1902: Cocktail Opinions by City, the Coupe Called “Objectionable” and Excellent Instructions for Making the Cocktail

In The United Service, a 1902 book by Lewis Hamersly & Company, is recorded a U.S. Navy captain’s opinion of the true American cocktail (a very specific type of mixed drink) as he had encountered it in the U.S.A. and around the world.  It is worth reading, but rather drawn out.  Here are some passages that I found to be noteworthy:

“… mixed drinks.  I don’t know any of them except cocktails.”

“For my own part I have hygienic reasons for drinking and have always done so in moderation, and the cocktail is my potation.  This fact has led me to observe it carefully and to make some generalizations upon it.”

“There is only one place in Europe that I know where a decent cocktail may be had.  That is Nice.  It is the favorite rendezvous of our [U.S.] ships of war and has been for years.”

“The American bars in Paris and London are a disgrace to their name..”

“I have tried but one cocktail at Monte Carlo.  It was enough.”

“I reckon the Washington cocktail taken full and by is the best in the world.”

“If you want a bad cocktail, it can be had at Kansas City.”

Saint Louis cocktails are gloomy.  They use a kind of stem glass there, a small saucer on a crystal stick [the coupe] that is very objectionable.”

“The Chicago cocktail requires watching and is, well, sloppy.”

New Orleans is a very foreign city and nothing is more foreign to it than a good cocktail.  You have to get as far north in the Mississippi as Cincinnati to get a good one.”

“As I have said, Washington excels in the matter of cocktails…”

“The Philadelphia product is quiet and genial and next to Washington in excellence.”

Boston does not drink many cocktails, but they seem to be carefully compounded.”

“Without attempting any nice distinction, the New York article is likely to trip its victim up.”

The naval officer was asked how to make a cocktail to perfection.  He obliged with the following instructions:

“A large glass filled three-quarters full of cracked ice half the size of a filbert; never use shaved ice or large lumps; dash on this half a teaspoonful [one barspoonful] of syrup made from the best white sugar; add in the same way as the syrup half its quantity [one scruplespoonful or a quarter-teaspoonful] of Stoughton bitters and pour in two tots [one gill or two jiggers or four fluid-ounces] of good straight rye whiskey.  It needn’t be old, but it must be straight; no blends out of case bottles will serve.  Stir with a long bar spoon, revolving it under the thumb if you can perform that feat, or turn the glass around while you stir until the outside of the glass is cooled enough to precipitate the moisture of the air in small drops; drain [strain] into two dry cocktail glasses [the traditional, stemmed, cocktail goblet – not the coupe!]; twist a shred of rind from a fresh lemon over each glass and let it fall in.  If you can perform this apparently simple feat just right your perfect cocktail is ready.  It should be evenly translucent, its color tinted slightly with red, a trifle lighter than the ray of a pigeon-blood ruby seen in daylight.  If gin is used it should be a warm straw color, but with no stronger tinge of yellow…  It should be drank promptly, or if the glass is only partly emptied at the first draught it should not be left to stand for more than a few minutes.  The enticing cherry has no place in a cocktail.  It doesn’t help cherry or cocktail.  Pineapple and orange should never be permitted to enter.  Let that cocktail remain untasted which is brought to you with any fruit in it further than a little lemon rind.”

If this man were not so obviously intimate with the glory of the true American cocktail, how it should be made and how simply and quickly it should be drank, I would be more skeptical of his opinion of the drink as found, or not, in the various locations he mentions.  But I am inclined to believe him simply because of how well he made true cocktails.  I also love that he spurns the coupe and comes from a time before New Orleans reinvented itself as some sort of cocktail Mecca.

Auction Item Found: 1902 Champagne Tap with Gimlet and Cleaner

I have one in very good condition, already.  For anyone still searching, there is one Champagne tap not yet bid on that I found that still includes the original gimlet and cleaner.  For those of you who have tried to use a Champagne tap without the gimlet to bore the hole, you will understand the value of a properly-sized gimlet!: