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Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar Featuring the Original Formulae Hardcover – November 6, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

cofounder of the Museum of the American Cocktail, Wondrich delivers a well-researched chronicle of Professor Jerry Thomas's life and times as late 19th-century bartender extraordinaire. From gold rush saloons in San Francisco to last calls in lower Manhattan, Thomas collected material for The Bartender's Guide, the seminal 1862 collection of cocktail recipes. Wondrich offers up 100 classic cocktails from Thomas's guide and other period sources, along with 16 new drinks that recall those golden days. Old-time tools, ingredients and measurements are conveniently converted to their contemporary equivalents, as julep strainers and toddy sticks are hard to come by. Fortunately, many of the concoctions transcend time in their simplicity. General Harrison's Egg Nogg, for example, calls for hard cider, sugar, an egg and some lumps of ice. For the newly minted offerings, Julie Reiner of New York's Flatiron Lounge conjures up a Cherry Smash that includes brandied cherries, cognac and Orange Curaçao, and Wondrich weighs in with a glass of rye, simple syrup and Angostura bitters, which he calls a Tombstone. The result is a lovely homage to Thomas's indomitable spirits. B&w illus. (Nov.)
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Review

"This isn't just nostalgia or hipster, artisanal stuff or tongue-in-cheek. David Wondrich is a serious historian that recognized that an American art form had been interrupted in its prime. And it would actually take serious painstaking work to revive it...Because of him, more than because of anybody else, we are in the midst of a national renaissance, something that we by right own as a country."
--Rachel Maddow

"David Wondrich is a such an envy-producing polymath that it drives me to drink. Brilliant historian, beautiful writer, former punk rocker, absinthe-maker, mixological marvel, and perhaps, yes, even WIZARD. Plus he can grow an amazing beard. There are few people in the world I rely on to be so authoritative and so entertaining all at once, and to mix an amazing cocktail at the same time. And those few people are DAVID WONDRICH."
—John Hodgman, author of The Areas of My Expertise

"[Jerry] Thomas finally gets his due in Imbibe!....Mr. Wondrich puts the drinks in context, with their ingredients explained, their measurements accurately indicated, and their place in the overall cocktail scheme clearly mapped out. At the same time, Thomas himself appears, for the first time, as a living presence: a devotee of bare-knuckle prize fights, a flashy dresser fond of kid gloves, an art collector, a restless traveler usually carrying a fat wad of bank notes and a gold Parisian watch. A player, in short."
—William Grimes, The New York Times 

"This book will leave you shaken and, I hope, stirred. Wondrich, one of the top spirits writers in the country, delves into the rich and fascinating history of mixology in America."
USA Today 

"Imbibe brings back the delicious forgotten cocktails created by a pioneering American bon vivant....This book is a model for food history writing....[Wondrich is] always an enjoyable writer, curious, eager, mildly opinionated and with a taste for the amusing."
The Los Angeles Times 

"Cocktail connoisseurs and history buffs will find this book an essential addition to their reference libraries."
The San Francisco Chronicle 

"Wondrich offers what amounts to a history of industrial-age America writ in booze, covering everything from punches, fizzes, and sours to toddies, slings, and juleps."
Saveur, Top Ten Reads 

"How and why America rose to world preeminence in mixology is explained zestfully in Imbibe!." 
Forbes 

"With Imbibe!, David Wondrich's biography of 19-century mixologist Jerry Thomas, cocktails do the time warp." 
New York Daily News 

"Wondrich delivers a well-researched chronicle of "Professor" Jerry Thomas's life and times as late 19th-century bartender extraordinaire...a lovely homage to Thomas's indomitable spirits."
Publishers Weekly

"David Wondrich has drunk his way through two centuries of American cocktails and other mixed drinks.  He emerges to tell us, with clarity and wit, what he encountered, how it was made. and how to make it now.  In his recreations of the drinks of yesteryear, he stops at nothing, even growing his own snakeroot to make Jerry Thomas' Bitters. Thomas was called "the Professor" in his day.  If this title belongs to any living expert on the cocktail, it belongs to Wondrich."
—Lowell Edmunds, author of Martini, Straight Up
 
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Perigee Books; 10.7.2007 edition (November 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399532870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399532870
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Wondrich was born on the banks of the Monongahela and raised mostly in suburban New York City. After working as a house painter, a mattress stuffer, messenger, clerk and process server for a mob lawyer, bass player in more bands than he can count and a dozen other things, he settled down and earned a doctorate in Comparative Literature, specializing in Latin scientific poetry. That led to a job as an English professor, which he didn't like. What he did like was writing about jazz and ragtime for the Village Voice and the New York Times and about cocktails for Esquire, a job he began in 1999 and is still happily performing today. Imbibe, his 2007 tribute to Professor Jerry Thomas, has become an essential text for bartenders and cocktail geeks alike. It is the first cocktail book to win a James Beard award. Punch, his 2010 follow-up, has helped refill the flowing bowl around the world. At present he is hard at work on a big, thick reference book.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Gary Regan on November 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Imbibe is the best book ever written on the subject of cocktails and mixed drinks. Plain and simple. Best Ever.

