Books on Drink: A History (with ratings)


I am often asked about the books on drink that I read and recommend.  So I finally put this together.  It is by no means an encyclopedic listing of all books on drink, and the ratings reflect no one’s opinions but my own.

– Andrew (the “Alchemist”)

 

1820 – 1879: THE FOUNDATIONAL ERA

Books from this period usually group drinks by types with common discernable characteristics.  In this period, the cocktail is but one clearly definable type of drink.  Also, books from this period are faithful to the jigger (or wine-glass) as a unit of measure equaling two-fluid-ounces that is the basic portion of total liquor to be made into any type of mixed drink.  Where books from this era give recipes for single-serving drinks containing multiple liquors, they will jigger them together into a total of two-fluid-ounces.

During the Foundational Era, the majority of drinks are based on primary spirits, such as brandy, whiskey and rum.  But, gin is present and respected.

The Foundational Era begins with drinks already as-commonly sweetened by flavored syrups and liqueurs as they are by plain sugar or sugar syrup.

year author title mixology 

rating

extant 

drinks

study

rating

1827 Cook, Richard Oxford Night Caps 3/5 5/5
1862 Thomas, Jerry How to Mix Drinks 4/5 5/5
1869 Terrington. William Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks 4/5 3/5
1871 Ricket, E. 

& Thomas, C.

The Gentleman’s Table Guide 4/5 3/5
1878 Engel, Leo American & other Drinks 4/5 2/5

 

1880 – 1908: THE GOLDEN AGE – the rise of gin and vermouth

Books from this period continue the practice of presenting drinks by types, and with the clear sense that cocktails are but one type of drink.  They also remain faithful to the jigger as a unit of measure equaling two-fluid-ounces that is the total portion of liquor in mixed drinks.

It is during the Golden Age that gin begins to be more popular than other spirits.  Also during this era, cocktails (real ones) that are sweetened by vermouth (in addition to – or instead of – sugar, syrups or liqueurs) become common.

year author title mixology 

rating

extant 

drinks

study

rating

1884 Byron,  O.H. The Modern Bartender’s Guide 4/5 5/5
1887 Dick 

& Fitzgerald

Jerry Thomas’ Bar-tenders Guide 4/5 5/5
1888 Johnson, Harry New and Improved Bartender’s Manual 4/5 5/5
1891 Boothby, William American Bar-tender 4/5 5/5
1892 Schmidt, William The Flowing Bowl 3/5 4/5
1895 Kappeler, George Modern American Drinks 5/5 5/5
The above is one of the books that vie for consideration as the best all-around pre-prohibition drinks book.
1903 Daly, Tim Daly’s Bartender’s Encyclopedia 4/5 4/5
1904 Stuart, Thomas Stuart’s Fancy Drinks and How to Mix Them 4/5 4/5
The above is the same as the 1896 edition, but with a 1904 addendum of “New and up-to-date Drinks”
1908 Boothby, William The World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them 5/5 5/5
The above is one of the books that vie for consideration as the best all-around pre-prohibition drinks book.

 

1909 – 1919: THE LATE PRE-PROHIBITION ERA – the breaking of the cocktail

Books from this period often group drinks alphabetically, usually mis-calling many other types of drinks “cocktails” – as long as they are served ‘up.’  This formless, alphabetical approach will eventually contribute to the idea that knowing drink names is as important as knowing their natures.

During the Late Pre-Prohibition Era, gin has completed its rise and gin-based drinks become the norm.  Also, it was during this period that the first corruption of the Martini Cocktail gathered steam – with drinks such as the Good Times Cocktail and Hoffman House Cocktail being called “Martinis” or “Dry Martinis”

year author title mixology 

rating

extant 

drinks

study

rating

1910 Grohusko, Jack Jack’s Manual on the Vintage and Production, Care and Handling of Wines, Liquors, etc. 3/5 4/5
1914 Straub, Jacques Drinks 3/5 4/5
1917 Bullock, Tom The Ideal Bartender 2/5 3/5
1917 Ensslin, Hugo Recipes for Mixed Drinks 3/5 4/5
1935 Crockett, Albert The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book 4/5 5/5
The above is listed here for its transmission of the recipes compiled in the Waldorf Hotel Bar from 1897 through 1919.

