Group of ‘thirsty revivalists’ aims to preserve classic cocktail culture
By Al Mancini
To know where you are going, you must know where you have been.” That quote, or some derivate thereof, has been uttered by numerus great minds and deep thinkers, but it also applies to drinking! At least that’s the belief of Collectif 1806, a small group of self-professed “thirsty revivalists” who have claimed it as their battle cry, and set out on a mission to preserve the history of cocktail culture. (The 1806 in their name is a reference to the first printed definition of the word cocktail.)
Theirs may not be as profound a mission as others who have embraced their mantra. But it is a delicious and, dare we say, intoxicating one. It has inspired them to bring some of their accumulated knowledge to the Delano hotel, where guests can drink it in with all of their senses — most especially taste.
Collectif 1806 is a group of brand ambassadors from the Rémy Cointreau family of spirits, who live and work throughout the country. Along with promoting their employer’s products, they enthusiastically work to preserve and promote the history and artistry of classic cocktail culture.
“We wanted to give bartenders tools that made them feel connected to their own history — a source of inspiration and ingredients,” spokeswoman Emily Arseneau explains of the group’s genesis.
So they assembled a collection of over 300 vintage cocktail books dating back to 1862. Each has been scanned and digitized, and is available for online viewing at collectif1806.com.
“It’s been an awesome tool for bartenders to have a little more context about what they do,” Arseneau says. “Being a bartender in the late 1800s was a highly-respected profession, and these people were pillars in their community. So I wanted them to feel connected to that.”
They’ve also taken their boozy history lessons on the road through seminars for bartending professionals, and pop-up bar experiences for the general public. At the Delano, Collectif is hosting a seminar for professional mixologists called Legends of the Cocktail on Oct. 18, an industry scavenger hunt on Nov. 9, and a Repeal Day party on Dec. 2. For the more causal cocktail enthusiasts, they’ve lent eight books from their permanent collection to create an exhibit that will run through the end of the year.
Every quarter in the Delano lobby we do an art installation,” says Daniel Molitor, director of beverage for the Delano and Mandalay Bay. “So cocktails being a craft and art itself, and with these old and rare cocktail books that they have available, we said ‘Hey let’s put them under museum glass and let’s make it a more museum-style art installation, and connect the bar with everything that revolves around the cocktail.’”
Visitors can now view the books in the lobby, and dig a bit deeper by using their cell phones to access a guided audio tour which will walk them through each book’s history, and why it’s important to cocktail culture. But, appropriately enough, the full experience demands they then proceed to the bar.
The Delano’s Franklin Lounge just off the lobby, has introduced a special Collectif 1806 menu.
“The idea,” Molitor explains, “was to pull one cocktail from each book we put on display. And that’s exactly what we did. So we have eight books on display and we have eight cocktails, one coinciding with each book.”
Some, such as the Fandango from the book “Cocktails de Paris,” probably will be unfamiliar to most visitors. Others, such as the Tom Collins and Bobby Burns are more recognizable. Then there’s the Whiskey Julep, with its unexpected touch of rum. In each case, the team had to improvwise a bit to reproduce the old recipes.
“We really did the most modern version that we could,” Molitor says. “Because when you read through these books, the measurements aren’t the most accurate. They might just kind of say a dash of this, a half a spoonful of that. A freshly laid egg is a good one that we run across, which we know means egg whites.”
Whichever interpretation you choose, explore its history a bit more with one of the iPads available from your bartender. Each is equipped with a Collectif 1806 app that will allow you to digitally flip through every page of each book on display in the lobby.
The goal of everything, Arseneau says, is to help you to enjoy each drink a little bit more.
“People love classic cocktails. And this is a great resource for them to study, to learn about new ingredients, to put their own spin on things. It’s just been a really cool thing to share.”