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19
Fix the Pumps
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2010
The cocktail renaissance has been about the rediscovery and evangelism of the history, technique, achievements, personalities, arcana and culture of roughly 200 years of American mixed drink tradition (and, to be fair, its evolutionary strains in other parts of the world). The last fifteen years has delivered a growing stream of new books on the topic. Most fall into the evangelism category, some into the rediscovery category and some are just noise. Atop the rediscovery category--the domain of scholarly work--rest a tidy handful of books that can be termed revelatory. David Wondrich's Imbibe! is a particularly prominent example, to which I would add--in no particular order--Jeff Berry's Sippin' Safari, Gary Regan's Joy of Mixology, Lowell Edmund's Martini, Straight Up, Wayne Curtis' ...and a Bottle of Rum, Dale DeGroff's Craft of the Cocktail, and Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. I'm sure I'm unintentionally omitting some peers, but I'm equally sure these are as essential reading as exists.

To this list we can now add Darcy O'Neil's Fix the Pumps. Rather than being a book about cocktails, Fix the Pumps addresses the topic of the pharmacy soda fountain, the history of which is contemporary with, closely parallel to, and frequently intersects with that of the bar and the mixed drink. As O'Neil documents, the soda fountain was the cocktail's equally reprobate and mercurial cousin. Quite simply, reading Fix the Pumps will plug a gaping hole in your perspective that you most likely didn't even know existed.

The book is concise. The core historical portion fits within about fifty pages and makes no attempt to be exhaustive. Rather, it erects a framework of essential facts with enough details to establish character before plunging into another hundred fifty pages of practical matter (e.g., how to properly produce soda water or concoct a true egg cream) and recipes for syrups, chemical additives, and other flavorings essential to the pharmacies of yore and, in many cases, adjunct to practitioners of today's cocktail renaissance.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2010
Darcy, the world's most-read cocktail blogger, finally gets this seminal work into print. The title of this review is no exaggeration: FtP is the missing link in mixology history: the entire and complete history of soft- aqnd carbonated-drinks, the lost art of the soda-jerk, what happened to bartenders during Prohibition, how narcotic and stimulant drugs got into sodas (and bar-rooms, and by extension, contemporary culture), how the stage was set for "girl drinks", Tiki and the party-drinks of the exploding 1960s singles-bar culture, and much, much more. And if that weren't enough, O'Neil includes step-by-step guides to making your own sodas of all kinds, and hundreds of formerly extinct recipes. And if THAT weren't enough, O'Neil has the temerity to be a funny, engaging and passionate author too, the bastard. No bartender can call himself a serious craftsperson if they have not read this book, and no consumer will swallow a Coke quite so carelessly after reading it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Darcy's blog has always been a favorite of mine, for its well-researched and deeply analytical information. Once again he's one step ahead of the rest of liquid culture, delving into--and bringing back the best of--the forgotten world of the drugstore soda fountain. A vividly informative book: it seems like every page contains at least one fact that's downright revelatory, completely revising the way I'd looked at a myriad of subjects. For the bartender, the chemist, the owner of a disused soda fountain, or any other enthusiast, this can be the gateway to a whole new world. Bravo, Mr. O'Neil. And thank you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2010
Entertaining book. Learned a lot about the history of sofdrinks and mineral waters.
For a proffesional bartender this is a must read.
I will certainly try some of the recipes if I can get all the ingedients.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Mr. O'Neil has done everyone who likes a good drink a great service, even those of us who aren't particularly into booze. Fix the Pumps isn't just a wonderful source of recipes and techniques for beverages, although it is certainly that. It is an important historical look at the social history of food and drink. The insight into a lost institution is superb. The instructions, the resources and the techniques he imparts are worth double the cover price.

If you like what he's written here you may be interested in the original. The Dispenser's Formulary: 2,500 Tested Recipes really does have thousands of recipes and formulae for everything in the old time soda jerk's repertoire from syrups and flips to soups and sandwiches
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2015
No one has covered this topic as thoroughly as Darcy. The slim book is a quick and engaging read that will change your view of the American soda industry, and the dozens (hundreds?) of recipes in the Appendices will keep you busy for quite a while. For the soda enthusiast, this will put the techniques and recipes of your favorite beverages within your reach. For the bartender, this will suggest a huge realm of new ingredients, techniques, and flavor combinations that are every bit as relevant to cocktails as to "Temperance beverages." A must on every drink-making bookshelf.
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As a historical study, there's plenty to enjoy here. The modern fountain drink, soda included, arose along a convoluted path, starting in the days when herbal medicine was the only medicine, and when many distinctions of what was medicine vs. food weren't so crisply drawn as they are today. That created a natural affinity with pharmacies, and with the entire gamut of herbal extracts available. Then, the American Prohibition sent an entire generation of bartenders looking for work, with soda fountains (as they were then) as the closest thing to the ex-bartenders' native habitat. Throw in the history of refrigeration, both for preserving botanicals and for chilling beverages just because people liked cold drinks. It makes for a fascinating and many-faceted heritage, much of which is now lost or nearly so.

O'Neil has done a fine job of tracing that history, and of bringing some of our grandfathers' (or great-grandfathers') flavors back to life. The book ends with hundreds of recipes scoured from sources dating back to the 1880s. Therein lay my real interest, but also some of my disappointment. I really came for the bitters recipes, and many of those offer fascinating ideas, even if I don't follow the recipes as written. Many seem baffling, as when oil of caraway or cardamom are called for - are they even sold any more? Just what were they? Other combinations inspired serious skepticism, like those involving acetic ether, tartar emetic, ammonia, and other incomprehensible or downright scary ingredients. Although O'Neil notes potential health hazards or untoward effect from some few items, others appear in many of the recipes without special mention.

So, I did get a few positive things out of this. A new appreciation of the Pure Food and Drug Act, for one, the law that chartered the FDA with making sure our food won't kill us (or at least, not quickly). For another, I was startled by variety of flavorings and other ingredients that went in the favorites of their days, many of which have gone the way of the buggy whip. In part, though, it left me comparing the variety of flavors served then and today, with today's range looking pretty pale by comparison.

-- wiredweird
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2014
A great book for all us soda and cocktail nerds. Cool back story of the old soda fountains and how they rivaled bars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2015
I have a great many home brew books...this one tops the list! Great American history too!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2015
Incredibly informative and entertaining at the same time. Great read.
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