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Imbibe! Updated and Revised Edition: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar Hardcover – Illustrated, April 7, 2015
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"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
About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.1 pounds
- Hardcover : 384 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-0399172618
- ISBN-10 : 0399172610
- Dimensions : 5.73 x 1.24 x 8.53 inches
- Publisher : TarcherPerigee; Revised edition (April 7, 2015)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #9,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I purchased the hard cover copy of Imbibe as I do with all my 'work' books, since they are intended as reference material and that translates poorly to Kindle. Also they will most likely be kept in a bar so I prefer to have the sturdier option as opposed to a soft cover. The picture on the front of the book is exemplary of what you will find within it's pages: it features an old illustration of a bartender pouring a flaming drink back and forth to the amazement of his customer. This does come with a half size book jacket that adds to it's aesthetic, though I personally hate book jackets. Fortunately it isn't one of those books where the jacket is essential.
As for organization, the book can essentially be broken up into two categories: context and recipes. I found the "context" section to be the most engaging; it spans the first two chapters and about 100 pages wherein Wondrich explains who Jerry Thomas was and how his book became so influential in bartending. He also delves into American drinking culture, a segment has been instrumental in helping me to visualize and immerse myself in the time period Wondrich describes. You cannot possibly overstate how much culture Americans lost to prohibition. As someone who grew up in a relatively alcohol-free home, the world that Imbibe describes is as utterly foreign to me as my world would be to a 18th century bartender. That's not to say that the learning and context stops with the recipe section however!
In most cocktail books, when you get to the recipes section you might get a small blurb about the origins of the cocktail or serving suggestions and the like. Not so with Imbibe; it treats you to an in depth explanation of the cocktails historical context, it's most likely origin, common myths shrouding the drink and then also the recipe along with variations. For every question it answers it leaves you with five more. Now, I'm all about having more information all the time but Mr. Wondrich really pushes the boundary with this. As a learning material, this makes perfect sense. Even the recipes are formatted in an informative way. As a reference guide? Not so much... When I was recently attempting to recreate some of the eggnog recipes from the book it took upwards of 20 minutes to translate the information given into a usable recipe. On the one hand, it was very useful to me (a non-eggnog drinker) to see what the basic tenements were, but if someone is searching for a recipe book, look elsewhere. Probably the most egregious example is the Morning Glory Fizz. After giving the recipe and the likely spirits used in it Mr.Wondrich goes on to give a slight variation:
"For the equally effective Saratoga Brace Up,... use a whole egg, replace the scotch with brandy, lose the lime juice, cut the absinthe down to 2 dashes, and add a couple of dashes of Angostura" (p.137, Imbibe)
... straightforward enough, but when it's every recipe it can become somewhat strenuous.
There is certainly one place where Imbibe stands far and above all other cocktail books I've read thus far: Notable Quotes. Perhaps people just don't talk about drinking the way they used to before prohibition... perhaps in all respects our descriptions have become less 'colorful' and 'evocative'. It's a terrible loss in my opinion. No other book have I set down frequently to just take in a delightfully sassy review of someone's cocktail or untimely demise.
"He spent page after page dissecting the literary, theatrical, and political celebrities whom he served, from Sullivan and Morgan to Edwin Booth, Oscar Wilde, and Tomb Thumb... This is the world that Prohibition destroyed, a world where you could pop into a bar for a glass of something cool and find yourself standing next to, and soon conversing with, a senator, a playwright, and a sculptor of renown. The culture was convivial and the barrier to acceptance was low." (p.110, Imbibe)
Warning: this book is very long and the author uses very obscure vocabulary words to make minor points. This book is heavy on both bombast and substance.
4 stars (instead of 5) for the bombastic word choice and the fact that it is 200 pages longer than it needs to be. The same information could be conveyed using 200 pages less. The weird, hyper-literate vocabulary slows down the reading significantly.
This book is heavy on pomp and fluff. On the other hand, it represents some of the best scholarship on the topic of American Mixology between 1801 and prohibition.
Worth reading, but a hell of a slow read.