Why everyone is talking about espresso martinis again


As a kid of the ’90s, now it’s my turn to watch teens and young adults go wild with the fashions of my youth. The school two blocks from my house is full of skateboarders in loose cargo pants, kids with little backpacks and crop tops and, god help me, low-cut jeans. On TikTok, all they do is post pictures of high schools in the 90s as “vibes.” That’s good, that’s the way of aging. But the ’90s dream isn’t just alive in clothes; It is also a comeback in food.

The food resurgence of the 90s has been in preparation for several years. In 2019, the Los Angeles Times wrote about the return of sun-dried tomatoes, which once appeared on pesto and focaccia sandwiches or speckled in cream cheese throughout the Clinton era. That same year, Eater advocated for the espresso martini, as it had already started its resurgence in Australia, and for a reboot of white chocolate. Recently, Timothée Chalamet, born smacddab in the mid-90s, enjoyed the espresso martinis with Larry David, creator of Seinfeld, one of the most beloved sitcoms of the 90s, at Sant Ambroeus in New York.

Inspired, I have since ordered an espresso martini in one restaurant, a goat cheese salad with sundried tomato vinaigrette in another, and several restaurants that I have eyeed have put on desserts like poached pears and mousse au chocolate on the menu. (I haven’t seen a melted chocolate cake yet, but its ancestor Jean-Georges Vongerichten is still going strong.) You may have made a trendy TikTok recipe using Boursin, and Sam Sifton recently encouraged them. people baking brie in his newsletter. Hell, Vienetta is back.

There are two strands of nostalgia at work here. One end is that these trends remind people in their 30s and 40s of the things we loved when we were younger. Remember when the hallmark of a fine meal was something served with a reduction of balsamic vinegar? Remember Dunkaroos? It’s as simple as being comforted by the flavors of our past, which we can use as our common language, even as our knees start to hurt more and we think about our mortgages. I’m joking of course. We can never afford to own our own home, but we can afford snacks. It’s just plain fun, though sometimes baffling in a way that reminds you of your inevitable mortality, to watch a new generation discover things that you have long cherished, or at least were aware of.

Then at the other end is the projected nostalgia that people develop for times that they were either too young to fully remember or were not alive to experience. And thanks to social media like Instagram and TikTok, the nostalgia has been hyperdriven (parts of the internet have already passed in the early days), with trends zigzagging across countries. Espresso martinis are everywhere on TikTok (and are now so popular they drive bartenders crazy), as are pesto and orzo in one pot with sundried tomatoes. There are also hundreds of videos featuring Toaster Strudel, Lunchables, Nesquik and the aesthetic of Taco Bells and old Memphis designed Pizza Huts. This love for retro design is something more fast food companies are banking on, as both Pizza Hut and Burger King have changed their logos to more reminiscent of their ’90s look.

Many of the trends of the 90s – pesto, sundried tomatoes, espresso drinks – were part of the regional Italian boom started with the 1992 release of Marcella Hazan’s The essentials of Italian cuisine: “Americans accepted that Italian cuisine was more than a plate of spaghetti and meatballs – it was cuisine with low-key regions, like Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna,” Taste wrote in his retrospective of the trends of the 90s. America began to develop a taste and curiosity for “authentic” cuisine (whatever the loaded term) like French cheeses and Japanese sushi.

It was easy to welcome these flavors again because, to put it simply, they never ceased to be delicious. You can’t watch Samin Nosrat making pesto and focaccia on Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat and don’t immediately want it for yourself, even if you first ate pesto at California Pizza Kitchen. Baked brie with hot jam, cheesecake, creme brulee – all things that taste amazing when cooked properly. And without the pressure of resuming the original menu where these flavors appeared at every restaurant and dinner, it’s easier to just enjoy them.

There are absolutely some things I would rather leave in the ’90s like every low fat snack or layering skirts over jeans. But for now, I’m good at indulging in espresso martinis and poached pears. Because in a few years, it will inevitably be the return of bacon and cupcakes.

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