The 'tini Years
Updated: Feb 14, 2019
For those born in the gap between Gen X and the Millennials, they came of drinking age during an interesting time. Growing up watching their Baby Boomer parents make cocktails with bottled and canned mixers, or if it was fancy, a blender cocktail with an umbrella in it. Watching television shows like Cheers, and movies like Cocktail in wonder, and amazement. Then in 1996 a year or two away from when most of them would turn twenty-one, Seagram's defied the American alcohol industry's self-imposed decades-long ban on television and radio advertising.
As a powerhouse of distilled spirits in the 80s, Seagram's saw the opportunity before them with a whole new generation of drinkers to reach. This new group of adults were arriving at drinking age in a time where television was front and center in their lives. Unlike their parents and grandparents where the TV was a luxury item, it was a household necessity to them. Much like computers are today. They were becoming adults in the frontier of cyberspace. The cyber age would later be instrumental in spreading the cocktail renaissance.
Before the cocktail renaissance though, there was a time when "martinis" or "tinis" ruled bar menus across the country. Thanks in part to entertainment pop-culture. From 1998-2004 to the chagrin of some bartenders, newly minted legal drinkers took their drinking cues from shows like Will and Grace where Megan Mullally's character Karen Walker would drink dirty vodka martinis by the gallon, and the cast of Sex in the City ordered rounds of Cosmopolitans.
These shows made drinking cocktails look chic and sophisticated. Unlike what their parents and grandparents drank which was limited to the least amount of effort and could fit in a large Collins glass, shot glass, or double old-fashioned glass. Looking back now the martini glasses weren't any smaller. They only looked better because they were visually appealing. I refer to this time as the "martini" years. Where so long as it was in a martini glass it was dubbed a "martini" or "tini" regardless of what was in the glass. Bars caught on quickly to this trend, and some have never removed these faux martinis from the menu. Most likely because they're easy to batch, and the mark up on them is a cash cow. All because it comes in a pretty glass. I recall going into one restaurant/lounge during the tail end of the "martini" years touting over 50 "martinis" on their menu. It was cringe worthy.
Pretty glass aside, the "martini" years made way for the cocktail renaissance and for a whole a new generation of drinkers to re-think cocktails, and how to market them.