The Golden Age of Spirits & Cocktails
This Spirits & Cocktails category of our blog is dedicated to exploring the vibrant new bar scene and renewed interest in fine spirits and cocktails. Subscribers will receive weekly fun infotainment, drink suggestions, bar reviews, and bar tender profiles. If you don’t have a favorite bartender, then maybe you need to get one. We encourage participation in the comment section and are looking for guest bloggers to develop permanent affiliations. We hope to learn about where our readers like to drink and to develop a fun community of fellow cocktail lovers. We offer subscriber only discounts from time to time and are libel to give away way too much when we are drinking and enjoying input from friends all over the country.
Like so many other aspects of our lives, spirits and cocktails have been taken over by giant companies and mass media. It’s possible restrictions on alcohol advertising have caused Americans have become lazy drinkers and few can name more than one or two drinks quickly. Despite our massive dependence on premixed, flavored liquors and cookie cutter-drinks and general lack of creativity, interest in bar tending and premium spirits and cocktails is on the rise. Renewed interest in heritage spirits from small craft distillers and classic cocktail flavors are following the somewhat earlier boom in craft brewing.
Interest in bar tending and premium spirits & cocktails have been on such a rise in America that many in the business believe we have entered a new Golden Age of Spirits & Cocktails that rivals or exceeds the previous golden age from 1850 to Prohibition. According to Philip Dobard, director of the New Orleans-based Museum of the American Cocktail, “The first great immigration from western Europe was in the 1840s, and it’s no accident that the craft cocktail golden age, as it were, began around 1850.”
There was no lack of alcohol served before 1850, but the country was largely still in a pioneer stage. Settlers in early colonies like Jamestown and Plymouth mostly brewed beer. Rum came from the Caribbean and later whiskey were the most common in American distilling. Most people drank punch, created in communal bowls, or straight spirits, but individually crafted drinks did not catch on until European immigration picked much later.
European immigrants brought new flavors and ingredients and a love for fine dining and haute cuisine. America’s first great restaurants, catered to new clients with new tastes. Along with these new restaurants, bars began to pop up and the happy hour tradition was born. It was common to open and evening with spirits and cocktails to mark the transition from work time to social time. This time between about 1850 and Prohibition saw the creation of a dizzying array of new and creative individual drinks with fresh ingredients like juices and bitters.
Growing post-war wealth and available leisure time brought by liberal labor laws left drinkers with the time and money to drive somewhat of a revival of the cocktail industry driven by Madison Avenue and the “Mad Men” that inhabited it and other major metropolitan centers.
That boom was short lived as the revival spurred by Mad Men was soon crushed by them and because of them. Mass marketing of ready-made spirits and mixes killed the creativity and excesses of advertising led to a mini-prohibition that dramatically limited advertising of adult beverages. By the 70’s and 80’s stagnating wages left little to spend at happy hour, unless alcohol was one of your top priorities.
Today, consumers are beginning to realize and enjoy the social aspect of bars and restaurants. Although incomes are still flat and debt is still high, people are shifting their priorities and once again beginning to enjoy the simple pleasure of local bars and custom cocktails. Join us in our exploration of the simple pleasure of fine cocktails. Tell us what you’re drinking now and brag on your favorite bartender in the comments below and on our Facebook page.