Ever since my favorite Cup Noodles was removed from the intersection of Broadway and 45th, all the advertisements in Times Square do nothing for me except justify wearing sunglasses at night. I have no interest in buying men’s underwear or the latest toys, so I usually ignore the gigantic eyesores and concentrate on seething at the tourists that stop and gawk every five feet — except for one night a few weeks ago.
It was late March, and I was walking briskly with a friend toward the theater district. Suddenly a 20-story tall ad for Smirnoff Grand Cosmopolitan appeared, and part of me shrieked and died inside. Not only was it aggravatingly gigantic, but it was also hawking a PRE-MIXED cosmopolitan.
I realize that we live in an era of convenience: dried noodle soup, McDonald’s, iPhones, automatic greeting-card services and txt mssgs are the norm. I can see how it would be tempting to fix your drink for the evening by going to the liquor store and picking up a single bottle to swig from while you type on your Blackberry. But when we can’t take the time to make a fresh cocktail, we might be taking the ready-to-eat concept a bit too far: Is drinking a prepackaged cocktail really the best way to enjoy alcohol?
Even in the sparest of circumstances, a decent drink can be made fresh. Last fall, I was wandering around downtown Manhattan with some friends before we made it to Brooklyn for the night. Looking to avoid the high prices at bars, we opted for the liquor store instead. A quick stop at Associated Supermarkets, and we had grapefruit juice and rum served in classy cartons. It took a little more time, but there’s little to compare to fresh(ish) juice in a cocktail.
So if Times Square represents the beacon of American capitalism, I dearly hope that the Grand (Fake) Cosmopolitan is just a fluke. I realize that I’m starting to sound like a nostalgic dreamer wishing for a return to an agrarian paradise, but I actually see nothing wrong with technology. Bring on the hovercrafts and high-speed transit! Anything to get rid of the traffic in SoCal!
The problems with American drinking culture are not the result of technology or a high-speed life. I am tempted to blame the high drinking age and a Puritan cultural ancestry, but I don’t think it’ll ever be completely clear.
I do believe that a healthy attitude toward alcohol in American culture is a very real goal. Not only does this include injunctions against drinking too much — my grandfather died from complications of alcoholism and I am all too aware of the dangers — but also a recommendation. Know what’s going into your cocktail; you’ll be more aware of how much you’re drinking, and you’ll get more out of the whole experience.
And maybe I’m wrong; maybe bottled mixed drinks taste better, cause people to drink less and are more likely to be recycled than Solo cups. Then I will happily stock my bar with pre-mixed Manhattans, packaged tequila sunrises and fruit-on-the-bottom sangria.
Until then, I leave you with the recipe for the Dirty Cosmopolitan: impossible to bottle, and worth every second in the cocktail shaker.
1 1/2 oz. vodka
3/4 oz. triple sec
1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed orange juice.
1/4 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 oz. cranberry juice
3 oz. Prosecco or other dry sparkling wine
Mix the first five ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice. Top with the Prosecco. The orange juice highlights the orange flavor in the triple sec, while the lemon plays off the acidity in the wine. The squeezed juice — with just a little pulp — is enough to make it “dirty”: a dirty martini is just a martini with olive juice. But if you want to make it extra dirty, add a swirl of chocolate syrup on top and some chocolate shavings. It’s champagne, chocolate and cranberries — in a single cocktail.