Traditionalism vs. Iconoclasm

Traditionalism vs. Iconoclasm

How Death & Co approaches cocktail creation while honoring tradition

It’s easy for anyone passionate about cocktails to get caught up in tradition. There’s so much history and lore surrounding cocktails, and in our early bar days we found ourselves mesmerized by stories of late nineteenth-century bartenders who lorded over gin palaces and saloons, mixing cocktails while guiding social agendas and changing the world. We were so absorbed in this history that we took their recorded work as gospel without asking the important question: “Do these drinks taste good?” In some cases, the answer was, yes; in others, hell no.

We believe the traditions that have been forged over the years ought to be considered as guideposts, not dogma. Consider the cultural evolutions of taste or the change in agriculture since the birth of mixed drinks. Breaking tradition is a necessary avenue in any art form; without it, the medium will never progress. And so, we view cocktails—even longstanding recipes, like the Martini or Old-Fashioned—as being worthy of both perfection and evolution. We seek not to make the most historical version of a drink, but to adhere to the spirit of the cocktail while making the best possible version we can.

Our approach is to question tradition but never shed it altogether. The endurance of these drinks in history says a lot about their integrity. Evolution for evolution’s sake can be a slippery slope.

Adapted from Death & Co Welcome Home, available here.

(Photo credit: Dylan & Jeni) 

This letter was sent from the Fellows at Death & Co

Since its opening in 2006, Death & Co has been a must-visit destination for serious drinkers and cocktail enthusiasts, and the winner of every major industry award.

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