Not only does Wondrich dispel lots of myths about Jerry Thomas, and many, many cocktails--the birth of the Sazerac, for instance--he does it with such wit, turning phrase after phrase in the manner of a master wordsmith. It's a bloody delightful read.

Buy this book for yourself, and buy this book for anyone and everyone you know. Even if they have no interest in the main subject matter--and what are you doing hanging out with people like that, anyway?--if any of your friends has the slightest interest in American social history they will be absolutely spellbound as they travel back in time with Dave and watch illustrious quaffers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries doing what they did best: Imbibing.

Wondrich also translates recipes from Thomas' books, and from other books of the same period. He takes them to pieces, examines them thoroughly, and puts them back together so that we can sip a taste of the past. Our copy of the book is already splashed with bitters . . .

Wondrich has shown us all how it should be done. Congrats, Dave.

Gary Regan
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Robert Hess on December 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The cocktail has had a glorious 200 year history, much of which unfortunately has gone unheralded for far too long. Thankfully, one of the most diligent cocktail historians of today's milieu has taken it upon himself to rectify this problem.

Using the illustrious "Jerry Thomas" (famous bartender from the mid 1800's and author of the first known bartenders guide) as a focal point, Mr. Wondrich introduces us to the birth and evolution of the cocktail as well as a variety of other categories of "mixed drinks" from that era. With insightful, and often witty explanations he steps carefully through both the drinks and the attitudes of the time which formed the foundation for all that was to follow.

Cocktail recipe books, which cram as many recipes as possible within their pages, are a dime a dozen. To truly understand the cocktail, whether you are a bartender or bar-attender, requires that you have a grasp of the history which preceded our current landscape. For this reason, this book is perhaps the most important book of its kind, and fills a huge void which has surrounded this topic for virtually its entire history.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. Swanton on May 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"...and after a Dry Martini or a Sazerac Cocktail or two, we're all cats." This beautiful, marvelous book is the best book I've read this year. It is part biography, part history and part mixology. If you enjoy the odd cocktail or two, you owe a measure of thanks to Jerry Thomas, the "professor". In the latter half of the 19th century, Jerry (now that I feel like I know the man) perfected and prodded forward the development of the cocktail. His life was interesting and productive. The book gives you many examples from his book (subtitled "the Bon-Vivant's Guide") with modern translations of the recipes. I have been experimenting with the recipes myself and have had one or two , um, slow mornings. Well worth it, however. Get the book for the history and enjoy it with a nice Saratoga Cocktail, or perhaps the "Tombstone". Just leave the vodka in the cabinet...forever.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Samuel Wells on November 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A wonderful book from cover to cover. "Imbibe!" by David Wondrich even includes la fee verte in its subtitle (from absinthe cocktail to whiskey smash, a salute in stories and drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, pioneer of the American Bar), and the drink receives reasonable coverage between the covers; the author even expresses his affection for Jade Edouard in an early passage. The Sazerac receives a sizable entry and absinthe is a common cocktail ingredient throughout the book. There are also many early American recipes included in the narration: my favorite non-absinthe drink has to be the one consumed by Ethan Allen and his crew the night before they took Fort Ticonderoga; called the "Stone Wall", it was simply equal amounts whiskey and hard cider. Ouch.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By William Wisecracker on November 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great for mixologists and budding mixologists alike. Concise and well written. Finally a well documented/researched "Professor" book. Nice collection of new takes on classic recipes from the circle of who's who of modern cocktailians. Great buy.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mong on February 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is perhaps the best cocktail book written since The Fine Art Of Mixing Drinks, astoundingly well researched (which is all to rare when writting about cocktails) and wonderfully told. Imbibe a must read for proffesional bartenders, or for those who like to fix themselves a proper drink, and think about what went into it as they enjoy their tipple. well done Mr Wondrich.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mike on May 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have to admit that I read through much of this book in one sitting. It is just that engrossing. Wondrich brings a wry and learned manner to his writing, as well as a great enthusiasm for his subject. The downside is that you'll be spending a great deal of money on spirits and barware before you'll be satisfied. ;)
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By M. J Noreen on November 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An amazing book... Art, History, English, Cocktails, David Wondrich brings his A game in an incredible amalgam of booze, bonding, and bar-tending. I only wish I had the Aristolochia serpentaria clippings.

I would give this one 10 stars if I could.
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