Here is another one of my mini-histories of modern cocktail classics, this one about the Oaxaca Old-Fashioned. The more I do these, the more I think about the fleeting nature of cocktail history, both in the past and now. It’s a commonly held notion that cocktail history is so difficult to trace because that history took place in bars, institutions the press took lightly and didn’t write about much, and places where the active participants were drinking much, remembering little, and not thinking overly much about posterity and what future historians might want to know.
I used to think that this set of circumstances belonged to the past; that, in the 21st century, we have dedicated cocktail writers, countless articles about cocktails and bars, and the Internet, where those articles live forever. But lately I’ve begun to think that all that will still not save us from future confusion. More often than not, when I write about recent cocktail history, the bartenders I interview evince difficulty in remembering events that only happened a decade or so ago. They draw a blank and have no recollection, even when it comes to the invention of their own cocktails. Or they misremember the facts. Because of this, we may end up with nearly as incomplete a history of today’s cocktail golden age as we have for any of the eras in the past.