The early days of the Cocktail Revolution were a heady time. As the internet came of age in the halcyon days of the late 90’s and early aughts, then-amateur drinks enthusiasts like Ted Haigh and Dave Wondrich connected over online bulletin boards. Bartenders, too, joined the forums. Soon, discussions about the proper base for a Tom Collins or the right ratios for a syrup flew across DSL connections faster than you can shake a Ramos Gin Fizz. However, as cocktail culture (and social media) waxed in proliferation, the boards waned in population. Online and off, craft cocktails eventually burst into the mainstream, but the old boards were gone
Now, OG cocktailian, Martin Doudoroff is trying to conjure up some of that millennial magic. Last week, he launched SpiritsAndCocktails.Community (SaCC), a new, digital forum.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
These days, Doudoroff is no longer the eager hobbyist that eagerly waited for his modem to whir and beep before delivering him to mixology message boards back in Y2K. Like many of his Cocktail1.0 friends, he took his love of the drink and went pro. He assumed a job as warden of Cocktail Kingdom’s vaunted library and built a cocktail focused, digital publishing operation. In fact, he now is responsible for many of those old friends’ mobile apps, names like Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Gaz Regan, and Wondrich.
Despite his success in the modern model, Doudoroff still lamented the disappearance of those early bulletin boards. He felt that the current environment lacked a platform for discourse, not to mention camaraderie.
“The central, pivotal, element for us at the start of the Cocktail Renaissance was Robert Hess’ [aka Drink Boy] bulletin board set up in the late 90’s”
“I got into cocktails early. The central, pivotal, element for us at the start of the Cocktail Renaissance was Robert Hess’ [aka Drink Boy] bulletin board set up in the late 90’s. We were a small group of people and we all knew each other,” he recalled. “Now, we’ve sort of hit peak social media.”
As most people who follow the news know, social media is a flawed creation. Within the drinks sphere, the medium maintains mass popularity, but many pros complain that important discussions are often lost in the wash while hostility is tacitly encouraged.
“Social media… It’s certainly very effective at controlling attention. But, it’s ephemeral in nature and problematic,” noted Doudoroff. “A lot of people won’t touch social media with a ten foot pole. Important people in the industry quit it because they just couldn’t take it anymore.”
Citizens of the Web
Doudoroff, himself, left Twitter which he described as “one of my few means of interacting with my customers.” When he found himself needing to solicit input for an upcoming project, he had no outlet. Soon, the SpiritsAndCocktails.Community was born.
“I became aware of a forum platform called Discourse. This is so much better than anything I’ve ever used before,” he explained. “It’s attractive because the system encourages thoughtfulness and quality over quantity. [We’re creating] a place where people can have a high quality level of discourse. The other thing that is cool about is that it’s based on trust. It has a trust ladder. It’s about citizenship rather than consumerism.”
Through Discourse’s open source software, Doudoroff discovered solutions for many of the issues hindering the growth of quality online discussion. Members can engage with posts through standard actions including ‘likes,’ flags, and responses. A Reddit style ‘karma’ system incentivizes users with positive engagement by issuing status and authority over elements of the forum.
“One thing that’s cool is if you’re a frequent user and people like what you’re doing, the system will reward you. You will ascend the ladder and become something close to a moderator. You can change tagging, rearrange content.. basically help garden.” the forum creator said.
Only live for a few days, SaCC is still building a community, but the members they’ve attracted so far comprise an all-star roster. Journalists François Monti and Robert Simonson are active as is bartending legend Audrey Saunders. Hess, who kicked off the entire forum movement, is also posting already.
Doudoroff theorized that creating an effective tool will take some time. “How do you launch this thing? You have to throw the doors open and be patient,” he mused. “It will be more vital if it’s not just a small clutch of nerds arguing about cocktail recipes. [We want] different people from different walks of life.”
“I don’t want someone to come in and ask a question and get stomped.”
Of course, growing beyond a clique will present some problems unto itself. For instance, there will be divides in knowledge levels, not to mention the risk of basic questions being posted repetitively.
“I don’t want someone to come in and ask a question and get stomped. I do want normal people to come and use this. At same time, I don’t want to spend my time answering the same question over and over again, he told NP. “In theory when [the backend’s AI is] working properly, there will be less redundancy. The system tries to tell you and redirect to a previous post.”
Beyond the karma and comrades, Doudoroff said that SaCC’s core concept is very simple. “The point of the forum is to be useful. It’s worked before.”
You can check out SpiritsAndCocktails.Community