Martinis, Manhattans and Cosmopolitans are festive ways to celebrate the new year, but Shaken, Stirred, Styled: The Art of the Cocktail, a new exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art, celebrates barware and other essential wares used to create these delicious adult beverages as works of art.
"We have a treasure trove of barware from over a hundred years in our permanent collection. This an opportunity to exhibit those wares and tell a story of the development of cocktails and cocktailers through the artwork itself," Samantha Robinson, the DMA’s interim Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, said.
The exhibition is organized chronologically and begins with the ancestor of the cocktail: punch. Large punch bowls with matching cups demonstrate the British elites’ interest in enjoying large quantities of the beverage’s signature blend of water, spirits, citrus, sugar and spice.
"It is a result of trans global exploration and exchange. It is an exuberant expression of all things exotic," Robinson said.
The Industrial Revolution changed how people enjoyed alcohol as they desired something more efficient and individual. The cocktail is an American invention and American bartenders began developing cocktail recipes.
An example of the first recipe book of cocktails is part of the DMA’s exhibition. How to Mix Drinks: Or, The Bon-vivant’s Companion was written in 1862 by Jerry Thomas, a flamboyant New York bartender and saloon owner considered "the father of American mixology."
Thomas was also a showman, juggling barware and wearing jewelry while creating drinks. His first edition of the guide is the first book to document the oral tradition of cocktail recipes and includes recipes for Brandy Daisy, Fizz, Flip, Sour, and the Old-Fashioned.
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Visitors to the exhibition can flip through a digital version of the book and find their favorite classic cocktail.
"This is an example of the way one individual took contributions of many, published them, and today that is the basis of the cocktails we know," Robinson said.
World War I, anti-German sentiment, and the growing influence of the temperance movement in the late 1800s and early 1900s shaped the cocktail culture in America. In 1919, Congress passed the 18th Amendment, banning the production, importation, transportation and sale of alcohol.
It did not ban the consumption or private possession of alcohol and after World War I, people had money and wanted to celebrate the conclusion of the war. In the 1920s, advertisers preferred to use the word "beverage" instead of "cocktail" and barware designers cleverly disguised alcoholic drinks with whimsical shapes such as roosters.
The beak of the rooster unscrews to reveal the spout for the cocktail. Designers were also inspired by Art-Deco skyscrapers, lighthouses and World War I artillery shells to find creative ways to serve cocktails.
Barware design of the 1930s reflects another societal shift in America as the design is simplified and items are made with silver plate and chrome.
"The excess and extravagance of the 1920s comes to an abrupt halt in 1929 with the stock market crash and the start of the Great Depression. The chrome would have provided the consumers the allure of silver with a shiny surface they wanted, but at lower prices because they could no longer had the income to afford these wares," Robinson explained.
Once President Roosevelt repealed the 18th Amendment in 1933, mass production of bar ware increased and barware was produced efficiently and inexpensively.
Peter Muller-Munk’s 1937 Waring Blendor, a recent acquisition on display for the first time in this exhibition, marks an important transition in the history of the cocktail.
"It certainly suggests the mechanization of life and consumer products in the 1930s. It really demonstrates this purity of function and form. It also foreshadows after World War II the mechanization of cocktail culture. Battery-powered and electricity-powered wares became very popular in the 1950s," Robinson said.
After World War II, mixed drinks became more popular in American culture and mixing pitchers and beverage stirrers replaces cocktail shakers.
"Even though the cocktail has receded somewhat in popular consciousness, designers continue to return to these forms again and again," Robinson said.
A striking example of a modern reincarnation of classic barware is Valeri Timofeev’s kaleidoscopic martini glass, combining Russian enamel techniques with a distinctly American form.
Crafted in 2001 and on display for the first time since entering the DMA’s collection, it is a charming result of 100 years of cocktail history.
Shaken, Stirred, Styled: The Art of the Cocktail, presented by ROXOR Artisan Gin, will be on view through November 12, 2017 and is included in the DMA’s daily free admission.
For more information about the exhibition and a special speakeasy event on February 4, visit www.dma.org.
Kimberly Richard is a North Texan with a passion for the arts. She’s worked with Theatre Three, Inc. and interned for the English National Opera and Royal Shakespeare Company. She graduated from Austin College and currently lives in Garland with her very pampered cocker spaniel, Tessa.