Monday, July 28, 2008

Tales is Over...Let's Start Talking Shakers

Well now that Tales of the Cocktail is over it is now time to start talking about Cocktail Shakers. So here we go...

The history of the Cocktail Shaker is an interesting journey. Here is what Stephen Visakay, author of Vintage Bar Ware has to say about that...

Antecedents of the cocktail shaker can be traced to 7000 BC in South America where the jar gourd was valued for its use as a closed container. Ancient Egyptians in 3500 BC knew that adding spices to their grain fermentations before serving made them more palatable. A forerunner of the cocktail? Well, archaeologists have yet to find a hieroglyphic list of cocktail recipes inside the Great Pyramid of Cheops. But we do know in 1520 Cortez wrote to King Charles V of Spain from the New World of a certain drink made from cacao, served to Montezuma with much reverence, frothy and foaming from a golden cylinder.
By the late 1800s, the bartender's shaker as we know it today had become a standard tool of the trade, invented by an innkeeper when pouring a drink back and forth to mix. Finding that the smaller mouth of one container fit into another, he held the two together and shook "for a bit of a show."
At the turn of the century, New York City hotels were serving the English custom of 5 o'clock tea and it was a short leap to the 5 o'clock cocktail hour with shakers manufactured for home use looking very much like teapots.
In the 1920s martinis were served from sterling silver shakers by high society while the less affluent made do with glass or nickel-plated devices. The Great War was over and sacrifice was replaced by a euphoria marked by party-going and a frenzied quest for pleasure. The mixed drink and cocktail shaker was powered by Prohibition. People who had never tasted a cocktail before were knocking on speakeasy doors. The outlaw culture had a powerful pull. Flappers with one foot on the brass rail ordered their choice of drinks with names like Between the Sheets, Fox Trot, and Zanzibar, liberated more by this act and smoking in public than by their new voting rights.

The International Silver Company produced shakers in the form of the Boston Lighthouse and golf bags, as well as, traditional shapes. There were rooster- and penguin-shaped shakers, and from Germany zeppelin and aeroplane shakers. Many of these shapes were not entirely capricious. The rooster, or "cock of the walk," for example, had long served as a symbol for tavern signs. The penguin with its natural "tuxedo" symbolized the good life. The Graf Zeppelin had become the first commercial aircraft to cross the Atlantic - an 111-hour non-stop flight that captured the attention of the world.
Such ingenious designs were all the rage, cocktail shaker skills and drink rituals were as important in the Jazz Age lifestyle as the latest dance steps. Colorful cocktails with sweet mixes stretched out the supply of illicit alcohol and helped disguise the taste of homemade hooch. While gin, easier to duplicate than rye or scotch, became the drink of choice and the martini society's favorite.
But the real popularity explosion of cocktail shakers occurred after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Now they were featured frequently on the silver screen, shakers and accoutrements part of every movie set. Stars were constantly sipping cocktails when they weren't lighting each others' cigarettes, both de rigueur symbols of sophistication. Nick and Nora Charles, the delightfully sodden couple that poured their way through endless martinis in The Thin Man series, knew how to shake a drink with style, as did the tens of thousands of Americans who shook, swirled, and swilled cocktails by the shaker-full in the years following the repeal of Prohibition. Movie fans watched Fred and Ginger dance across the screen, cocktail glass in hand, and wanted their own symbol of the good life to shake themselves out of the Depression that gripped the country. The Art Deco movie set aesthetic was perfect for the Depression-driven cocktail shaker. To meet popular demand, machine age factories, geared for mass production, began turning them out in droves. Fashioned from the high-tech materials of the day, chrome-plated stainless steel shakers with Bakelite trim replaced those of sterling silver and were advertised as "non-tarnishing, no polishing needed." The great glass companies, such as Cambridge, Heisey, and Imperial, (on left) leaped into action. Stunning etched and silk-screened designs were created, often in brilliant hues of ruby or cobalt. Industrial design was at the height of popularity and superstar designers such as Russel Wright, Kem Weber, and Lurelle Guild created streamlined modern masterpieces, many in the shape of the new deity of architecture, the skyscraper. If there is a definitive classic it would have to be the sleek 1936 chrome-plated "Manhattan Skyscraper serving set" by master industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes, sought by collectors of today as the perfect mix of form and function.
By the end of the decade, shakers had become standard household objects, affordable to all. Every family had at least one shaker on the shelf. There were now cocktail shakers in the shape of bowling pins, dumbbells, town criers bells, and even in the shape of a lady's leg. The cocktail party had influenced fashion, furniture, and interior design. Coffee tables were now cocktail tables, and the little black dress, designed by Coco Chanel, went from fad to fashion, and is now an institution.
At the beginning of the 1940s, the Depression ended, but not in the way most had hoped. It ended on December 7, 1941. The golden era of the cocktail shaker was over, and America's involvement in World War II began. All metal went to the war effort. Companies that once made cocktail shakers, now made artillery shells. After the war, few thought of the shakers. We were in the atomic age, thinking of jet-propelled airplanes, a thing called television, and new cars with lots of chrome.
In the early 1950s, a brief renewal of interest in cocktail shakers occurred when new homes featuring finished basements, called "roc rooms," were equipped with bars. But the push-button age had taken the fun out of mixing drinks. Shakers came with battery-powered stirring devices. Worse yet, electric blenders became popular; drop in some ice, add the alcohol of your choice, a package of "redi-mix," flick a switch and.... Gone were the rites and rituals, the showmanship, the reward for effort. Small wonder, then, that these elegant stars of the 1930s were forced into retirement.
And there they sat - in attics and closets nationwide - waiting to be recalled to life. Over 50 years have passed now, and one can faintly hear the clink of ice cubes as shakers are, once again, a symbol of elegance.

