Goodbye to '80s Bartending Trends

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Photo by Zanastardust/Flickr CC


With the double whammy of Michael Jackson and John Hughes passing, one gets the feeling that '80s pop icons are becoming endangered. These are sad times, but Madonna's wedding dress, the Rubik's Cube, and Tom Cruise as Brian Flanagan from Cocktail: The Movie I'm sure, are all on notice.

I don't wish any of these things gone. I'm a child the '80s. I have fond memories of pop culture icons. There are, however, some '80s icons that deserve, at least, a down payment on the farm. For one, I'd be willing to turn over my memories of Optimus Prime if they'd stop making those awful Transformers movies and admit that they've done irreparable harm to the franchise. But I digress.

No '80s icon deserves to be swept into the dustbin of history more than those tragic fluorescent-colored cocktails served in angular "martini" glasses mimicking women's shoulder pads of the era. They are glaring, neon reminders of the decade's penchant for style over substance. Come to think of it, here are a few more markers of drinking in the '80s that deserve to take the slow ride on a trash barge:

1. Calling Everything a Martini

The '80s ushered in the age of calling everything served in an angular glass with a stem a martini. If you're reading this then I presume you're over 21, which tells me that you know who is the president of the United States, how to drive a car, and have registered for selective service. Add to that list of key markers of adulthood the recognition that a martini is a very specific drink containing gin (or vodka) and vermouth.

2. The Long Island Iced Tea

The Long Island Iced Tea is delicious, but the premise is absurd: take all the white liquors and mix them with two ingredients that essentially mask the flavors. I also liked "Pop Rocks," but I'm more than happy to see them fall away for other, better candies. I once had someone come in and ask for a Long Island Iced Tea without ice, sour, or coke. That was the day my enthusiasm for this tea tipple faded. RIP LIT.

3. Blue-"Flavored" Drinks

I'd be more than happy to see Blue Curacao flourish behind bars if it wasn't for the absurd amount of blue drinks. I can even tolerate the Blue Hawaiian; it's the Blue Martini, Blue Motorcycle, and so on. Blue is a rare color found in food for a reason and, in my belief, should be rare in the drink world too.

4. Flair Bartending

The athleticism in flair bartending is amazing. I'm very impressed. When a bartender incorporates a little flair in their daily routine, cool. Bartending must necessarily involve showmanship, but flair bartending itself is all about the sport and little about the quality of drinks. Want good drinks? That has nothing to do with flipping a bottle. Sorry to spoil your "cocktails and dreams."

5. Crude but Corny Shot Names

We've already reviewed drink names, but some of the '80s shots just slid right off the tracks and went from a bad pun to worse. Red-Headed Sluts, Purple Hooters, Sex on the Beach; collectively this category is called "stripper shots." It's funny to talk about, but the minute you order one, your fond memories of the '80s will recede in a panic of, "What the hell did I just drink?" If you want a shot, I recommend the many different flavors of whiskey: bourbon, rye, and scotch, for example.

Presented by

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He sits on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail. More

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He travels throughout the country and around the world in search of great drinks, and the stories behind them. Derek's methodical approach to cocktails was profiled in the Wall Street Journal's "A Master of Mixological Science" and his martini lauded as the best in America by GQ. He's been in numerous media outlets featuring his approach to better drinking, including CNN, The Rachel Maddow Show and FOX. Derek is a founding member of the D.C. Craft Bartender's Guild and on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail.

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