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The rebirth of Craft
Photo of a mixologist using tools to delicately placing garnish on a cocktail.

By 1st Principles Distilleries Spokesperson

(7 Minute Read)

I was first introduced to the flamboyant and charming socialite Jay Gatsby, from the famous 1924 novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, as part of a first year Introduction to Literature course. I was intrigued by the sheer size of these great social gatherings and often wondered where that kind of money came from, especially in the 1920’s. Ironically, this would also later turn out to be a key issue in the plot of the novel.

What F. Scott Fitzgerald created for us in words was a front row seat into great jazz music, the glamour of the rich and famous, intricate love affairs, beautiful classic cars and most of all elaborate parties and an enormous list of guests. I recall reading the novel with such interest and if I closed my eyes, I could almost hear Gatsby use his famous phrase “Old Sport” when addressing one of the main characters, Nick Carraway. Fictitious or not, I know of very few people who can honestly say that they did not secretly wish, with all their heart’s desire, to attend just one of those famous Gatsby parties.

11 NOVEMBER 1918 – THE END OF THE 1ST WORLD WAR

The 1920’s was a classic mix of post-World War I, with a society still reeling from the horrors and disillusionment birthed from war. There was ongoing social and labour reform which meant economic growth and a world wanting to feel alive again after witnessing so much death and destruction. No wonder it seemed quite easy to throw parties of the magnitude Mr Fitzgerald so often wrote about!

In the post-war world of art, in all its various shapes and forms, there was a rebellious, almost revolutionary, break-away from the days of flowery prose, divine beauty in paintings, a sense of tranquillity and love, which was all too characteristic of Victorian society.

Humanity witnessed the emergence of modernism and it discarded the romanticised views of nature, instead it turned to the dark and damaged internal world of what it really meant to be human. History once again illustrated how human tragedy becomes the fertile soil from which real change springs forth.

THE 80 YEAR CYCLE AND THE REVOLT OF THE MAN ON THE STREET

A review of history is proof enough that the world undergoes a kind of symbolic change of the guard every 80 years, give or take a few years. The last major catastrophe which came close to engulfing the entire planet was World War II which ended in 1945. In similar vein as the 1st World War, the end of World War II, left an indelible mark on society across the world, and brought about major political, economic, and social shifts.

There is no need for a calculator to notice that we are in fact awfully close to that next cycle. Some academics argue we have already entered the cycle and put forward a few examples:

  • The so-called Arab Spring in which 7 countries experienced anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions aimed at replacing oppressive regimes. Many of these attacks were coordinated with the help of social media.
  • Greta Thunberg as a representative of the global climate change movement, addressing world leaders at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit on 23 September 2019 in New York City.
  • The GameStop saga involving investors making money off large Wallstreet hedge funds as a protest against short-selling failing companies.

These are all good examples of how a new and upcoming generation use their power to unite, in combination with social networks and tech, to expose and remove greedy and powerful organisations and governments. We are bearing witness to the revolt of the average man on the street, and it is bringing about important social, societal, economic, and political changes.

VIRUSES, PANDEMICS AND A NEW WORLD

Economically speaking we have been walking on a global balancing beam since the 2008 Financial Crises and many countries and regions are not yet out of the proverbial woods. With the global Covid-19 outbreak that hit the world like a tidal wave, any hope for economic liberation and growth has certainly been snuffed out as governments prepared for the inevitable death, crises, and infections. It also underscored and highlighted how thinly veiled our broken world really is under the surface.

Like lights going out in a small typhoon struck island town, the world retracted into global lockdown with different levels of restrictions. The world went to sleep for a few weeks and in some cases months, like a princess under a dark and evil spell in a children’s book. As our lives began to slow down, and as airports, harbours, train stations and bus stops began falling quiet, we had to learn to be quiet and be alone with our own thoughts. As we started getting bored, our creativity kicked into overdrive; we could suddenly see creative solutions to old problems and got better at problem solving. No bread? We’ll bake some. No school desks or teachers around? Grandparents can teach and turn wasted space in living rooms into classrooms. Who knew that a dining room table can double-up as a boardroom!

We adopted an existentialist view. Existentialists believe that society should not restrict an individual’s life or actions and that these restrictions inhibit free will and the development of that person’s potential. In short, we learnt we can decide who we want to be and how we wish to live our lives.

 

Besides getting really practical on how to accommodate working from home and having to home-school our children, we also realised a number of really important truths about ourselves, our relationships, and that we can create the kind of world we wish to live in. We can have it our way.

 

THE REBIRTH OF CRAFT

In 2015 alone, some 7 years ago, more than a billion people around the world watched more than 300 million hours of videos on YouTube – every day. Current daily research results indicate that the total searches performed on Google for the 2020, are of such high volumes, that they have to be categorised to make sense of them. Categories range from the bizarre to most searched gossip and sporting events.

How to videos or Do It Yourself (DIY) have taken the internet by storm and top searches during the pandemic included how to cut your own hair to a range of home-based cooking related searches such as how does one bake bread? Britons wanted to know how to cook up a beef bourguignon; American’s wanted to make Disney churros; Germans were curious about cornflakes and Nigerians desperately wanted to make pornstar martinis.

The psycho-bio-social pattern seems to be the same; the world experiences a catastrophe, it impacts us on a deep emotional level, we first get depressed and stressed, then we process and finally explode with creativity and tenacity – a new world is born. Admittedly that is a simplified version of a really complex process, but this basically shows how we respond as a species.

