The term “hipster” has a long and polymorphous history, particularly in American mainstream culture. It first rose to prominence in the 1940s and early 1950s to describe a large number of disaffected youths who spurned their waspish upbringing, seeking new experiences, new art forms, and new ways of self-expression. Similar to the generation of young men who came back from the First World War irrevocably changed and disillusioned, the original hipsters largely came back from haunting experiences in the Second World War to an America which they couldn’t see the same as before. The rise of the suburbs in the late forties and fifties, and the attendant consumerism and middle-class homogeneity, also engendered a great deal of dissatisfaction in youths, who searched for recesses in the American social landscape that were untouched by this pervasive sameness—or at least, what they perceived as such. Jilting their privileged upbringing, white, middle-class youths moved to major city centers and explored, for instance, typically black forms of self-expression like Jazz. Drugs became a rite of passage for the original hipsters, and bohemian lifestyles were glorified rather than looked upon with disgust. Given their fascination with alternative lifestyles and black forms of self-expression, the original hipsters have been looked upon with a good deal of ambivalence—praised for their energy and passion but criticized for holding up the disenfranchised black community as a model—a model which was predicated upon harmful stereotypes—for their always-temporary escape from white America.
Today, “hipster” has somewhat changed from its original meaning and more or less solidified into a pejorative term which denotes a new class of youth who are trendy and pretentious. That said, contemporary hipsters still tend to come from affluent families. Instead of moving into seedy or impoverished neighourhoods, contemporary hipsters tend to benefit from the ceaseless process of gentrification that has been rapidly changing the complexion of neighbourhoods around the globe. Aesthetically, they are interested in vintage fashion and often wear clothes like plaid, ironically. Irony, in fact, is the dominant aesthetic trend in modern-day hipsterdom. Dimly lit bars and coffee shops that play jazz are among these new hipsters’ favourite haunts. With regard to politics, they are mostly liberal and left wing, and hold Regan- and Thatcher-era politics up as the most insidious influences on modern life.
Even though it’s agreed upon that “hipster” is not a term of endearment, the applicability of the term, as such, to an enormous amount of today’s youth has undermined its legitimacy. Many of today’s youth fall under the rather broad definition of the modern hipster, so most are quick to disassociate with the label. To protect themselves from being labeled as hipsters, many people direct the label at others, showing, by contrast, how they are “authentic” and not pretentious in the process.
This list might stir up some anxiety in some, because it looks at the ten most popular hipster drinks. But just because your drink is on the list, you don’t have to re-evaluate your identity. No one has a monopoly on a drink or a style, so enjoy the list. And let’s all live and let live.
10. Pabst Blue Ribbon
A July, 2009 Times article states, “[Hipsters are] the only ones in America who still think Pabst Blue Ribbon is a good beer.” Comments of quality aside, Pabst Blue Ribbon, for whatever reason, is the hipster beer of choice. It is cheap and beer snobs definitely don’t go all in for a sip of it, so maybe those are reasons why hipsters have embraced the German brew with passionate intensity? There is of course something undeniably urban about PBR: the matte gray that dominates the can’s aesthetic gives it an industrial quality and David Lynch did feature the beer in one of the most memorable scenes in Blue Velvet, an undeniable classic for hipsters. In any case, no beer screams hipster more than PBR.
An Italian liqueur mainly used as a post-prandial digestif, Fernet has, in recent years, gained an enormous amount of popularity in big cities across the world, not the least of which being San Francisco. Many popular cocktails like the Toronto and Fanciulli—the latter of which being a Fernet-inspired twist on a Manhattan—feature this strongly flavoured liqueur, and the cocktail scene has been blowing up amongst hipsters. Many people say the flavour of Fernet resembles mouthwash, a description that probably won’t inspire many people to rush out and buy it. Probably because of its roughness going down, hipsters have embraced this liqueur.
