It’s been some eight years since Imbibe! was first published by the go-to guy for cocktail history, Mr. David Wondrich.
The book covers the life of “The Professor” Jerry Thomas, the nineteenth century’s original flair bartender and master mixologist, and has become a textbook of sorts for bartenders who give a damn about what they do.
We’ve interviewed Wondrich for our May issue, but here below is an excerpt on why he’s published a new edition of the book — and some of the new info he came upon.
On the reasons behind his new, updated edition of Imbibe!
About three or four years ago I started seeing that Imbibe! was being used by many bartenders as a textbook, and that got me to thinking that there’s a lot of stuff in there that’s not 100 per cent up to date, just because knowledge marches on and the world marches on. And with every passing year it got worse, so I was finally able to persuade my publisher to do something about it.
Some of things that changed? There’s a lot of historical stuff I found since the book came out, and that other people have found and that sort of changed my perspective on things, so that had to go in.
There’s things like, I found out that Jerry Thomas wrote a second book, that is now lost, but I have pretty good idea of what went in it. I found out a lot of stuff like that, histories of various cocktails — the Jack Rose, the Clover Club — so there were things like that that needed updating.
All the products I said that weren’t available in America, and most of those not anywhere else, well those are available now, so there’s that. You don’t have to make Holland gin from Irish whiskey and Plymouth Gin anymore.
When Imbibe! first came out, there was still kind of the uncertainty over whether this new cocktail revolution was going to take. You know it was still being argued. There were definitely exciting and energetic people getting into it, and they were opening bars, but not that many of those bars were open by when I was writing it. 2007, when I published it, New York had just seen PDT open, for instance, and Death & Company — those were still new bars, they weren’t the reigning orthodoxy.
The big fight was still with sour mix, cut-corner bartenders. So Imbibe! was an attempt to convince them to come back to their tradition.
For the second edition, that argument’s been won — and won convincingly. Those kinds of guys are still around but no one considers them very relevant. So a lot of the emphasis I had to move a little bit for the second edition to the people who are being too artisanal, too fussy about things. That’s another lesson you got in the 19th century, that there was a sense of proportion in these things.
Having had a look through the new edition we’re sure that, like the one before it, Imbibe! round two will attain required reading status, too.