This article appeared in the South China Morning Post’s Post Magazine
I’m comfortable with the word “bespoke” when it’s applied to tailoring. There is nothing worse than a suit that accentuates rather than disguises unshapeliness. I understand it is also applied to software, which is all very well but will make you sound like you’ve downloaded your clothes on Second Life.
“Bespoke cocktails” are a phenomenon at which a line must be drawn, however. It is a weasel phrase and one that is becoming ever-more ubiquitous – in magazines and in the PR gibberish thrown about on behalf of bars. Almost certainly it comes from New York, where everything now is either “bespoke” or “boutique” or “bijou” and everything on the menu is grass-fed, single cask, hormone-free, blah blah, hand-slaughtered, blah blah blah.
Insofar as “bespoke” means “made to order”, one would trust all cocktails to be so – as opposed to, say, out of a tin. You like Bulgarian gin? Ask for it. You want the thing shaken for 43 seconds? Count them.
Problem is cocktail bars have too much choice already. You knew where you were when it was just the classics: the dry martini, the Negroni, one or two others. Now it’s all jujube berries and organic cane sugar ground by unicorns and Orgasm this and Zombie that.
The worst of it, though, is the way people tell you about these places as if only they know of them; as if they’d invented a new colour. They haven’t. They just know where to get some over-priced booze.