The cocktail renaissance of the last decade has given rise to wild bouts of creativity in the bartending world. From coast to coast, bartenders are inventing new and exciting drinks utilizing unique, previously unheard of ingredients. That doesn’t mean there aren’t tired trends and worn out fads, though. With so much innovation, it’s inevitable that bartenders would get burnt out on certain “hot” ingredients.
David Bliszcz, bartender at The Franklin in New Orleans is burned out on premade mixes.
“Listen to my man Bob Ross — ‘This is your world,’” he says. “House-made ingredients are personal and far superior in taste to pre-packaged mixes.”
But bottled mixes aren’t the only ingredients bartenders are bored of. So we asked our favorite bartenders to sound off on the most worn out, overrated cocktail ingredients right now. Their snarkiness didn’t disappoint.
Alexis Brown, founder of Causing a Stir in Chicago
The worst cocktail ingredient is simple syrup. There are soo many different ways to obtain fat and/or sugar in your cocktails nowadays — with the proper product knowledge, that is.
Brittany Villafane, head sommelier and mixologist at db bistro moderne in New York City
Elderflower and cucumber seem to be used way more than they should — often masking the true and unique flavors you can find in a drink.
Daniel Carrillo, bartender at STK Steakhouse in Nashville
In my opinion, ginger beer. I’ve always been a fan of making my own ginger syrup because it has a little more depth in flavor, it has a richness that I just haven’t noticed in ginger beers.
Allie Torres, bartender at Refinery Rooftop in New York City
Egg White. I get its purpose, and it creates a beautiful aesthetic, but it’s a very dicey ingredient for me. I find as it starts to fall, the aroma turns and it makes the second half of a drink unpleasant on the nose.
Brian Krux, bartender at Topnotch Resort in Stowe, Vermont
Without a doubt, Apple Pucker is the most overrated cocktail ingredient of all time. If I walk into an establishment and see Apple Pucker displayed on the bar, I have a high frequency of walking right back out.
Whatever’s “Hot” Now
Cameron Shaw, Head Bartender at The Lookup in New York City
The most overrated ingredient is that thing you’re supposed to like because it’s cool but is too bitter/sweet/expensive/whatever for your taste.
Dave Whitton, co-owner of Prank in Los Angeles
By far the most overrated cocktail ingredient of all time is absinthe. Anything that tastes like black licorice needs to stay out of my drinks.
David Bliszcz, bartender at The Franklin in New Orleans
This was not an obvious answer, but after much deliberation, I can say with confidence that the most overrated cocktail ingredient is triple sec. I would extend this to any type of orange liqueur, even though I consider a dry curaçao to be superior. Ultimately, any orange flavor desired in a cocktail can be much better achieved by adding orange bitters, juice, or simply the fruit’s zest. This will also yield a creation with a more natural flavor, which is ideal in any scenario.
White Refined Sugar
Dakota Marchio, lead bartender at Caroline in Austin, Texas
White refined sugar made into simple syrup. While it will do the job of sweetening up strong drinks, there are so many other types of sugars and sugar alternatives made around the world that would help bring another layer of depth to your cocktail.
Mariel Burns, head bartender at Trademark Taste + Grind in New York City
Sour mix from a gun was used in place of fresh juices for many years to make margaritas, sours, mojitos…the list goes on. I think most bars use either freshly squeezed juice today or at least a nice fresh bottled juice like Natalie’s.
Kelly McAuliffe, manager at Salazar in Los Angeles
The most overrated ingredient has to be Cola. It’s sweet and overpowering and has so much unnecessary sugar (not to mention chemicals). Try a natural ginger ale instead.
Nikki McCutcheon, beverage director at Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge in New York City
While I love bitters and think they can make or break a cocktail, I think many times they’re not properly used or understood. The misconception seems to be that people assume just adding a dash of bitters will add depth and complexity to a cocktail, but aren’t really understanding why or how to do this properly.
Christopher Stephenson, bartender at The Vault in Salt Lake City
Cranberry has its place and it’s not in cocktails. There are so many other creative juices and mixers out there, why settle for this one?
Brandon Lockman, lead bartender at Red Star Tavern in Portland, Oregon
Elderflower liqueur aka bartender’s ketchup, because it’s used everywhere. I’m 100% guilty of it too. It’s great, but completely overpowers whatever cocktail it’s added to.
Writer’s Pick: Campari
While we all love Campari from time to time, it’s too bitter for everyone. It’s hard to get behind a flavor that’s such an acquired taste. It seems to be finding its way into more cocktails, immediately overpowering the other ingredients.