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Rhode Island: Intoxicating ‘Cocktail Culture’ at the RISD Museum

on 15/04/11 at 10:31 am

Booze News

Giddiness. Light-headedness. Euphoria.

If those aren’t feelings you normally associate with museum exhibitions, “Cocktail Culture: Ritual and Invention in American Fashion, 1920-1980,” a new exhibit opening Friday at the RISD Museum, may just change your mind.

Indeed, the show, which explores the role of drinks and drinking in American life from the Jazz Age through the disco era, is so enjoyably addictive that viewers probably shouldn’t be allowed to operate heavy machinery for several hours after leaving the museum.

Fashion fans are particularly at risk. The reason: among the more than 200 cocktail-related objects and artifacts on display are dresses by a Who’s Who of fashion, including Christian Dior, Coco Chanel and Pierre Cardin. If this isn’t fashionista nirvana, it’s a close facsimile.

Other items range from the playful (a cocktail shaker shaped like a penguin) to the ephemeral (a sample book filled with cocktail-themed matchbook covers) to the star-struck (a necklace worn by Audrey Hepburn in the movie “Sabrina”).

Certainly, the show’s timing couldn’t be better. With cocktails making a comeback among hip young urbanites — and with shows like “Mad Men” reviving interest in the three-martini lunch — cocktails have recently regained their place atop the alcoholic pecking order.

It’s ironic, then, that the idea for “Cocktail Culture” dates back to the late 1990s — long before the swinging executives at Sterling Cooper (the fictitious New York ad agency in “Mad Men”) ever downed their first highball.

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