In last weekend's Wall Street Journal, columnist Eric Felten addressed an interesting question—one that's bugged me for some time. Why is it that in this fresh, local, do-it-yourself culinary age, otherwise skilled and intelligent adults are often considered incapable of mixing themselves a proper drink?
In his piece, "Prefab Mixes: Buyer, Beware," Felten visits a Williams-Sonoma—ordinarily a temple for ambitious home cooks—and finds that the beverage department's approach is considerably different, with premade mixes arrayed on the shelves. This isn't all that surprising: canned cocktails and industrial sour-mix predate television, and childhood memories of my parents' parties usually involve boxes and bottles of Holland House whiskey sour, Tom Collins, and who-knows-what drink mixes.
While it's hard to find a box of powdered Grasshopper mix today, there are plenty of other prepackaged options for party planners, most of them absolutely horrid. Take the Rose's Mojito Mix: Felten fumes that this summer, PR flacks were "touting it as 'a solution to complicated drink-making.'" Complicated? Crush some mint in sugar syrup and fresh lime juice; add white rum, club soda and ice; stir. Is it supercilious to suggest that those for whom this is a task of surpassing complexity are better off not dulling their wits further with alcohol?"
Home cooks and restaurant chefs are increasingly turning away from heavily processed products in favor of fresh, self-made ingredients. So why do prefab cocktail mixes—not only for the home, but for commercial bars of all sizes—continue doing such a bang-up business? Let's hear your story.
How did you graduate from bottled Margarita mix to squeezing your own limes? Or is a premade pomegranate cosmo mix your guilty (or not-so-guilty) pleasure?
About the author: Paul Clarke blogs about cocktails at The Cocktail Chronicles and writes regularly on spirits and cocktails for Imbibe magazine. He lives in Seattle, where he works as a writer and magazine editor.