New Chapter: “(Inter)National Spirits: On the Cultural Politics of the ‘Cocktail Craze’ in Fascist Italy, 1920s-1930s”

I am pleased to announce the publication of my first peer-reviewed research article, “(Inter)National Spirits: On the Cultural Politics of the "Cocktail Craze" in Fascist Italy, 1920s-1930s,” in David Inglis and Hang Kei Ho, eds., Drinks in Vogue Exploring the Changing Worlds of Fashions and Beverages (Routledge, 2024).

Below is an abstract for “(Inter)National Spirits,” followed by a URL where you can download a copy of the chapter.


Chapter Abstract

During the years immediately following World War I, Italy was inundated by a wave of American popular culture. Transfixed by the glamour of Hollywood’s early cinematic stars, the allure and, for some, exoticism of Chicago’s and New York City’s smoky jazz clubs, and the seemingly ubiquitous consumption of various types of cocktail beverages, many among Italy’s middle classes came to view American fashion standards and consumer practices as being synonymous with emancipation from the unwanted inherited weight of national traditions and, for many Italian women in particular, the hegemony of patriarchal institutions. Serving as symbols of the largely imagined liberties associated with interwar American society and culture, cocktails quickly became not only the preferred alcoholic beverages of many Italians but also key signifiers of cosmopolitanism, prestige, and social mobility. During the early 1920s, a wide range of American-style jazz clubs and ‘American Bars’ began opening up in some of Italy’s largest cities and towns, at which the peninsula’s bourgeois night-goers enjoyed one or more cocktail beverages. By the 1930s, moreover, in-home cocktail mixing parties had become firmly established within the quotidian practices of many bourgeois households. Such worrying trends among the country’s bourgeoisie deeply concerned Blackshirt hierarchs in Rome. Having come to power in Italy on a wave of ultranationalist political violence with the objective of ‘resurrecting’ Italy from centuries of acquiescence to the ‘Great Powers’ of Western Europe and North America, Benito Mussolini’s 20-year dictatorship (1925–1945) attempted to stamp out Italians’ purported ‘foreigner-worship’ and to rehabilitate their awareness of, and appreciation for, their own national resources, heritages, and leisure-time practices. In response to the regime’s policy of ‘autarky’, or national self-sufficiency, prominent figures within or closely associated with Fascist Italy’s heavy spirits industry set out to transform Italians’ obsession with American-style cocktail beverages into Italo-centric tastes and habits which, once realized, would strengthen the Italian economy and, no less important, wine and liquor producers’ profit margins. Ranging from the Italian winemaking industry’s anti-cocktails propaganda campaign, to Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s Futurist cocktails, to the fierce marketing battles between vermouth producers in both Italy and the post-Prohibition United States, these groups’ struggles for dominance within the country’s alcoholic beverages industry, I contend, demonstrate the significant interplay between Mussolini’s dictatorship and various entities within interwar Italy’s commercial sphere in the shaping of Italian culture and identity during the interwar decades.


Chapter URL

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