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Drinking in the Resistance as Booze Goes Political


“Bars have always been very political,” says bartender Gilbert Marquez. “You know how they say don’t talk about religion or politics at the dinner table? Well, the bar is different. It’s always been a place to congregate, where you can vent and get your feelings out.”

But now, the bars themselves are getting their feelings out. Because after this past year of incessant inflammatory push alerts, unexpectedly un-presidential tweets from the commander in chief and all-nighters in congress, remaining neutral is no longer an option.

In cities across the nation, drinks with names like The Impeachmint Julep, The Winter White House, Sorry Donald, The Skinny Repeal, The Coco Covfefe and The Bad Hombre turned ordering a simple drink garnished with fresh herbs into an act of (low-key) resistance. Personally, just ordering an Impeachmint out loud at my local bar felt therapeutic after a particularly brutal news day.  

In response to Trump’s inauguration, New York City even got its own Resistance-themed bar: Coup, a non-profit from cocktail legends Ravi DeRossi, Sother Teague and Max Green, which donated all profits to causes directly disadvantaged by the president, such as Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and The Human Rights Campaign. Coup shuttered this past fall, along with the founders’ ambitions of bringing the project to a more national level, but anti-Trump drinking has immersed the country in a new culture of resistance cocktails.

In Bloomington, Indiana, FARMbloomington Restaurant added a Grounds for ImPEACHment cocktail to the menu this past year. Served in a Martini glass, the dessert-like drink combines coffee with crème de pêche, vanilla vodka and vanilla ice cream for a drown-your-sorrows-style indulgence when the news gets really rough.

During Trump’s first year as president, FARMbloomington owner Daniel Orr noticed an increase in liberal-minded people wanting to support businesses that aligned with their values. His business flies a rainbow gay pride flag out front, uses compostable straws, recycles fryer oil and “tries to do a lot of things that are politically correct.” Though Indiana is a red state, Bloomington is “liberal speak,” and Orr (who grew up in the same town as Vice President Mike Pence) has no hesitations about expressing his own negative opinions of the administration, through booze or otherwise. “If I did this 50 miles away from here, it might not be as popular,” Orr says of the Grounds for ImPEACHment, which started off as a joke on social media, but now draws people into his establishment.

Bars aren’t the only businesses protesting through booze. This past April 19, Ilegal Mezcal, a brand that has become synonymous with its “Donald, eres un pendejo” campaign since Trump announced his run for office, hosted A Shot At Donald, a synchronized shot of mezcal taken at 10 p.m. EST at 75 bars around the globe. In the biggest international drinking protest of our era, each shot of mezcal signified opposition to Trump’s racism and was intended to unite the community in an effort to overcome bigotry, with $2 from each shot donated to a school in Guatemala. Proceeds of Ilegal’s anti-Trump swag have also been donated to causes supporting education, undocumented youth, immigration reform, women’s reproductive rights, wildlife animal protection and LGBTQ advocacy.  

“I think the liquor culture has always had an element of politics to it, but we’re restarting the trend,” says Marquez, who works as a master cocktail mixologist for Ilegal, designing cocktails like The Orange Nightmare (mezcal, Campari, passionfruit, lime juice and orange Fanta, garnished with cotton candy “hair”) and Putin’s Lover (mezcal, ginger, lime and soda water garnished with an Angostura heart).

Bartender Amanda Whitt has also noticed plenty of cocktails nodding towards the news cycle. “How many ‘Bad Hombres’ have you seen on menus this year?” she jokes. She has also noticed a cultural shift at bars during this presidency. “There’s much less tolerance for casual racism and misogyny,” she says, be it among drinkers or bartenders. “People are trying to be better than each other than ever before and having conversation about politics that affect us in a very real way.” Whittier has also noticed more bars instituting official policies about harassment and hate speech and has witnessed several resistance-like acts, including a woman calling her friend’s mom to make him confess his support of Trump.

But even in a liberal city like New York, some bars still hesitate to put potentially polarizing political cocktails on menus. At The Standard, a hotel which offers free calls to “Ring Your Reps” and plead with elected officials (or their voicemail boxes) about relevant issues, a #resist cocktail was the most rebellious menu item the management felt comfortable endorsing.

“As a hotel brand that welcomes guests from all over the world, many of whom have varying political views, we try to be sensitive when creating new drink names, while still expressing the values that are so important to our identity,” explains Ashley Santoro, regional beverage director for The Standard New York. “At the High Line we featured the #resist as a cocktail to support the campaign that promotes justice and equality. We’ve dedicated a lot of energy in supporting and partnering with spirits brands that have a political voice and donate a portion of their revenue to charities that have been victim to some of the recent (un)developments.”

The biggest shift Santoro has seen in drinking during the Trump era? Beyond the initial “angry, scared, and emotional drinking,” drinking straight up booze, rather than wine or cocktails, has increased in popularity at The Standard’s bars. “It’s definitely stress and comfort drinking—the stronger the better,” Santoro says.

Be it the cheeky cocktails or a bartender’s newfound empowerment to stand up to a bully, drinking culture became more political, more actively engaged in political events, and perhaps more influential than consuming booze has ever been in the 21st century.

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