NPR recently ran a story called “What America Spends on Booze.” They say “out of every $100 American consumers spend, about $1 goes to alcohol. That hasn’t changed much over the past 30 years.”
So people spend the same on booze that they always have, but they found out that the vast majority (76%) of booze purchased in 1982 was bought to be served at home. That number is now approaching half, though, and I imagine it will continue to drop. Thirty years ago people primarily drank and served drinks at home, but that’s not true anymore.
Our cocktail making is increasingly falling into the hands of bartenders. Now, if every bar were Canon or Clyde Common, I wouldn’t be as concerned. But they’re not. Applebee’s and Chilis have bars, too, and I’m certain that folks are increasingly drinking poorly made cocktails from poor ingredients, like the high-fructose nightmare “Sour Mix.” That crap is $7 a gallon.
Let’s get back to home bartending, which my area of expertise, and it’s clearly where the crisis lies. When was the last time someone served you a martini or old fashioned at their house? I realize that as readers of this blog, you’re probably the exception to the rule. I started thinking, though, and I am willing to bet that in the 5 miles surrounding my house, there may only be 2 or 3 people (including me) that have a bottle of cocktail bitters in the cabinet. When I buy bitters at the grocery store, they’re on the bottom shelf and covered with dust. Doesn’t this mean that no one who lives near me can make a proper Manhattan or an Old Fashioned at home?
I started Simple Cocktails because I believe strongly that serving people drinks in our homes is becoming a lost art, even though it can provide massive joy. The graphic and story above tell me it’s true! As a culture, we are losing the community that once accompanied the cocktail party. I’ve found dozens of books at thrift stores about how to party, how to drink, when to drink, how to serve, but you know what? They’re all from the 60’s.
Here’s where we team up, dear readers: as I teach you how to do this stuff, will you commit to do it at home? Don’t spend $30 at Applebee’s – spend $30 on a bottle of bourbon and consider it an investment in your community. Then invite some whiskey lovers over and drink it! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
I on occasion make my room mates cocktails. I also work in a high volume bar. in both aspects I try to make the best drink I can. But I think most people “live” outside the home these days. If they are home, folks tend to get cheep beer and if there is liquor, do a shot or two.
On the point of a place not knowing how to make cocktails. Where I work is on 6th st in Austin. Most of those folk that go downtown are lure in by cheap shots from 80%. I personally hate shots. You can throw in whatever, as long as it’s the right color, and most don’t know the difference let alone what’s in it to begin with. One thing I can say from my job…women love themed cocktails and don’t bat an eye at a $9 cocktail. So if anyone wants to have a cocktail party, invite mostly women and the guys will follow.
A brief story about the stigma guys have with cocktails. At work we have movie themed specials almost every week so I forget the cocktail(might have been for Dark Knight). A group of “Bros” order mostly beer with one getting a themed cocktail in a martini glass. Server tells me when they delivered the drinks, all the beer drinkers looked at the cocktail drinker. The cocktail drinker looked at the martini glass and proceeded to drink from the shaker. He was ashamed. Granted I don’t like martini glasses and I ask for a rocks glass but I, unlike most, know to ask for a rocks glass.
Ok, Most times I go off tangent the longer the story gets.
in second paragraph I meant to type, *by 80% of the places on 6th St
Admittedly, 90% of what I get at a bar is in an old fashioned glass, maybe martinis being the exception. It’s good to have a bartender chime in on this.
LOVE this post – recently discovered the joys of real homemade cocktails and hope to indulge and learn more!
Of everything I’ve written, this is closest to my heart, because it really defines my “philosophy.” Thanks for reading Kathryn, your comment is encouraging.
Nice, thoughtful piece, Greg. I agree that making cocktails at home is a lost art. It seems especially important to revive that art here in ABQ where the liquor laws basically make it nearly impossible for anyone to take a risk on opening a good craft cocktail bar and we end up with a glut of chains hawking those HFCS drinks.
Have heart though, my friend: I’m back at Jubilation and the home cocktail geeks are definitely around us. We sell more Campari than any other store IN THE SOUTHWEST, so that says something. Folks do want to make cocktails at home and your blog does a great service in demystifying and promoting the process. I hope we can work on building the cocktail community here together!
So glad to have more likeminded folks around us, Joslyn, and I’m really glad to hear you’re back at Jubilation!!
My wife and I love making cocktails at home. The Gin & Tonic being a favorite. Just found your blog and am hoping to learn the art of the home bartender. Keep up the great work Greg!
So great to hear – that’s why we do this. I hope you get lots of good info from Simple Cocktails. I want to hear about new drinks you’ve learned to make!