Chief Spirits Advisor to The National Archives
We are very proud to announce that, in conjunction with its Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History exhibit, the National Archives has named Derek Brown as its first-ever Chief Spirits Advisor, drawing on his knowledge of spirits, cocktails, and the role that drinking and the culture that surrounds it has played in shaping the history of our nation.
In his first major project as Chief Spirits Advisor, Derek will be curating a History of the Cocktail Seminar Series to discuss the role of spirits in U.S. history. In this ten-part series, we have invited some of the top writers, bartenders, spirit-makers, and thinkers in spirits and cocktails to discuss various eras in the history of the cocktail, shedding light on our Spirited Republic.
Each event will highlight a period in American drinking from B.C. (before the cocktail) to the Platinum Age (the current era of cocktails), discussing everything from potential evidence for pre-Hispanic distillation to using technology to invent new cocktails. The events schedule and ticket information can be found below.
Coinciding with the series will be a Bar Trail, and each event will feature cocktails made by local D.C. bars, allowing attendees to sample drinks from some of the city's best cocktail programs inspired by a particular era in our nation's drinking history. Each establishment along the Bar Trail will also feature these cocktails on their own menus for the month surrounding the corresponding speaking event.
Participating bars include 2 Birds 1 Stone, Ambar, barmini, Bourbon Steak, Columbia Room, Copycat Co., Daikaya, Dram & Grain, Eat the Rich, El Camino, Farmers Fishers Bakers, Graffiato, Lincoln, Mockingbird Hill, PX, Room 11, Slipstream, Southern Efficiency, The Partisan and Tryst.
History of the Cocktail Seminar Series
* Individual and discount package tickets available
American Drinking B.C. (Before the Cocktail)
Saturday, May 16, at 3 p.m.
presented by Del Maguey Mezcal, Williams & Humbert Sherry and Siembra Azul Tequila
It seems that America was drinking not only in the nascent stages of the Republic but long before. In this symposium, we will discuss the continent before widespread settlements, leading up to colonization, and the variety and kinds of drinks that were consumed. This includes some revelatory information about possible pre-Hispanic distillation to the first wine to come to the Americas with Christopher Columbus, sherry.
Panelists: Derek Brown, David Suro-Piñera, and Steve Olson
Moderated by M. Carrie Allen of The Washington Post
Featured bartenders: Phil Clark from Mockingbird Hill and David Fritzler from Tryst
Our Founding Drinkers
Saturday, May 30, at 3 p.m.
presented by Catoctin Creek
George Washington owned the largest whiskey distillery of his time, Thomas Jefferson was obsessed with wine and Benjamin Franklin even wrote a "Drinker's Dictionary," a humorous list of euphemisms for being drunk. It turns out that the early leaders of the new republic gained as much courage from the contents of their cups as the conviction of their ideals. We'll discuss drinking in colonial times to the early formation of America and how alcohol was an integral part of colonial life and American values.
Panelists include Steve Bashore, Wayne Curtis, and JP Fetherston
Moderated by Reid Mitenbuler author of Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America's Whiskey
Featured bartenders are JP Fetherston from Southern Efficiency and Jon Arroyo from Farmers Fishers Bakers
The Birth of the Cocktail
Saturday, June 13, at 3 p.m.
presented by Lucas Bols
Though the cocktail is now ubiquitous in America, there was a time when it was virtually unknown. It makes its first appearance in 1803 in the Farmers Cabinet and is first defined in 1806 within a piece of political commentary in The Balance and Columbian Repository, in which it is described as “containing spirituous liquor of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.” It goes from there to become not just a drink (and category of drinks) known throughout the nation but to be a signifier of our cultural, political and social life.
Panelists: Dale DeGroff, David Wondrich, Duane Sylvestre
Moderated by Logan Ward of Garden & Gun Magazine
Featured bartenders: Duane Sylvestre of Bourbon Steak and Jeff Faile of The Partisan
The Golden Age of Cocktails
Saturday, June 27, at 3 p.m.
The publication of the first bartenders guide in 1862 by Jerry Thomas marked a new age of creativity and innovation with the cocktail. The act of bartending becomes more theatrical and the cocktails of the time more elaborate. This era birthed some of the most enduring and iconic cocktails such as the Martini, Manhattan and Daiquiri. But this all occurs during a time when new immigrants and industrialization are reshaping the nation. Those forces similarly shape food and drink, leading into the politics of Prohibition and the expansion of “American bars” throughout Europe and Asia.
