Show your credentials at a cocktail bar and also you would possibly simply be acknowledged with an esoteric shot from the bartender. Early on within the trendy cocktail renaissance, that “bartender’s handshake” would possible have been Fernet-Branca, the bracing, bitter Italian liqueur. During the last twenty years, it might equally have been then-obscure orders like Chartreuse, Cynar, mezcal (or M&M photographs), or, in the event you have been in Chicago, the bitter bomb generally known as Jeppson’s Malört. However these days, it appears, the trending bartender’s handshake has inexplicably develop into Stoli Blueberry, a flavored vodka not often seen outdoors of faculty dorm rooms.
“I feel we now have all sort of gotten over ourselves a bit the previous few years, and realized that typically one thing is simply actually good and we’re allowed to assume that,” says Ramsey Musk, of Confederate in Los Angeles, who additionally cites Midori and Malibu Rum as becoming into that class. “Like, Fernet isn’t dangerous, however it’s clearly a little bit polarizing.”
Certainly, the previous decade or two of bartender’s handshakes constituted what would possibly finest be categorized as dares—difficult spirits or liqueurs thrown again by seasoned execs to ascertain their insider standing. Recently, nevertheless, there appears to be a shift: The bartender’s handshake has develop into much less of a dare and extra of a deal with, and what as soon as may need been embraced solely paradoxically can now be appreciated in earnest, due to a loosening of bar world dogma.
“I feel persons are simply being trustworthy about what they assume is tasty and what they need to have after they exit,” says Musk, who notes that Stoli Blueberry doesn’t even need to be anathema to the craft cocktail scene. He calls it “considerate and crafted fastidiously,” explaining it’s made with precise blueberries and black currant, balanced by lemon and juniper.
At Confederate, Stoli Blueberry isn’t on the backbar, although; it’s extra of an IYKYK state of affairs for regulars or trade pals who is perhaps handled to a shot. Whereas Musk often drinks Stoli Blueberry topped with soda water backed by a Miller Excessive Life, the flavored vodka has begun to make its manner into cocktails as nicely. Musk remembers a current visitor who ordered a Stoli Blueberry Bloody Mary—“Unhinged, however they cherished it, so who am I to guage?”—and he’s at present contemplating placing a Stoli Blueberry Lemon Drop on the bar’s “Trashy ’90s Drinks Executed Proper” completely happy hour menu.
Musk isn’t the one bartender experimenting with Stoli Blueberry in cocktails, both. “Eighteen years of bartending and it would one way or the other be one of many higher drinks I’ve ever made,” says Iain Townsend Griffiths of their Espresso Martini riff, the Dunkin Delight, which additionally makes use of Stoli Blueberry. Their profession has taken them in all places from London, the place they labored with the Lyan group of bars, to Brooklyn, the place they now work for Empirical, whose Doritos-flavored spirit is one other ingredient within the Dunkin Delight.
“I’m not essentially positive if it’s develop into a bartender’s handshake, although,” Griffiths is fast to notice of Stoli Blueberry, maybe as a result of not many top-tier bars carry the flavored vodka, a class which has, for many years, been seemed down upon on this planet of craft cocktails. As a substitute, Griffiths sees it extra as a dive bar name for trade insiders who like to combine it with soda water or lemonade.
“A Stoli Blueberry and soda with a lemon—not a lime—is an ideal, refreshing, crushable beverage in the event you’re at a dive bar, in the event you’re avoiding an excessive amount of sugar, or are only a blueberry stan,” says Erin Hayes, of Los Angeles’ Black Lagoon pop-up bar. She’s been a fan of the drink, and served it, since her earliest days of bartending again within the late aughts. “In more moderen years, I might positively be the one to name in the event you wanted to know the place to search out it at a bar or a retailer.”
Musk additionally notes that Stoli Blueberry has develop into part of queer tradition. “I don’t actually know many gays that additionally don’t simply gravitate in the direction of [it], particularly bartenders, so it’s positively an attention-grabbing overlap,” he says.
Bartender’s handshake, dive bar name, signifier of queer tradition—regardless of the case, Stoli Blueberry has develop into the right emblem of recent bartending proper now, when high- and lowbrow can seamlessly coexist and “drink what you need” is the reigning mantra. “We as an trade are shifting away from pretension,” Musk explains, “and leaning into simply having extra enjoyable and permitting the friends that come and assist us to really feel that enjoyable and ease.”