Making History Hip

What’s new? New styles, new watering holes, new apps, new electronics, new cars…the list can go on and on. There’s no question that today’s consumer is obsessed with all things new—and when he or she does find that shiny, new thing that no one else has yet discovered they make it known. Do you like this jacket? It’s new. Did you see this app? It’s new. Have you been to (enter bar or restaurant name here)? It’s new. You get the idea.

But lately there’s also been an obsession with what’s old. I’ve never been a history buff myself, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have an appreciation for the events that have helped shape the modern world.

In the spirits world, there’s been a newfound love for what’s old, where a return to the classic cocktail and iconic brands that date back more than a century are becoming what’s new again.

With speakeasy-type bars in demand and consumers tuning into shows like “Mad Men,” classic cocktails are getting a second look. Mixologists are bringing the sexy back to drinks like Moscow Mule, Negroni, Old Fashioned or Rusty Nail with a spin that brings these cocktails to another level.

What’s helped fuel this trend, in addition to pop culture, is the investment iconic brands are making to teach consumers about their history and the cocktails made with them.

Campari, an aperitif that dates back to 1860, is used to make the Negroni: one part Campari, one part gin and one part sweet vermouth. Last year, a contest in New York City asked bartenders to come up with their own version of the Negroni causing a spike in menu placements for the drink around the city. History lesson: Campari originally got its rich red color extracted from a cochineal beetle native to South America.

Bacardi, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, is widely recognized for the Mojito: 1.5 ounces of Bacardi, 12 fresh spearmint leaves, half a lime, 7 ounces of club soda and 2 tablespoons of simple syrup. This cocktail, which dates back to 1862, was originally called the Draque, invented by Richard Drake, a pirate on board the ship of Spanish explorer Francis Drake.

Today, the Mojito recipe is often altered and made with a variety of fruit flavors and flavored Bacardi rums to get a customized version of the classic. History lesson: Bacardi got its bat symbol because bats were found in the rafters of the original distillery.

Glenfiddich celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. In honor of its anniversary, the brand is promoting cocktails that create a modern take on the historic brand. The Pioneering Spirit: 1.5 parts Glenfiddich 12 Year Old, 2 parts pear juice, one-half part agave nectar, 1 part lemon juice. History lesson: Founder William Grant and his nine children built the first Glenfiddich distillery by hand over the course of a year.

While these cocktails, and the brands that help make them, aren’t necessarily “new,” they are classic—and that’s one thing that never gets old. 

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