Saturday, July 25, 2015

Imbibing History

I've spent a lifetime looking at the American experience from a variety of perspectives, most of them expected, a few of them unexpected and surprising informative. James Wondrich's revised edition of Imbibe! (2015) is one of those surprises. It was featured in a news blog post that caught my attention earlier last month so I ordered it as a Father's Day gift and finished it earlier today. The Penguin Randon House website describes it aptly:

Cocktail writer and historian David Wondrich presents the colorful, little-known history of classic American drinks–and the ultimate mixologist’s guide–in this engaging homage to Jerry Thomas, father of the American bar.
Wondrich reveals never-before-published details and stories about this larger-than-life nineteenth-century figure, along with definitive recipes for more than 100 punches, cocktails, sours, fizzes, toddies, slings, and other essential drinks, along with detailed historical and mixological notes.
The first edition, published in 2007, won a James Beard Award. Now updated with newly discovered recipes and historical information, this new edition includes the origins of the first American drink, the Mint Julep (which Wondrich places before the American Revolution), and those of the Cocktail itself. It also provides more detail about 19th century spirits, many new and colorful anecdotes and details about Thomas’s life, and a number of particularly notable, delicious, and influential cocktails not covered in the original edition, rounding out the picture of pre-Prohibition tippling.
This colorful and good-humored volume is a must-read for anyone who appreciates the timeless appeal of a well-made drink-and the uniquely American history behind it.

In time I'll enjoy some of the drinks described in Imbibe! For now I'm perfectly happy discovering mixology as a significant American contribution to western culture in much the same way we should appreciate jazz and blues. By their very nature, the roots of these experiences were not well documented. It's up to gum shoe detective historians like Wondrich to brings the stories to our attention and give them their due.

If you have an interest in history from unexpected tangents and a curiosity about authentic American drinks and their evolution, Imbibe! will be a pleasing addition to your library be it in the kitchen or the den or both.

No comments: