EASTHAMPTON, N.Y. It’s still chilly in the mornings in this upscale town on Long Island, but by eleven a.m. temperatures are positively torrid. “I can hardly wait for five o’clock,” says Clifton Felton-Day, chairman of the annual Summer Fling for the Cure for Long Island Lockjaw here. “I so look forward to my gin and tonic.”
The prospect of a tall, cool, bracing cocktail is fading, however, as meteorological studies indicate torrid temperatures, fueled by global warming, will wreak havoc with iced drinks from now until Labor Day. “There has never been a more perilous time,” says Amanda Weiss-Hyphen of the Long Island chapter of Weekend Earth Mothers. “There is a serious possibility that the cocktail party as we know it may be coming to an end.”
The unanticipated side effect of global warming that has this summer community on edge is the prospect that mixed drinks will be irreparably weakened by melting ice, a casualty every bit as serious as the shrinking arctic ice cap surface that has polar bears treading water until developed nations switch to hybrids cars.
“The sad truth is that even if Americans cut back on greenhouse gases, developing nations such as China and India are going through a period of rapid economic growth,” says Peter Barnes-Noble, a professor of environmental science at Hofstra University. “I think we need those countries to realize they are doing grievous harm to our pina coladas.”
Vegetation can shield drinks from the sun.
Scientists say that ultimately there is very little that can be done to “save the cocktails,” although stopgap measures may produce short-term benefits. “You can put an umbrella up over the bar to shield ice from the sun and use one of those little drink parasols you get in Chinese restaurants,” says environmental mixologist Peter Rogers. “You can also make your ice cubes out of hard liquor, so that drinks don’t lose their potency as they melt.”
Ultimately, party-goers may need to become reconciled to warmer drinks as is the case in Europe where ice is still considered a luxury. But Weiss-Hyphen, for one, says she’ll resist. “The French don’t take daily showers, watch Jerry Lewis movies and eat snails,” she says with contempt. “Just because the rest of the world considers them fashionable doesn’t mean I can’t have a cold drink.”