What is the definition of the American bar?
Is it the place on the corner where you meet your friends after work? The neighborhood pub that has all your favorite beers from the U.K.? Or maybe the spot on the other side of town where you know the bartender can stir up a perfectly balanced Sazerac while taking an order for slew of Gin and Tonics and Long Island Ice Teas?
Maybe the answer lies in our past. There was a time in our history, before the age of tea-tottlers and bootleggers, when the Irish were exporting some of their culture, pints of their beer and luckily for us their whiskey, which we as a country happily consumed at a rate much faster than a "wee dram" at a time.
This period predeceased the ill fated social experiment that caused revelers of the drink to flee to the darker depths of unmarked doors, passwords and basements overflowing with bathtub gins and strange mbinations of "medicinal" spirits. And it was this same experiment that sent some of our most talented across the pond to Europe where they practiced their craft of the cocktail in the most grandeur of places, one of which being the international hotel.
Only a few years after prohibition ended we had another American contribution to the drink, as we fell in love with the craze that included high proof rums, secret formulas, tons of ingredients and a tiki god or two; the French-Polynesian inspired, faux tropical drinks known as Tiki.
Did this spawn the "dark ages" of the 80's and 90's when bartenders forgot about classics like the Tuxedo and the Hanky Panky and instead offered up a plethora of vodka and sweet liqueurs promising to erase you mind and end your night in with a slow comfortable screw up against the wall? Perhaps, but as the pendulum swings to one side it invariably must swing back to the other.
Which brings us to the modern day. You would be hard pressed to call it anything but a resurrection of the craft. Today's bartender, or whatever moniker they choose to go by, has found what was forgotten, adopted the techniques of old, added their own twist and are a truly committed companion to the bon-vivant.
The American bar, much like its history, has become a melting pot of differences. Whether it be a style, culture or a matter of taste, it all influences and becomes… part of the tradition.
The American Cocktail Bar