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Booze on Mad Men


Chris Amirault
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I just watched, over the course of a few days, the entire two seasons of "Mad Men," the outstanding AMC series on the ad men (and women) of Madison Avenue in the early 1960s. It's a great show for lots of reasons, but I'm here to write about the booze.

It is literally incomprehensible to me how much they drink. We counted a "typical" day's drinking on a few shows, and gave up around eight or ten.

  • Person walks into your office for a meeting: pour two drinks.
    Heading out for lunch: have a few martinis.
    Getting ready for home: one or two or three for the road.
    Hi honey: drink.
    What's for dinner? Drink.
    Meal: several drinks.
    Nightcap or two.

And that's everyday behavior, without the Cuban missile crisis, your secret affair, or losing the Clearasil account forcing you to drink to excess.

Everyone drinks. Everyone except the kids. They make the drinks for adults to drink.

Everyone has a particular drink that defines them, too. Our (anti)hero Don Draper is an Old Fashioned sort of guy. His two bosses drink Martinis (or whatever he's handed) and wine, respectively. The guy who lost his marriage because -- get this -- he drank too much: he is a Tanqueray man. The woman writing copy in a man's, man's, man's world drinks plonk in basket bottles (and whatever she's handed by the guys). Don's wife drinks Heineken and, on benders, lots of red wine, then she steps on the glasses and cuts her feet.

If you've seen the show, you know what I mean. It's only barely about advertising, the 1960s, gender relationships, work, or NYC. It's basically about drinking. The rest is garnish.

Is anyone else obsessed with this show's taste for the hair of the dog?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I just watched, over the course of a few days, the entire two seasons of "Mad Men," the outstanding AMC series on the ad men (and women) of Madison Avenue in the early 1960s. It's a great show for lots of reasons, but I'm here to write about the booze.

This is why I love eGullet.

"Degenerates. Degenerates. They'll all turn into monkeys." --Zizek on vegetarians

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They also start drinking first thing in the morning, and obviously drive drunk. It's the smoking that gets me though. I feel like I've smoked 2 packs of cigarettes by the end of every episode.

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Of course, our own Alchemist, aka Toby Maloney, is all over this. From Paper:

OLD FASHIONED

WHO: Don Draper, creative director and partner at Sterling Cooper ad agency; identity thief; slightly ashamed cheater to the max.

WHAT: Rye, bitters, sugar, soda (and, depending on the bartender, an orange or lemon slice and a maraschino cherry)

WHEN: At the office, Don takes his his Rye straight, but the Old Fashioned is Double D's drink when he's out and about.

IS DON WHAT HE DRINKS? Yep! "Someone who drinks an Old Fashioned is about manipulation," Maloney says. "You know the whole James Bond thing, 'Shaken, not stirred?' That wasn't because [bond] was suave, it's because he was kind of an asshole and wanted to make the bartender work harder. With an Old Fashioned you are the master of that cocktail. It's a sugar cube and three dashes of bitters, and then you tell them how many ice cubes you want. You tell them if you want a lemon, or an orange. It's all about control."

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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We don’t have cable and I’ve seen exactly one episode of “Mad Men”, last year’s closer. We watched it in an hotel room, which seemed appropriate.

So I’m not an expert on the (looked great to me) series, but I was a kiddie in the sixties and I remember sixties drinking, which has informed my WASPy preferences, hooch-wise, to this day.

Cocktail hour started at six in our house and was shut down by seven because my sibs and I were clamoring for dinner.

At a cocktail party in my parents’ posse there were three-four choices: Rye on the rocks, scotch ditto, martinis and Old Fashioneds. Asking for a beer other than Labatt’s IPA, or requesting, say, a daiquiri , would have assured you an empty glass. And although I worship at Toby’s bar and writing, he’s got the wrong take on an Old Fashioned Man. My father wasn’t about manipulation -- he was proud to serve a good hand muddled cocktail. My father is what all men should be, and he still mixes a mean OF.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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When and why did drinking on the job take its decline?

