Books Have the Lowdown on Bottoms-Up

8th January 2024

The classic cocktail is back, and it has tales to tell.
Often, those tales include the storytellers themselves. Alcoholic concoctions are legendary in the literary life: "You're a rummy, but no more than most good writers are," Ernest Hemingway is said to have told F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Readers who want to imbibe the heady lore, or learn to mix the drinks favoured by their favourites, will find plenty of inspiration in books about the art of the cocktail, whether they want to inhale a hot, steaming punch like Dickens, party like a 1930s flapper, or sip a gimlet, like detective Philip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler's 1953 "The Long Goodbye."

Marlowe's gimlet, along with William Faulkner's mint julep, Carson McCullers' hot-tea concoction that was a precursor to the Long Island Ice Tea, and Fitzgerald's Jazz-Age gin rickey, provide a few of the tales in "Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide" by Mark Bailey. Illustrator Edward Hemingway is Ernest's grandson.

To get back directly to the source of Hemingway's favorite, the daiquiri, readers can savor a reprint of the 1935 "Bar La Florida Cocktails." Bar La Florida in Cuba, also called the Floridita, was where Papa drank the "Papa Doble" with friends including Spencer Tracy and Gary Cooper, Tennessee Williams, Ava Gardner and the Duke of Windsor. The Papa Hemingway Special was a daiquiri made with grapefruit juice.

Another retro reprint, Henry Craddock's "The Savoy Cocktail Book," was published in 1930. Craddock, the famous barman at the storied London hotel's American Bar, left America because of prohibition, and is said to have invented the dry martini.

The recipes range from the topical (The Charlie Lindbergh Cocktail, the Coronation Cocktail, the nonalcoholic Clayton's Temperance Cocktail) to the classics such as the Manhattan and the Sazarac, to the unusual, such as the Corn Popper.

For a true taste of Art Deco splendor, try Craddock's invention the White Lady, with lemon juice, Cointreau and dry gin.

While some might date the popularity of the cocktail to the Jazz Age, it goes back quite a bit further. A New York newspaper had a discussion of "What is a cocktail?" in 1806. The first recipe guide might have been 1862's "How to Mix Drinks; or, The Bon Vivant's Companion," which included that favorite of Dickens' stories, the punch bowl.

In "Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl," liquor historian David Wondrich celebrates the drink drunk by sailors in the 1600s, enjoyed as an old-fashioned tradition by Victorians like Dickens, and, according to Wondrich, making a comeback today as a cocktail alternative. Cheers.

Pardon the interruption

Did you know that you can become a member for free, taking your cocktail making skills up to level 11. You can save your My Bar ingredients, make tasting notes, have personalised Tried and Want to try lists and more.

More to explore

The Travelling Cocktail Drinker: The Best Bars in Singapore

In a country that is constantly evolving and developing, it is no surprise that Singapore is home to...

Perfecting the art of the Cosmopolitan cocktail

The Cosmopolitan cocktail has become an iconic drink in the world of mixology. Known for its vibrant...

London Bars Inspired by Children’s Stories

Some stories that we hear as children can capture our imaginations in such a waythat they stay with...

Bartender's top tip

Like cooking, making cocktails is a culinary art that benefits from tasting and adjusting. Before serving, taste your cocktail with a straw or spoon and adjust if necessary. Maybe it needs a touch more sweetness, a bit more acidity to brighten it up, or a dilution adjustment. Personalize each drink to your liking, and don't be afraid to stray from the recipe to create something that suits your taste perfectly.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Get tips straight into your inbox.