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.
(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:
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.
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…
Beverages and Sandwiches for Your Husband’s Friends, front cover.
Beverages and Sandwiches for Your Husband’s Friends, half title
Beverages and Sandwiches for Your Husband’s Friends, whiskey and gin punches
Beverages and Sandwiches for Your Husband’s Friends, some early classic cockails
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.
One Hundred & One Beverages, compiled by May E. Southworth, front cover
One Hundred & One Beverages, title page
One Hundred & One Beverages, sample recipes
One Hundred & One Beverages, sample recipes
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.
Cocktails, Ices, Sundaes, Jellies & American Drinks, title page
Cocktails, Ices, Sundaes, Jellies & American Drinks, sample recipes
Cocktails, Ices, Sundaes, Jellies & American Drinks, sample recipes
Cocktails, Ices, Sundaes, Jellies & American Drinks, sample recipes
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!
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.
Front cover of Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails: Over 350 Cocktail Recipes (c.1929)
Title page, with frontis piece photograph of McElhone.
Harry’s New York Bar in Paris would become a hot spot for locals, American ex-pats, and international visitors. It was originally the “New York Bar” and was, literally, a bar that was dismantled in New York, shipped to Paris, and reassembled. Harry MacElhone was its first bartender and in 1923, he bought the place, adding his name. MacElhone was born in Scotland and his last name was spelled “MacElhone.” The “McElhone” in the advertisement appears to have been an error.
The book features a lot of advertisements from British companies (it was published in London, where MacElhone tended bar for some time). This would also be a relatively early appearance of rum as ingredient, which may account for the extra explanation of Bacardi’s origins.
MacElhone’s book contains classics and new (to the time) drinks, not all of which were his. The Japanese Cocktail can be traced back to Jerry Thomas and the 1860s, but MacElhone also drew on the experience of his contemporaries, attributing drinks to bartenders from other hotels & bars of the time.
Even though this was published over 60 years after the first bartenders’ guide, it still relies on some older drinks and drink classifications (flips, juleps, daisies, etc.) as well as some new drinks, like the Scofflaw. Also, the “75” Cocktail listed on this page is not the same as the “French 75,” though the two drinks *can* have gin in common, depending on how you make your French 75s.
Interestingly, ABC of Mixing Cocktails includes an index to the advertisers, but not one to the drinks (likely because the drinks are in alphabetical order).
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!
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 Forkand Spoon and Volume II Being an Exotic Drinking Book or, Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask.
Frontispiece and title page, The Gentleman’s Companion, Vol. 1, 1946
Table of contents, The Gentleman’s Companion, Vol. 1, 1946
Recipes, The Gentleman’s Companion, Vol. 1, 1946
Recipes, The Gentleman’s Companion, Vol. 1, 1946
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.
Frontispiece and title page, The Gentleman’s Companion, Vol. 2, 1946
Table of contents, The Gentleman’s Companion, Vol. 2, 1946
Recipes, The Gentleman’s Companion, Vol. 2, 1946
Recipes, The Gentleman’s Companion, Vol. 2, 1946
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.
This week, with some holidays looming, rather than feature a single item, I thought it might be more fun to do something I’ve done before (though without explicitly pointing it out)–feature variations on a single recipe. Putting aside my own reservations about this seasonal favorite, this week is all about EGGNOG! There are as many variations as there are people who make it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a short, historical tour of this culinary and cocktail treat.
As a side note, there’s actually a whole family of what we might consider eggnog drinks or “nogs” as they are sometimes referred to, which also includes things like the “Tom and Jerry,” the egg/ale flip, and zabaglione (aka zabajone aka sabayon aka zabaione, which can be either an egg-based dessert or an egg-based drink), but for the sake of simplicity, I’m sticking with the classic concept. Even with the classic, there’s plenty of ambiguity and one struggles to define what the classic recipe is. Some people describe eggnog as a milk punch (not to be confused with the more appropriately termed “milk punch” that doesn’t contain eggs) or an egg milk punch (which is accurate in this case)! Okay, before this gets any thicker than eggnog itself, let’s look at some examples…
Jerry Thomas is something of my cocktail hero and, if I had lived in his era, I would like to think we would have been cocktail buddies. I would definitely have enjoyed his spirit (and spirits!), stories, and personality! He had a handful of eggnog (or as he calls them “egg nogg”) recipes published in 1862. What they have in common is eggs (or some part thereof) and sugar. But he offers nog(g)s spiked with sherry, cider, brandy, rum, madeira, or some combination of several. Some include milk or water and while most are cold, he does include a hot variation, which we’ll see come up again shortly. If the first bartender’s manual published is this complicated about eggnog, drawing on the existing history, it’s easy to see how everyone has a version…
Harriet Anne De Salis‘ recipe includes brown sugar (not white) and ginger and cinnamon (along with nutmeg). There’s no milk, and it’s spirituous base is a combination of rum and hot beer. Hers is a hot drink. (This is a bit closer to the partial origin of eggnog–the egg flip–which also appears in her book. While I’m really not going to get into that comparison, the egg flip/ale flip is a really fascinating drink. You can read about it’s process and see it being made by food blogger and author Sarah Lohman. It involved a fire poker–seriously!)
