinks.
J: More vermouth probably.
Z: Probably. Yeah, well maybe that too. But you just got a drink that sat on ice for a while that probably was just much more watered down. So whether it was less volume, I don’t necessarily think it was all that much less volume, but I think it was certainly less strong. And that makes it a lot easier to drink more of them, unsurprisingly.
A: I agree. Well, let us know what you think. Do you think drinks are getting smaller?
A: Do you see more communal drinks at bars and restaurants? Let us know.
J: Wait, I do want to say, though, I feel like I remember seeing maybe a few months ago people on social media doing this whole thing, pulling their ice out of their glass. And Zach, you mentioned this earlier.
J: Being like, “Look how little liquid is actually in my cocktail.”
A: That’s how it always is. What do you think an Old Fashioned looks like?
A: When there’s not a huge ice cube in the cup?
J: And all these bartenders…
A: Do you drink whiskey neat? I don’t… it’s just, my God.
J: But it’s funny how people are noticing it now.
A: Yeah, but again, I think that this… so I was about to close the show and then Joanna just reopened it up.
J: I’m sorry.
A: No, I like this. I feel like this is a lot, though. Again, this is the effect that we knew we were going to see, and we said we were going to see, post-Covid with so many people having made cocktails at home.
A: We weren’t sure exactly how we were going to see it. I think a lot of it’s coming to fruition. Zach and I talked a lot about, right Zach?
A: We weren’t going to see as many Negronis as the cores on menus; we were going to see more riffs, because people knew how to make those, right?
A: And Joanna, you and I talked about that as well. What we are also seeing is people who are used to making their own Martini. Maybe their Martini does have 6 or 7 ounces and they were filling it to the brim of their big Martini glass like Josh’s Dad. And then all of a sudden they’re going out, and they’re feeling like it’s smaller.
J: That’s a good point.
A: Or they’re like, “Well my Old Fashioned’s bigger than this.” Maybe because they weren’t using as big of a cube, or they were using a bigger glass with smaller cubes. And the bar is using a more standard Old Fashioned glass with a cube that fits perfectly inside. And so it looks different to them. And everyone’s now challenging it in a way that I think wouldn’t have happened pre-Covid when you didn’t have so many people who were now very comfortable being bartenders. And I also think, and this is a tease for an upcoming episode, if a recession is coming, what we’re going to see immediately happen is people feel very comfortable to start not going to restaurants as much, and immediately go home and make great drinks at home and drink good wine at home. And I think you’ll see less of the pullback you’ve seen maybe in other recessions where people stop spending both on drinks out and in just sort of cutting back on both sides. I think you’ll see a full cutback on out, and much more of just spending in. Because now everyone’s realized, like, “Wait, that bottle of wine that I really love, that Nebs that’s a hundred bucks on the list, I can get for $35 and I still have $35 in the recession. I just don’t want to spend $100 at dinner.”
A: And I also learnt how to cook good pasta or whatever. So I think that’s all talk for another day.
A: But I think that’s stuff that’s happening. So now to close out the show: if you know of any small cocktails, let us know. Tiny cocktails, whatever we’re going to call them. Let us know.
Z: “Hold me closer tiny cocktail.” Sorry, my wife just wanted some Elton John, it’s been on the air lately.
A: Yeah, let us know what you’re thinking about and we would love to chat. Also if you have other episode ideas like Chelsea. Thank you Chelsea, it’s the best.
J: Yes, thank you Chelsea.
A: Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear what you are interested in and what you’d like to hear us chat about. And I’ll talk to you both on Friday.
J: Have a great week.
Z: Sounds great.
Thanks so much for listening to the “VinePair Podcast.” If you love this show as much as we love making it, please leave us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.
Now for the credits. VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and Seattle, Washington, by myself and Zach Geballe, who does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all of this possible, and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director, who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team, who are instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you again.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.