I would like to thank Steve for his artical above and Mark Bigler for the wonderful pictures from his collection.

Coming soon will be posts on various cocktail shakers, their makers, and the histories.

Stay tuned and Keep on Shaking & Stirring...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tales of the Cocktail...Bigger & Better in 2008

I hope everyone will bear with me on my first ever blog posting. With that said, here we go...

After spending six days in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail, I must admit I'm sad it's over...but glad to be home. This was my fifth year at Tales and I can only say that it has grown exponentially! Wow, there were so many events and so many people it was almost over whelming. I got to see old friends, make new friends, (hopefully, made no enemies), and had the privilage to meet Cocktailians and Bloggers from all over the world. (I also logged around 200 Frequent Drinker Miles at the Carousel Bar. Shouldn't we be able to cash those in at the Montleone for room credit or something?)

If you have never attended Tales of the Cocktail, you have no idea what you have missed. Of coarse, being held in New Orleans, starts it off on the right foot. The hospitality of this city is of World Class! Everyone should be familiar with the history of the city which lends itself to the event of Tales perfectly.

This years Tales hosted many new events which helped to make it an even more memorable event for me. This also means that many new faces of professionals were in attendance. The list of master mixologist in attendance this year was the largest ever. That being said the list of various cocktails was also probably the largest. (I made a weak attempt to try as many as possible. My liver is on strike this week). The list of mixologist that included Dave Wondrich, Dale Degroff, Tony Abou-Ganim, The Fabulous Shaker Boys, Audrey Saunders, Chris McMillian, Natalie Bovis-Nelson, ect, ect, ect, was just mind boggling.
There was also an extensive list of the Movers & Shakers of the Food & Beverage industries. For a more complete list see the Tales site at the link on the bottom of this post.

At this time I have to give major kudos to Ann Tuennerman, (Founder of Tales) who one more time put together one of the greatest events in this country. Ann, keep up the great work and I'm looking forward to seeing you next year.

