There’s been a trend in the last few years for bartenders to explore the roots of cocktail making and we drinkers are reaping the rewards. Home infusions and cordials are now ubiquitous and their natural, seasonal ingredients produce better flavoured and more imaginative drinks.
This fashion is still going strong, though molecular mixology (the alcoholic equivalent to Heston Blumenthal) is gaining a foothold in the London scene, with Tony Conigliaro of the awesome 69 Colebrooke Row leading the way.
I just hope when the next craze arrives, it won’t sweep all traces of these newly discovered techniques and traditions away. In spite of being just the slightest bit bored by the sameness of London menus right now, there is still lots to learn and enjoy from pre-war bar tending.
One drawback to this interest in the history of mixed drinks is the rocketing prices of vintage books – up until recently I was able to pick up second-hand copies of old books for a few quid. On the other hand, this rise has led to books in the public domain being shared online by decent, public-spirited types. Thank you cocktail nerds.
Of course, it’s much nicer to browse the actual books in your hand with their beautiful types and illustrations – and if you join the British Library you can delve into their comprehensive stocks and do just that. But in the meantime, and perhaps more practically, the following books are all available electronically.
- The Bar Tenders Guide or How to mix drinks by Jerry Thomas
- At EUVS:
- Cafe Royal Cocktail Book
- Approved Cocktails by William Tarling
- Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks by William Terrington
- New and Improved Bar Tenders Manual by Harry Johnson
- The Artistry of Mixing Drinks by Frank Meier
- Bar La Florida Cocktail Book
That still leaves plenty of books not yet in public domain that are out of print or hard to get hold of. Again, public-spirited people such as Mudpuddle books have come to the rescue with their authentic reproductions but as these have to be shipped from the States they don’t work out too cheap (especially if you’re in between jobs as I currently am).
Which is where the kind, sharing types on the Internet again come into play. Tucked away in hundreds of blogs and sites are snippets from all of these book and I’m hoping to collate together all the online recipes and extracts in a single portal for my (and possible your) convenience. Not to replace owning the title itself but as a stopgap until I do.
I’m going to kick off with Charles H Baker’s The Gentleman’s Companion.
(If anyone can recommend further online resources please add a comment).