Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Decadence


[This article previously appeared in Barlife Magazine.]

by Jared Brown & Anistatia Miller

We’ve never recommended a playlist for an article. But before you read this you might want to queue up the following tracks (five of these should do it): "Brick House", "Flashlight", "Bad Girls", "Xanadu", "Dancing Queen", "The Hustle", "Jungle Boogie", "Good Times", and "Rock with You".

The 1960s were trumpeted as the dawn of the sexual revolution. This was supposedly the era of free love—the near abandonment of western culture’s puritanical morals. It started then. However, the seeds planted in the 1960s did not bear fruit until the next decade. The 1970s—and by “1970s” we mean roughly 1975-1985—was the age of debauchery. Bars were the epicentre. The drinks reflected it. What could be more decadent than sweet shooters, strong cocktails with barely perceptible alcohol, and long drinks with tropical pretensions.

Discos quickly took over where rock ’n' roll clubs had been. The Beatles were replaced by the Bee Gees, Donna Summer, and Rick James. Even the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead and David Bowie eventually capitulated. Each released an album set to a disco beat. Why not? The parties were non-stop and the the club dress code was literally as bare as you dare. 

These were drinks designed as a prelude to sex. There were no subtleties. Sex on the Beach, Slippery Nipple, Sloe Comfortable Screw Against the Wall, Screaming Orgasm. It was a long list. Who can forget Rupert Holmes’ song "Escape" (the Piña Colada song) which topped the 1978 and 1979 Billboard charts. Then there were the shooters: the B52, the Woo Woo, the tequila body shot. 

Those sugary, fruity, mostly vodka drinks were not without merit. Just as the 1960s set the stage for the 1970s, the 1970s drinks contain the foundations for some outstanding modern drinks—balanced flavours that don’t take themselves too seriously. We make the Harvey Wallbanger with good vodka, fresh squeezed orange juice and high quality ice. It's an excellent drink. Apply the same approach to any of the popular drinks of the 70s and the results are remarkable. Let’s face it, while a Hanky Panky has a suggestive name there will never be anything else inherently sexy about the drink. Even our own variation—the Spanky Panky, with mint in the shaker, a hard shake, double strain and a spanked mint garnish—doesn’t leave you wanting to get physical. It just leaves you thinking it would be a good idea to have another. 

Today’s bitter-balanced and overly-citrus concoctions pack a lot of flavour. They don’t pack a lot of decadence. Perhaps this is because the new sexual revolution is on people’s phones instead of resident in the bars. No one needs to pass a doorman’s scrutiny. No one needs to look particularly alluring in a bar. It’s just a matter of getting swiped right or left these days, circumventing the social aspect of sex.

As social director of a fraternity (perhaps the most important responsibility I took on at university), I fondly recall a line of ten blenders cranking out frozen strawberry daiquiris for the crowd. Yes, we found that a mix of fresh and frozen strawberries gave us the best results. No, we didn’t know the difference between rums at the time and the drinks could have been much better. But far more important to the success of every evening, we were most concerned about the party and the guests. Those parties could not have possibly been better. Drinks may be great, but unless there’s a bit of decadence involved, they can never be the best. 


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