“Everybody knows the Martinez, right?” asks Dave Wondrich before his demonstration. Open before him is one-time Esquire Magazine drinks writer, David Laskin’s, Wine and Liquor Handbook published in 1984.
“Gin. Vermouth. Stirred. A little splash of liqueur. A very elegant drink. The beginning of the martini, et cetera,” he says.
Jeff “Beachbum” Berry listens intently. Wondrich looks down at Laskin’s recipe very closely and begins building it.
“First, we put into the blender cracked ice…”
The seminar, Dark Ages: Mixology, 1967-1988, is one of the last for this year’s Tales of the Cocktail (TOTC) event in New Orleans. And for a week filled with deliciously sophisticated cocktails this particular discussion is a delightfully sharp turn backwards.
Wondrich, who also writes for Esquire, hammers home his point as he dumps some curaçao into the blender.
“I’ll call that three dashes each right there… who gives a shit,” he says. This is Wondrich’s interpretation of the prevailing attitude towards cocktails around that time.
For Berry, the seminar was a slight return to the fern bar topic he’d covered with Smuggler’s Cove owner Martin Cate in 2010.
Since, according to the tiki expert, these bars were more about mingling with the opposite sex, the craft and attention to detail suffered.
“The reason why the drinks were so irrelevant was everyone was doing other drugs,” says Berry. “Cocktails were basically what your parents drank – they were for squares.”
The seminar takes a jaunt through the worst of the worst and the best of the worst. Wondrich quotes Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as well as Heywood Gould’s movie (and novel) Cocktail to show just how bad mixed drinks got.
“Right now we’re kind of having a little bit of backlash against the more precious edges of mixology but it’s worthwhile remembering that, you know, we don’t maybe want to go all the way back,” he says, “You’re treating people poorly and there’s no excuse for that.”
Berry rifles through a series of hysterical photographs. Many provide only a glimpse of menus coming out of this era’s popular bars. Other images display the Three’s Company-style decor and fashion that filled those places.
“Vodka over gin. Vodka over whiskey. White rum over dark. Lighter over richer. Fruity over herbal. The rise of schnapps,” Wondrich says, “Each one of those products in and of themselves are fine but when they take over the whole ecosystem you’re losing a lot of flavor, you’re losing a lot of richness, you’re losing a lot of interest in the drinks.”
The seminar culminates with a discussion of the legendary Harvey Wallbanger cocktail, which according to the speakers, was invented by a bartender named Donato “Duke” Antone.
3 parts vodka
1 part Galliano
6 parts orange juice
Add vodka and orange juice into a highball glass with ice. Float Galliano on top. Garnish with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry.
TOTC volunteers not only provided samples of Galliano’s most famous cocktail but also distributed swag for attendees to wear donned with the infamous drink name printed on them.
Berry and Wondrich finish off the event with a recitation of the “The Last Barman Poet” from the lampooned Cocktail, posted here for your viewing pleasure:
I am the world’s last barman poet.
I see America drinking the fabulous cocktails I make.
Americans getting stinky on something I stir or shake.
The sex on the beach.
The schnapps made from peach.
The velvet hammer.
The Alabama slammer.
I make things with juice and froth.
The pink squirrel.
The three-toed sloth.
I make drinks so sweet and snazzy.
The iced tea.
The death spasm.
The Singapore sling.
America you’re just devoted to every flavor I got.
But if you want to get loaded.
Why don’t you just order a shot?
Bar is open.