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Why Vodka and White Rum?


It’s certainly the most obvious question to come out of our re-launch: Why cast Irish Whiskey and Absinthe to the curb in place of white rum and — um, time for some back-peddling here — vodka? The short answer is “practicality”. The longer answer is below.

It was 3 1/2 years ago that we were first approached to write the 12 Bottle Bar book. Given the opportunity to encapsulate the 12BB framework into bound form, we thought a moment to survey the parts of our bar well merited. In the tech world, we call this a sanity check. Where a web site is an easily changeable thing, a book has a locked structure. Once your word is accepted, it is printed onto the page of thousands of copies, spread across the country, and (hopefully) into the hands of anxious readers. Taking back a typo or a misguided sentiment is a bit more difficult than it is on WordPress.   So, we advised ourselves to take a moment, breathe, and examine the 12 Bottle Bar.

Our concept has never been designed to be “the one true bar to rule them all”. No, it’s a framework. Our goal has always been to demystify cocktails when possible (we’re booze nerds, so this doesn’t always happen), and to get people mixing for themselves and their friends. We want you to think of entertaining as a sport greater than stocking an Igloo with Coors Light. If you prefer bourbon to rye, the recipes and the concepts still apply. And if you do happen to follow the 12 bottles verbatim, we think you’ll be rewarded. So, to the bottles.

We set into the book with two objectives: 1) Balance — something for everyone (or, at least, most people); and, 2) Flexibility.   To the first point: the previous incarnation of the 12BB was made up of four brown spirits (brandy, rye, Irish whiskey, amber rum), one white spirit (gin), and genever (which plays somewhere in between). The balance we wanted was 3 brown, 3 white, and genever (the bi-curious spirit). This meant one brown had to make room for a white. We also had absinthe, which never really gave us the best bang for the buck. By removing one brown spirit and absinthe, we had the balance we were looking for — and two empty slots for white spirits we were looking to fill.

Over the five years we’ve had this site, we’ve grown particularly fond of sugar spirit. Maybe it’s the heat of Los Angeles summers and days spent by a pool, but white rum just seems like a no-brainer addition to us.   Mojitos, daiquiris, small dingers — there’s a lot to love in this bottle, and we really look forward to exploring white rum during the hottest of months.  There’s not a lot of explanation to offer here — just, well, we really like and drink a lot of white rum.

Which brings us to vodka. When we first launched 12BB, we eagerly jumped on the bandwagon and openly turned our nose up at America’s most popular spirit. Vodka and soda, vodka martinis — what’s the point? And you know what? We still agreed with that stance (check out our vodka martini recipe in the book). However, when we wanted to start expanding into more homemade liquors and infusions, we found ourselves in a bit of a corner. We needed to use a neutral spirit base, and things like Everclear were too limited in their applications. So, we turned to the most common expression of neutral spirit — vodka. Suddenly, the bottle we needed was the bottle we have outright rejected. There was nothing to do but embrace vodka, learn to accept it and see it for the undefined possibilities it provides. Believe it or not, but the vodka chapter in the book was one of our favorites to write.

We still have a great deal of housekeeping to take care of around the site, but we thought we owed the promised explanation on the bottle change.  In a few recent articles, writers have mentioned that our bottles change.  Actually, this is only the second time in five years that we’ve changes anything (the first was swapping Peychaud’s bitters for orange bitters) and the only time that we’ve changed the base spirits.  Now that it’s in print, these 12 bottles are going to stick around for a while.

Over the next few months, things on the site will probably move a bit from left to right or vice versa as we sort out the homepage and the widgets. As always, we thank you for playing along, and we promise that the best is yet to come.