Taste is subjective. My mojito-crazy friend (you remember her, don’t you? The one who narrates her mojito encounters to me every morning?); well, she loves mixing her red wine with apple juice. “That’s the best combo, though orange juice goes quite well, too,” she says matter-of-factly. Another friend, who has now given up the occasional drink, spent her younger days drinking beer and cola. “I liked it,” was her innocent answer to my raised-eyebrow expression.
I’m all for freedom of choice and creative licence. In fact, I plan to try the red wine-and-apple juice mix soon. But some drink combinations are not only bizarre, they are also utterly disgusting, and if a professional bartender offered me a concoction that looked, smelled, or tasted like a chem lab experiment gone horribly wrong, I would walk out of the door.
The classic disasterpiece as far as the look (and name!) is concerned is the Brain Haemorrhage, rightfully chosen by the US Bartender’s Guide (2007) as the ‘century’s worst cocktail’. Just a look at this shot sends my stomach into a downward spiral.
The ingredients are innocent enough — peach schnapps, grenadine and Bailey’s Irish cream. The catch? Adding Bailey’s slowly to the schnapps causes a cream-coloured curdled mass — the brain — to form at the top of the glass. When the reddish grenadine is poured into the centre of the Irish cream, it oozes out towards the bottom. The ‘brain’ has ‘haemorrhaged’.
According to Yangdup Lama, a mixologer who trains wannabe bartenders, “Shots (like this one) are usually for people who’ve already downed some drinks and want to experiment with something bizarre.” The worst non-shooter cocktail that Lama has ever had is a whisky-and-orange juice mix he had at a Delhi bar. “It tasted like piss,” he says candidly. “Whisky is a complex drink with a woody flavour, something that does not at all go well with anything citrusy.”
The secret to making a good cocktail is to balance the flavours — the bitter with the sweet, the dry with the sharp, and so on. Each ingredient should add to the final product, not compete with each other. So the full-on-the-palate whisky will go well with something nutty. And you’d do well not to mix a wine-based spirit like cognac with a grain-based spirit like gin or vodka.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to personal preference. Try whatever seems interesting to you. So if you are the kind who doesn’t get squeamish watching gory footage, you may wish to Google an image of Bloody Haemorrhage. If you’ve already tried it out, tell me how it tastes. On second thoughts, don’t.