A Brief History of Bartending
The art of bartending has been around for thousands of years. While it has evolved drastically from when the profession first began, it still consists of the same goal – serve alcohol while keeping patrons happy. This brief history of bartending will help you understand where bartending originated and how it has transformed with the help of world events.
Bartending can be traced back to ancient times in Rome, Greece, and Asia. In fact, there is a recorded history of bartending dating back to when Julius Caesar ruled Ancient Rome. Along popularly traveled routes, travelers could find public drinking houses where they could relax, socialize, and enjoy a glass of wine before continuing on to their destination. Residents of Rome could also find these public drinking houses in their towns, so it wasn’t just travelers who could sip on finely crafted wine.
Even earlier than the Roman Empire, the Ancient Greeks set up taverns where patrons could socialize and enjoy a drink poured by craftsmen while being entertained by a play or music.
During the Middle Ages, bartending was a full profession. Bartenders were usually innkeepers or women who would brew their own drinks, such as wine and mead. During the 15th Century, these bartenders were seen as part of the social elite class because they were able to own property from the money they made through serving alcohol.
The public drinking houses of Ancient times soon turned into taverns and pubs (especially in England) where patrons could gather and gossip. At this point in the history of bartending, bartenders became status symbols and familiar with their clientele.
With the discovery of the New World, Europeans made sure to bring over the practice of bartending. Similar to the drinking culture in England, taverns and pubs opened up in the Colonies.
It wasn’t until a few centuries after the discovery of America that bartending would be completely revamped. Jeremiah “Jerry” Thomas (1830-1885) became known as the Father of American Mixology. He learned how to bartend in New Haven, Connecticut before going to California during the Gold Rush. It was when he arrived in Europe that he amazed bartenders with his flashy moves and carefully planned proportions of mixed drinks. Thomas also wrote and published the first drink book in the United States, How to Mix Drinks.
It was in the early 20th Century that the United States government decided to outlaw all types of alcohol. This was a hard hit for bartenders and mixologists in the history of bartending. Many bartenders were left without jobs. Others decided to open up speakeasies and brew their own alcohol, such as bathtub gin. While alcohol may have been banned, that didn’t stop Americans from drinking and producing it.
Bartending in modern times has drastically evolved since it first originated. Now bartending and mixology is seen as an art. There are bartending schools across the world teaching new bartenders this art as well as how to keep patrons satisfied. Large bartending competitions are held each year with flashy tricks and movements to entertain guests.
The history of bartending starts with a basic duty, to refresh travelers on ancient roads. It then evolved for bartenders to become part of the elite class where they provided a place patrons to socialize. It was in the New World that bartending gained such important, especially during the Prohibition era. Now, bartending is an art and trade that has engraved itself into our culture.
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