Recession cocktails may take edge off dark year

Wed Dec 24, 2008 11:14am EST
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By Martinne Geller

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Liquor companies and bartenders are finding inspiration in the financial crisis, devising new recipes and reviving old cocktail standards to keep spirits alive during the holidays.

They hope to lure Americans who are drinking more at home or finding that parties are drying up to cut costs.

The industry has seen a resurgence of drinks that hark back to the prewar eras of Prohibition and the Great Depression, such as the Sidecar, the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan.

Julian Cohen, head of the consumer insights team at Fortune Brands Inc's beverage division, said those "heritage cocktails," traditionally made with heavier-flavored spirits like bourbon and cognac, mirror a wider preference.

"You're seeing a lot of darker flavors -- honeys, blackberries and raspberries, versus things like pomegranate and papaya," Cohen said. "When times are tough we want to go to things that are comfortable ... that are part of our history."

That may help explain the rush at the Edison, a swank bar in downtown Los Angeles, whose menu boasts vintage drinks like the Singapore Sling and the Vesper Martini, introduced in Ian Fleming's 1953 James Bond novel, Casino Royale.

During "Happy Hour" on Thursdays, the speakeasy-style lounge charges the Depression-era price of 35 cents for libations with names like Bourbon Bailout. Your 401K is a drink served with a postcard soliciting comments on whether patrons' retirement accounts are half-empty or half-full.

"On Fridays, we have massive lines -- about 300 people turn up at the bar," said Greg Rogers, a bar spokesman. "We have seen an uptick in recent months in sales as well as patrons."   Continued...