One night many moons ago, when I was just a little girl, I awakened to the sound of laughter and music. It was near Christmas. Then, as now, I’m a girl who never wants to miss a party. I went in to the living room and there were my parents and friends celebrating the holidays together. My dad traded his work uniform for a fancy shirt and my mother had on an emerald-colored dress. The women were drinking something from fluted glasses. Everyone was even dancing in my living room to The Tijuana Bass. I wanted to stay up and join the fun, but I was sent back to bed. First, I photo bombed the picture.
Soon enough I figured out what contributed to all that holiday cheer was more than the Christmas tree. Cocktails. High balls they were called back then which sounds intense and evil, but was just simple mixed drinks. Bourbon and water. Vodka and tonic. The basics.
In those days there were no such thing as hand-crafted cocktails. Today at the hotel where I work, we put everything from sage, to rosemary, to squeezed this or that, into our drinks. A orchard or farm is needed for each drink. There are all sorts of ingredients now to use to “enhance the drinking experience.” To get tipsy basically. It can take several minutes to make one drink.
Not so in the old days. All my parents and their friends did was toss a few ice cubes into a glass, dump in liquor, and then add one mixer. The women sometimes had drinks inspired by bugs or animals or people. The Pink Squirrel, the Grasshopper, the Stinger or the Tom Collins. Even those drinks required little work, no chopping or dicing or squeezing. No fuss. Back then bartenders had it easier as did the host or hostess of a party. Now you need a bar tending class to “craft” drinks.
Now and then we did experiment. When my friend Gloria visited me last week I mentioned a blender that she brought over once to a friend’s house. Gloria is on the right cradling her blender and my friend Penny is on the left with her poodle hair cut. Anyway, we lived it up with that blender making whiskey sours, and Pina Coladas, and anything that required a lot of ice and sweet and sour mix. Still, these weren’t craft cocktails. Nothing fresh or organic. They were more like alcoholic Slurpees. By the way, Gloria told me she STILL has that blender after more than thirty years. We might have craft cocktails, but they sure don’t make appliances like they did in the old days.
One Thanksgiving a long long time ago my family gathered at my older sister’s house. We are holding up glasses of a pink liquid. I’m assuming it’s wine. My first thought was yuck. Pink wine. Rose. Who drinks pink wine anymore? It’s so 1974. There isn’t a expensive bottle of Pinot Noir on the table. I betcha this just came out of a jug. In the old days when I started as a waitress we had three kinds of wine, Burgundy, Chablis and Rose. So tacky I thought.
Recently, I went to lunch with my hip and young friend, Sara, who manages a yoga studio here in Arizona and is a fabulous yoga teacher. She ordered…Rose! Then we did a wine tasting at work and lo and behold we will now have Rose on the menu. It’s light and great for a glass at lunch. I brought a bottle to a party recently, women all my age, and one woman said she was a “wine snob” and didn’t want to give it a try. Pity. It’s not too sweet, and perfect with a salad. What was old becomes new again. I’m waiting for that to happen to my body.
I was a bartender for many years with my high school friend Debbie. We worked together at various Denver night clubs from honky tonks to rock and roll clubs. We traded our pom poms for bottle openers. Here she is during that time showing off her technique, pouring liquor into a glass. Well practiced. Easy. The good old days. I’m glad there were no craft cocktails when I was a bartender. I don’t think I would have had the patience for all the preparation. However, I don’t mind drinking something with a twig of lavender or a squeeze of papaya. I might cringe at the price tag, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy.
I appreciate all the wines we have today, the creative cocktails, as well as all the other changes in the resturant industry. I compare it to the publishing industry. It’s not as simple to get published as a writer as it was in the old days. There are so many more options. Just like the resturant menu with dozens of crafted cocktails, there is a lot of competition and choice. But the basics stay the same. Vodka, Gin, Bourbon. Wine is red, white or pink. Sit and Write. Keep it Simple.
Have a Merry Christmas. I hope I will be somewhere dancing to the Tijuana Brass drinking pink wine and dancing. Wherever I am I will be grateful to those I have loved, and are gone, and those loved ones still with me today.