 

1920 – 1934: THE PROHIBIITON ERA – the complete debasement of the cocktail

The Prohibition Era exhibits the supremacy of the image of the so-called “cocktail” over the elemental reality of the traditional type of drink by the same name.  For the first time, many books from this period actually call themselves “cocktail” books.  These books tend to force all new drinks into cocktail goblets.  This practice will eventually contribute to the breaking of the jigger.

The Prohibition Era continues the supremacy of gin, and actually expands upon it.

year author title mixology 

rating

extant 

drinks

study

rating

1922 MacElhone, Harry Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails 3/5 4/5
1922 Vermeire, Robert Cocktails: How to Mix Them 3/5 4/5
1926 John Hamilton Publishers, Limited The Cocktail Book 3/5 3/5
1930 Craddock, Harry The Savoy Cocktail Book 3/5 5/5
1932 Sloppy Joe’s Bar (Cuba) Sloppy Joe’s Cocktails Manual 3/5 4/5
1934 Boothby’s World Drinks Company Boothby’s World Drinks and How to Mix Them 2/5 5/5

 

1935 – 1949: THE REPEAL ERA – the breaking of the jigger

Books from this period expand upon the shortcomings of the earlier post-Golden Age eras by divorcing their recipes from the jigger as the basic two-fluid-ounce portion of total liquor in mixed drinks.  This is probably a consequence of the image-driven desire to fit drinks of various types into the iconic cocktail goblet.

It is noteworthy that during the Repeal Era, mixology begins to notice vodka.

year author title mixology 

rating

extant 

drinks

study

rating

1935 Cotton, Leo Old Mister Boston De Luxe Official Bartender’s Guide 3/5 4/5
1935 Crockett, Albert The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book 4/5 5/5
The above is listed here for the drinks added by Crockett at the time of publication.  See the earlier listing of this book.
1939 Baker, Charles The Gentleman’s Companion 3/5 4/5
The above has been re-issued as “Jigger, Beaker, & Glass: Drinking Around the World.”
1946 Beebe, Lucius The Stork Club Bar Book 3/5 3/5
1946 Bergeron, Victor (“Trader Vic”) Trader Vic’s Book of Food & Drink 3/5 3/5
1947 Bergeron, Victor (“Trader Vic”) Bartender’s Guide 3/5 4/5
1948 Embury, David The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks 3/5 5/5

 

1950 – 1969: THE BLANK ERA – the rise of vodka

Not many drinks books seem to have been published during this era – hence its name.  Also appropriate to the name is the fact that during the Blank Era, vodka-based drinks become common, and nearly every bar begins to stock vodka.

It is noteworthy that during the Blank Era, tiki drinks enjoyed their greatest popularity.  Tiki drinks do not form a genre, elementally-speaking – most of them are punches of one sub-genre or another.  The unifying characteristic of tiki drinks is that they are all meant to be evocative of tropical exoticism.

year author title mixology 

rating

extant 

drinks

study

rating

1955 Cotton, Leo Old Mister Boston De Luxe Official Bartender’s Guide 3/5 4/5
1960 Cotton, Leo Old Mister Boston De Luxe Official Bartender’s Guide 3/5 4/5
1968 Cotton, Leo Old Mister Boston De Luxe Official Bartender’s Guide 3/5 4/5

 

1970 – 1999: THE DRINKS NADIR ERA – the supremacy of vodka

Books from this period expand upon the shortcomings of the earlier post-Golden Age eras by becoming completely devoid of any sense of basic portions of total liquor.

Many books from the Drinks Nadir Era contain the words “complete” or “bible” in their titles – the suggestion being that the purchase of one book (and the reference to – or memorization of – the formless recipes found therein) can substitute for mixological knowledge.

