If you're an American over the age of 21, you've probably legally encountered these multicolored elixirs being concocted by a sorcerer or sorceress of the intoxification arts- aka the bartender. You've also probably approached that bartender with an anxious hesitation, wondering not only what kind of drink you're in the mood for, but also whether the people around you would say something concerning your choice.
Maybe you weren't even sure what was what and selected something at random, soliciting comments for a drink that you didn't realize would look or taste a certain way. Now, you'd rather just order water and avoid getting any more stares and wasting the bartender's time. If you've ever experienced this series of events, there's nothing to fret about: it's a common sociological phenomenon for those unfamiliar with the world of inebriating drinks.
Throughout history, cocktails have played a major effect on the social image and reputations of people. Ordering a particular combination of liquids in a particular glass in a particular setting could affect business propositions, potential flings and love interests, your overall reputation, your clientele, and even your self-esteem. Especially as a public relations professional, it's crucial to know and understand your cocktails and what they convey to onlookers, especially if you're trying to seal deals or monitor an influencer.
A cocktail is officially defined as a mixed drink containing a spirit, sugar, water, and citrus or bitters (a plant extract with a very bitter, sour, or bittersweet taste). Recipes are usually created by mixologists, whereas recipes are perfected for consumption by bartenders. It's common for the incorrect assumption to arise that all mixed drinks are cocktails; on the contrary, while cocktail has an official definition, it's also used as an umbrella term for the mixed drinks family, which includes other drink types like sangrias, sours, eggnogs, and lemonades. These drinks are made with different combinations; in example, the highball contains only alcohol and a mixer/chaser, or a soda/juice that balances the flavor of the alcohol to form a unique taste.
While some have supposed the the origin of the cocktail comes from eggcups (known in France as "coquetel") or drinks being mixed with a male chicken's feather ("cock's tail"), both are myths. The idea of mixing drinks together is not a new one, but it wasn't until 1806 when it would be officially defined by The Balance and Columbian Repository in Hudson, New York. From then on, mixologists began to record drink types formulaically, bringing about recipes such as the Old Fashioned and the Sazerac.
Over time, more and more recipes became accepted as standard by the general public. Because of sociological and economic differences, people in different areas made do with what they had to create the signature cocktails we have today. The different drinks started to bear certain social implications depending on where they were from, what they were made of, who was drinking them, what they were being drank out of, and how rare or valuable the ingredients were.
For example, the daiquiri has its origins in Cuba, where American engineer Jennings Cox mixed the few ingredients they had (rum, lime, and sugar) in a tall, stem glass. The kir, on the other hand, hails from France, where the former mayor of Dijon, Felix Kir, frequently and frivolously ordered and offered the unnamed combination of creme de cassis (liquor made from black currants) and dry, white wine so much to his guests that bartenders named it in honor of him. It should come as no surprise, then, that kirs, served in a slender wine glass, are more associated with lavishness and wealth than daiquiris.
The furthered development of cocktails also led to terming nuances among the different drinks. These include "with a twist" (to add a citrus garnish to the completed drink), "on the rocks" (to pour the drink over ice), "neat" (to have the drink served in a classic cocktail glass with no ice or mixers, a liquid that enhances existing or adds new flavors to a spirit while diluting the alcohol by volume), "chilled" (to have your drink cold upon serving), "straight up" (to have the drink chilled), and "dirty" (to add olive juice or olives).
The rise of mainstream pop culture also played a major role in the perceptions of cocktails. In the past, martinis were sought by everyone, most especially businessmen. These would be served in the tall, slender, petite martini glasses, of which the social implication was "fancy" and "cool."
When the television series Sex and the City debuted in 1998, however, the perception changed. Following a scene where the all-female main cast had a girls' night out drinking cosmopolitans out of super-sized martini glasses, the perception suddenly changed to "feminine" and "fun." Bartenders were baffled when many male patrons, during a time when masculinity and femininity were less challenged and blurred as they are today, suddenly became uncomfortable with colorful drinks, martini glasses, and most especially colorful drinks in martini glasses. The usage of super-sized glasses in the show also prompted bartenders to order bigger martini glasses to keep up with the new demand for cosmopolitans.
While drinks now have mostly stabilized in perception, there is no guarantee that they will stay as they are. As of 2018, the following commonly ordered drinks generally have these social implications:
Truthfully, at the end of the day, people of age can and should drink whatever they want however they want. The judgments of other people shouldn't matter when it comes to treating yourself to and enjoying a refreshing cocktail; after all, you're the one drinking it and, more than likely, paying for it. Holding other people to arbitrary, often unimportant standards and conceptions of gender, sexuality, wealth, etc., only further sets us back as a society.
By nature, however, drinking is a social act, and with the human psychological tendency to immediately categorize everything around us, it's impossible to escape the consequences and implications that come with cocktail consumption. Thus, whether you're at a networking event, a gala, a business meeting, or a bar, if the perception of other people will play a major role in your public relations goals, remember to stay knowledgeable and keep an eye on what you, your clients, or your team/teammates are drinking. You never know who might be watching, and whether the assumptions from that observation may make or break an important deal.