Virginia Spirits Month (2018)

September is Virginia Spirits Month! (No, really, I’m not kidding, you can read about it online.) In honor of that, I thought I’d share a slideshow of some favorite spirituous images from our cocktail history materials. This is something I have as a background display for events and it highlights a lot of fun items (and some fun history!) about cocktails and their ingredients.

Cocktail Slideshow 2017

(the link will open a pdf of the slideshow to view or download)

And for all you Virgos out there, here’s a c.1980s French postcard with a festive cocktail on it!


This is part of series with one postcard for each astrological sign. They all seem a bit…overly garnished? One includes an entire walnut! This one includes lemon, a flower, and seeming an entire tree twig? And since Libra is just around the corner:

Figs and pears, anyone? (Actually, this rather reminds me of some of Jerry Thomas’ ornately garnished drinks of the 1860s…)

Surprisingly (or perhaps not so), cocktails have been tied to zodiac signs and astrology for quite some time. In the 1960s and 1970s, Southern Comfort produced several small cocktail recipe pamphlets that ran along that theme. And we even have a 1940 book called Zodiac Cocktails; Cocktails for All Birthdays. It includes recipes and the names of famous people born under the same signs! (That’s my sneak preview of it, since I hope to give it a post of its own one day soon–stay tuned!)

In the meantime, continue to enjoy Virginia Spirits Month. Try something new or sip on an old favorite. After all, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

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Women’s History Month, Part 23: Women & Cocktail Books (1893-1928)

This week, rather than profile a single woman, I pulled some of the earliest cocktail books/books with cocktail recipes that we have in our collection that were written by women. In one of these cases, we didn’t originally even know the author’s name, but all three of these books give us a little insight into women and cocktails before the end of Prohibition.

First up, it’s Beverages and Sandwiches for Your Husband’s Friends/by one who knows, published in 1893. We’re not sure who this woman–that it IS a woman–but the anonymity suggests it was likely. These days, however, the book is at the very least attributed to a woman, Mrs. Alexander Orr Bradley. So, we’ll run with it for now…

Mrs. Bradley’s book is relatively short, only covering some basic communal drinks (aka punches) and a few “well-knowns.” It’s only a couple of years after Harriet de Salis’ 1891 Drinks a la Mode, and it doesn’t have quite that variety, but drinks of course, were not Mrs. Bradley’s only goal. Hers was more a book on entertaining groups of men, and as a result, she relies more heavily on the classics or things easy to produce en masse, as it were. Still, it does have a fin-de-siécle (Or “turn of the century”) flair, as the half title page above suggests. “Fin-de-siécle” was also a term that referred the closing of the century in Victorian culture, a time in which the “New Woman” feminist movement emerged. This new feminism influence social, literary and cultural, and political history into the 20th century. Given the time period, we might wonder if there was a little of the “New Woman” in Mrs. Bradley, as she bravely entered the largely-male-dominated field of cocktails and boldly declared her audience of like-minded ladies.

In 1904, May E. Southworth complied a book called One Hundred & One Beverages. Our copy, below, is the 1906 revised edition. She collected popular cocktail and cocktail-adjacent recipes of the time, largely with an eye toward summer, though there are some hot drinks, too.

Compiled, of course, is a key word here. Southworth didn’t, in as far as we know, make up any of these drinks, but she did bring them to a new audience of readers and tasters. Many of her choices are drinks we don’t hear about today (the Beaufort or the Barbed Wire, for example), but if you ask me, some of them might just need a revival. Southworth is surprisingly brand-specific, even when talking about ginger ale, cider, or carbonated water, which isn’t something that was very common yet. Whether it’s commitment or actual corporate sponsorship, we can’t know for sure, but it was a growing practice in the cocktail and cookbook world.

Lastly, we’ll take a quick hop across the pond. Prohibition is one of my favorite periods in cocktail culture history. It didn’t do what it intended and it definitely had some unexpected consequences, including a lot of publishing about cocktails abroad. Mary Woodman’s 1928 Cocktails, Ices, Sundaes, Jellies & American Drinks: How to Make Them is quite an eclectic title. With the contents to match.

Diversity of cocktails was another consequence of Prohibition. After about the 1890s, cocktails may still be talked about in terms of classifications (cups, flips, fizzes, etc.), but they are also becoming individual and Woodman’s book gives us a laundry list of named drinks. In America, Prohibition was leading to cocktails that began to feature soda or juices or homemade syrups to cover up the taste of poor quality base spirits. Which we see in the punches or sugared drinks of the”American Drinks, Etc.” section. Overseas, where production was legal, spirits were being make into new combinations and concoctions like the “Coronation Cocktail” or the “Deep Sea Cocktail” (the latter of which, happily, does not contain seafood, which I half-expected). Woodman, though, ties all of this together into a sort of decadent volume reflecting cocktails and sweets of the time. You need syrups for cocktails, but you can also add them to ice cream. Some ices are a short trip to frappes or later frozen drinks. In other words, Woodman reminds us just how close dessert can be to a cocktail, if you need something sweet. Or sour. 🙂

Even if it wasn’t obvious, women were helping spread the word of cocktails from early on. They knew, as well as anyone, that cocktail were finding a place by the plate at a party or a quiet night at home, and they took on the challenge of incorporating them into their cookbook or tackling them on separately. And I know I can raise my glass to that. Cheers!

The ABCs of Harry MacElhone

Much of late last week around here was focused on getting materials together for an open house-style donor event last Friday. For your usual archivist & blogger Kira, that meant preparing a two-drink historic cocktail tasting and talk (borrowing from an early 20th century euphemism, it was titled “Measuring Sidewalks Upside Down: Cocktail History in America (and Special Collections!)”). Cocktails aren’t quite on my brain anymore, but both of the drinks on the tasting menu came from rare volumes in our collection. One was a bottled (gin) cocktail from Jerry Thomas’ How to Mix Drinks, or, The Bon-Vivant’s Companion (1862), which has been a feature on the blog before. The other was the Scofflaw Cocktail, one of my favorite Prohibition-era drinks for a number of reasons (more on that shortly). There are a number of recipes for it, but one of the earliest appearances was in Harry McElhone‘s ABC of Mixing Cocktails, first published in 1921. Our copy is a 10th edition, from a bit later, probably about 1929.

When it comes to cocktail history, a lot of things have been lost–ingredients, recipes, and explanations of names among them. We’ve been lucky enough to discover recipes for “lost” ingredients and found long-forgotten recipes. Names, well, that’s a bit harder. A lot of times, there is no good explanation. Luckily, the same can’t be said for the Scofflaw (or, Scoff-law, if you prefer), which are two of the reasons I love this cocktail. It has a great name AND an origin story. We know that in early 1924, the Boston Herald newspaper held a contest to find a word to describe those lawless types who continued to  engaged in the illicit manufacture and transportation of spirits, brazenly consuming alcohol during Prohibition. Two different people sent in the word “scofflaw,” and the two split the $200 prize. We also know that it didn’t take long for these newly-minted scofflaws to fight back. Although located overseas and thousands of miles the States, it didn’t take long for someone at Harry’s New York Bar to have an idea: Co-opt the word and make it a drink.

Like many-a cocktail, the Scofflaw has seen some variation its 93 years, but not as much as some other cocktails. You probably won’t see arguments break out over the ingredient list or discover minor changes in almost every version you see (like with the Jack Rose). The original Scofflaw Cocktail was made with blended whiskey, but other variants suggest the use of rye or bourbon specifically (I prefer the former). And one could argue about balance, since you’ll see a 1:1 ratio of whiskey: vermouth, as well as a 2:1 ratio. But, as with any cocktail, it’s okay to adjust to a drinker’s taste. The other fun part about a drink like this is that it lends itself to homemade ingredients in the modern craft cocktail age, particularly in the case of the bitters and the grenadine.

If you obsess over cocktails like someone writing this blog post, you might notice some inconsistencies in MacElhone’s book, even with the few sample pages above. References appear to both “‘Canadian Club’ whiskey” and “‘Canadian Club’ whisky” which would be the same thing (and correctly spelled the latter way). Angostura sometimes has “Bitters” after it, but not always. Measurements come in standard (teaspoons) and non-standard (dashes) amounts, as well as in ratios, or sometimes, a combination of all of the above. We know that not all the recipes are from MacElhone and we can probably attribute the variation to his collecting some of the recipes from other sources.  Since, from a historical perspective, measurements are always tricky (they have shifted over time), it may mean a little research or experimentation is needed–but that’s hardly a bad thing. Just remember, we may no longer be scofflaws, but we certainly enjoy one!

Food & Foodways Resource Guides Update

The majority of our staff was off at a conference last week and I, for one, took advantage of a great food scene. Playing catch up hasn’t left me with too much time to ponder a feature this week, but I thought I’d take a few minutes to post updates on some resources from Special Collections on the topic of food & foodways research. Since I last posted a link to these resources back in January of 2017, I’ve added at least one more.

