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Issue 5 - The gentle art of mixing

Whisky Magazine Issue 5
August 1999


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The gentle art of mixing

Jonathon Goodall investigates whisky cocktails and finds a way of using up these unwanted dregs of single malt.

It was the alchemic quest for the elixir of youth that started it – perhaps. Either that or the necessity of disguising the flavour of crude forms of alcohol. Either way, the history of the creation of cocktails is littered with so many claims and counter-claims that it's difficult to trust any of it.

Modern cocktail culture is almost exclusively American, and one of the earliest known written references to any cocktail is made by John Davis, a British tutor employed in the grand houses of America's southern plantations. He described the bourbon-based Mint Julep as ‘a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint in it, taken by Virginians of a morning'. The first cocktail recipe book had to wait until 1860, however; ‘Professor' Jerry Thomas published his The Bon Vivant's Guide, to How to Mix Drinks, at the height of his bartending career at the Metropolitan Hotel, New York. In 1872 the cocktail shaker was born, when the US Patent Office approved a patent for ‘improvements in apparatus for mixing drinks'.

The invention of the Martini, just two years later, might or might not have involved such gadgetry. It was apparently when a gold miner walked into a saloon in Martinez, California, with a fistful of nuggets and asked the barman, Julio Richelieu, for something special that this classic was born. In 1917 The New York Sun ran an anthropological scoop concerning the ancient Egyptian god of thirst, Dri Mart Ini; the deity was pictured shaking a drink in a covered urn of glas...

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