The Oxford Companion to Spirits & Cocktails

I’ve been writing about cocktails for 22 years and one constant feature since the very beginning has been McElhone/MacElhone confusion. It should be McElhone, of course, but I will always get it wrong at least once per article mentioning him. Thanks for catching it.

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“Amedie” misspelled as Peychaud’s middle name in the Sazerac entry.

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Bad, bad Zoot!

Which is to say, thanks!

The articles on infusion and pressure infusion need to cross reference (they are currently oblivious of each other).

Oblivious? What about fully aware of but hostile to?
Seriously, thanks–that must be corrected.

The Maraschino entry is misattributed to Sother Teague, but I wrote it.

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… and it is an interesting read!

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Well, that’s embarrassing, and of course very wrong. It is a fine entry indeeed, and I have no Idea how it got misattributed–I have François listed as the person to whom we wanted to assign it, but the entry I eventually edited somehow had Sother’s name attached and there were so many entries that had been moved around by that point that I didn’t think twice. In any case, I apologize and I will do my best to fix it as soon as possible.

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These things happen, no worries!

A ‘Note to the Reader on Measures’ is completely wrong. The US has never used Imperial Measures. US Customary Measures do share some units because they are both based on older British units. But the Imperial volume units are different to the US Customary units. The Imperial fluid ounce is smaller than than both US fluid ounces (yes there are two US fluid ounces), so any volume that is a multiple of these will be different volumes. Also, there are 20 Imperial fluid ounces in an Imperial pint. For example, an Imperial pint is approximately 18.3 US fluid ounces. (The other US fluid ounce is defined as exactly 30 ml and is used on the packaging of food, including the nutritional information.) There is a good comparison on Wikipedia


A I indicated there–but I see not clearly enough–that table is simply a set of common bartenders’ equivalents for converting the drink recipes into ounces and such, added at the last minute as the book was about to go to press. It is by no means intended as an exploration of the complexities of precisely converting English measures, whether original or reformed Imperial ones (a word I should not have used there, I’ll grant), into metric measures. I regret the confusion.

It isn’t confusing. If Imperial was replaced with US Customary, everything would be just fine. It doesn’t matter which ounce is used, US fluid, US (food) fluid, Imperial, providing one sticks within the same system. But once you stray into larger measures, pints and gallons for example, then is is really necessary to state which system is being talked about. By the way, both systems are based on divisions of their respective gallons, not multiples of ounces. The US chose the Queen Anne wine gallon of 231 cubic inches, the UK did not.
And, the whole subject is moot, except in the US. The Brits have been using a metric system for decades, except for retail sales of beer. Beer, in pubs is still sold in Imperial pints.

I know the note doesn’t read like it, but I am in fact well aware of the difference between the systems and the history behind it (I have, e.g., an extensive collection of vintage spirits measures from the US and the UK, and several other countries besides). I can only plead fatigue for writing “imperial” instead of “US,” although on the ounce level, where the table will be used, the difference is fortunately pretty negligible. If people started using it to mix cocktails by the gallon, that would be fun but the results would be in significant error.

I have seen many bartenders from Britain and other metric-system countries using ounce-calibrated jiggers. In my experience it is a much less fussy system for measuring out cocktails.

The history of distilling entry says “see Cover” re: juniper anise etc. but there is no entry for it. I’d never heard of this concept!

Ah. You have found one of our ghost references, for entries that either got cut or never got written. “Cover” is one of the latter. For those whoo don’t have the book and are yet geeky enough to be reading this, it was meant to explore the botanicals that were used in early distillation–chiefly European–not so much for their medicinal value (although that was always highlighted) but because they were cheap, available in bulk, and imparted enough flavor to cover the taste of raw spirit. Thus anise, around the Mediterranean; cumin/caraway, around the Baltic; juniper, in between; orange peel, once a ready supply was available from the New World.

Alas, this proved an entry too far once the book was being finished, and since the basics were included we decided it was one that could be cut. Still something I’d like to explore in more detail. Some other covers might include traditional ones such as raisins and mint, and modern ones such as glycerine and citric acid and whatever it is that goes into Red Stag and Dr. McGillicuddy’s.


Love it. Does the term “cover” come from distillation manuals, etc of the time, or is it a modern/your term for the practice?

I always wondered why that many people needed a juniper diarrhetic!

I got it from Alexandre Gabriel, who I believe learned it as a young distiller. It appears to have been a distillers’ term of art, at least in some parts of France; part of the traditional lore.

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