Wherever you have bartenders mixing drinks along with people gathering in a lounge or at a party. Whenever heavy emphasis is placed on the creation and enjoyment of the cocktail. All of this combines to create a cocktail culture.
How has this culture arisen and developed over time in the U.S.?
Find out, along with where to find the coolest places to imbibe the tastiest beverages.
American cocktail culture began soon after the birth of the country itself. Cocktails as social beverages were first mentioned in literature in the United States in the early 1800s.
A New York City bartender named Jerry Thomas is credited for making cocktails popular. His passion for experimenting through trial and error created some of the most classic cocktails we know such as the martini.
He was fearless with ingredients and showmanship.
For example, his signature cocktail is called the Blue Blazer. It was a drink that required being lit on fire and tossed in the air between two glasses. Innovative to say the least. He was the first true mixologist and became known as the “Father of Mixology”.
The 19th century was a time when ice first became easily available and the American distilleries began spirit production. Industrial progress helped spur the creation of cocktails along.
A Blip in the Cocktail Culture
January 17th, 1920 became a pivotal day in America for the history of cocktails. The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution initiated the start of Prohibition which prohibited the sale and trade of alcohol.
As you would expect, the forbidding of alcohol did not stop the cocktail culture of America from continuing.
In fact, it did the opposite. Not only did the enactment of Prohibition not dampen the cocktail culture that had evolved thus far; it inflamed it. We always want what we can’t have. Am I right?
The sale of alcohol continued through bootlegging.
Social drinking blossomed with the emergence of the speakeasy. Hidden establishments, guarded, allowed entry only to those in the know.
Speakeasies added mystery and danger to the drinking of spirits.
Prohibition brought about a sense of secrecy and excitement at a time when people were trying to move on from the Great War and push through their financial troubles.
Prohibition also brought about the sale of some pretty nasty stuff.
Bootleggers and people down on their luck trying to make quick money were not above making their own versions of spirits to sell. The homemade stuff referred to as bathtub gin, could be really harsh.
Out of necessity, creativity arises. Adding honey and sugar not only took the bitter edge off the drink but helped develop new flavor combinations and tastes as well.
The Bees Knees, French 75, and a Sidecar are examples of classic Prohibition-Era drinks.
After the repeal of the amendment and over the course of the few decades to follow, the speakeasy and the vibrant cocktail culture of its day faded.
People still drank cocktails of course, but focus shifted and as the country slid into the Great Depression, the general atmosphere changed
Return of the Cocktail Culture
However, beginning in the 2000s, the rise of the speakeasy as a fun and trendy way to enjoy a cocktail has returned.
Because maybe, FOMO, or gorgeous social media photos.
But I’m putting my money on hard-working bartenders who increasingly began specializing in the creation and preparation of cocktails. The reveling in the science and art of mixing drinks brought about the revival of mixology.
Fueled by passion, mixologists use a wide range of ingredients and techniques to create unique and flavorful cocktails. They often experiment with different spirits, liqueurs, fruits, and herbs to create new and interesting flavor combinations.
American cocktail culture has always been known for its innovation and experimentation. It is dynamic and constantly evolving as a result of its many bartenders and mixologists constantly creating original and artistic cocktails.
Mixology is a growing field in the United States, and many mixologists compete in national and international cocktail competitions to showcase their skills and creativity. Today’s cocktail aesthetic is rivaling culinary and pastry chefs in popularity.
Overall, mixology is an important and exciting aspect of cocktail culture today.
Cocktails are back! Well, they actually never really left, but their return to fashion brings the culture of imbibing cool concoctions front and center.
Is all this talk about drinking mading you hungry? Read about American Food Culture and how it has evolved.
Experience Cocktail Culture in 2022
As you travel throughout the United States be sure to check out this list of the best cocktail bars across the country:
For innovative and exotic ingredients head to The Broken Shaker– With locations in Miami, New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
Slip into The Parlor at the The Dead Rabbit in New York City. Awarding winning for its cocktails, look for two new locations slated to open in the spring and summer of 2023. First in Austin, Texas then in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Have the ultra modern day American experience with beef jerky and cocktails. Take part in the in-house bar program to learn about cocktail creation at Biltong Bar in Atlanta, Georgia.
Using modern scientific techniques paired with a dark, romantic vibe, visit Apothecary in Dallas, Texas.
If you find yourself in the Mission District of San Francisco, California, Trick Dog has an award winning cocktail menu.
FAQs about Cocktails
What is the most popular cocktail in America?
Poll after poll shows that the margarita holds its popularity as the most requested cocktail in the US. Other popular cocktails in American culture include the Martini and the Old Fashioned.
Is there a National Cocktail?
Surprisingly, no. But there is a National spirit which is Bourbon.
And in case you need an excuse to sip on your favorite cocktail, there is a National Cocktail Day in the U.S. Plan to celebrate every March 24th with a glass in hand.
What is the difference between a mocktail and a cocktail?
A mocktail contains no alcohol while the cocktail does. Mocktails can be just as yummy as cocktails and are a great choice for designated drivers.
Complete Bar Inventory Software System | BinWise. https://home.binwise.com/. Accessed 13 Dec. 2022.
“Jerry Thomas (Bartender).” Wikipedia, 3 Dec. 2022. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jerry_Thomas_(bartender)&oldid=1125292796.
Rowley, Matthew B. The Joy of Moonshine: Recipes, Knee Slappers, Tall Tales, Songs, How to Make It, How to Drink It, Pleasin’ the Law, Recoverin’ the next Day. 1st ed, Lark Books, 2007.
firstname.lastname@example.org. “National Cocktail Day – March 24.” National Today, 24 Mar. 2022, https://nationaltoday.com/national-cocktail-day/.