Man at bar
From an illustration in “How to Mix Drinks, or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion” by Jerry Thomas. 1862

From time to time, I would like to feature classic cocktail recipes that I find in my research. I have been fascinated by the variety and history behind some of the vintage cocktails that I have encountered – from a particularly memorable afternoon sampling absinthe for the first time at Antoine’s in New Orleans (no – I didn’t go blind), to visiting a prohibition-style cocktail bar in San Antonio, I have fond memories in my travels involving vintage libations and would like to explore the world of classic cocktail making further.

I found a particularly useful introduction to cocktails in “The Gorham Cocktail Book,” 1905.

A cocktail is an appetizer or stomach stimulant and differs from other drinks in that it is supposed to contain Bitters.

It is the purpose of this book to give the rules for the mixing of simple and well-known cocktails. As to rules for fancy cocktails there is no end, and the addition of the various ingredients for sweetening and blending of fancy cocktails has been left to the taste of the mixer.

A dry cocktail is one in which very little, if any, sweetening is used, and is best for people who are constrained as to the use of sweets.

Cocktails should always be made in a glass with cracked ice, stirred with a spoon, and sufficient ice should be used so that when the drink is served the melting of the ice will cause the drink to be at least one-third water. The finer the ice the quicker it dissolves in the liquor, and hence the colder the drink.

A cocktail should never be bottled and should always be made at the time of drinking. A bottled cocktail might be likened unto a depot sandwich – neither are fit for use except in case of necessity.

The original cocktails were all made from Gin, Whiskey or Brandy, and these are the spirits used in almost every well-known cocktail made to-day. The addition of Vermouth was the first move toward the blending of cocktails and was the initial feature that led to their popularity.

The measures referred to, namely, a mixing-glass, a jigger, and a pony, hold the following quantities:

A mixing-glass holds 12 ounces, 6 jiggers, or 24 medium size tablespoonfuls.

A jigger referred to in these rules holds 2 ounces, or 4 medium size tablespoonfuls.

A pony holds 1 ounce, or half a jigger, or 2 tablespoonfuls.

The formulas are simple, practical, easy to follow, and the ingredients are embraced within the contents of the sideboard of the average well-regulated household.

The cherry preserved in maraschino and the small green olive are often dropped in the bottom of the cocktail-glass. As to whether the cherry or olive be used, it is a matter of taste, but on general principles the cherry should go with the sweet drink and the olive with the dry. Neither the cherry nor the olive should ever be served with the drink without first learning whether it is desired or not.

An old-fashioned, yet attractive, way of serving a cocktail to ladies is the wiping of the rim of the cocktail-glass with lemon peel and then dipping the rim in powdered sugar, which leaves a frosty decoration on the rim of the glass.

Angostura Bitters may be used in place of Boker’s where mentioned in these rules, if preferred, but never more than one-half the quantity.

Orange bitters may be used in conjunction with the other bitters mentioned, or alone, and the addition of a dash or two, more or less, of these bitters is far from being objectionable, as in the case of the more pungent bitters.

The writer has no caution to give as to any extras that may be added; the only special suggestion he has to offer being-always make cocktails mild, and avoid too many bitters.

The tinkle of the ice – the delightful odor of the lemon peel – the fragrance and flavor of this ice-cold appetizer, what an apology it has been for cold soup and over-done entree!