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!

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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. 🙂

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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…

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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!

Celebrate Repeal Day in 2015 with a 1933 Cocktail Guide

Repeal Day is on almost here! 82 years ago on Saturday (December 5th), the 21st amendment was ratified, giving America back the legal right to transport and import (and consume!) alcohol.

THE 21ST AMENDMENT
RATIFIED DECEMBER 5, 1933
SECTION 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

SECTION 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use there in of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

SECTION 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

It also means this is a time of year when I always put up a feature about something relating to cocktail history, something I started back in 2012 (search “repeal day” on the blog and you’ll find the three previous posts, as well as some others discussing the history of Prohibition).

For many Americans, December 5, 1933, was an exciting day. For others, it was a defeat. But, of course, the division of opinions was the cause of prohibition laws in individual states before 1919, as well as the era we call Prohibition with a capital “P.” During a 1932 campaign speech, FDR said

However we may differ as to method, we all agree that temperance is one of the cardinal virtues. In dealing with the great social problems in my own State, such as the care of the wards of the States, and in combating crime, I have had to consider most earnestly this question of temperance…But the methods adopted since the World War with the purpose of achieving a greater temperance by the forcing of Prohibition have been accompanied in most parts of the country by complete and tragic failure. I need not point out to you that general encouragement of lawlessness has resulted; that corruption, hypocrisy, crime and disorder have emerged, and that instead of restricting, we have extended the spread of intemperance.

One of the major lessons of Prohibition was that attempts to completely remove a vice from society can actually have the opposite effect, as FDR noted. It was equally important to him, though, that after the repeal of the 18th amendment, we not go back to the old ways. The late edition of the New York Times on Wednesday, December 6, 1933, had a front page article, “Prohibition Repeal Is Ratified at 5:32 P.M.; Roosevelt Asks Nation to Bar the Saloon; New York Celebrates With Quiet Restraint.” While refusing to pass federal legislation on the matter, FDR’s concern was that the repeal not result in an excessive return to the old ways. More specifically, he “asked personally for what he and his party had declined to make the subject of Federal mandate — that saloons be barred from the country…’I ask especially,’ he said, ‘that no State shall, by law or otherwise, authorize the return of the saloon, either in its old form or in some modern guise.'”

While his request wouldn’t be honored very long and bars were quick to return, after December 5th, the question of temperance and intemperance was back in the hands of the individual. And, to be quite honest, without Prohibition, the cocktail wouldn’t have evolved the way it did. After 1933, cocktails continued to develop, moving from something one had while out to something one could make at home, as ingredients were suddenly available and Prohibition-influences had expanded the idea of a cocktail and created the idea of a “mixed drink.”

There’s plenty more to say on this and more history to share, but I have promised you a feature item. We’ll save further history for another day. In the meantime, here’s some advice for The Home Bartender (1933),  whether you were mixing before December 5 that year, or not. 🙂

Driscoll has an introductory note to his little volume, which states,

The Author of this book, J. F. Driscoll, an old timer, is well experienced and versed in his profession. He has spent over twenty years in the U. S. A. and Old Mexico, as bartender, Buffet Bar, Oyster Bar, Sandwich Bar Man, and also as Waiter…He therefore knows and understands the wishes and complete desires of the American Public, those who frequent Alcoholic and Non-alcoholic drinking and dining emporiums, places that cater to the better class….I therefore hope this book agrees with your heartiest and most considerate approval…

Driscoll, like many other bartenders, appears to have spent at least part of Prohibition abroad–in this case, working in, as he puts it, “Tia Juana.” His diversity of employment is reflected by a diverse knowledge of cocktails, punches, wines, syrups, and non-alcoholic drinks. At the same time, The Home Bartender was likely published before December 5, 1933, and as a result, it’s a nod to the one place a person could legally consume alcohol…providing they hadn’t transported or imported it. (I’ll leave that puzzle to be solved another day.) So, get creative with something unfamiliar (a brandy float!) or mix up your favorite classic cocktail (toddy season is nearly upon us!) this Saturday. Cheers!

Bitters: Thinking Inside AND Outside the Glass

For those of you who follow the cocktail scene, this week (June 1-7) is “Negroni Week.” It’s a relatively new tradition from the people at Imbibe magazine that celebrates the cocktail and is a chance to give back to charity. Bars around the globe serve their own variations of the drink and donate to their favorite causes. It’s also my inspiration for this week’s blog post. (I promise there is a point to the introduction that follows, we’re just taking the winding road–Like any good cocktail, the road to a good blog post should be savored!)

The Negroni is a cocktail, like many, with a somewhat uncertain origin, though it most likely was invented in Italy in the 1910s or 1920s. While you can find all kinds of variants with different names that have developed since then (much like the Martini’s many, many variations), the classic Negroni is simple: 1/3 gin, 1/3 sweet vermouth, and 1/3 Campari. For the moment, we’re interested in Campari…sort of.  Campari is an herbal-and-fruit-based liqueur made in Italy. In other words, it’s a type of bitters. Bitters are basically botanicals pickled in water and alcohol used in small quantities to flavor cocktails. (The origin story and history of bitters are far more complex, but those are topics for another blog post.) As a cocktail ingredient, there used to be a few specific brands that were common, including the Angostura bitters you can still buy today. The rise of the craft cocktail in the last decade has led to flavors of bitters just about anyone can dream up (I can speak from personal experience, having made a few batches myself). However, it’s Angostura bitters we’re featuring this week.

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Our copy of For Home Use is from 1937, and the publication was already in its 8th edition at that point. Angostura Bitters, originally called “Aromatic Bitters” by their creator Dr. Johann Siegert, were first sold in 1824, though they wouldn’t exported beyond South America until 1830. From the book’s own pages, you’ll see that like others, Angostura bitters weren’t intended to be a cocktail ingredient (they predate the cocktail by a long shot–pun intended).

Toward the end of the publication, there are two pages of “Healthful Hints,” which take bitters into another part of the domestic sphere. The root of bitters (another pun intended) comes from more medicinal angle. One branch of the bitters evolution went in the direction of patent medicines, “cure-alls,” and the like, which were popularized in the 19th and early 20th century. But it didn’t stop there. From the cocktail glass to the dessert glass and from the soup bowl to punch bowl, Angostura bitters continue to be a versatile ingredient today.

Stay tuned for more about bitters, cocktails, and more in future posts. And, as always, if you’re in the neighborhood, pay us a visit. We love to share everything on our cocktail shelves, from Angostura bitters to recipes for Zombies.