Just Like Old Times?

A Three Part Lamentation on Modern Drinking Culture

Part 3:  Some Positive Developments

To be fair, not all progress is negative; updates and changes do sometimes bring positive benefits, and that is true with the evolution of bar culture as well.  For example, the expansion of breweries throughout the country has been a significant step forward for drinkers in the last five or six decades.  New breweries have enabled Americans to enjoy fine domestic beer, and the majority of such breweries produce niche or craft brews.  Globalization’s growth during the Twentieth Century’s latter half has also brought beer to our doorsteps from around the planet.

Likewise, the number and variety of liquors has grown, due largely to infusion technology unimaginable fifty years ago.  Vodkas now come in any number of flavors, and many are infused with foodstuffs such as coffee beans.  Tequilas come in fruit flavors as well – agave, for instance – especially those prevalently found in South and Central America.  Production techniques have been further refined, resulting in spirits that are distilled multiple times for increased purity and clarity.  Thanks to electronic machinery and an integrated international marketplace – technological and economic progress – the number and quality of drink choices has expanded astronomically.

In addition, progressive health consciousness has led to – for many – a more sociable drinking culture and more enjoyable drinking experience.  Smoking bans, once considered laughable, have taken root in many states and cities.  Although many bar owners feared that such bans would be tantamount to Prohibition, they did not destroy bar culture or diminish bar receipts.  Instead, it is now more acceptable to drink than smoke, an interesting inversion from the Temperance Movement and moon shining common during the 1920s and 30s.

Has progress truly diminished the culture of drink?  Or am I nostalgic for a time period I’ll never be able to experience first-hand?  Can I look at post-World War II popular culture without a sense of loss, without wishing to witness the refinement and civility I consider so lacking in today’s bars?  Perhaps I am dramatic in my rose-colored reflections, my desire for the period so aptly painted by authors like Bernard DeVoto and Barbara Holland.  But I can still remain stalwart in my convictions to preserve drinking culture’s past customs and traditions.  Even if it means occassionally shunning today’s bars and opting for a drink at home after work.  Before I take off my suit, of course.

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Published in: on February 7, 2011 at 11:29 pm  Comments (1)  
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One Comment

  1. It is the best of times, it is the worst of times?

    Our drinking choices have expanded exponentially in the last decade or two but perhaps we have sacrificed the refinement of richly appointed cocktail lounges, solitude of the corner bar, and the craftsmanship of skilled mixologists to get those choices. Fortunately there is a cure for your nostalgic lament … A good drink! Cheers!


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