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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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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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"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."
"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."
"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!."
"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."
"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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Top Customer Reviews
The sorts of people who were heavily involved in bartending and drinking cocktails, as it turns out, aren't exactly the most honest or upstanding folks ever to walk the Earth. In part because of this, I was slightly turned off by the book. I prefer to think of innovators as obsessive nerds trying to attain technical Nirvana, rather than a sport trying to make a buck, I guess.
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.
If nothing else, like Vintage Cocktails will teach you that refrigerated non-oxidized vermouth actually tastes good (unlike a big bottle of martini & rossi left to oxidize), this will teach you the pleasures of freshly grated nutmeg and the real pros and cons of shaking vs stirring.
This book convinced me to buy a about $100 worth of equipment, including a real ice crusher - I think it might light a fire in you too.