Here is a great story from The Weekly Standard (its cover story) on the resurgence of the cocktail — and not the sugary concoctions that pass for cocktails — the liberal versions.
The cocktail is a lovely simple thing: a mixture of spirits and flavorings that whets the appetite, pleases the eye, and stimulates the mind. It is one of our conspicuous contributions to cultured living, up there with the Great American Songbook and the tuxedo. Yet, like almost everything else to do with culture in this country, the cocktail fell on hard times in the 1960s. A generation preferred other intoxicants and, when they drank, took their alcohol in sickly sweet concoctions that defied any idea of sophistication. As time passed, the places one could order a decent cocktail grew farther in between. By the 1990s, few establishments outside of the fustiest hotels could produce a passable Martini or Manhattan. Fewer still a Negroni, a Jack Rose, or a Sazerac.
Some of it is the ignorance of the folks behind the bar, who not only have a limited mastery of the ratios that make such cocktails refreshing but also fail to measure–every drink should be meted out accurately with jiggers and spoons. It is a profession after all dominated by disabused actors and women comfortable in brief attire. But it is just as much the lack of audience. For a Negroni, your sweet vermouth and your Campari must be fresh, used and replaced regularly. For a Jack Rose, you not only need bottled-in-bond applejack or high-grade Calvados, but also real grenadine, which at this point you must make yourself as the product sold domestically has no pomegranates in it. And a Sazerac?
To make the signature drink of New Orleans, you need not only good rye and an absinthe substitute, but a bottle of Antoine Amedie Peychaud’s anise-dominated bitters. You need, in other words, fresh ingredients, a fair amount of knowledge, and practiced skills.
Do read the whole thing.