In 1930, with Prohibition in full swing, it may seem surprising that cocktail manuals were being published in the U. S. But believe me, they were very popular (a topic I’ve covered elsewhere on the blog before). Dexter Mason’s book features a single egg nog recipe intended to serve 50 people. Mason includes the trending eggs, sugar, and nutmeg, as well as milk AND double cream. His choice of spirits: rum and whiskey. Talk about rich!
In 1952, David Embury published The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. It was popular in its one time and is still at least a well-known title to cocktail historians today. Embury not only gives us recipes, but also sage advice on the topic of nogs…
Embury’s “Individual Egg Nog” can be made with virtually any spirit (he adds port, applejack, gin, and cognac to the growing list). Like Jerry Thomas, he also has a “Baltimore Egg Nog,” but his includes cognac, rum and peach brandy (rather than brandy or rum and Madeira, as Thomas suggests). Embury also add milk and cream and uses both egg yolks AND whites. It appears to skip the nutmeg, but it’s actually listed as part of his advice for all eggnogs above–don’t skip it! He also gives us both hot and cold options.
Embury gives us five versions of eggnog and while the similarities are clear, the variations are just as telling. (And yes, I let a version of the Tom and Jerry sneak in for the curious.) There’s no one way to make eggnog, no matter what one might think. Best not to argue–just enjoy!
Even corporate sponsored pamphlets can get in on the eggnog action…
This variation is from the Bacardi corporation, so we should only be surprised if the base is anything BUT rum. However, by the the 1970s, we also see the use of pre-made eggnog, rather than homemade, as in the party version above. Or, other creative substitutions like ice cream. The Eggnog for one uses ice, which doesn’t appear in any of the previous variations (Embury is explicitly against it and while Thomas and De Salis would have had some access to ice, both avoids this addition). Even without eggs as an individual ingredient, Bacardi does include nutmeg….I’m beginning to suspect true eggnog is really just a vehicle for nutmeg consumption…
Our last examples bring us into the modern age of cocktails. These variations are from The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book (2009).
The eggnog recipes here are mixed in with some other bourbon-filled holiday treats, but the general idea is clear and it reflects some more modern craft cocktails/bartending experimentation. In the days of the appletini, chocolate martini, the cosmopolitan, and a variety of other “martinis” (don’t get me started!), it’s not surprising to see some new eggnogs, too. In this case, it’s chocolate and pistachio (as well as candy cane, pumpkin, and traditional versions on other pages). All five rely on ready-to-drink eggnog, dressed up with bourbon and some other items, but all five are also topped with nutmeg (and candy canes and whipped cream).
While I specifically went hunting through cocktail manuals of the last 150+ years, it’s also important to point out that, of course, your eggnog need not be alcoholic. The early homemade recipes published by Thomas, De Salis, Mason, and Embury can be made non-alcoholic and if you’re looking for ready-to-use, these days, it even comes dairy-free. My point with all this meandering through eggnog history is that no matter what your preferences and tastes, there’s probably an eggnog for you out there somewhere–or in your very own kitchen, waiting to be invented. Plus, it’s just really, really fun to follow the historical path of a drink with such a long history (dating back to the 1770s, at least) through time. It’s a good reminder that the contents of every glass have a story to tell and that not every path has a clear, straight evolution. Eggnog recipes are more like branches and twigs of a tree, shooting out in all directions, in variations and themes. And, like every recipe, every branch and twig ends with a nutmeg seed.
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.
Each of the remaining 23 panels contains a cocktail recipe:
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:
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.”
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.)
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.
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!