Panelists: Sean Kenyon, Robert Hess and Derek Brown
Moderated by Svetlana Legetic of Brightest Young Things
Featured bartenders: Jarrod Williams of Eat the Rich and Jamie McBain of Daikaya
The Lost Generation: Prohibition and Its Aftermath
Saturday, July 11, at 3 p.m.
presented by Pierre Ferrand
Prohibition remains one of the most influential and critical times in American drinking. Though professional bartending and the transportation of alcohol were made illegal, the offshoot—the speakeasy—became ubiquitous and the demographic of bars shifts from men to younger, mixed crowds. Trained bartenders either worked illegally or traveled to Europe or Latin America, where they could still legally serve alcohol, sometimes to other American expats. The implications for the cocktail were that, although it lost many of its trained professionals here at home, it found a new life and audience abroad.
Panelists: Jim Meehan, Bridget Albert, and Ted Haigh
Moderated by Garrett Peck, author of Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren’t and The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet
Featured bartenders: Juan Coronado of barmini and Rachel Sergi of Lincoln
The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks
Saturday, August 8, at 3 p.m.
presented by William Grant & Sons
In the late 1930s, a cocktail enthusiast named David Embury pens The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, signaling many changes in the way Americans drink, from making cocktails at home to the rise of a lesser-known spirit, vodka. His book is full of both technical suggestions and theoretical discussions. The publication of Embury’s manual marks a turning point in American drinking, ushering in the era of Mad Men and setting the stage for a consumer culture that fully embraced cocktails.
Panelists: Tony Abou-Ganim, Ted Haigh and Camper English
Moderated by Victorino Matus of The Weekly Standard
Featured bartenders: Taha Ismael of Graffiato and Rico Wisner of Ambar
Tiki & Exotic Drinks
Saturday, September 26, at 3 p.m.
presented by Chairman's Reserve Rum
With the glut of rum that floods America after the repeal of Prohibition and the return of American servicemen from exotic locales in the South Pacific, Tiki culture was born. Dreamed up by eccentric and talented bartenders like Don the Beachcomber and Vic “Trader Vic” Bergeron at the doorsteps of Hollywood, Tiki drinks were both fanciful creations adorned with flowers, fire and Polynesian accents as well as secret recipes that were fiercely coveted, closely guarded and often coded to avoid theft.
Panelists: Jeff“Beach Bum” Berry and Stephen Remsberg
Moderated by Naren Young of Fork and Shaker
Featured bartenders: Tom Brown of Slipstream and Mick Perrigo of El Camino
Out of the Dark Ages: 1970s-1990s
Saturday, October 17, at 3 p.m.
presented by Aylesbury Duck Vodka
Though we often think of Prohibition as the greatest historical threat to cocktail culture, drugs, social revolution and youth culture might have had a shade more to do with the (often lamentable) trends in drinking that marked the 1970s and 80s. From the Disco era to Grunge’s heyday, cocktails seemed anachronistic or, worse, overly stylized and superficial in their construction. But out of these dark ages, came the dawn of a new era and the rebirth to come.
Panelists: David Wondrich, Robert Simonson, and Simon Ford
Moderated by Fritz Hahn of The Washington Post
Featured bartenders: Dan Searing of Room 11 and Devin Gong of Copycat Co.
The Rebirth of the Cocktail
Saturday, November 21, at 3 p.m.
presented by Aviation Gin
The renaissance in cocktails that we’ve seen over the last 20 years was spearheaded in the late 80s and 90s by a few talented bartenders who reached into the past to resurrect classic cocktails. Yet, there were many forces that shaped these new classics and the people who created them, ranging from a nascent “foodie” subculture to home beer brewing. This era saw the rise of the Cosmo and Mojito and helped resurrect a lost art.
Panelists: Julie Reiner, Ryan Magarian, and Paul Clarke
Moderated by Eric Felten, author of How's Your Drink?: Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well
Featured bartenders: Adam Bernbach of Two Birds One Stone and Trevor Frye of Dram & Grain
The Platinum Age of the Cocktail
Saturday, December 12, at 3 p.m.
presented by Macchu Pisco
Bartender Jim Meehan once noted that we currently live in the “Platinum Age” of cocktails. On the one hand, there’s a proliferation of classic and creative cocktails in bars across the country. On the other, bartenders have access to a wealth of tools, products and information helping to push the craft forward. The resultant landscape of cocktails and cocktail culture draws from both traditions of the past and present culinary innovations. It’s possible to have an authentically produced Old Fashioned as well as have it served in an ice sphere; it’s not a bad time for drinking in America.
Panelists: Jackson Cannon, Charles Joly, and Pamela Wiznitzer
Moderated by Talia Baiocchi of Punch Magazine
Featured bartenders: JP Fetherston of Columbia Room and Todd Thrasher of PX