Or on the flip side, how glorious were the days of drinking on the job? You see a lot of old movies where a person goes into somebody's office and is first offered a drink

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Understand that (1) they are undoubtedly playing up the drinking for effect; (2) that there's a good chance some of these guys would have been high-functioning alcoholics (think about how much cocaine use we'd be seeing in a mid 1980s Mad Men); (3) these wouldn't have been 7 ounce drinks of 100 proof spirits.

--

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I'm making my way through season 1 myself and have an ep on deck for tonight. Sadly I'm also planning what drink to serve with it to get me through the day.

All of the little modern no-nos they manage to throw in each episode always get me: the constant drinking, the smoking, but also no seatbelts in cars, there was one scene of kids playing with plastic bags over their heads, the pregnant neighbor drinking and smoking along with everyone.

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The show also devotes a lot of attention to the negative effects of drinking: lost jobs, blackouts, drunken dalliances. More fun are the shots inside classic NYC bars. I definitely recognize the bar at the Plaza, for example.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I've assumed that it's at least marginally accurate, because even "Bewitched" showed Larry and Darrin serving drinks to their advertising clients in the office and then again at their home with dinner. I can't imagine how badly they'd reek at the end of the day with the constant smoking, drinking and wenching.

I was shocked when they had Draper's daughter mixing cocktails for their dinner guests.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“A favorite dish in Kansas is creamed corn on a stick.”

-Jeff Harms, actor, comedian.

>Enjoying every bite, because I don't know any better...

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...I was shocked when they had Draper's daughter mixing cocktails for their dinner guests...

I started mixing my mom a Seagrams 7 perfect Manhattan before dinner several times per week when I was about 7. And look where that's gotten me... :rolleyes:

I've only caught a tiny snippet of this show, but it's really fun. Looking forward to borrowing the DVD collection from a friend at some point. I agree that they are likely what we'd call "functional alcoholics". There are a lot of folks like them nowadays too, but in my experience they're mostly chefs and restaurant managers.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I was shocked when they had Draper's daughter mixing cocktails for their dinner guests.

I was a kid during this time period, and it seems pretty accurate. I have an uncle who was in advertising and my dad used to comment on how crazy my uncle's office was compared to his job.

My father traveled as part of business, and sometimes he was able to take the whole family along. However, us kids had to behave just like little ladies and gentlemen, or we'd be sent to the room to stay the entire time. For me, this included wearing gloves and corsages and learning to sip drinks carefully and balance canapes in a dainty manner. The kids were allowed one drink on special occasions...

I can recall being taken to cocktail parties at business conventions starting at about age 5. I know that I was 6 when I first tasted caviar, and, by then Champagne was a familiar and favorite drink of mine. We occasionally ate out at fancy restaurants, and had to be super-polite (absolutely silent upon fear of death) because most fine-dining establishments discouraged having children on the premises. On a couple of occasions, we were only allowed to dine in the bar area because it was restaurant policy to not permit children inside. (even though neither my brother nor I had made the slightest sound while on the premises) So, I got a couple of very detailed lessons from old-school bartending masters of the day.

I can also recall being sent to make drinks for family gatherings sometime around the age of 6. -That was the year that my dad started pointing out that I should watch how bartenders made certain 'essential' drinks, so I could start doing it right. (in particular, he wanted a more refined martini out of me...)

I also recall my brother being taught how to take a ladies' wrap and hang it up carefully, and how to light a cigarette for a lady. He couldn't have been more than 6 at the time.

And, lest you think it was all party dresses and champagne cocktails, remember that us kids (at least the girls) grew up learning to sew, darn socks, iron (not just clothes but bedsheets too!), cook and clean. I have vivid memories of being 6 and getting in trouble for not ironing my dad's dress shirts well enough.

Several times, when my mother was sick in bed, Dad had me cooking all the family meals for a week or so. The first time it happened, I had just turned 4. The last time, I was 11, and wound up not just making meals but also cooking/hostessing a big cocktail party for his business associates. Thank goodness for good cookbooks!

