Monday, October 9, 2017

The Cocktail Book

'The Cocktail Book', reprinted here by the British Library, first appeared in 1900, and it seems to have been the first book specifically dedicated to the cocktail (there are earlier books which cover Cocktails along with other things, this book is just Cocktails).

This edition is a nice little hardback with a smart black and gold cover which has almost certainly been designed as a stocking filler, and thought of as a bit of a curiosity, but especially after my cocktail experiments back in August (which also celebrated the BL's Crime Classics series, matching drinks to books gives a nice set of boundaries to work within!) I've found I have a lot of time for these early drinks books (Jerry Thomas' Bartenders guide, Ambrose Heath's 'Good Drinks', and Harry Craddock's 'Savoy Cocktail Book' are the others I have). They are far more than curiosities. 

The great thing about these books is that a lot of the drinks are easy to mix, there are plenty which don't call for lots of obscure and expensive ingredients, and lots of them taste good (some might not, tastes and times change). Each also have their particular strengths, for 'The Cocktail Book' it's the use of bitters.

Angostura Bitters are easy to find, most supermarkets sell them, but they're only the tip of an aromatic (and bitter) iceberg. Bitters are useful things to have around, they can transform drinks in all sorts of interesting ways, so a book that encourages their use is a good thing (it'll mostly be a case of searching them out online for most of us, but they're not particularly expensive, and go a long way). There is also a handy glossary at the back of this book which explains what the less familiar things are, and where practical what to substitute them with.

As a curiosity it's certainly interesting to see the kind of drinks that were popular in the Belle Époque, and though ingredients like acid phosphate are a challenge to source (it's available on Amazon in the U.S, but looks like it would take more searching for in the U.K) things like Café Kirsch (coffee and kirsch shaken over ice - though I prefer it warm) are both simple and appealing.

However you look at it, it's a book with plenty to offer, and well worth investigating.

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