Debating the Cocktail Canon

That’s definitely another milestone, but I still feel like I’m forgetting something obvious.

He’s got two actually: “The Ritz Paris: Mixing Drinks, A Simple Story” 2010 and “The Cocktails of the Ritz Paris” 2001 French (2003 released in English)

Agreed on the one-off (two-off). They are unique in terms of ingredients and measurement style. He’s a unique guy.

Speaking of a first of the renaissance, there is the Japanese printed “The Bartenders Manual” originally printed in 1987 and then reprinted a few times after that. It is entirely in Japanese and I waded through it with Google Translate a few years ago but I remember it being leaps about bounds ahead of its publish date.

Worth a read if you can get your hands on it. I have a later printed version so I would be curious what was added to the new version in terms of cocktails and technique. There are actually TONS of Japanese books that pre-date the English books we consider as the modern cocktail era.


That appears to be the 2011 edition (third edition, perhaps?) by Kazuo Hanasaki who seems to have been a Suntory educator.

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I’ve added these. Feel free to edit/augment.

What about the 1924 Pujol book?

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I like it. It has the first Mary Pickford (gin!) recipe and a bunch of early Cuban recipe, an Americano (vermouth + bitters) and a Alabama Fizz (or is it a South Side?). I wouldn’t consider it canonical, though. It’s riddled with errors and poorly put together. A test run for the greater work that lies ahead… :wink:

2 posts were split to a new topic: Cocktail History 101

What do we seek in these books? Are we looking for recipes, for techniques? For context and origins as depicted in the non-recipe text? Simply to put occurrences in proper historical order? Obviously, all of the above. But, thinking about the primary source materials, as the later books do a lot of the digesting for us, they fulfill different roles. Some books are big lists of recipes. Some are themselves works of history. Some are professional memoirs. One or two contain mixed drink versifying. They do different things.

I feel that many books have been included here for their recipes. But on another hand everyone loves Charles H. Baker, which is more an adventure story where every chapter ends with a cocktail instead of a moral. How many of these books are “just recipes” and how many are needed for their extra stuff?

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Regarding Mr. Boston Platinum Edition…

I know that a lot of us were contributors to this, and while I’m not sure exactly what others contributed, I know what I did… When Anthony was originally preparing the normal 2006 red-jacket edition, he reached out to me to find out what I felt could be changed. I basically responded with “where to start!”, and asked for the entire set of recipes, which he promptly sent. I went through every one, and made a variety of modifications, I removed sour mix from everything (except I think the gimlet), removed powdered sugar from everything, redistributed the “Canadian Whisky” cocktails to Bourbon and Rye when appropriate, fixed the basic recipes for several, and added in a bunch of “new” recipes from several of us (Anthony said Mr. Bostons wouldn’t allow him to list attribution).

Also… I told him that what Mr. Boston’s really needed to do, was to step a bit above simply providing a “wad-o-recipes”, and offer a little guidance as to what the “classic” recipes were to provide the neophyte reader with an idea of which drinks they perhaps should start on, as well as some more background information on them. I offered, without being asked, an example set of writeups that I thought would illustrate what I was suggesting.

Skip forward to the publication of the Platinum edition, which I hadn’t even known was coming out, and as I was browsing through the copy, as I was reading the section on Classic Cocktails (which I think is the main difference in the Platinum edition and the normal one?)… and I found myself saying… Hmmm… why does this sound familiar? Then I remembered the writeups I had sent him many months previously. He used them almost verbatim. :wink:


I agree. They also flat-out show where we came to be during the near-extinction event. I kind of want to put Bartender Magazine and Cunningham’s The Bartender’s Black Book on there. Is there a definitive reference to disco drinks?

The cocktail has now passed through two periods of rediscovery, and the first one was arguably less extreme, because cocktails marched on ably outside the U.S. during our Prohibition experiment. When we began digging back into them in the 1990s, they’d basically been out of sight for decades except for a smattering of pockets—Japan, Germany, Bilbao, etc.—most of which we (in the U.S.) weren’t aware of until we went looking.

While I’ve already added Conigliaro and Mautone to the list up top, I’ve been away from the others on your list for too long and feel too subjective about them. I need you or somebody else needs to make the case for each.

We do have a lot of recipe books; some are basically wad-o-drinks books, others more thoughtful and contextual. Some works address professionalism: Harry Johnson, Mahoney, Meehan. A few are theoretical: Jerry Thomas (sort of), Proulx (sort of), Embury, Regan. Almost everything is a trade reference until 1900, and there’s just not that much serious prose until you get to the 1930s. There are some really interesting cultural works that probably belong on this list, such as Gilbert Seldes’ The Future of Drinking (1930).

I’d add that, at the moment, the non-English representation in the list is a complete mess.

Other than the Schumann that you have on the list, I’d consider for inclusion a couple of French books.
Fernando Castellon’s Larousse des Cocktails (2004), which was probably way ahead of many English-language books at the time it was published, including on history.
Art Cocktail, by Julien Escot (2006) was also a turning point, featuring many key English drinks from the mid-90’s, and, if memory serves, some Australian too. To this day, French bartenders look for it - and they usually have to pay through the nose to get hold of a copy.
In Spain, the only candidate I can think of would be Javier de las Muelas’ Cocktails & Drinks Book (2009) although I can’t make much of a case for it - it was published when I first moved to Madrid and I can’t really attest to its relevance.