The “Food & Drink History Resources @Virginia Tech” resource guide was created back in 2014 and there is a previous blog post about it. Since then, I’ve made period updates to content, fixed links, and tinkered a little bit with the layout, but it’s largely the same guide and serves the same purpose as when it was first created.

http://guides.lib.vt.edu/specialcollections/foodhistory

After that, I created a guide for the materials relating to infant, child, and family nutrition. This was partially to highlight this group of materials AND partially a response to a class I was working with at the time. It includes information about the collection, how to locate books and manuscripts in the collection, and some suggested online tools and resources.

http://guides.lib.vt.edu/specialcollections/childrensnutrition

Of course it didn’t take me long to get into the cocktail history materials, either. The guide for this group of materials is organized by time period and highlights some of the significant “eras” of cocktail culture in America. Each section includes a short introduction and a list of suggested resources. I’ve also put together some more general cocktail history and online tools.

http://guides.lib.vt.edu/specialcollections/cocktailhistory

Last (for now!), but certainly not least, at the start of this year, I put together a resource guide for the Introduction to Appalachian Studies course offered at Virginia Tech. It includes a breakdown of Appalachian resources by format and topic.

http://guides.lib.vt.edu/specialcollections/aps1704

One of the major sections is dedicated to food & foodways. It contains suggested resources in Special Collections relating to food items (i.e. cookbooks and research on food), as well as books about traditional folk medicine, farming, and agriculture. It’s a little bit broader that “just” food, but it’s another helpful place to collate information!

I’m still working on the latest guide, which will focus on aspects of food technology and production. I’m looking forward to getting it completed (or at least enough of it to go live), since this will talk about some other aspects of food history not covered in the same detail on other guides. This will include aspects of food technology, agriculture, food science, transportation of food products, manufacturing, advertising, and more!

So, if you’re doing any summer research on food, some of the resources above might help you out! The majority of the content covers print and manuscript materials housed in Special Collections, but most guides also contain some online resources, tools, and digital collection you can access wherever you are!


Also, in the realm of manuscript collection updates, just this week, I processed the remaining backlog of the Ann A. Hertzler Collection. The finding aid has been updated and it includes materials donated by the late Dr. Hertzler in 2014: research and subject files on foods and people in the culinary history world, as well as several small boxes of magnets and other small artifacts. We moved of the digitized items  that weren’t from Cooperative Extension to the same platform and updated the links. Digitized items from her collection are online via the Special Collections website. Digitized Cooperative Extension publications authored or co-authored by Dr. Hertzler are available through the university’s institutional repository.

The Gentleman’s Companion: Culinary Adventuring in the Early 20th Century

Charles H. Baker, Jr. (1895-1987),  was a salesman turned writer and magazine publisher turned columnist. After spending many years traveling the globe, writing columns for a variety of magazines, including Esquire, Town & Country, and Gourmet, he compiled items from his on-going column, “Here’s How,” as well as other writings, into The Gentleman’s Companion, first published in 1939.  It included two volumes, which are the same two we have in our 1946 edition: Volume I Being an Exotic Cookery Book, or Around the World with a Knife Fork and Spoon and Volume II Being an Exotic Drinking Book or, Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask.

Dedication [Volume I]

Contrary to current routine this volume is not dedicated to Publisher, Wife, Friend, Mistress or Patron, but to our own handsome digestive tract without which it never could have seen light of day.

Although it may be difficult to trace and explore, I might be tempted to give Baker some credit for the boom of American interest in what was considered ethnic and/or exotic cuisine in the 1950s and 1960s. Of course, there are many, MANY factors for this interest (including World War II and woman’s magazines, to name a couple), but Baker definitely brought a new perspective on world cuisine to American audiences.

A Soup of plump & gentle fowls of discreet age, and red ripe bananas, á Santiago

Proceed as in the Grecian dish, and when broth is done and you have a qt proceed as follows: Reserve breast and trim into shreds the size of matchsticks, cutting with the grain. To the rich broth add 2 red bananas, stood in sun until well ripened; simmer 10 minutes slowly, and rub through sieve or put in The Blender. Serve hot with a pinch of nutmeg on top.

This number was collected during a visit to Santiago and subsequent to an afternoon’s visit to the factory of Bacardi, being escorted thither by a late member of that illustrious family. It was, all in all, a memorable day. For several reasons.

While availability of ingredients in the United States might still be limited at this time–red bananas being a prime example–there are contemporary pamphlets and publications from the organizations like the United Fruit Company which were bringing some surprising and unique banana dishes into kitchens everywhere. And, Baker was doing much the same for cocktails in the second volume.

Dedication [Volume II]

To all that Company of Friends, from Pine to Palm, with whom we have So Happily Raised the Glass.

