December 28th, 2007
A recent email from a restaurant manager friend said, “We’re throwing an ’80s bash on New Year’s Eve in Sister Sorel and I’m trying to research what cocktails were popular at that time. I was thinking Sex on the Beach, Blow Job shots and White Russians, but that’s where I ran out. If anyone has any thoughts on this, please send them my way!”
Since, unlike my friend, I came of age in the decade that popularized blender drinks, wine coolers, DeKuyper Peach Schnapps and cocktails with sexual names, I readily responded to her first three stabs at drinks of the period. “Oh, yeah, those qualify. And don’t forget about Sombreros, Mudslides, Slippery Nipples, B-52s, Woo-Woos, Kamikazes, Alabama Slammers and California Root Beers.” Aaah, the sweet nectar of spring break — another ’80s phenomenon. (Yeah, I know, spring break has been around at least since Where the Boys Are, but it didn’t become a huge, regularly televised event until the MTV decade.)
In the ’80s, cocktails were climbing out of an era in which innovations in inebriation focused on drugs instead of booze. Courtesy of Ronald Reagan, it was “morning again in America,” and a new generation of young adults entered college with the intention of launching high-paying careers. They toasted to their bright future as yuppies with a new crop of appropriately cheerful (but naughty sounding!) drinks based on vodka, schnapps, Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream and any other sweet liquor meant to be speed-poured into a glass a la Tom Cruise in Cocktail (“Where he pours, he reigns.”).
Those of you who remember the Decade of Dumb Drinks: What were your faves? Did the Sex on the Beach and its ilk pave the way for today’s candy-flavored martinis, or does every era simply have its own ridiculous cocktails?