The roaring twenties
2020 is here and we look back at the last century, which is an iconic era for bar culture. Illegal jazz clubs, flapper girls and cheap liquor drew the map for what came to be called "the roaring twenties".
The 1920s have come to be referred to as the "the roaring twenties" as inventiveness, economic growth and women's emancipation made people (especially in the cities) live out their joy over the new found hope for the future and over putting the devastation of the First World War and the Spanish flu in the past. The "new woman" was here to stay, and around the world, women's suffrage was introduced and women started working in a wider number. Another sector in society that women made a claim to was the club; a so-called "flapper girl" was the kind of woman who cut her hair short and embraced the new shortskirt fashion, who danced throughout the nights and devoted herself to the same whims as men did — a decadence well portraited in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. His female protagonist Daisy, by the way, share her name with a popular drinking family called 'daisies' (shaken drinks made on a base spirit, citrus liqueur and citrus juice) that had been fashionable since the mid-1800s.
The drinks of the roaring twenties
Initially, the drinks at this time were still high class; old fashioneds, juleps, fizzes and daisies were in vogue, and the champagne seems to have been pouring down. In Europe, cocktail bars were the local meeting point for all shifts in society; artists, soldiers, politicians, journalists, day laborers and philosophers. On the other side of the Atlantic Sea, in the US, this meeting point was eradicated and had to move "underground"; to illegal clubs with arbitrary opening hours. It happened as a result of the alcohol ban that came into force in 1920 and lasted until 1933; known as the Prohibition. The twenties' America was the time for jazz music, bootlegging and illegal liquor production as well ass the secret bars know as speakeasies — you had to speak quiet about them and quietly inside of them. Here and now the cocktail world began to see new faces in addition to the classics; many recipes came to included cordials, cream and fruit juices to hide the dubious quality of the spirits. Examples of 1920s cocktails are Bee's Knees, Hanky Panky, Brandy Alexander, Grasshopper, Sidecar — to name but a few. During this time, the term "Bathtub Gin" was also coined, which is a typical example of the means taken to conceal the bad taste. The term derives from home burners mixing their cheap grain liquor with juniper juice, water and glycerine.
One name that cannot be overlooked in this part of history is Alphonso 'Al' Capone aka Scarface — the mafia boss in Chicago who built himself a fortune on bootlegging (they smuggled booze to the bars in high boots) and speakeasies during the twenties. Capone quickly worked his way up in the criminal world and eventually he handled all the traffic of spirits going in and out of the city's southern regions. The gin that Capone smuggled in he enjoyed with lemon juice, sugar syrup, mint and soda, to soften the harsh taste (maybe they used bathtub gin?), and the drink was named the Southside Fizz.
In addition to being known in the world for bossing Chicago's organized crime and probably having staged the Valentine Massacre on February 14, 1929, when seven members of the North Side gang were executed, Al Capone's name has lived on in the bar culture — in the form of a cocktail. An Al Capone is made on a dominant base of Rye Whiskey where you add Campari and sweet vermouth and serve it with orange zest.
The party continues
Berlin 2020 is far from an alcohol ban and illegal bars like the ones in 1920s America. In fact, it's the never ending and very tolerant club scene that makes Berlin such a unique place. The liberal opening hours and queer friendliness of the Berlin bar and club scene attracts people from around the world which in turn affects the development of gastronomic field at large which today is highly diverse and prospering. The great culture mix is also unique for Berlin — which sometimes people call "Europe's New York".
It will be exciting to see what the coming decade will deliver in terms of bar and drinking-culture, both globally and locally. If I get to take a guess, I think, unlike the 1920s, we will see increased demand and awareness when it comes to liquor production, where sustainability dominates all the way from grain to the cocktail being served — at a bar near you.