by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
December 11, 2007
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- It was about this time last year that our friendly neighborhood bartender asked if I'd sample the special cocktail prepared for the Christmas menu. I had just witnessed the work he put into measuring, shaking with ice, adding fizz, then egg whites for foam, now stirring slowly, letting it settle and, after that, pouring it into a goblet with one hand and adding a few drops of grenadine to the mixture with the other.
So, yes, I would be happy to sample it. He put a tall, thin, candy cane in the glass as the cocktail stirrer and advised that I should stir it awhile before taking a sip -- "to bring out the hint of peppermint." He added sprig of fresh mint looking every bit like a touch of holly. It was a creation, all right.
"What do you think?" he asked, with that bright-eyed look expectant of high praise. He really wanted to know but there was only one thought I could come up with and not break his heart. "Well, it's a little sweet, yet, ummm, a little tart. The women will love it but I wouldn't say it's a man's drink." How could I tell him it tastes exactly like Pepto Bismol? And, should I ask if part of the proceeds would be donated to Breast Cancer Research? It is the foundation's color pink.
As he recorded the steps he took to make sure it will be just right every time the bartender on duty prepares this holiday special, we talked about young people and their drinking habits. I was particularly interested in the effect the recent spate of sophisticated television ads is having on the sale of hard liquor to the barely legal young adults.
"Their orders are very creative now," he said. A couple of years ago when the young customers came in they'd order what they had been drinking on the beach: A bottle of Corona Beer with a wedge of lime inserted. They were comfortable. It took them to their comfort zone."
"Do they drink the flavored Vodka," I asked, since it is relatively new.
"Oh, yes," he answered. "One of the most popular drinks with the young women is a 'Tangerine Drop.'"
"That sounds more tart than the holiday special." I said.
"Well, maybe, but for those who like lemon drops, they say this is an alcoholic variation made with mandarin-flavored vodka and tangerines in season. Of course, here, tangerines are always available."
I asked if they sold much flavored Vodka over the original. "Oh, yes. In fact that's all we sell to women under twenty-five. And, they experiment with the specialty cocktails -- asking for a Cranapple Martini, made with Vodka and DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker." He puckered his own lips at the thought of it.
Although beer and wine commercials are more prevalent during football season or the holidays - with the fans more interested in laughing at the commercials than running out for some Budweiser - liquor ads in magazines and on television were absent for about 50 years because of an industry-wide self-imposed ban on advertising their products.
But, profits declined and, after all, alcohol is alcohol, and they might as well get in on the revenue. It's a legal product and from all I've read on the pros and cons of banning it, the manufacturers have every right to promote it.
As for the nature of the ads, they are very sophisticated. Those featured are not young adults on the wild side, nor do they appear irresponsible. The bottom line in every ad, albeit in very small type, says: "Drink responsibly." That's quite different from the federally enforced label on cigarettes. "This product will cause birth defects," among an assortment of dire warnings.
From what I have seen of the commercials, the industry is targeting Generation Y, the young up and coming men and women born after 1980 who for the most part are educated and responsible. The commercials are gentle and swaying, enticing, yes, but more for the handsome bartender than for the brew he's pouring.
I don't think the spirit and liquor industry is to blame for any misuse of their products. Naturally, taking the admonition to drink responsibly is strongly recommended.
But it's quite different with cigarettes - there is no correlation. Using tobacco exactly as it is meant to be used will eventually kill you. The bans in place now are for our own good and were too long in coming.