With all the nostalgia crazes swarming about us, the prospect of New Year's Eve and New Year's toasts prompts reflection on something that has slid from the limelight of American life; the cocktail.

Americans who drink today are sipping white wine. No longer does the rhythmic sound of an ice-filled cocktail shaker in motion fill the den. The swizzle sticks and stir-spoons are hidden deep in a drawer under the bar.

hose highball glasses with the cute, sexy sayings embossed on them are gathering dust on a high shelf. Relics of the nation's more innocent years.t's even worse in restaurants and bars. Machines measure out the alcohol. A baby-faced bartender who can make a tequila sunrise blindfolded looks blank when a wrinkled and frayed gaffer with a vague resemblace tgo Bogie requests a Manhattan.

Oh, for the days when the bartender was a god, not a service station attendant. The resident mixologist, he would call himself. He wore a uniform. His cocktail shaker was silver and polished, a symbol of office and authority. He took pride in his memory-for what you drank as well as for the formulas of exotic drinks. Anointing the rim of a glass with lemon peel was done with a theatrical flourish, even if no one was watching. Nuts or fresh chips appeared before you asked for them. You never had to wave for attention. He never tried to force the pace of your drinking.

And the drinks he made!

No other nation has done so much to make something as basic as hard liquor the essential component of an art form. In northern climates people drank tow ard off cold, darkness and the pain of a too difficult life. In southern climes, they drank to cool themselves (alcohol, by increasing the flow of blood toward the skin, actually cooks the body more than ice water) and to slow their brains (alcohol is a relaxant not a stimulant) to suit the leisurely pace of life. But in the United States, despite Prohibition, most people drank in moderation for socialibility and celebration.

So the mint julep was created, the Sazerac, the Ramos gin fizz, the Martini, the Manhattan and the fruit-based creations made famous by Trader Vic.The amateur who is tempted to dig out a dusty shaker and try a turn or two, should heed the advice of Mario Vicki, who gives a masterful course in bartending at the Culinary Institute of America.

He recommends using the best ingredients you can afford, including room-temperature fresh fruits, clean and odorless ice and fresh egg whites instead of chemical preparations. He FEELS SUGAR SYRUP IS THE BEST SWEETENER, FOLLOWED BY SUPERFINE SUGAR.

VICKI ALWAYS MEASURES TO ENSURE CONSTANT QUALITY, ALWAYS POURS THE SPIRIT IN LAST IN CASE A MISTAKE IS MADE WITH OTHER INGREDIENTS. HE SHAKES DRINKS CONTAINING CITRUS JUICES AND SUGARS (SOURS, DAIQUIRIS) AND STIRS CLEAR COCKTAILS (MARTINI). HE RECOMMENDS CHILLING COCKTAIL GLASSES AND SERVING THE DRINK IMMEDIATELY.

HIS COCKTAILS ARE MADE IN A HEAVY, 16 OUNCE GLASS, WHICH FITS INTO THE METAL ABAKER. HE POURS THROUGH A METAL WIRE STRAINER AND HAS AT HAND A SWIVEL-HANDLED BAR SPOON, MEASURING JIGGERS, A BAR KNIFE AND A MUDDLER FOR FRUIT AND SUGAR CUBES.

HE CAN POUR A PERFECT DRINK WITH HIS EYES CLOSED. (THE SECRET: USE A POURING SPOUT. PRACTICE WITH A BOTTLE FILLED WITH WATER AND JIGGER. TURN THE BOTTLE AND COUNT UNTIL THE JIGGER IS FILLED. REPEAT UNTIL YOU TIMING IS PERFECT.) VICKI PLANS THREE DRINKS A PERSON FOR COCKTAIL PARTIES AND STRESSES THE IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING SPECIAL PREFERENCES OF GUESTS, BEING PREPARED TO MAKE SEASONAL DRINKS AND AVOIDING CONGESTION BY KEEPING THE DRINK CENTER AND FOOD SERVICE AREA APART.

HERE, AS PROMISED, ARE A FEW GOLDEN OLDIES FROM THE BARTENDERS' HIT PARADE. FIRST, THOUGH, A DRINK RECOMMENDED BY PLAYWRIGHT AND NOVELIST JAMES GOLDMAN AS AN ALL-PURPOSE NEW YEAR'S EVE DRINK.

JIM GOLDMAN'S DIAMOND FIZZ

(2 servings) 1 teaspoon superfine sugar Juice of 1/2 lemon 2 ounces gin Cracked ice 1 cup champagne

Dissolve sugar in lemon juice and gin.j

Add crackes ice and shake. Pour in champagne, stir and pour into two wine or champagne glasses.

OLD FASHIONED

Place in an old-fashioned glass: 1 cube sugar muddled with 1/2 jigger water 1 1/2 ounces whisky 3 dashes aromatic bitters

Add ice cubes and stir. Garnish with slice of orange and cocktail cherry. Add twist of lemon and serve with cocktail pick.

ORANGE BLOSSOM 1 ounce orange juice 1 teaspoon sugar 1 1/2 ounces gin

Shake well with cracked ice and strain into cocktail glass.

PINK LADY 1 egg white Juice of 1/2 lemon 1 1/2 ounces gin 1 1/2 ounces applejack 1/2 ounce grenadine

Shake well with cracked ice and strain into cocktail glass.

BRONX

In a mixing glass muddle several pieces of sliced orange that have a bit of the rind on them to give flavor. To this add: 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth 1/2 ounce dry vermouth 1 ounce gin

Shake well with cracked ice and strain into cocktail glass.

BANSHEE 1 ounce cream 1/2 ounce simple syrup 304 ounce white creme de cacao 3/4 ounce creme de bananes*

Blend with shaved ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

*1 1/2 ounces chocolate banana liqueur may be subtituted for the creme de cocao and creme de bananes.

BETWEEN THE SHEETS Jice of 1/4 lemon 1/2 ounce brandy 1/2 ounce Triple See or Cointreau 1/2 ounce light rum

Shake well with crackes ice and strain into cocktail glass.

MANHATTAN 1 1/2 ounces rye or blended whisky 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth 1 dash aromatic bitters

Or for a dry Manhattan: 1 1/2 ounces whisky 3/4 ounce dry vermouth 1 dash aromatic bitters

Stir well with cracked ice and strain into cocktail glass. Decorate with cocktail cherry or twist of lemon.

SINGAPORE SLING 1 ounce lime juice 1 ounce cherry liquer 2 ounces gin Soda water

Shaked lime juice, cherry liquer, and gin well and pour over ice cubes in Collins glass. Fill with soda water. Decorate with orange slice and spring of mint. Then add through the middle with a dropper: 4 drops Benedictine 4 drops brandy (or 8 drops B & B)

This recipe is the original from the Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

TOM AND JERRY% 1 EGG, SEPARATED 1 TEASPOON POWEDERED SUGAR 1 OUNCE BRANDY 1 OUNCE DARK RUM HOT MILK OR BOILING WATER

IN AN 8-OUNCE CUP MIX THE YOLK OF THE EGG WITH THE SUGAR. POUR IN BRANDY AND RUM. STIR THOROUGHLY. PUT IN THE BEATEN WHITE OF EGG AND, WHILE STIRRING, POUR IN HOT MILK OR BOILING WATER TO FILL THE CUP. SPRINKLE NUTMEG ON TOP.

THE RECIPES COME FROM THE SIXTH REVISED EDITION OF "GROSSMAN'S GUIDE TO WINES, BEERS AND SPIRITS."