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I too was a child of the golden age of Madison Ave. While Don Draper was drowning in alcohol and taking the train back and forth to the 'burbs, my dad was hard at work at the real forward-thinking agency that is depicted as the nemesis of the fictional Sterling Cooper. He suffered through his share of three-martini lunches but three days a week he spent his lunch hour swimming laps at the Y. He never smoked nor was he a heavy drinker. And we lived in the city, a 15 minute subway ride to work. It was my mother who had her scotch and cigarettes while chatting up a storm during late afternoon play-dates.

I love Mad Men, and I think there are some truly inspired moments in it. But there are some major inaccuracies and stereotypes, especially when it comes to the women. Many women rose through the ranks at his agency and became great copy-writers. You didn't need a college degree, just talent.

My dad had a long and distinguished career in advertising. He never brought his work home with him and he was always home in time for dinner. I was never taught how to mix drinks, nor was I encouraged to drink except for New Year's Eve. On several memorable occasions my parents came home from whatever party they were at shortly before midnight to open up a tiny container of caviar and a bottle of champagne and share both with me and my brother--when we were too young to be out at parties of our own.

Edited by Katie Meadow (log)
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I was shocked when they had Draper's daughter mixing cocktails for their dinner guests.

to join the list of people here, i too remember taking the helm and making drinks for guests at my parent's parties. . .but this was in the 70s. . .and i was making seagrams and 7's, just like katie. . .i found it more interesting that the daughter was making things like old fashioned's and tom collins'.

when my wife and i see scene's like that, we joke that "yep, that's gonna be our child."

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I was shocked when they had Draper's daughter mixing cocktails for their dinner guests.

to join the list of people here, i too remember taking the helm and making drinks for guests at my parent's parties. . .but this was in the 70s. . .and i was making seagrams and 7's, just like katie. . .i found it more interesting that the daughter was making things like old fashioned's and tom collins'.

when my wife and i see scene's like that, we joke that "yep, that's gonna be our child."

Ditto. Born in 1966, making scotch and soda and 7&7s by 1973. It was part of learning to be a good hostess. I served peanuts too. :laugh:

"An' I expect you don't even know that we happen to produce some partic'ly fine wines, our Chardonnays bein' 'specially worthy of attention and compet'tively priced, not to mention the rich, firmly structur'd Rusted Dunny Valley Semillons, which are a tangily refreshin' discovery for the connesewer ...yew bastard?"

"Jolly good, I'll have a pint of Chardonnay, please."

Rincewind and Bartender, The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett

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So, you young bartenders, did you get a chance to taste your handiwork too? How else would you know if it was good or not?

I was allowed a taste, but thought it was all disgusting. Still do. I didn't learn to appreciate wine until I did a study abroad in France in the 80s. My dad showed me the difference between a shot and a jigger, and then told me how much of the other stuff to add. Guests could specify a shot or jigger to me, or weaker than that. It wasn't too hard, and no one complained. Then again, they probably wouldn't get all that upset at a kid, even if she was a lousy bartender.

Come to think of it, I kept the ashtrays emptied as well. None of this seemed strange at the time. And I've never really been a big fan of alcohol (I'm a one glass of wine occasionally person), so I guess it didn't do me any harm!

"An' I expect you don't even know that we happen to produce some partic'ly fine wines, our Chardonnays bein' 'specially worthy of attention and compet'tively priced, not to mention the rich, firmly structur'd Rusted Dunny Valley Semillons, which are a tangily refreshin' discovery for the connesewer ...yew bastard?"

"Jolly good, I'll have a pint of Chardonnay, please."

Rincewind and Bartender, The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett

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  • 3 weeks later...
When and why did drinking on the job take its decline?

Or on the flip side, how glorious were the days of drinking on the job? You see a lot of old movies where a person goes into somebody's office and is first offered a drink

I read an article online about ad agencies and drinking. It said that as the companies became public the drinking stopped. I guess the shareholders didn't think their employees should be drunk all the time. :) Also, I guess times change. I had a job in the early nineties and around Christmas they mentioned that company policy had changed the year before banning drinking at the Christmas party at the office. Everyone was disappointed about that.

