Skip to Main Content



Tending bar was only one of the duties of the traditional innkeeper. When inns and small hotels were a family affair, and the drinks dispensed were no more complicated than a tankard of ale or a mug of mulled wine, bartending specialists were not required. Most recipes, such as rum punch, were commonly known; indeed alcoholic beverages were more commonly drunk (and, because of dubious standards of public hygiene, safer) than nonalcoholic ones. However, beginning in the 19th century, the temperance movement helped to limit the acceptability of the widespread imbibing of distilled spirits. Drinking certain liquors in certain ways became a luxury and a fashionable statement, and the cocktail glass became the mark of the sophisticate. The trend toward increasing refinement of alcoholic beverages was only increased by the admittance of respectable women to bars, pubs, taverns, and saloons, and before long, everything from the absinthe frappe to the Manhattan had made its appearance. The number of recipes has only grown since; not even Prohibition could stop the emerging science of mixology, as the all too often foul taste of the bootleg "bathtub gin" of the 1920s was not uncommonly disguised by elaborate recipes. Today, even in the average neighborhood cocktail lounge or tavern, bartenders may have to cope with requests for such exotic concoctions as Screaming Zombies, Harvey Wallbangers, Golden Cadillacs, Singapore Slings, and hundreds of new recipes for shot drinks, or "shooters," complicated by the multiplicity of brands and flavors of liquor, beer, and "alco-pops."