Friday, June 20, 2008

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Museum of the American Cocktail teeters on the cusp of opening

It is part Museum, part bar, and part Victorian bordello!

~ Museum Curator Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh

Dr. Cocktail and Blake DeGroff (not at all affected by paint fumes).

The walls are painted, the cases installed, the objects are just about all set. MOTAC, the Museum of the American Cocktail, is about to open its doors. I was fortunate to spend a week last month sweating my ass off assisting curator Ted Haigh with a combination of grunt work and advising on collections management for the historical collections (that museum management degree comes in handy). I’m such a geek, I’m excited just thinking about it. Cocktails? Museums? How could I not be involved?

The New Orleans museum officially opens 10:30am on Monday July 21st, right after five days of rowdiness from the crowds visiting for Tales of the Cocktail. Me? I’m expecting the assembled cocktailians, bartenders, distillers, and cocktail laity to look a little green around the gills, but smiling nonetheless. Read the press release.

The museum’s mission
The Museum of the American Cocktail™ is a nonprofit organization founded by a group of cocktail historians and spirits experts, and dedicated to providing education in mixology and preserving the rich history of the American cocktail. Through its exhibit, educational seminars, and publishing program, the Museum advances the profession of mixology while stressing the importance of responsible drinking.

What might you see? The material culture of American cocktail history: art deco and mid century cocktail shakers, recipe books, vintage spirits in their original bottles, advertising, tiki ephemera, bartending tools, and more. Yes, there’s a moonshine section…well, prohibition, actually, but with a home-sized still diorama set up all 1920’s style.

Keep your eyes out as well for the history of the word "cocktail" itself. Competing theories abound about its origin and meaning, but so far nobody seems to have come up with an instance of the word in print before 13 May, 1806 when The Balance and Columbian Repository printed a tongue-in-cheek account balance of a politician's losing bid to gain office. The following week, the editor clarified what was meant by the word — Cock tail, then is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters it is vulgarly called a bittered sling...

So, 10:30 Monday morning. July 21st. Might need a hair of the bear that mauled me, but I'll be there. Will you?

Become a MOTAC member here. And check out Jill DeGroff's more recent pics of the build-out here.


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