The article also said that not much work got done after lunch and often it would be a race to see who would pass out first.

Chad

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I remember making my Dad's 7 & 7's Christmas Eve at Grandma's house, basement bar, early 70's. Huge Polish family, lots of libations. After a while, the adults were a little too "happy" to make their refills, so the kids were called in. I remember (I think I was about 6 or 7) him showing me on the glass where to fill for Seagram's, how far to go with the 7up and how many ice cubes. But I never, ever in my life saw my Dad drunk. All the uncles, aunts, and cousins, yep, but not Dad. Of course I would taste the 7 & 7 before serving. Probably why I don't touch whiskey today. Now, vodka and tequila are another story............

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So, you young bartenders, did you get a chance to taste your handiwork too? How else would you know if it was good or not?

I was allowed a taste, but thought it was all disgusting. Still do. I didn't learn to appreciate wine until I did a study abroad in France in the 80s. My dad showed me the difference between a shot and a jigger, and then told me how much of the other stuff to add. Guests could specify a shot or jigger to me, or weaker than that. It wasn't too hard, and no one complained. Then again, they probably wouldn't get all that upset at a kid, even if she was a lousy bartender...

Like Rinsewind, I wasn't fond of the taste of alcohol at all, until I was much older. To my mother's chagrin, I didn't like wine either, even though she always tried to get me to have some when I was growing up. I drank some sweet concoctions on occasion, the sorts of things that make my hair stand on end nowadays. I didn't really start drinking with any enjoyment for the flavor until college. Of course then I started really taking an interest in wine, and moreso in spirits in the past decade or so...

Guess I'm making up for lost time now... :biggrin:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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My B.S. is in Advertising, and I actually worked in an ad agency for four years during the 60s. J. Walter Thompson was the epitome of agencies, in and out of New York.

The alcohol problems were rampant, and I spent most of my time as a copywriter and as Director of Broadcast Traffic working with copywriters. As a small agency, we usually had either 3 or 4 copywriters on staff, and at one time all were alcoholics of the has-been type. The three, two women and one man, would go to lunch together every day and not come back for hours.

When the man returned from lunch really drunk, I always knew it because I'd hear his phone hit the floor (to drunk to manage it) and the cry down the hall "ROOOOOOTH!" as he called for someone to order around. I always listened, but ignored whatever he said. (He taught me the meaning of the word "vitriolic" for he was truly a mean drunk. Probably not long for this world, he had the pop-eyed look of the starving thyroid because of not eating, only drinking.

One of the women owned only one dress for the first four months she worked there. It was a coat dress and she alternated wearing the dress with and without the coat every single day. Her hard luck story was that she had gone through plastic surgery (facial) and when her husband saw her coming out of surgery he vomited all over her and walked out the hopital door, leaving her with no money and no clothes.

Years later, as part of an advanced degree, I spent a year working in the psych ward at a hospital. The patients there were not nearly as crazy as the Ad Men and Women. And the copywriter alcoholics were not as crazy as the people who hired them.

I quit that job and have never, ever, worked in advertising again. Is there no wonder I have no desire to watch this program?

Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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  • 2 weeks later...

I wanted to share something with fans of the show and its cocktails. A woman called Dyna Moe has been making Mad Men illustrations for a while now and they're charming.

Here is the main Flickr site.

Here is a printable invite in which Salvatore offers you canapés.

On this placemat, period drink recipes are being served up by Sally Draper.

On this one, Sally is offering you cocktails, tutu-clad.

I just love her work. (And so does Matthew Weiner!)

Um...my parents didn't really have parties. My mom had one or two for her nursing school buddies but everybody just drank beer. So don't ask me or my hypothetical children to bartend if you want good cocktails :unsure:

To hell with poverty! We'll get drunk on cheap wine - Gang of Four

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  • 5 months later...
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