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16 posts were split to a new topic: Disco drinks, Food Magazine Drinks, Culinary Cocktails

I just got a copy of this a few weeks ago and found it to be fascinating. I don’t believe it has a recipe in it at all.

On the subject of cultural works I could see the likes of Her Foot is on the Brass Rail by Don Marquis, 1935 as well as his “Old Soak” writings being included.

Another book I have always found important is This Place on Third Avenue by John McNulty. Another book that has nothing to do with cocktails yet everything to do with drinking culture at a specific time in a specific city.

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This is always a problem with lists of drinks books: much of the coolest stuff isn’t actually in drinks books. For me, it would be inconceivable to write about drinks without a thorough knowledge of the works of P. G. Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler, which contain fully-developed aesthetics of drinking, hard boiled in the latter and, I dunno, gentlemanly in the former. McNulty’s book and Don Marquis’s and Joseph Mitchell’s have more to say about drinking in New York than the Hoffman House Bartender’s Guide does, that’s for sure. But then you run into boundary problems: once you’re roping in cultural stuff; convivial literature in general, where do you stop?


This isn’t an easy undertaking and as @martin has said its “a moving target” and @splificator “where do you stop?” We are coming at this like cocktail people :upside_down_face:. Making sure the balance is perfect-- a base of historical recipe books, with a small dose of cultural literature, and a rinse of esoteric necessity.

At this point, for the sake of getting it done, I will bow out and leave this to the professionals-- there are plenty of them here much more learned on the subject than I. This task maybe shouldn’t be open to the public at all? I doubt the Vatican would open a public forum for the arduous task of whether or not to add or remove a book to/from the biblical canon of scripture. Like a patron sitting at the bar, I will stay out of the shaking and stirring.

In the same sentiment, I would almost instead be presented the canon of cocktails ala a cocktail list at a bar and choose whether or not I will personally be ordering from it or going off the menu. Maybe pick the best and brightest of this group to lock down what should be canon privately and then open it up to the public for amendments/adjustments through a voting system or a debate on one work at a time that should be added or removed thus creating the living list. I think this is where my suggestions would be better utilized and easier to promote/defend for ratification. Creating a system for amendments to the canon would be neat…no white smoke needed.

Either way, I have enjoyed rubbing digital elbows and I am excited to see where this goes. I’ll be over in what we’re drinking having a Martini :cocktail:.

There’s no reason we have to stop. But to make things easier, I will simply start a separate list.

Well… I protest. For one thing, the people who wrote all that cultural material might have been professional writers, but they were rarely barmen. Moreover, while I have spent a lot of time with my nose in recipe books, I am poorly read in this context, otherwise. (It simply happens that what I tend to read for pleasure has seldom intersected with drinking culture.) So, you, @cocktaildoodle, are at least as qualified as I on this matter.

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I know this thread has been inactive for quite some time… I thought it could be nice to give it a little shake:

There is some evidence that tells us that Grassi was born in Montevideo, around 1890, remained here at least until 1908 and that he lived for some time in Argentina before moving to Lugano. I’m currently trying to find his birth certificate but due to the current situation with COVID-19 things take quite a bit longer than usual.

Several of the recipes that he includes in 1000 misture have something to do with either Uruguay or Argentina.

Some are related to regions: Catamarca (included in the “Richmond series”, probably from Confitería Richmond), Felkland (sic), Jujuy, Entre Ríos, River’s Plate (sic), Patagonia, Montevideo, Uruguay.

Some are related to emblematic bars and cafés in Montevideo and Buenos Aires; Tupí Nambá, two different Tortoni cocktails + a Tortoni ice cream recipe

Then there is the Zorilla de San Martín cocktail, a Uruguayan writer who appears until today in our $20 bills and the traditional San Martin…

There’s also the Hesperidina amour cocktail: Hesperidina (sort of a bitter orange liqueur/mild amaro) was the first trademark in Argentina’s history (1864) and was produced only in Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Rio de Janeiro.

He also credits many of his recipes to “San Romàn”. Francisco San Román and sons founded the Café Al Tupí Nambá in Montevideo in 1889. It is more than possible that the San Román he includes in his list of “respectable barmen” is either Francisco, his brother Severino or one of their sons. I contacted a couple of Francisco’s great grandsons and they told me they own a book that is supposed to pass from generation to generation… I might get some more precise info there. Another reason that leads me to believe that this are the right guys is that in the American San Romàn recipe he includes Bitter Puyastier, which was widely popular in Buenos Aires and Montevideo in that time. Broken bottles are currently appearing in several parts of the country and I found some import/export registries from 1870 that already include Bitter Puyastier. He might also have met Carlos Gardel and even Giaccomo Puccini in the Polo Bamba (previous café founded by the same guys) or the Tupí Nambá as Gardel used to go there and Puccini visited Montevideo in August 1905 and attended a performance of one of his operas in the Solís Theatre, located right across the street from where the Tupí Nambá was once located.

There are several other small hints, but still, no definitive answers…


I’ve added three works to the list, and credit Dr. Nicola Nice @Jspector for drawing attention to them:

Randolph, Mary
The Virginia House-wife
Washington DC: Davis and Force

Leslie, Eliza
Directions for Coookery, in its Various Branches
Philadelphia: E. L. Carey

Herrick, Christine Terhune; Harland, Marion
Consolidated Library of Modern Cooking and Household Recipes Vol. V
New York: R. J. Bodmer Company

There may be others, too, but these seemed like no-brainers.


Added the OSC, because… duh.

I added five essential soda fountain references, on consultation with @dsoneil .