One thing that seems undeniably linked to the catastrophic is our obsessive need for craft, to do something, to make something during testing times. Researchers believe one of the reasons is embedded in our innate desire to act (originating from our fight-or-flight response). No one has ever survived an attack by simply sitting on a perch and waiting for danger to pass (although that might be a good option in a snowstorm or hurricane – assuming you are protected of course). We tend to act and respond (running, shouting, screaming).

As the global lockdown tightened its numbing grip, humanity, like a grounded teenager, saw its privileges of freedom slowly being taken away and restricted. Suddenly we were all sitting at home. Soon our boredom became fertile flowerbeds for creativity. Our new creativity unleashed an explosive surge of energy and a desire to learn new things. We wanted to craft, create, explore, and find meaning.

Craft suddenly became associated with hope. We marvelled at our creations ranging from dilapidated bread, to wonky side tables. We laughed and cried, but most of all we started feeling alive again. We realised that being enclosed and caged like animals did not mean the end of our relationships, social lives, love, dreams, and ambitions, in fact, like a caterpillar, we are slowly started turning into a butterfly, to face the world yet again with our newfound beauty.

A POST-APOCALYPTIC PARTY?

What happens with a pressure cooker if you don’t release the pressure? Here is a practical illustration. Initial lockdown regulations have translated into a total ban of cigarettes, liquor sales, restaurant closures, concerts and sporting events. Although restrictions have been lifted and re-introduced, it would be accurate to say that we might be heading for the post-apocalyptic party of parties. A global piss-up of cataclysmic proportions if you will.

Even the most modest and introverted of people are hinting at a desire to just have fun, to go to a concert, watch a live rugby game or cricket match, or run a marathon or to swim in the ocean.

We are starting to feel the pinch of being starved of social interaction and human contact. By nature, we are social beings and enjoy the company of others. With the approval of Covid-19 vaccines and the rollout of worldwide vaccination programs in full swing, this dream might soon become a reality again.

One specific craft, which, by a mere coincidence of circumstances, found itself right at the very intersection between our global desire for this pandemic to be over, and our newly found creativity to craft – and that is the art of making handmade cocktails.

 

It meets all the criteria of our creative selves; it involves learning new skills, it requires a little bit of knowledge, you can apply your creativity in an amazing array of recipes, you make use of natural products such as fruits, botanicals, and bitters, and most of all you can enjoy them alone, with your family or you can send all your friend’s pallets on a wild journey of new and unknown tastes and flavours including buttery, fruity, woody, floral, herbal, spicy and many more.

Did I mention the marvellous range of tools of the trade such as ice sculpting that go along with it? Beautiful crafty things such as ice diamonds, ice-balls, scraped ice and a wide range of mixers, infusers, and bitters. Can you imagine this next to your pool on a beautiful summer’s day?

 

People who are ready for a few glorious social gatherings and who wants to have fun, wont simply go back to poorly lighted venues, bad service, poor quality food and greasy sauces.

While in hibernation, we have returned to a place where we take the time to think about beauty, craft, quality, the planet and what we find to be important. We are finally done with big brands, mass-produced stuff and being treated like spreadsheets. We want to support local producers, buy local brands, taste our own produce, write new stories and be proud of who we are. We want novelty, uniqueness, and most of all we long for authenticity.

While wine for example has its own following of connoisseurs, language, pallet, and history, it doesn’t offer the appeal of craft, of participation in the process so to speak. Handcrafted cocktail making is a combination of craft and art, it’s about the ability to create interesting flavours, tastes, and infusions; it’s about being part of the experience and raise our personal enjoyment and having fuller and more intense moments. Your unique blend of cocktails becomes your unique story, and it has your unique trademarks, and that is something worth sharing.

REMAINING AUTHENTIC TO OUR JOURNEY

The global pandemic brought about great pain, loss of human lives and suffering, it also killed entire industries and forced global economies to its knees, but it also gave us new perspectives and afforded us the opportunity to realise the things we need to change in our lives and in the world around us.

It has forced us to get creative, it is still teaching us that we can indeed create the kind of quality in our lives that we seek. Authenticity and real experiences are here to stay. Any new brand or company will give themselves a considerable head start and a boundless chance of becoming great if they keep this in mind.

 

We live in an age where we are seeing the rebirth of craft. What craft will you teach yourself in the years to come? While we may now live in the euphoria of novelty, it will take all of our strength and commitment to stay true to our new way of being and not to give in to the temptation to go back to the way things were. What will you do differently?

Besides embracing handcrafted cocktails, as was so beautifully and elegantly presented to us throughout the 1920’s, we can certainly heed the wisdom in that famous closing line of The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

1st Principles Distilleries Logo on transparent background

1st Principles Distillery are the creators of some of the world’s finest hand-crafted spirits and are located in the picturesque and fertile Olifant’s River Valley in the town of Vredendal.

Owner and founder Joubert Roux is well-known for producing authentic products with a longstanding heritage, full of personality and founded on 1st Principles.

Keeping within the crafting traditions, 1st Principles produces ingredients on-site, and where possible, use locally sourced botanicals.
With an extensive online range of handcrafted spirits, cocktail mixers, natural ingredients and paraphernalia, 1stPrinciples Distilleries are the specialists for all your handcrafted cocktail supplies.
For more information, to book a tasting experience call us on +27 (0)27 213 2431 or send a WhatsApp to +27 (0)76 132 5614 or send us an email to [email protected]
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