It is during the Drinks Nadir Era that the word “cocktail” (in its de-based, image-driven meaning) is partially abandoned in favor of the word “Martini” – which likewise becomes largely de-based.

During the Drinks Nadir Era, pre-mixes and artificial mixers become common.  Also, it is during this era that vodka-based drinks become the norm.

year author title mixology 

rating

extant 

drinks

study

rating

1977 Jones, Stan Jones’ Complete Barguide 3/5 5/5
1984 Cotton, Leo Mister Boston Official Bartender’s Guide 3/5 4/5
1990 Feller, Robyn The Complete Bartender 1/5 3/5
1993 Sennett, Bob Complete World Bartender 2/5 3/5
1995 Schumann, Charles American Bar 3/5 4/5
1999 Regan, Gary The Bartender’s Bible 3/5 4/5

 

2000 – ????: THE DRINKS RENAISSANCE ERA – bar-lore and echoes of the Prohibition Era

Books (and bars) in this period tend to restore freshness to the sour element.  This restoration should not have been required to begin with, and it is perhaps a mistake to make much fuss over the return to fresh juices.  It’s a bit like bragging about having recently stopped cheating on a significant other.

The Drinks Renaissance Era sees the expansion of the use of the aromatic element, especially in the form of additive bitters, spices and aromatic produce.

A common theme in this era and its drink books is that of a return to “correct” mixology and “proper cocktails.”  Unfortunately, this does not include the return to the two-fluid-ounce jigger as the total portion of liquor in drinks – and many drinks are still served with too-much or too-little alcohol.  The ridiculously-oversized cocktail goblet is still the home of many non-cocktails.  There is a clear echo of the Prohibition Era in the fervent re-invigoration of the practice of mis-calling drinks “cocktails” to suggest their quality.  The word “cocktail” returns to the titles of books from this period more than in any other since the Prohibition Era.  Earlier books are widely reprinted during this era, but usually with a subtitle or blurb about them being “cocktail” books.

The word “mixology” is so loosely applied during the Drinks Renaissance Era that many actual mixologists abandon the word itself.

During this era, many bar professionals attempt to roll-back the use of the word “Matini” in its baseless, image-driven sense – even though they largely fail to do the same for the word “cocktail.”

It is probably a result of a generalized retrograde view that the Drinks Renaissance Era exhibits the ascendancy of bar-lore – the tales associated with the creation of individual historic drinks.  Bar-lore usually focuses on personalities and happenstance rather than mixological principles and evolution.  Unfortunately, bar-lore is often mistaken for mixology.

Likewise retrograde in view is the re-embrace of gin – a clear and deliberate echo of the supremacy of gin during the Prohibition Era.

Another echo of the Prohibition Era found in the Drinks Renaissance Era is the commercial success of the so-called ‘speakeasy’ type bar.

year author title mixology 

rating

extant 

drinks

study

rating

2002 DeGroff, Dale The Craft of the Cocktail 3/5 3/5
2002 Poister, John New American Bartender’s Guide 3/5 4/5
2003 Regan, Gary The Joy of Mixology 3/5 4/5
2005 Paragon Publishing 1001 Cocktails 3/5 4/5
2006 Difford, Simon Cocktails #6 3/5 5/5
2006 Barton Incorporated Mister Boston Platinum Edition 3/5 4/5
2008 Albert, Bridget 

& Barranco, Mary

Market Fresh Mixology: Cocktails for Every Season 4/5 3/5
2008 DeGroff, Dale The Essential Cocktail 3/5 3/5
2008 Difford, Simon Cocktails #7 3/5 5/5
2009 Difford, Simon Cocktails #8 3/5 5/5
2009 Difford, Simon Difford’s Encyclopedia of Cocktails {Cocktails #8} 3/5 5/5
2010 Abou-Ganim, Tony 

& Batali, Mario

& Faulkner, Elizabeth

The Modern Mixologist: Contemporary Classic Cocktails 4/5 3/5
2010 Difford, Simon Cocktails #9 3/5 5/5
2010 Kosmas, Jason 

& Zaric, Dushan

Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Reimagined 4/5 3/5

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