It’s worth noting here that Baker does something that you see more commonly before the 1930s/40s and much less so in cocktail book after the 1940s: commentary. Sometimes it’s a single sentence explanation of (like the Turf Cocktail No. III’s “from the Havana Country Club, Winter of 1930”) and other times, as with “The Hallelujah Cocktail” from Panama, the comments before and after the recipe are nearly a page long. Not every cocktail has an explanation, the majority have something–largely, I suspect, because so many of these recipes were not found in American bars just yet. His cocktails really are global, and while the recipes are an important part, Baker is clearly a story-teller, too. As a Florida native, he managed to cross paths with Southern writers fond of a good libation and he doesn’t hesitate to share:

A Farewell to Hemingway, being a sort of Kirch Collins we invented the night we say Hemingway & bull-fighter Sidney Franklin off on the plane for New York, & Loyalist Spain

There is no reason to this drink. It just happened because Ernest prefers kirschwasser, and it was a muggy, half-breathless sort of night. The cherry syrup sweet, of course, can be varied to taste…Take 1 1/2 jiggers of kirsch, 1/4 pony of cherry syrup–again the drug store kind–and the juice of 1 big green lime. Shake this mixture with 4 ice cubes, turn ice and all into a collins glass of at least 14 oz capacity, drop in a spiral peel of green lime, and fill glass not quite full with good chilled club soda….We’ve later found out that raspberry syrup is very decent, too.

Hemingway did really have a taste for cherry liqueurs, by the way. The “Hemingway Daiquiri” (also called the “Papa Doble”) drops the usual sugar or simple syrup present in most daiquiris, but adds grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur. (“Papa” Hemingway’s recipe is my go-to daiquiri in the summer.)

Neither the 1939, nor the 1946 editions deterred Baker from his travels or writings and in 1951, Baker published both The South American Gentleman’s Companion: Vol. 1, Being an Exotic Cookery Book or, Up and Down the Andes with Knife, Fork and Spoon and The South American Gentleman’s Companion: Vol. 2, Being an Exotic Drinking Book or, Up and Down the Andes with Jigger, Beaker and Flask. (Sadly, we don’t currently have this set in our collection.) Not to be outdone–or perhaps to outdo himself–in 1959, he wrote The Esquire Culinary Companion, Being an Exotic Cookery Book; or, Around Europe with Knife, Fork, and Spoon (although there isn’t a copy in Special Collections, the library has one you can request). This last book was only a single volume, but is anyone else sensing a theme among his titles?

Baker did write a single novel in 1946 (Blood of the Lamb), but it wasn’t nearly as well-received as his cocktail and culinary musings, which remain of interest to collectors and collections today (and hopefully, to some scholars, too!). You can acquire modern reprints these days, too. Due to its more “recent” publication dates, all Baker’s versions of The Gentleman’s Companion are still under copyright, so you won’t likely find them online in their entirety. But, you’re always welcome to come and view ours.

Cheers (To the Designers of These Great Cocktail Artifacts)!

Artifact (in an archival context): a man-made, physical object

While Special Collections isn’t artifact-driven–that is, we don’t go out of our way specifically to find artifacts–that doesn’t mean they don’t find us. Between a Civil War-era rifled musket, Corps of Cadet sabers, a football trophy, and more recently, a snare drum from a student who attended VPI in the 1940s, we do have a range of museum-type items. If we’re talking food history, we even have a 19th century stove here! Most of the food-related artifacts are on the smaller size: toys sets to teach nutrition to children, an old cast iron kettle, or, for the Hokie-spirited, an empty bottle from a Hokie-branded beer (probably from an event several decades ago). Last week’s post, though, alluded to some new cocktail artifacts and let’s face it, I couldn’t wait to share them. In the last month or so, we’ve acquired a handful of unique early and mid-20th century cocktail artifacts. Here are a couple of them…

This vintage faux cocktail shaker is about 5 1/4 inches tall. It’s chrome on the outside and the rotary on the inside features early Bakelite panels (Bakelite was created in the late 1910s) and is probably just pre-Prohibition era in terms of its date.

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Each of the remaining 23 panels contains a cocktail recipe:

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Basically, there’s a mini-rolodex inside and twisting the knob drops a new panel into view until it cycles through and starts again. Of course, the panels are small, so there are no directions, other than the list of ingredients. But, for the most part, these are traditionally shaken cocktails: Pour all the ingredients over ice, shake, strain, and enjoy!

