Just because it’s new to you…

The second great offense to the history of bartenders passed (right behind calling anything in a cocktail glass a “martini”) is laying claim to creating something that, well, you didn’t create.

Case in point, the reference in the January issue (featuring commentary from yours truly) of San Francisco Magazine in which a bartender lays claim to having “created” the Aperol Sour.

The sour family, as it has been defined, is one of the oldest families of cocktails. Take a single liquor, lemon juice, simple syrup (and occasionally egg white or some other modifier such as a touch of grenadine, other liqueur or even a splash of juice) and shake the bejeezus out of it and voila – a sour. Add whiskey? Whiskey Sour. Add Pisco (and egg white) – Pisco Sour. Add Benedectine and Whisky (and an orange wedge garnish) and you’ve got a Frisco Sour. Add Midori and you get a… well a throw back to trendy bar in the late 1980s with underage teenage girls.

Now, there are variants of the sour which are really creating new, innovative cocktails. For the past few weeks, Scott Baird at Coco 500 has been working on a “Chinatown Sour” – a modification of the classic Whiskey Sour, but with Rye Whiskey and little candied ginger or ginger syrup as a modifier. The recipe is still being worked on – but the resulting drink is truly something new.

However, laying claim that you “created” the Aperol Sour?

Even if you accept that simply adding a new liquor to an established base cocktail is creating something new, the Aperol Sour has been regularly found all throughout Europe for years. In fact, Charles Schumann, the famous Munich bartender, published a recipe for an Aperol Sour in his 1991 bartender’s guide “American Bar” – a staple for bartenders worldwide and found on the shelves of most good cocktail establishments.

Now, I’m not naming names because I’ve been in the publishing game before, and I know that there’s a good chance that the change between a bartender calling this his “signature” drink versus it being deemed his “creation” lays in the power of the author and the editor. However, I see this happening far too often – people laying claim to inventing things simply because they never did their research. Obviously these people never had to go through the process of researching prior art when filing for a patent!

At a minimum, there are four reference guides that I use before ever claiming ownership of a cocktail recipe: Paul Harrington’s Cocktails, Gary Regan’s Joy of Cocktails, Charles Schumann’s American Bar and the Savoy Cocktail Guide. If it passes a cursory search in these guides, then there’s a good chance of it being something new.

Just because something is new to you doesn’t mean it’s actually new.

Next time, we’ll talk about bartenders taking a famous cocktail, mangling the recipe but attributing it to the originator (such as taking a drink designed to be served “up” and turning it into a longdrink).

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