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A second act for boozy drinks

Food writer Holly Ebel says that the retro craze includes what we're ordering at the bar. Harvey Wallbanger, anyone?

Olde Brick House
Chellie Miller, a bartender, makes a Can-Can, made with Vikre Boreal Cedar gin, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and fresh lime juice, on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022, at Olde Brick House in downtown Rochester, Minnesota.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — If the last time you ordered a Brandy Alexander was in the 1970s, prepare yourself.

They're back, big time, along with all sorts of other boozy beverages from the '70s and '80s.

It's definitely a case of what's old is new again. What's behind this resurgence?

Bartenders point to Instagram as well as that everything retro and vintage is trending right now. Nostalgia also has something to do with it.

Some bars are even acting like it's the '70's again, when cocktails were an accompaniment to night life, not the lead act.

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Olde Brick House
Chellie Miller, a bartender, holds a Can-Can, made with Vikre Boreal Cedar gin, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and fresh lime juice, on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022, at Olde Brick House in downtown Rochester, Minnesota.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Chellie Miller, a bartender at Olde Brick House, says the music from that era is popular again.

Another influence is that women come to bars with friends, which didn't happen that often 50 years ago. It's said that the sweet, creamy drinks were made especially for them.

Also, it's a new generation of drinkers in their 20s and 30s exploring beverages their parents enjoyed. That was the era of brightly colored, and flavored drinks — think Blue Curacao, Green Creme de Menthe and Creme de Cacao.

Creamy and sweet, back again after a multi-year hibernation.

What drinks is Miller mixing up? All the old familiar, some with new twists.

"The grasshopper has chocolate around the rim of the glass, a great addition," she said. "We're also making a lot of cosmopolitans, cancans, old fashioneds and martinis."

Those of a certain age will remember Tequila Sunrise, Rusty Nail, Aperol Spritz and Tom Collins, a drink that's been around since 1876.

These are the classics and for a reason, they were — and still are — simple mixtures, often with just three or four ingredients.

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In addition, bartenders have been adding subtle touches as today's consumers seem to want classics with an edge. Many also had suggestive names, described by one bartender as "slutty."

At the Tap House they too are dealing with these popular "yesterday" drinks.

Bartender Alisha Peters said one of the more popular of the "old" beverages" is the Old Fashioned.

"We offer two different versions. The cosmopolitan is another which we make often over the course of a night," she said.

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"We've also just come out with a new drink menu that has some new catchy names for these cocktails, one being the Drunken Grasshopper. Another is New York Cherry Sour, a variation on Whiskey Sour with a little drizzle of red wine on the top."

The '70s also brought vodka to the forefront of ingredients, although it had been around for decades.

The Harvey Wallbanger is one of that decade's iconic vodka drinks, a mixture of vodka, orange juice and Galliano.

The White Russian also was all the rage — vodka, coffee liqueur and cream, over ice.

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New young bartenders just starting out today have to be quick learners to get these just right.

Hosts serving these drinks at home have likely never lost the touch. Or home may be the place to perfect your own pour.

The hyper-sweet drinks and old favorites continued into the 1980s but were joined by wine coolers like Bartles and Jaymes. White Zinfandel also entered the picture.

Consumers are asking for these now as well and wine coolers are still in demand, especially in the hot summer months.

In addition wine, locally brewed beers and craft cocktails make it a challenge to choose an appropriate beverage.

Along with these vintage cocktails, bartenders are becoming inventive and intentional with non-alcoholic beverages for which there is a growing demand. Interesting, the price points for these are only slightly less than for alcoholic beverages.

Post Bulletin food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to life@postbulletin.com .

Food for Thought - Holly Ebel column sig

Post Bulletin food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to life@postbulletin.com.
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