1 Book, 3 Bottles

Our feature this week comes from the relatively new sub-collection on the History of the American Cocktail. 3 Bottle Bar  (1943) by H.i. Williams includes advice on buying, storing and stocking your home bar, as well as a few recipes. The idea, as the title suggests, is that the home bartender and entertainer can succeed with a few basic ingredients.

The three bottles Williams recommends are whisky, gin, and dry white wine. While he doesn’t have too much to say on the first two, other than to leave it up to your taste preference, he devotes a little more time to wine. When it comes to storing your white wine, Williams tells his readers that if the stopper to the bottle is “cork, lay the bottle on its side…like your favorite baby. This keeps the cork constantly wet…not like your favorite baby!” A colorful metaphor, indeed!

Of course, the three bottle bar requires a little more than three bottles. Williams talks about bar tools and other “indispensables”  like bitters, simple syrup, and the “hard working citrus twins,” lemon and lime. He suggests standardizing measurements and sticking to it with every drink you make (a rule I find hard to follow at home, since I’m always looking for one more improvement here and there).

There is something appealing about the simple style of the recipes in 3 Bottle Bar, though. Three bases and a range of additions limits a person to a finite number of drinks. On the one hand, it may mean a small repertoire. On the other, it could mean a more perfected drink.  Since there is a limit to what gin, whisky and wine might make, there are only a handful of recipes in the book, from the classics (old fashioneds, collinses, and rickeys) to some less common (Colonel’s Quickie, the Jeep, and the Carbro).

For the more adventurous and those looking to provide more variety, Williams ends with recommendations for a five bottle bar by adding rum (for which he lists several uses) and scotch, the latter to satisfy “Scotch and soda addicts.” This is Williams only use for scotch, it seems, as he spends the last paragraph of the book talking about how to make the perfect scotch and soda: “those who like Scotch and soda want just that–not Scotch, melted ice and soda.” He reminds readers to always ask a guest how strong they want their scotch and soda and leaves us with a helpful “little jingle for gauging the amount of seltzer or water: One to two is strong/One to four is light/One to one is wrong/One to three is right.”

We can hardly end on a better note than a jingle, so perfect your favorite cocktail and enjoy. Cheers!


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