October 27, 2013
Regarding Cocktails and their Constituents:
The state of the cocktail culture is stronger than ever. However, if you called it culture, you would be insinuating that our lives are consumed by drink. You would be correct. Everything these days is an advertisement for booze. Mad Men characters drink continuously. So do the characters in Game of Thrones and Hell on Wheels. The Great Gatsby remake was a huge glamorous advert for champagne and martinis. All over Facebook we see our friends' Mad Men or Gatsby themed cocktail parties. Where did this come from?
If you talk to cocktail historians they will likely tell you it started in New York with Dale Degroff and his push to keep fresh citrus available at the Rainbow Room. But I'm not discussing where good drinks came from. The real revolution started much later.
With the advent of "foodie" culture came an obsession for quality. This meant buying food that was grown naturally. (i.e. cows eating grass not corn, and accepting that tomatoes don't have to be red and perfectly round.) People started talking about buying local, going organic, going gluten-free, being vegan, and countless other foodie inspired trends. The Food Network turned into culinary porn, cooking at home became obsolete, and chefs became superstars. With this renewed interest in where food came from, people started looking elsewhere for improvement. If we cared about how our food is grown and where it came from, why not the same attention to what we drink? So similarly the Mixologist trend was born. "Mixologist" no sooner became a term than it was banished by trade bartenders convinced that there is no magic or "-ology" involved in making an Aviation or Dark and Stormy. So why the fascination with cocktails?
It has something to do with an ideal. When you hold a perfectly made drink in your hand and stare up at the bottles on the back bar, your mind drifts. Your shoulders relax, your blood warms, and that project due on Monday is all but forgotten in that moment of crisp, cold bliss. With a cocktail in your hand you can be Don Draper, Hunter Thompson, or Marilyn Monroe. You can transcend this world of mediocrity and blasé to a place of limitless potential.
So you know that hot number across the bar with the 1940's pencil skirt? Yeah, she's totally in your league because you know what an Algonquin cocktail is. So go walk up and charm her with your obscure knowledge of J.D. Salinger because with a drink like a 1:1 Perfect Gibson with orange bitters she'll definitely be into you. But only if she's drinking a Sherry Cobbler.