As much as we complain about end-of-the-year lists, most of us seem to love them. Maybe they’re like pornography: many of the people who will speak out against it in public are voracious consumers of it in private—they just can’t help it.
I’ve been clicking on lots of top ten lists. My favorite so far has to be Emily Nussbaum’s I Hate Top Ten Lists piece in the New Yorker. “I hate writing Top Ten lists, Top Five lists, Top Three lists, and anything titled The Best of the Rest,” she says. “As anyone who has descended into the Top Ten sausage factory knows very well, book critics haven’t read all of the books and music critics haven’t heard all of the music.” I agree. I still get irate when I think about a “best albums of the year” list I saw in the Minneapolis alt-weekly the City Pages a few years ago. The “critic” listed 100 of those so-called “best” albums. Now I know that more than 100 albums are released each year, but come on—a list that long isn’t the best anymore, and it’s not helpful.
My friend Kara Newman recently posted her annual list of cocktail and spirits trends predictions. First among them was that “Rum will be the new ‘it’ spirit.” That struck me perfectly plausible when, that very day, I had bought a fresh bottle of Gosling’s Black Seal rum to experiment with some rum recipes that I’d been seeing lately. And yesterday, when I went out for cocktails with the Drom perfumer and cocktail enthusiast Kevin Verspoor, he suggested we go somewhere that had a good rum selection…which was funny because I was just about to suggest Lani Kai, a rum haven. I wonder about Kara’s bitters prediction though. There are so many damn artisanal bitters on the market that (especially here in Brooklyn, the DIY crafty capital of the East Coast) we may have reached saturation. But she also predicted a trend toward more bitter flavors, which I’ll admit seems to be gaining traction.
Time Magazine had a huge series of top 10 lists that included some depressing things (in the consumer trends list, rent, airline tickets, and used cars are all up), and a couple of cocktail-related food trends. Time is a good barometer for those of us immersed in the cocktail scene; it shows that some of these trends are having a real impact on the greater booze market. Coming in at number four, Pre-Prohibition Drinks. I was a little put off by the initial Mad Men reference—as if the show actually created a boom in 60s-era cocktails (no, the show merely made its audience aware of an existing cocktail culture)—but it’s good to hear the mainstream marking old-school cocktails as a genuine phenomenon.
Number seven on the Time list was Artisanal Vinegars and Bitters. Josh Ozersky writes, “The nation’s avant-garde mixologists, mustachioed and otherwise, have taken up the creation of house-made bitters as part of their advanced drink programs, and their kitchen counterparts are following suit, with vinegars so complex and intriguing that they are sometimes served straight up between courses.”
I have yet to see an end-of-the-year fragrance list yet, and I’m wondering why. When a friend asked me for the best new colognes of the year, I realized that I hadn’t followed the new releases as avidly as I had in 2010. Maybe it’s because there weren’t as many big ones for men—I don’t know. (I certainly had some favorites: Odin’s 06 Amanu was one; Eau d’Italie’s Jardin du Poete was another. So was Danish designer Henrik Vibskov’s Type B. )
I’ll post my lists of favorite cocktails and colognes in the coming weeks.