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Issue 84 - Mixing history

Whisky Magazine Issue 84
November 1999


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Mixing history

Neil Ridley looks at two important cocktail tomes.

Back in the 1800's the art of mixing drinks was little more than a way to mask the harsh flavours of cheap liquor. But several eminent bartenders such as New Yorker ‘Professor' Jerry Thomas and later, Harry Craddock of London's Savoy Hotel went one step further to discover an array of highly complimentary flavours, changing the landscape of mixology forever.

There is no mistaking the importance of two particular books and their significance to not only the art of bartending but also to the development of social drinking culture.

Jerry Thomas' The Bartender's Guide- How To Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant's Companion originally published in 1862, was the first attempt to document the very essence of both flavour and flair within a glass.

Thomas rose to the prominent position of Head Bartender at the Metropolitan Hotel in New York, by which time he started collating recipes and techniques from his travels across the USA and Europe, pioneering flamboyant bartending skills and outlandish recipes. His signature cocktail- the ‘Blue Blazer' perhaps typifies the showmanship he had become celebrated for, creating an arc of flaming whisky as it was passed between two tankards. It was a skill that enabled him to earn the princely sum of $100 a week, - at the time more than the Vice President of the USA was earning.

But it was not only showmanship that Thomas excelled in. His acute knowledge of flavour led him to create, refine and champion some of the world's most enduring cocktails...

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