You wouldn't trust a skinny chef, and I'm drunk as hell

Bar Books Pt. 1

Yeah yeah I know, another project, you didn’t even finish rum pt.2 yet! I just wanted to try a little something different to go with my regular food and drink sections.

Today I am going to be posting a review of one my favourite books. I’m planning on doing this roughly in order of books than have provided me with the most use over the last couple of years or so, or ones that I think show the most interest for the craft. Although I have called the series bar books I will be including food as well.

Today I will be covering the first book ever published on cocktails by the worlds first ever celebrity bartender, Jerry Thomas.

Read all about “How to mix drinks or The Bon Vivants Companion” after the break.

If you can’t be arced to read what I have to say, you can buy the book here: I will include another link at the end

Let me start off by saying that this is a recipe book, not a guide on how to live your life. Professor Thomas had no idea that in 150 years time people would still be hanging off of every word he managed to get printed in his book. The language is old and so are the recipes. Go in with an open mind, you may have to adjust things to modern tastes but that’s where the fun lies.

Jerry Thomas is owed a lot from modern bartenders, yet most don’t have a clue who he is. He certainly helped to popularise the cocktail, even if he didn’t invent it. This is because in 1862 he published a book. This book, which coincidentally is also the book I am reviewing, was the first book to contain a recipe for the cocktail.

Back in those days, the word cocktail wasn’t used to describe any old slapdash drink thrown into a martini glass and called “whatever fruit or sickly sweet concoction I decide to make-tini”; it was used to describe a very specific set of drinks, those containing, spirit, sugar, water (usually in the form of ice) and bitters. Sound familiar? It should, I could just as easily be talking about an old fashioned, the name of which I believe came from people ordering a cocktail made in the ‘old fashioned way.’ Clever, eh?

The cocktail wasn’t the only type of drink, each style of drink had its very own subset including toddies, slings, cups, fixes, sours, fizzes, cobblers, flips, sangarees, smashes, juleps, punches and many more. To find out exactly how many more, you will have to read the book.

It gives a fantastic look back in time. One of the reasons I got so much into cocktails in the first place was the idea that you could take a recipe from the 1850s, make it with ingredients that are still made in the same way today and you would be able to taste something that would taste exactly the same back then. Like taking a step back in time.


I don’t know if you guys gathered from my twitter or whatnot but I am also a big fan of old literature, like at the moment I am reading “The Great Gatsby,” anything by Hemingway is applicable too. Certain TV shows, like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire give a glimpse into the world we are trying to recreate one small sip at a time.

People still say that we as a drinking culture are still recovering from prohibition. Prohibition was over 90 years ago and we still do not drink as well as they did back then. There were so many brands around before that era that simply do not exist now, and in my mind the drinking culture is still recovering from the blight that the 1980s brought with it; garish blended drinks and tacky umbrellas.

This is why I recommend any working bartender, and anyone who has a genuine interest in learning more about alcohol to pick up a bottle of Jerry Thomas’s guide and marvel over some of the creations.

Lets have a look at one of his most famous theatricals, the blue blazer.

That picture is a pretty famous sketch of Jerry Thomas performing his blue blazer.

The story goes that a great big hulking giant asked Professor Thomas to give him ”some hellfire that’ll shake me right down to my gizzard.” and he then proceeded to make him the first blue blazer.

This chap summed up how to make it better than I could. If I get enough emails I will post a video of me making one:

“Anyway, let us assume that Thomas invented this drink on the spot to sooth the gunslingin’ prospector’s soul. He took up two pewter mugs, one of boiling water and one of cask strength scotch and ignited the scotch. He then poured them back and forth between the two mugs, a stream of blue flame flowing from mug to mug. Then, dump into a mug, add a teaspoon of sugar and a twist of lemon. Easy, right?”

Case in point: At his best he was earning as much as the vice president at the time.

Also: Bad-ass moustache.

And he used to be a sailor and a boxer, come on! I will cover more on the man himself in the next bar books ep.

To sum up, this book is a must for anyone learning the craft, and thus on a scale of 1 to informative, I give it 14 manhattans out of a bucket.

Buy it HERE 

Next time I’ll give you a clue; it’s by David Wondrich.



2 responses

  1. Pingback: The Manhattan « Drinks: Cocktails, Spirits and more

  2. Pingback: Bar Books Pt. 2 « Drinks: Cocktails, Spirits and more

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s