With the skyrocketing popularity of “Mad Men” and speakeasy bars mushrooming up throughout the city, it’s no surprise that New Yorkers flocked to the Linnaean Libation League’s Palm Springs circa 1959-themed event at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden over the weekend.
Cocktail historian Dave Wondrich said at the mid-century-themed bash on Saturday that this yearning for yesteryear is also reflected in the latest old-school bottle-hitting habits of young imbibers.
“People in their twenties are drinking ... old historic cocktails in speakeasy bars. Gin -- great! The older the better. It’s kind of funny,” Wondrich, a former English professor who ditched academia for cocktailing, told Niteside.
“A lot of people are drinking whiskey who never used to drink whiskey. Tough times you need a tough drink.”
Snow-caked streets didn’t stop plucky patrons who donned retro gear and grooved to crooners like Sinatra in the garden’s Steinhardt Conservatory, which houses several greenhouses -- including a desert room replete with cacti and a tropical room with lush rainforest vegetation.
Wondrich also gave an abridged history of the evolution of gin from its early incarnations as “liquid crack” for the peasant class to the smooth juniper-derived bliss currently enjoyed by alcohol aficionados the world over.
Wondrich, who enjoys classic drinks like Manhattans and eschews anything “named after improper acts or parts of the body normally covered by underwear,” has some very simple advice for novices looking to make a splash in the cocktail game.
“Pick a recipe and master it. Use good ingredients, don’t be a cheapskate on the mixers and then just practice until you get it just exactly the way you like it, not the way some cocktail expert like myself says you’ll like it,” said Wondrich.