Campbell’s, the soup company, and also the inspiration for some of Andy Warhol’s iconic works, has come out with recipes for savory cocktails, or, as they’re calling them, “brothtails”, and it would be really easy to make fun of them for this so of course I’m going to make fun of them for this.
Actually they’ve gotten a lot of flack from other bloggers who have actually tried the concoctions and also a whole hilarious segment on Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me! and it got me thinking about cocktails generally, which have made a strong comeback in recent years, and which date back to at least the early 19th century. At least that’s when the word “cocktail” first came to mean a mixed drink, although they really became popular during Prohibition when something was needed to mask the taste of all that bootleg alcohol that was mostly made from old furniture, but that’s another story.
The Campbell’s “brothtails” aren’t exactly a new idea either. The Bloody Mary, which dates from some time between 1920 and 1930, is basically alcoholic gazpacho, and there’s also the Bunny Mary, made with carrot juice, which was the perfect thing during Prohibition to keep that bootleg rotgut from making you go blind, and margaritas and salty dogs have been around long before people thought of adding salt to candy, mainly chocolate and caramel, to give it a savory kick.
There’s also the term “cocktail” as it came to be used in the late 19th century for a dish, usually an appetizer or a side, usually made up of small pieces—hence fruit cocktail, the staple of school lunches everywhere, and shrimp cocktail, lobster cocktail, and oyster cocktail.
And now we get to the part where I really do make fun of Campbell’s for two aspects of this new marketing ploy that seem, well, spectacularly boneheaded but which no one has brought up before. First of all they came out with these “brothtail” recipes at a time when a lot of people are practicing “dry January” after the excesses of December, especially New Year’s Eve. A good friend of mine has spent the month making some excellent “mocktails”, some sweet, some savory, basically just playing around with different non-alcoholic drink ingredients, proving you don’t need to be drunk to be sophisticated.
The other problem with the “brothtails” is the broth bases Campbell’s is suggesting aren’t sold in the United States–the closest they get is Canada–which is an enormous missed opportunity. By all accounts “brothtails” are terrible, but that doesn’t matter. We Americans are known for our willingness to try anything, even if we just do it so we can make fun of how bad it is.