When bartenders like Dale DeGroff, Julie Reiner and Sasha Petraske ushered in the cocktail revolution, they ended an era of watered down, neon-hued, artificially flavored drinks. They threw out the massive, V-shaped Martini glass in favor of the coupe, brought hospitality back to bars, and proved to the world that a cocktail was not just something to knock back after a hard day at work, but rather something to savor and appreciate. They did for drinking what chefs like Alice Waters did for eating—and the drinking world is better for it. But there are some elements from the old days that we can’t help but miss. Here are a few of the unfortunate casualties lost in the cocktail revolution.
Bright Red Maraschino Cherries
Luxardo cherries and house-made brandy-soaked cherries are superior to their slick and sweet fuchsia-colored counterparts, but those mildly medicinal “fruits” have a certain appeal. Don’t deny your fond memories of fishing one out from the bottom of a Shirley Temple or the delight that bright orb brought when it was plopped down onto a creamy Pina Colada. Do they belong in your Manhattan? No. But when you’re on vacation, there’s nothing better at the end of a Mai Tai than a rum-drenched candied treat.
When was the last time you had a Sidecar as it was intended—with a half-inch thick rim of crystalline sugar? The simple sugar rim went out of style with the pre-mixed cocktails it adorned, but when used correctly, it can be just as satisfying as a Tajin-spiced rim on a Michelada or a fleur de sel rim on a Margarita. Just because we’re all grown up and know to refrigerate our vermouth and own Yarai mixing glasses doesn’t mean we can’t also love sugar.
We will happily shell out $16 for a well-made drink. We know what goes into it, between the craft ice and the vintage glassware and the house-made bitters and the expert bartender craftsmanship. But we can’t help but miss the under $7 Whiskey Sour from yesteryear. Sometimes you don’t need a pristine, Japanese-style highball made with hand-carved ice and artisanal seltzer. Sometimes you just want to put down a sawbuck and receive a strictly decent Whiskey-Soda.
Basic Bar Nuts
Cocktail bar food evolved right alongside cocktail bar cocktails, which means now your cocktail comes with a silver cupful of crispy fried fish bones (delicious), or marinated celery (shockingly amazing), or boiled peanut hummus (try it). But when you just want a handful of nuts, they’re nowhere to be found. Those salty, somewhat stale snacks were reliable, along with their dry-but-satisfying counterparts, pretzels. “These Old Bay seasoned chicken cracklings are making me thirsty.” It just doesn’t have the same ring.
Unironic Blue Drinks
Blue drinks are back, it’s true. Craft bartenders across the country are embracing Insta-friendly blue curaçao and crafting shockingly balanced and beautiful drinks, which people order with a sly smirk. Gone are the days that anyone will order a Blue Hawaiian because that is genuinely the drink they want.
With the cocktail revolution came ever-changing, ever palate-expanding cocktail menus. If a bar doesn’t change their drink menu with the season, people get bored and move on. When you head into a bar now, you peruse the menu for something new or you tell the bartender what you feel like in vague, haiku-like terms: “sour, herbal, something with plums.” We’re not knocking it. Variety is the vermouth of life. But there is something to knowing the best place in town to get your drink.