It's interesting to see a snapshot of a time when a sweetened drink would have been a special treat for a child, rather than a daily staple.
Many of the "sweet" cocktails came about during prohibition, when the only liquor available was often of such bad quality that they needed the addition of mixers simply to destroy the terrible flavors in the alcoholic drink.

After prohibition ended, I would guess they stuck around simply because people had become used to them and they were a novelty.
Baby, you've stumbled across a real winner here! DeVoto seemingly never left a thought unwritten, and the world was an immeasurably better place for it, especially his conservationist writing. One of the best regulars at Harper's Magazine, the finest periodical there is. Stegner's bio is a hell of a ride.
I fear for some it's too late:…
here, here!
Bernard DeVoto is one of my great heroes, and I have at least ten of his books, but he's dead wrong here. For starters, rum is a wonderful spirit. Recall that DeVoto was writing in a time when rum was impossibly exotic, and the only one he likely ever tasted was Bacardi white rum. I can absolutely guarantee that he never tasted Appleton Estate 12 year old, which is a better drink than any bourbon and the equal of the finest Scotch or Cognac.

He's mostly right about the sloppy, overly complicated, sugary cocktails of his time. But there are many classics that a civilized person can enjoy, like the sidecar, the negroni, the old-fashioned. What he doesn't understand is the purpose of the aperitif, to open the palate with bitterness and sour, in preparation for the meal. Manly-man cocktails like straight whisky or gin are pretty crappy at this, actually, dulling the edge of the palate instead of whetting it. Keep in mind that in DeVoto's day and circumstances pretty much every dinner was steak and potatoes. The drinks he prefers are better taken after a good meal, not before.
Rum is no more a "sweet" liquor than gin or whiskey. It is distilled. There is no sugar present.
@3, Stegner's biography is terrific. Its title, "The Uneasy Chair", is a nod to his column for Harper's, "The Easy Chair", many of which were collected in a book by that same name which is well worth seeking out.
There is an entire generation devoted to pretending it has not grown up. Why are so many people between thages of 21 and 35 so concerned with plush toys and unicorns? True, they don't drink like adults either. They binge like teenagers on whatever is cheapest or sweetest.
Is there really anything in our experience as a child not carried forward to adulthood? I think not.
Bless you, @8. Harper's archives pointed me to the first Editor's Easy Chair column of September 1851 by Donald Grant Mitchell, who in his "first installment of gossip from our red-backed easy-chair" closed by hoping American ladies might adopt the Englishwoman's habit reported by Mr. Greeley of taking outdoor exercise to "throw color into their cheeks and fullness into their forms."
@11, how saucy!
I can't leave well enough alone. From DeVoto's final Easy Chair:
I hope that what I have said has been said gracefully and that sometimes it has been amusing, or informative, or useful. No one has got me to say anything I did not want to say and no one has prevented me from saying anything I wanted to. The Easy Chair has given me a place in the journalism of my time. No one knows better than the journalist that his work is ephemeral. As I have said elsewhere, it is not important, it is only indispensable.
At the risk of being even more self-parodic than usual, the above was not in fact DeVoto's last Easy Chair. Its reminiscences are because that column marked his twentieth year of writing it, the oldest editorial feature in American journalism.

His actual last column became so a very short time later on the occasion of his sudden death by heart attack on November 13, 1955. His final Easy Chair manuscript arrived at Harper's by post, on time as always, the very next day.
And don't forget the importance of Mrs. DeVoto, who, after her husband's death, devoted enormous effort in support of a struggling cook book writer named Julia Child.
Cornichon, that's a marvelous detail. Thanks.
Got me in the mood for a mojito!

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