Drink By Numbers

A reader using the name Foodbevlaw posted an interesting comment to Friday's Question of the Week: "Doucheries can almost always be identified by, and the numberb of Douchers are almost always proportional to, the number of premium tequilas in the back bar."

Keep in mind the question at hand dealt with so-called "douche bags." But Foodbevlaw's response brings up another topic.

Every so often a restaurant or bar touts its extensive selection of one particular alcohol. The late Nikita, for instance, opened with more than 60 different vodkas on its shelves. Back when Whisky Bar has some pretension of being a hang out for serious drinkers--a moment lasting all of a few hours on opening night, I'd guess--they listed a few dozen bourbons and single malts. Currently the 2nd Floor's lounge claims Dallas' largest selection of malts.

But is there any real value in stocking the "largest" selection of anything?

Part of me is attracted by the idea of an extensive tequila, scotch, or whatever selection. I can drop by and try out different labels--which, of course, should be the idea. But I suspect two things: first, bartenders employed by such places probably don't have a thorough knowledge of each and every brand on the shelf. And, more importantly, some of the more unique bottles languish after one or two shots.

A spirit sitting in shelf conditions, opened and poured on rare occasion, begins to wear away. So that Caol Ila sitting half full for a year will not give you a real sense of the single malt's dense nose of oily fragrance and its interesting salt-sweet-smoke flavor.

I think it is probably better for a restaurant bar to focus on a select few bottles, handpicked by the bar staff--as long as they're willing to stretch beyond the usual name brands. The perfect collection would include a couple unfamiliar bartender favorites, spirits they could introduce you to with enthusiasm.

Yes, there is a value to destination places with bar menus as thick as a book. The Brickskeller in Washington, DC, for instance makes its name by listing over 1,000 different beers.

But at this stage in life, I guess I value the knowledge a bartender carries in his or her head about a certain bottle rather than the total number of options available.

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Dave Faries
Contact: Dave Faries