It's a long way from a Sazerac to a tropitini, but the trip says a lot about the evolution of cocktails throughout American history.
The Sazerac dates from the 1790s in New Orleans and is often said to have been the world's first cocktail. The tropitini is a product of the new millennium -- a concoction made possible by the flavors that now infuse spirits like vodka and rum. In between came a lot of other drinks. Many of them, such as the Tom Collins, the Bloody Mary or the sidecar, are still cocktail standards.
If you're curious about cocktail history, the bar at Generations Restaurant at the Kent Manor Inn in Stevensville has developed a menu that can help you sip your way through two centuries of beverage history. Just don't try to do it in one visit -- or even two or three.
Customers "think it's a fun concept," says co-owner Dave Meloy. "People are big experimenters today, [and they] have found it fun to experiment with beverages just like they do with food." The cocktail menu, in place since last fall, was developed by former chef Dennis Shakan.
The 40 drinks on the menu are divided into historical eras, and the menu includes a brief history of each one. It begins with the Sazerac, a recipe brought to New Orleans by Antoine Amedee Peychaud, creator of Peychaud Bitters. The drink originally was served with cognac and absinthe. Modern versions feature whiskey and pernod, along with sugar and, yes, Peychaud Bitters.
The menu closes with the tropitini, a "tropical elixir" credited to a tiny tiki bar in the Caribbean. It makes use of a lusciously intense Vincent Pineapple Vodka, Malibu Rum, creme de banana liqueur, pineapple juice and orange juice. In between come many longtime favorites.
Pimm's Cup is one of two entries for the first half of the 19th century. Prepared with Pimm's No. 1 Cup liqueur, Beefeater gin and lemonade and served on the rocks with a cucumber garnish, it is still a classic.
From the latter half of the 1800s come the Manhattan, the dry martini, the Tom Collins and the highball.
The 1900s brought popularity to the gimlet, gin tempered with Rose's Lime Cordial (developed by a Scotsman who tried to find ways to prevent scurvy), and the Ward Eight, which was to have been invented on an election eve in Boston.
Later decades saw tastes turn toward drinks like the Singapore Sling, the mint julep and the old-fashioned. One of the drinks listed in the 1920s section is the Al Capone, named for one of the gangsters whose bootlegging operations helped to keep speakeasies supplied with liquor during the days of Prohibition.
From the 1940s comes the Moscow Mule, a combination of Stolichnaya vodka, lemon juice and ginger beer -- first served in 1946 at a Hollywood restaurant when a surplus of ginger beer was delivered by mistake.
Keep sipping and you'll cover plenty of other old favorites, from the mai tai and screwdriver to Long Island Iced Tea, the pina colada and, from recent decades, the Cosmopolitan and chocolate martini.
Good bartenders can make almost any of these drinks and possibly regale you with stories about their origins. But it's fun to see a bar take the trouble to sketch out a menu that puts old favorites in their historic context.
The Kent Manor Inn is located on Kent Island, the first exit after the Bay Bridge.
The Ward Eight
Makes 1 drink
1 teaspoon grenadine
1/2 ounce orange juice
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1 ounce rye whiskey or Jack Daniel's Whiskey
garnish: a cherry and slices of orange, lemon
Shake ingredients well in cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry and slices of orange and lemon.
- Adapted from "The Savoy Cocktail Book" by Harry Craddock (Richard R. Smith Inc., 1930)
Per serving: 93 calories; 0 grams protein; 0 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 7 grams carbohydrate; 0 grams fiber; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 2 milligrams sodium