Return of the Blender Cocktail

Almost immediately after Steven Poplawski invented the blender in 1922, visionary individuals began using it to prepare cocktails. The practice achieved worldwide popularity, and there was a time when a drinking establishment was not taken seriously if it didn’t display a blender on the bar.

The blender craze probably reached its peak in the wave of “Polynesian” restaurants that swept America after World War II. Foremost among these was Trader Vic’s, founded by Victor Jules Bergeron Jr. in San Francisco in 1934. Some critics contend that Trader Vic’s bore the same relation to Asian food that Chef Boyardee did to spaghetti, but the cocktails were above reproach. Bergeron was best known as the inventor of the Mai Tai, a frozen mixture of orange Curacao, almond syrup, fruit juices and different rums. There are seven Trader Vic’s locations left in the U.S. (I’ll be visiting the one in Scottsdale next month, and will file a full report).

Down in Havana, the Daiquiri was florishing. Although the origins of the drink supposedly dated to the Spanish-American war, it reached its apotheosis at a bar called El Floridita. Bartender Constante Ribailagua introduced the Daiquiri to Ernest Hemingway, and the rest was history: El Floridita became known as The Temple of the Daiquiri. Ribilagua’s refinements included adding crushed ice and marschino liqueur, and mixing the drink in a blender shipped in from America. In nearby Puerto Rico, the Pina Colada was introdcued at the Caribe Hilton in 1954.

Eventually, blended drinks went the way of bell bottoms and wide lapels. Their demise was hastened by aberrations such as the Strawberry Daiquiri, along with dozens of other drinks sweet enough to induce a diabetic coma. Lazy bartenders who didn’t want to wash the blender after every use began announcing that the machine was “broken,” or simply went to work in bars that featured the ultimate aberration—the frozen drink machine.

As part of the current resurgence in classic cocktails, blender drinks are coming back. To get the most out of your blender, follow some simple guidelines. Introducing liquids before ice and fruit will help everything mix smoothly. The ideal consistency (smooth and creamy) can only be achieved by careful observation and long practice. When the drink is ready, serve at once; this will prevent ice from melting, and enable those nifty paper umbrellas to stand straight up.


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