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We’re Recapping Chilled 100 ELEVATE 2024: The Second Golden Age of the American Cocktail with Dale DeGroff and Ted Breaux

The entire ELEVATE group was treated to a seminar presented by artisan distiller and research scientist Ted Breaux, who was responsible for bringing absinthe back to the U.S.; and Dale DeGroff, the James Beard award-winning father of mixology who reinvented the bartending profession.

The pair discussed the history of the American cocktail and how major U.S. events helped to shape the cocktails of today.

Alcoholic beverages date back to 13,000 BCE, when the first evidence of brewing beer was documented. The first indication of wine appears in 5,000 BCE, and the word “aperitif” first shows up in writing in the 5th century CE. The distillation of medicinal liqueurs, emergence of punch and bitters, and commercialization of vermouth followed from 1500 CE to 1796 CE. By 1806, the word “cocktail” appeared in print.

“The cocktail is very much an American invention,” Breaux said, adding that it was a cultural contribution that spread across the world — and peak cocktail culture both in the U.S. and abroad was around 1914. This culture virtually ended after major events like World War I, the flu pandemic, prohibition, the great depression, and World War II.

But after the space age and sexual revolution in the 1950s and 60s, cultural norms began to shift. By the 1970s, the U.S. was in its disco area, and the high-volume bar concept was introduced. In the 1980s, people began drinking fuzzy navels, Long Island iced teas, screwdrivers, strawberry daiquiris, martinis, and more. But as Breaux said, those beverages were “all sizzle and no steak” — they were mixed drinks; not cocktails.

In 1988, however, DeGroff created the cocktail menu for The Rainbow Room’s grand reopening. Drawing inspiration from vintage bartending books — including Jerry Thomas’s “How to Mix Drinks,” he created 24 cocktails, which were later pared down to a selection of 16. The final lineup featured craft cocktails made with fresh ingredients and premium liquors, all mixed by hand. With the new menu and cocktail dinners that shortly followed, DeGroff unknowingly forever changed the trajectory of the modern cocktail.

“I’ve had such a serendipitous career,” DeGroff said with a laugh. “I had a lot of happy accidents in my life.”

The post We’re Recapping Chilled 100 ELEVATE 2024: The Second Golden Age of the American Cocktail with Dale DeGroff and Ted Breaux appeared first on Chilled Magazine.

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