Cocktail culture through the years

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In my little black book of cocktails, some infusions come and go, while others stand the test of time. But if we’re reminiscing about the art of the cocktail, some drinks have added more than ‘a touch of glass’ to the world of bartending.

If we were to look at a cocktail menu through a glass darkly, we’ll find recipes that have become so iconic they sum up an era, a mood and even our style of dress.

The Ivy restaurant in London celebrated its centenary a few years ago it opened its doors in 1917. We can only imagine how it must have hummed in the roaring Twenties at the start of the jazz age, the epitome of glamour. It has since become an institution.

We caught up with Darren Ball, bar manager at flagship restaurant. He’s been revamping menus and shaking, stirring and rolling for the rich and famous, low-key locals and cocktail hounds for years, but what about cocktails through the decades?

We took a seat at the bar to chat about how modern cocktailing has evolved, and the past drinks that have tickled our tastebuds.

1. 1950s … Vesper Martini
The scene was Montenegro, the character was Bond, the drink? Gin, vodka, and Kina Lillet. Such a classic serve should never be changed, especially one that was created in the 1950s by literary genius Ian Fleming, in his first Bond novel, Casino Royale.

2. 1960s … Piña Colada
In an era of peace and free love, this creamy tipple was consumed in spades. Indeed, if yoga isn’t your thing and you like getting caught in the rain, this Puerto Rican export is the answer.

3. 1970s … Sloe Comfortable Screw Against The Wall
It’s a long name, sure, but certainly a worthy cocktail. What it comes down to is: Sloe – for the Sloe Gin, Comfortable – for the Southern Comfort, Screw – for the Screwdriver ingredients of orange juice and vodka, and Up Against The Wall – references a Harvey ‘Wall’ banger cocktail, which is basically a Screwdriver with [herbal liqueur] Galliano. Put it all together and marvel at the taste – it’s simply delicious, and the colours are very Seventies to boot.

4. 1980s … Long Island Iced Tea
Synonymous with cult film Cocktail, the Long Island Iced Tea is a worldwide favourite, encouraging hedonism amongst the most unlikely of culprits, including that of a baby-faced Tom Cruise.

Dating back to the Eighties, this cocktail is named after the USA’s largest island, Long Island, in New York. Although it doesn’t contain tea, its taste is similar. Its cocktail cameos also include The Simpsons, Sex and the City and Cruel Intentions – impressed yet?

5. 1990s … Watermelon Martini
As the end of the Nineties soared into the millennium, we witnessed a world spun around by a favoured Aussie singer, Kylie. To accompany this shoe-tapping hit was the honeydew Watermelon Martini, created at famed London hotspot, the Met Bar.

6. 2000s … Cosmopolitan
As seen in much-loved Sex and the City, where it was merrily sipped by the brilliant Samantha, the Cosmopolitan has become a favourite tipple throughout cityscapes across the globe, from the mid-Nineties onwards, and was created by cocktail mastermind Toby Cecchini.

7. Now … Old Fashioned
An American cocktail of old created in the 1700s, this whisky serve is now the drink of choice for trendy hipsters wanting a bourbon hit. After all, if it’s good enough for Don Draper… Feel instantly transported back to the high-pressure world of Madison Avenue, advertising firms and pin-stripe suits.

Do you have a favourite cocktail? Do you ever make them at home or keep them as a treat when you go somewhere special?

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