Jake O’Brien Murphy sets out his three-pronged manifesto for change.
I’m a fan of a contentious opinion and a good-spirited argument. However, in my professional capacity as a brand ambassador, I’m contractually obliged to say everything I experience is absolutely, 100% brilliant even when it is properly shit. So here’s a list of things that annoy me or that I’d like to change, oh, and all of these opinions are my own. Even though they are common sense.
It’d be quite nice if we could all stop using the word ‘mouthfeel’ with immediate effect. I understand when talking about booze that texture does indeed come up. But come on! What a hideous mental image ‘mouthfeel’ conjures up. Say it. Mouthfeel. Mouthfeeeeel. Ugh, horrible. Can you feel your sexual organs atrophy as the word leaves your lips?
It also provides a quite clumsy catch-all term for the complex realities of gustatory sensation. My working theory is that, in the UK, our diminishing lexicon surrounding food and drink is a hangover of WW2 rationing, which ended in 1954, and the inevitable effects this had in the erosion of our shared culinary traditions. In the UK we rarely talk about food in any meaningfully descriptive ways, save for a few generally accepted onomatopoeic marketing terms – snap, crackle, pop.
This has led to a rudimentary shared language that doesn’t do justice to the possibilities of human enjoyment. There is a genuine joy to be found in exploring flavour first-hand and building a common language around it. What could be nicer than isolating a fleeting, ephemeral experience and giving it a name? The French have the term émoustiller, for a sensation that titillates and excites the palate. Lovely.
Likewise, I was introduced to the phrase ‘tannic grip’ recently, which perfectly coloured in the prickling sensation of bitterness. There you go, a well-researched thesis into why all of these bloody perverts should stop using the word mouthfeel.
I tried shaved ice for the first time a few weeks ago. It was spectacular. It was halfway between cocktail and dessert – more Sgroppino than Brandy Alexander. I sincerely mean it when I say this – I don’t think I’ve ever been so impressed with anything in my life. And I’d like to remind you I’m on first-name terms with Tony from Hollyoaks.
It prompted the question: “What happened to all of the crushed ice?” And the inevitable follow-up of: “Can we bring all the crushed ice back?” To understand where it went in the first place, look no further than the modern fetishisation of block ice. We love the big blocky clear stuff, and rightly so. It does go to show that, despite the vast improvement in mixed drinks the great ice reformation of the 2010s brought on, there were some unforeseen casualties and for whatever reason we left crushed ice behind.
I understand why. Ice machines are A) expensive and B) cumbersome, so the logical decision, no matter how flawed, is to do away with crushed ice machines. The family of drinks that require crushed ice – the Mojito, Caipirinha, Punch Romaine and the entire kingdom of the Julep – are among the most refreshing in existence. Structurally speaking it’s because the thermal integrity of the drink isn’t compromised by pesky things like space.
Have you ever tried a Mojito with cubed ice? It’s like watching your parents kiss. It’s fine. It’s not ideal. Moreover, as we tiptoe out of the minimal-modernist era of drinks and back into something that resembles good fun, crushed ice is perfectly poised to make a return.
The Alternative Bar
Awards I realise I take almost any opportunity to take a swipe at the awards industry, but, what can I say? I’m a maverick. Where’s my award? That being said as a young bartender I just missed the Alternative Bar Awards. Headed up by Jake Burger, the ABAs, as I understand it, were a low-stakes celebration of the great and good of our industry without the pernickety pressures of status, political meddling or, and this is key, disappointment.
It aped and parodied the traditional categories of an award and added some of its own. I’ve always thought this sounded particularly refreshing given the fact we are all in the habit of taking ourselves a little too seriously. There have been attempts to satirise parts of the industry through Instagram accounts with some success, but, more often than not, they’re either mean-spirited or self-appointed tastemakers. Which, as a maverick, I see no irony in acknowledging.
My point is, I think we need to laugh at ourselves a bit more. The awards have become an intractable part of the fabric of what it means to work in our particular niche of hospitality and that’s fine, I suppose. However, with the ABAs it’d be nice to have one that lets us all in on the joke.