8. Black Coffee
Another visible characteristic of contemporary hipsters is their desire to eat healthy, as they tend to buy solely organic and eat foods like kale, avocados, and gluten-free bread. As mentioned, the coffee-shop scene is integral to hipsterdom, so, given hipsters’ healthy eating habits, black coffee is a staple in the hipster diet. Drinking coffee black also gives way to in-depth conversations about flavour, acidity, and aroma—also known as, the stuff of frivolous coffee-shop conversations. And with many coffee shops now advertising that they carry only “fair-trade” beans, politically conscious hipsters feel more rectitude in drinking the black brew.
Given the popularity of Fernet and espresso, Italy seems to be the purveyor of all things hipster. With regard to espresso, it makes sense that modern hipsters who are so drawn to coffee shops would begin it. Espresso provides a significant jolt of caffeine in a relatively small quantity, which is good for on-the-go hipsters who still want to bask in that coffee-shop affect. In America, the Pacific Northwest, most notably Seattle, has been instrumental in promoting and popularizing this drink. Now hipsters everywhere are indulging in this Italian delight.
For delicately constituted hipsters who want to enjoy their drink over a longer period of time and still get a good deal of energy from caffeine, the Americano is the drink they choose over espresso. With more hot water added to several shots of espresso, the Americano is a drink that can be enjoyed like a regular coffee, but provides the energizing effects of espresso. Like the espresso, the Americano is a drink that city-slicking hipsters can enjoy during one of their late-night vigils held after a particularly smashing show in some club with bad acoustics.
Hipsters like drinks that go down rough, and bourbon, an American variation of whisky that is made from corn and originated in Kentucky, fits the bill. Bourbon—most notably Wild Turkey—is a staple in any urban dive or cocktail bar, and tons of youthful drinkers, clad in plaid and beanies, indulge in this sensorial wake-up call. Also, many popular novels and films that have captured the imaginations of contemporary hipsters feature characters who drink bourbon. The presence of bourbon in these narratives only adds to its social and aesthetic capital amongst hipsters.
4. House Wine
Another important characteristic of contemporary hipsters is their contrarian ways, and drinking a bar’s “house wine”—another word for reddish or whitish turpentine—aligns with this contrarian aesthetic. Indeed, upon entering a bar in the middle of a gentrifying neighbourhood, you will almost always see someone with Buddy Holly glasses, clad in plaid and a beanie, wearing Chelsea or desert or Australian work boots, drinking the house wine. Especially in North America, where wine is more of an acquired taste rather than a rite of passage like in Europe, hipsters are growing to appreciate wine at younger ages, and this appreciation has led to the house-wine-drinking phenomenon.
3. Green Tea
There has been an explosion of green tea drinking in recent years due to its well known health benefits. Green tea is now a drink that every coffee shop purveys, as more and more patrons are choosing the green stuff over the black stuff. Hipsters have likewise jumped on the green tea bandwagon, and you will see plenty of them drinking this antioxidant-loaded drink in any number of big cities. As mentioned, modern hipsters are health-conscious, so green tea is to modern hipsters what “green” was to mid-century hipsters.
Living in modern cities full of various ethnic cuisines, modern hipsters love to explore different cultures through food and drink—even if the presence of hipsters in a given neighbourhood signals the pricing out of many of the ethnically diverse residents making the food and mixing the cocktails! Especially in America, where hipsters are exposed to a great deal of Mexican influences, margaritas are popular. The blend of tequila and, well, sugar makes the margarita an irresistible temptation during the torrid summer months.
Related to the last drink on this list, Mezcal is a kind of tequila that comes from Oaxaco, a region in southern Mexico. Generally taken straight and savored rather than shot, Mezcal is gaining popularity across North America, and hipsters, always at the vanguard of trends, have taken note. Mezcal is expensive, so generally speaking bohemian-bourgeois kids are among the few that can actually afford to indulge in the drink. If you pay attention next time you’re in your favourite urban bar, you will notice that hipsters are drinking a great deal of Mezcal.