September 13, 2017

GOVERNMENT ALMOST KILLED THE COCKTAIL: 80 years after Prohibition, the Dark Ages of drinking are finally coming to an end.

“When you get to 1934,” says Simonson, “it’s just, bam! The old fashioned is this fruited thing. And that’s the way it is everywhere.” The new drink—and it was, essentially, a different drink—had become “a glass of punch. It didn’t look like it had before Prohibition.”

Although no one knows the precise reasons the drink changed the way it did, Simonson speculates that in the chaos following Prohibition, the recipe may have been confused with another drink, or that bartenders piled on fruit and soda in order to conceal the low quality of the liquor that was available at the time. Whatever the reason, the change was sudden and universal.

It wasn’t just the old fashioned that emerged degraded and destroyed. It was the whole of pre-Prohibition cocktail culture—the knowledge, skills, craft, and supply that for decades had informed one of America’s original culinary arts, and even the essential idea of the cocktail itself. In the space of a generation, the entire country went from inventing the cocktail as we know it to forgetting how to make a decent drink.

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