It went from a “cocktail Renaissance to the Dark Ages”. High end spirits crafted here and imported were lost to bathtub gin and rotgut whiskey. Trained barmen were forced into other work resulting in recipes and skills lost. Those Americans raised in the era of the Speakeasy never knew what a high quality drink was. They were raised on cheap, sometimes dangerous, spirits that were cut with juices just to make it palatable to the drinker. This “Prohibition mentality” lasted for generations. Most environments after Prohibition was repealed consisted of poorly made, haphazardly poured, unmeasured, imbalanced cocktails made with low end spirits and whatever was in the soda gun be it juice, soda, or water.
Luckily, this mentality has not embedded itself fully into our culture. The past few years have shown resurgence in cocktail quality and skills. Recent fascinations with the past, shown in popular shows such as Downtown Abbey, Boardwalk Empire, and Mad Men along with movies such as the remake of The Great Gatsby have influenced how people perceive the cocktail. Cocktails are once again an art form, bartenders are no longer just bartenders but mixologists or “bar chefs”. Creating a cocktail is all about how the flavors mix and land on the pallet, an enhancement of the complexity of high end spirits.
The cocktail culture of today is also the embodiment of the “farm to table” movement prevalent today. The use of locally made liquors, wines and beers along with fresh seasonal ingredients lends a pride to the drinks made, whether they are a new creation or an “Old Fashioned” recipe. This new era of cocktails has allowed for the rebirth of the cocktail bar and even the good old fashioned speakeasy. The modern speakeasy is no longer a windowless backroom but a high end bar with the nostalgic aura of pre-Prohibition décor and the illusion of secrecy. Well-crafted drinks are served by highly trained mixologists ready to tantalize your pallet with their creations. Many places even insist on no phones or cameras to enforce the days of enjoying a cocktail and talking to your friends. Not a bad play at all.