This year I had the great fortune to be asked by Steven Visakay, author of Vintage Bar Ware, to co-host The 1st International Symposium of Cocktail Shaker Collectors held on Wednesday. Along with fellow collector Mark Biggler, and The Fabulous Shaker Boys who were shaking some wonderful cocktails, (the recipes are below) we had one hell of a good time.
I would also like to thank our sponsor, Sonnema Vodkaherb. What a Great Vodka that is!
Steve spoke on the history of shakers. I spoke on the history of collecting and recipe cocktail shakers. Mark talked about were to still find good deals on shakers and the care and cleaning of shakers. We also gave away over $1000 in bar ware. We are really hoping to ramp this up next year with more shakers and collectors. Belowis a link to an interview of Steve with Robert Hess (aka Drink Boy) The Cocktail Spirit
The Dutch Aviator
2 Oz Sonnema Vodkaherb
1/2 Oz Luxard Maraschino Liqueur
1/2 Oz Creme de Violette
1/2 Fresh Lemon Juice
Shake for 8 seconds
Strain & Serve

The Dutch Duchess
2 1/2 Oz Sonnema Vodkaherb
3 Drops Le Fee Absinthe
1 Dash Peychaud's Bitters
Stir all ingrediats together
Strain and Serve

Thursday was also very fun as I got to serve my twist on a classic old cocktail, the Crimson Clover Club at the Cocktail Hour. I would also like to thank my sponsor, Ciroc Voka, anther Great Vodka! This drink was originally invented in the early 1900s at the Bellvue-Stratford Hotel in New York, for a group of "Philadelphia Blue Bloods" that called themselves the Clover Club. Here are the recipes...
The Original Clover Club
1.5 Oz Gin
1 Oz Lemon juice
1/2 Oz Grenadine
White of an Egg
Dash of Bitters (Optional)
Shake with Cracked Ice for at least 30 seconds to build a froth.
Strain & Serve

The Crimson Clover Club
1.5 Oz Ciroc Vodka
1 Oz Lime Juice
1/2 Oz Raspberry Liquor
White of an Egg
Dash of Peychuad's Bitters (Optional)
Shake with Cracked Ice for at least 30 seconds to build a froth.
Strain & Serve

(this is me Shaking Clover Clubs in a 1930s Hazel Atlas Shaker on Thurdays evening)

Thursday evenings Spirited Dinner at The Bombay Club was also an excellent time. The menu was almost as outstanding as the company. In attendance with our group were Steve & Arlene Visakay, Mark Biggler, Gary & Joy Graham, Lance Jason, and my friend Regina. This group of extrordinary collectors ia almost unmatched in the circles of Shaker Collectors. What fun that was!

On Friday evening I was also lucky enough to meet up with and be interviewed by one of the most intelligent, talented, and beautiful "Broads" I have ever had the privilege of knowing... Jennifer English. We talked for two hours on the resurgence of the Cocktail Culture, Cocktail Shakers, the designers of the Art Deco era, and where it is taking us today. What a wonderful time that was. Jennifer's knowledge of the food & beverage industry and history in general is just amazing. She is the founder and host of The Food & Wine Radio Network...Radio That Satisfies. She is also a James Beard Award Winner, 4-time James Beard Award Nominee, Gracie Allen Award Winner (not to mention she is an overall sweet and fun person). Check out the website...

On Saturday, I had the privilege of a tour of the newly re-opened Museum of the American Cocktail at it's new home in New Orleans. Ted Haige, curaror of the museum, led a group of cocktailians on a personal tour of the small but wonderfully set up museum. If you are a cocktail shaker or bar ware collector or just like history it is a must see when in New Orleans. Check out their website below...

I could literally go on for days about Tales of the Cocktail but don't want to bore you to death, so I suggest that you check out there website with links to all the bloggers that attended, videos of events and so on.

At this time I would like to invite everyone to contact me with comments or suggestions or just to say Hi.

Future post will have A LOT more about Cocktail Shakers & Bar Ware Collectors and the Cocktail Shakers and Bar Ware pieces themselves, along with some great old cocktail recipes.

So for now...
Keep on Shakin' & Stirring...