Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails

We exist in a cocktail resurgence, with an abundance of professional bartenders and mixologists creating a diverse variety of cocktails. You can find martini bars that offer dozens of different types. People at home are experimenting with creating cocktails as well. New liquers are sprouting up all the time, offering new twists on classic drinks.

What are some of your favorite, unusual cocktails?

If you would like to discover 100 unusual and rare cocktails, then you should read Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie 100 Rediscovered Recipes and the Stories Behind Them by Ted Haigh (Quarry Books, July 2009, $19.99). This hardcover book, in a spiral binding with 352 pages, is a revised edition of the original which was published in 2004. It is a fun and informative look at largely forgotten cocktails.

The book begins with a short section, "Cocktail Archaeology," which is a brief history of cocktails. American cocktails are over 200 years old and the first published bartender's guide was published in 1862. So there is a lengthy history to draw from and Haigh does a great job of finding fascinating items and recipes to interest his readers.

After the history, Haigh presents 100 recipes with their origin stories as well as trivia about them. These cocktails are rarely made today, and range from the 19th century through just after WWII. Fortunately, the cocktails do not include any ingredients that are no longer available. There are some uncommon ingredients, but Haigh later provides an Appendix of resources to locate those less common items. Interspersed through the recipes are several brief articles on items such as orange bitters, absinthe, and applejack.

These cocktails have some fun names, such as The Monkey Gland, The Communist, Hanky Panky, Income Tax Cocktail, and the Mother-in-Law Cocktail. I have not previously heard of most of the cocktails. Though a few cocktails may seem familiar, such as the Georgia Mint Julep, they are not what you think. In the case of the Julep, Haigh traces its history and how it has differed over time. I noticed that many of the cocktail recipes in this book call for gin, indicative of its popularity for quite some time. In addition to the recipes, Haigh provides some cocktail advice, such as that you can change ingredient proportions to suit your own tastes.

The books contains plenty of cool, vintage pictures, enhancing the historical feel of the book. It is also well written, easy to read and filled with plenty of interesting cocktails facts. This is not a mere history book though, continuing much practical advice and all of the recipes can be made. For anyone seeking inspiration to create a new cocktail to surprise their friends, this book is a must read.

The book also contains several appendices, including a list of some common cocktail recipes, a resource guide for uncommon ingredients and a list of the "25 most influential online cocktail pioneers" with URLs and brief bios.

Check out this very fun book, and try a cocktail from the past!

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