My disposition tends to be that of a purist, I favor the likes of: terroir expressive wines, exceptional spirits that can stand well on their own, simple food that highlights the quality of its ingredients, independent restaurants with distinct character and intention, etc… but I just can’t turn down a well crafted cocktail.
And of course, I’m not the only one. Cocktail culture is alive and well in the States. Just like the dawning of the celebrity chef, there are ongoing discussions about immensely skilled bartenders and mixologists, which are gradually gaining a larger audience. My own Improper Bostonian has an annual spread of local bartenders who whip up drinks capable of enticing an entire metropolis, and without a doubt, their interviews reveal bartenders they would travel to, for the privilege of sitting on the other side of their bar.
However, America’s cocktail culture doesn’t only consist of this recent renaissance – plenty of the classics we know and love today are of a grainy, monochrome past. Our country’s moronic foray into Prohibition not only radically disrupted society’s fragile maintenance of law and order, but it also brought about those hazy rooms filled with jazz and fringe… we know the look of the roaring twenties well, thanks to the recent portrayal in Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby (I definitely put on the movie’s playlist while writing this). The prohibition-era gave birth to the likes of the Side Car, French 75, Tom Collins, Bee’s Knees, Last Word, White Lady, and Ward 8.
Naturally, those classics had to account for the off flavors of crudely made spirits. You’ve heard the terms moonshine and bathtub gin before (not the most appetizing names), understandably, not the most appetizing beverages. Thankfully, we’re not subject to those harsh laws or harsh liquors anymore, and instead have phenomenal modern refrigeration to keep all sorts of ingredients at arm’s reach.
Also, though I often have a bit of a cynic’s attitude towards globalization, it sure has opened the doors for all the goodies other countries produce. It’s worth noting that practically all of the liqueurs stocked in industry or home bars are foreign made (liqueurs being that class of extremely flavorful concoctions of herbs, fruits, spices, nuts, or flowers, ranging around 20% alcohol. e.g. Campari, Chartreuse, Saint Germain, Cointreau, Amaretto, Limoncello…). What we can come up with today is astounding, restaurants and bars can compile an incredibly expansive library to draw from and with a little innovation can bring to us delicious gems in beverage form.
Next time, the composition of a cocktail.
I’m taking requests, folks! What is something you’ve always wanted to know about your favorite spirit, or maybe a wine region you’ve noticed you really like, or how the heck do they make tequila?? Comment below, or send me a tweet, and I’ll get cracking on a post to explain it all!