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Straight Up or On the Rocks: The Story of the American Cocktail Hardcover – November 28, 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When a shot of single-malt Scotch just doesn't make the right preprandial libation, there's always a martini, Manhattan, or other traditional American cocktail to settle the nerves after a long day's labor. The New York Times restaurant critic, William Grimes, offers an update of his 1993 Straight Up or On the Rocks, a brief history of the cocktail, from its rise during the nation's colonial period through the invention of overwrought, fey potables at the close of the twentieth century. King of all cocktails, the martini earns a full chapter of its own. This classic combination of gin, vermouth, and olive exists in a countless array of variations of each ingredient and its relative proportion to the whole. Perhaps because of this flexibility, the martini has endured as other once equally popular cocktails have disappeared. Grimes provides formulas for martinis and for a host of other mixed drinks, making the book useful as a bar guide for dozens of classic concoctions. Grimes' sophisticated writing combines with his thorough scholarship to mirror the mixology he documents. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"Grimes ... has written a perceptivem informative and sometimes amusing account of the shifts and swings in American drinking fashions."
-The New York Times
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; Revised edition (November 28, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865476012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865476011
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #931,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David J. Loftus on January 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This slim volume offers a charming and urbane (though brief) history of what could arguably be one of America's greatest contributions to world culture.
As NY Times restaurant critic Grimes notes, cocktails turn up only fleetingly in literature -- they are everywhere and nowhere. The word itself debuted in 1806, and "bartender" arrived on the scene in 1836.
He relates delightful tales of illustrious mixers and saloons, as well as the history -- as best it can be divined -- of specific drinks from the Manhattan and the daiquiri to many lost and unlamented experiments such as the Lightning Smash, the Alabama Fog-Cutter, and the Free Silver Fizz.
Apart from anecdotes about Dickens and Washington Irving sharing a mint julep in Baltimore (1842), or the fact that Sherwood Anderson died of peritonitis brought on by the swallowing of a martini olive toothpick, Grimes's colonial pre-history of the cocktail is perhaps the most interesting part of the book. He also notes the evolution of today's standards: for example, Rangoon Ruby to Bog Fog to Cape Codder.
The text is garnished with passages from Bunuel, Ben Franklin, Dreiser, Twain, Hawthorne, O'Hara, and of course Hemingway. (Fitzgerald's Turkey Cocktail will make you laugh out loud.)
The reason I give this lovely book only 3 stars is that it's so short. There's but 126 pages of text, plus about 36 pages of cocktail recipes. That's a drawback for a stout and heavy reader like myself, but it might make this book the perfect gift for the person who does not read a lot beyond the Wall Street Journal and Forbes -- someone who truly does appreciate the cocktail in this age of Chardonnay nuts and tae bo, and might be most inclined to experiment with the 103 recommended recipes in the back.
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Format: Hardcover
Grimes traces the history of that uniquely American invention, the cocktail, from its origins in colonial times to its current revival. He is particularly entertaining when reviewing extinct drinks -- ever wonder what a shandy is? -- but the storied bartenders and venues are also a pleasure.
The second half of the book is recipes. For these, you're probably better off with a bartender's handbook.
Net -- mix yourself a drink and settle into your favorite armchair for this one.
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Format: Paperback
after writing two books about spirits (Apothecary Cocktails and the forthcoming Whiskey Cocktails) I've found that most cocktail books are boring at best. Bill's book, Straight Up or On the Rocks is a refreshing and thirst quenching look at the modern cocktails as a historian would approach the topic. Hat's off to a well written book that taught me something!
cheers! Warren Bobrow
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Format: Paperback
This is a great book. My favorite kind of history book. It doesn't take itself too seriously, but presents accessible information effectively.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I gave them as gifts to a professional Bartender and is raving about the information he is gaining.
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