Why Bobby Flay Says Cocktails Should Be Thought Of As Vinaigrettes

Bobby Flay, the American celebrity chef, told Bon Appétit, "You should think of your drink like a vinaigrette; it needs to be balanced." This approach to drink design might be baffling to you, as most people's definition of a vinaigrette is a salad dressing made of two main ingredients: oil and vinegar. Yet Flay wants each element of a cocktail to be in perfect harmony, just like a vinaigrette; in this way, no single flavor overpowers or dominates the others.

Flay feels that "most cocktails today are cloyingly sweet." Cocktails should celebrate the individuality of a spirit, but their complementary ingredients should inspire compelling tastes and awaken aromas, rather than competing against each other. Whether the ingredients you bring into your cocktails are strong or weak, tart or sweet, sour or umami, they must be combined so that an equilibrium emerges. Always the connoisseur, Flay enjoys the possibilities and nuances of flavor profiles as he crafts new mixed drinks. Balance is his key to success.

Bobby Flay designs cocktails so they're balanced

A cocktail recipe starts out with a base spirit and often adds in another spirit that is a modifier and plays a supporting role. A juice or mixer builds in acidity, and then the choice of sweetener and/ or spice adds opposite depth and character. Flay's ability to balance these elements is revealed in his Greyhound cocktail. He told Miami magazine that he "decided to spice that classic up—literally." Flay's version is shaken with a spiced simple syrup that's made with fresh ginger and aromatic allspice.

By exploring flavors, building and removing, tasting and breathing in, you, too, can create sublime new cocktails and palate-pleasing blends. Just the right interplay of ingredients makes the flavors more distinguished, just like in Flay's recipe for orange mint julep. The sweet orange zest, citrusy simple syrup, and mint are complemented by bourbon and slightly tart bitters. Here he adjusts a cocktail that would be too sweet by adding an ingredient at the opposite end of the taste spectrum. This balance soothes the sugary impression, making the flavors of the julep more aligned and pleasing. By the way, a mint julep is great if paired with Flay's favorite brunch items like johnny cake waffles, Kentucky ham Benedict, fried chicken with honey mustard — and don't forget the bourbon pecan pie.