The second item dates from about 1940:

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This is a long scroll on two spindles. You can turn either knob to “scroll” forward and backward. In it’s original case and box, this is leather over a case of metal and plastic. “Baron Fougner’s Bar Guide: Standard Recipes for Cocktails, Mixed Drinks, Canapes” came with two choice of colors: walnut or mahogany (ours is the latter). “Baron Fougner” was actually G. Selmer Fougner (1885-1941), a journalist and columnist. From 1933 to 1941, he wrote a daily column for the New York Sun called “Along the Wine Trail” that covered wine, food, and even recipes. He also wrote several books including New York City restaurant guides and a history of his role in several “dining societies.”

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The panel on the back contains an index to the sections and kinds of drinks and food included. (Unfortunately, it didn’t photograph too well through the textured and slightly wrinkly surface.)

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Our bar guide came with a pamphlet pointing out its use, efficiency in the home bar (look, it’s spill-proof, unlike those pesky books!), and what it includes. And it’s in the original 1940s box.

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So, “cool” factor aside, there really is research value to items like these. They can clue us into popular cocktails of a time period, show us who the “authorities” in the cocktail world were, what kinds of quirky items people were collecting, and, in the case of these items, how the “home bartenders” were learning their skills. In addition to these items, we’ve also recently acquired a retractable tape measure with inches on one side and cocktail recipes on the other; a key-chain with cocktail recipes on small cards inside a metal case; a glass tube with recipes on long narrow cards (which are protected from spills by the glass); and an Art Deco era cocktail betting game (more on that one another day). It turns out collecting and researching cocktail history is even more fun than you might have guessed! If you’d like to learn more, you’re always welcome to drop by and check these items out in person–we’ll be here!

Summer (Cooking) School, Part 7: Here’s How (to Make an End of Summer Cocktail)

The “end” of summer has arrived in Blacksburg. No, it’s still a month till the solstice, but the great event has begun: move-in! Students are coming back (though, if you ask anyone in Special Collections, we don’t know how time passed so fast!) and we’re getting back into a semester way of thinking. But, there’s time for one last hurrah and one last lesson before the real classes begin. 🙂

TX951H461900z_00fc

Okay, okay, so the front cover of this small publication doesn’t tell you much. “Curb service,” by the modern definition, is  basically service from a restaurant provided to customers remaining in their parked vehicles. Or, in this cases, on their horses. The reason the cover may look a little odd in the scan is that is actually has a fuzzy fabric texture to it and it’s beginning to show a little wear. Let’s get to the fun part…

TX951H461900z_1 TX951H461900z_2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, this is Here’s How: A Handbook of Recipes of Spirituous and Non-Spirituous Drinks Gathered from Authoritative Sources. It dates from some part of the early 20th century (possible the 1930s). The back cover has a stamp from a jeweler in Allentown, PA, so it was likely something given away to promote the business (and a good drink). Some of the recipes between these two covers are drinks you’ve seen on the blog before from other historical manuals, in modern bars, or out in the ether, but sadly, we don’t get any clues as to what “authoritative sources” were actually used. Since this is our last summer cooking school lesson, I’ll be sure to point out the other page I’ve added above: the standards of measure for the recipes that follow. Not that we need follow these kinds of directions exactly–There’s a lot of fun in experimenting with proportions and substitutions…in most cases. As we’ll see below, it’s not recommended you mix vichy water with wine if you’re considering a variation on the “Kir.”

One of the interesting things about this little booklet has to do with the jewelers store information on the back (sort of). If you go looking for other copies of this little work, you will find a few, but with some differences. There are at least 3 other cataloged editions out there in academic or public libraries, but they have different places of publication and publishers–yet all of them appear to be companies or corporations of some sort. So, basically Here’s How: A Handbook of Recipes of Spirituous and Non-Spirituous Drinks Gathered from Authoritative Sources was a booklet with a set text block that a company could label with its own name as a promotional item. There aren’t any other copies digitized, so we don’t know if the front cover varies by edition. At any rate, it’s just one part of what makes this rare item even more intriguing!

When I sat down this morning to start scanning pages, I made the decision to scan the entire item. After all, it is only about 40 pages, out of copyright, and a quick scan due to its small size. I’m in the process of adding it to our digital collections site, where the entire item will be available for reading (and mixing)! In the meantime, hopefully there’s still something to strike your fancy in the pages above, whatever your tastes! UPDATE: You can view the item online here: https://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/items/show/4894!


On a related note, your usual archivist/blogger Kira will be installing a new exhibit in the Special Collections display cases over the next few days. Hopefully it will be done next Monday at the latest. It’s going to feature items in our collection relating to the history of patent medicines and bitters, and will include a bit about their role in the development of the American cocktail. It should be up for the next 4-6 weeks, so if you’re in Blacksburg and want to check it out, you can view our cases on the first floor of the library whenever the building is open!