Museum of mixology

Celebrate the art of cocktails from shakers to the oldest known bar tools at the Museum of the American Cocktail.

by: Kathy Finn: Reuters | 24 Jul 2008

Ted Haigh was fascinated by Hollywood's portrayal of cocktail culture even when he was well shy of legal drinking age.

For Haigh, watching William Powell and his on-screen wife Myrna Loy sip from thin-stemmed glasses and exchange clever banter in the 1934 classic "The Thin Man" was intoxicating.

"I kept wondering, what are they drinking and what does it taste like?" said the 51-year-old.

Such images sparked a lifelong fascination with the history of drinking and brought Haigh to the opening of the Museum of the American Cocktail, where he is curator.

It's a clubby wood-and-glass space that pays tribute to one of America's favourite pastimes with displays of hundreds of cocktail artefacts that Haigh has amassed over several decades of collecting.

Vintage cocktail shakers, Prohibition-era newspapers, one-of-a-kind whiskey bottles and some of the oldest known bar tools and cocktail recipes in the country are among the exhibits.

"I used to want to just keep it all to myself, but then I realised I could do a lot more good by sharing it with the world," says Haigh, widely known by his online nickname, Dr. Cocktail. Set inside the Riverwalk Marketplace retail centre along the New Orleans riverfront, the cocktail museum is the brainchild of New York bartender Dale DeGroff and his wife, Jill.

Their idea was to populate the museum with Dale's extensive inventory of cocktail memorabilia. But after becoming acquainted with Haigh and seeing his rich collection, they persuaded him to lend his treasures to the new museum.

As to the locating the museum in New Orleans, DeGroff said he didn't have to think twice.

"This is the town where men and women sat together in barrooms in the 19th century, when that wasn't happening anywhere else in America," says DeGroff, who has tended bar at New York landmarks like the Rainbow Room. "That's because in New Orleans, the bars were called coffeehouses, which made it OK for ladies to enter."

The cocktail museum's opening drew dozens of cocktail enthusiasts, including a few of New Orleans' best-known bartenders who no doubt arose earlier than usual to attend the mid-morning event.

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