Striking up a conversation with a stranger in a bar is accepted, even expected. And storytelling is a big part of that engagement.

But when it comes to origin stories behind cocktails, Wayne Curtis has noticed a shift in focus over the last ten years. Hand in hand with the recent cocktail revival and the increased professionalization of bartending, an obsession with fact over fancy has emerged.

I started hearing a phrase in bars that I don’t think had ever been uttered before inside a bar: ‘What’s your source on that?’”

In this episode of Gravy, Wayne Curtis reflects on what’s lost and gained as cocktail and spirits writers—as well as curious consumers—seek out well-supported history over well-spun stories behind the bar.



Wayne Curtis. And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails.

Robert Simonson. A Proper Drink: The Untold Story of How a Band of Bartenders Saved the Civilized Drinking World.

David Wondrich. Imbibe! Updated and Revised Edition: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar.

The Southern Foodways Alliance Guide to Cocktails. Available October 5, 2017. (Enjoy an excerpt here!)


Latitude 29

Revel Cafe & Bar

Wayne Curtis is a freelance journalist and writer. He writes about travel, architecture, history, and historic preservation for such publications as The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Bon Apetit, among others.