What’s shakin, cocktail fans? Welcome to Episode 244 of The Modern Bar Cart Podcast!
This time around, we’re joined once again by Cecelia Tichi. She’s a professor of American Studies pat Vanderbilt University and the author of books on Jazz Age Cocktails, and Gilded Age Cocktails, which was the topic of our last conversation. This time around, we’re going to discuss the often-neglected (or at least highly stereotyped and caricatured) era of American drinking culture that defined the middle of the 20th century. Her latest book, Midcentury Cocktails: History, Lore, and Recipes from America’s Atomic Age, comes out on November 1.
Many of us draw our mental representations of this time period from old black-and-white TV shows like Leave it to Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show, as well as more contemporary series like Mad Men and The Man in the High Castle. But Cecelia has spent her time immersed in the primary sources of this era: the newspaper headlines and tabloids, the photographs, the maps of planned neighborhoods, the anatomical diagrams of the interstate arteries that served to vascularize our country following the Second World War. As such, this conversation covers everything from beat poets to Russian satellites.
In this midcentury retrospective with American Studies professor and author Cecelia Tichi of Vanderbilt University, some of the topics we discuss include:
- The historical backdrop for the society and culture of the mid-20th century: that is, a nation simultaneously traumatized by decades of war and economic depression and invigorated by economic prosperity and technological revolution.
- What drinking trends accompanied life in the big city, as well as those that took hold in the emerging, cookie cutter suburbs and the more upscale exurbs, where wealthy elites lived and vacationed.
- What the ballooning size of cocktail glasses (from 3 to 4 ½ ounces) and certain published entertaining guides meant for casual gatherings, in particular: how much one would be expected to take down over the course of an evening.
- We also examine certain bibulous sub-cultures like the aforementioned beat generation, commuters with access to bar cars on their train commute home from work, African Americans who relied on the famous Green Book when seeking entertainment and lodging on the road, and many other facets of midcentury life.
- Along the way, we cover the allure of an emerging Tiki culture, the surprising influence of the Playboy Bar Book, whether or not Don Draper and the cast of Mad Men managed an accurate portrayal of this drink-soaked era, and much, much more.
You can pre-order your copy of Midcentury Cocktails: History, Lore, and Recipes from America’s Atomic Age from New York University Press or wherever books are sold. It launches on November 1st, which gives you plenty of time if you’ve got a cocktail fan on your holiday gift list, or if you simply want to drop some not-so-subtle hints to those folks who are shopping for you.