From the Foreword
Much has been written about the resurgence and revisiting
of “Atomic Popular Culture,” into which category this book
must fall. I see it not as a peculiar nostalgia for a time when “the
enemy” was known, but rather as a form of the “black humor”
of paramedics, police, doctors, nurses, and soldiers—who live
every day with tragedy and horror, and must both deal with and distance
themselves from its cumulative effects. The human mind cannot deal with
tragedy constantly—it escapes into total dementia, or the small
madness of humor. Since the 1940s, the whole world has had to weave
the concept of nuclear annihilation into its national cultures and mythologies—whether
through songs, beauty contests, memorials, movies, rockets, or atomic
We should never forget—because the Nuclear Age is not over. Nuclear
arsenals still exist as potential threats; nuclear waste exists as a
definite one. I’m a native of Tucson, Arizona, where the first
Titan II ICBM went on alert in early 1963. Despite the fact that the
missile sites around my hometown have been dismantled (except for the
Titan Missile Museum, which exists as a National Historic Landmark to
educate the world about the very real engagements of the Cold War),
there are other sites in this country and abroad, still on alert.
And yet—people have always known that life is precarious. I don’t
think it’s cynical, but a very real piece of folk wisdom, when
the Old Testament prophets say, “Eat, drink, and be merry—for
tomorrow, you may die.” The 1950s cocktail party epitomized the
hopeless optimism of the post-war “Atomic Age.” Yet again,
the ideal cocktail party, filled with fun, interesting conversation,
friends and potential friends, is one way to thumb your nose at a faceless
technocracy and spiritless bureaucracy which makes war—and even
simple meanness—far too easy. It’s in that spirit that I
offer this homage—the cocktail party of the post-atomic age.
When I conceived this book, I had a list of cocktail names,
and a rep for bartending among my friends and party guests. The idea
for the book actually came from the drink I concocted for a holiday
party and dubbed the Titantini. Though I was expecting to have the onerous
duty of mixing and testing most of the drinks, I found that many already
existed—including its titular namesake, the “Atomic Cocktail.”
It and the Molotov Cocktail and Victory Punch were concocted in August
1945 by the evilly inventive bartenders of the National Press Club.
For some, like the obvious Manhattan Project, I have merely tweaked
the name. Others, like the Kremlin and the Gemini, stand untweaked,
and the rest are my original creations, noted with the radiation symbol.
And now, the toast. Do we toast James Bond, arbiter of the perfect martini
and Cold War spy? Do we toast Austin Powers, created by Bond’s
counterculture heirs? Do we toast the real Cold War soldiers? Do we
toast history and learning from it?
We toast the cocktail party itself, humankind’s universal need
for fellowship and relief from the pressures of modern life, and we
toast the blessed Providence that provides the ubiquitous plant life
wherefrom derives each luscious liquid.
The book is available at Borders, Titan
Missile Museum and directly from the author.
For more information, or to order copies
of the book, please contact the author at www.maurynnemaxwell.com or www.mytipress.com