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Issue 69 - Blazing a trail

Whisky Magazine Issue 69
January 2008


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Blazing a trail

Liza Weisstuchmeets cocktail writer extraordinaire David Wondrich as he launches his latest tome.

Sporting a vest with a gold watch chain dangling from the pocket, David Wondrich took two mugs from his friend, renowned mixologist Dale DeGroff, and ignited a mixture of Glenlivet Nadurra and steaming water. With the mug containing the lit concoction in one hand and an empty mug in the other, he appeared nonchalant as he proceeded to pour the fiery potion back and forth, the blue flame cascading through the air. He was channelling the innovative 19th century mixologist, Jerry Thomas, demonstrating one of the more spectacular tricks Thomas may have pulled when he stepped up to an American bar in his bejeweled threads. The Blue Blazer was one of his signature drinks, but for the record, Wondrich says he's not sure whether Thomas actually invented the drink or just took credit for it.

It was a crisp night in November at the Art Deco-inspired Flatiron Lounge in Manhattan and an assembly of contemporary milquetoasts, dandies, swells, and allpurpose cocktail enthusiasts and epicures had gathered to celebrate the American launch of Wondrich's book, Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to ‘Professor' Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar.

For three and a half years, Wondrich scoured libraries and archives around America, sifting through antique newspapers, travelogues and obscure novels with Sherlock Holmes-esque diligence to piece together the history of one of the most highly regarded figures in mixology whose life, until now, ha...

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