Mixing history

Neil Ridley looks at two important cocktail tomes
By Neil Ridley
Back in the 1800's the art of mixing drinks was little more than a way to mask the harsh flavours of cheap liquor. But several eminent bartenders such as New Yorker 'Professor' Jerry Thomas and later, Harry Craddock of London's Savoy Hotel went one step further to discover an array of highly complimentary flavours, changing the landscape of mixology forever.

There is no mistaking the importance of two particular books and their significance to not only the art of bartending but also to the development of social drinking culture. Jerry Thomas' The Bartender's Guide – How To Mix Drinks: A Bon Vivant's Companion originally published in 1862, was the first attempt to document the very essence of both flavour and flair within a glass. Thomas rose to the prominent position of Head Bartender at the Metropolitan Hotel in New York, by which time he started collating recipes and techniques from his travels across the USA and Europe, pioneering flamboyant bartending skills and outlandish recipes. His signature cocktail- the 'Blue Blazer' perhaps typifies the showmanship he had become celebrated for, creating an arc of flaming whisky as it was passed between two tankards. It was a skill that enabled him to earn the princely sum of $100 a week, - at the time more than the Vice President of the USA was earning.

But it was not only showmanship that Thomas excelled in. His acute knowledge of flavour led him to create, refine and champion some of the world's most enduring cocktails such as the Manhattan and later, the Martinez, which many believe was the precursor to the modern Martini.

Roughly 60 years after The Bartender's Guide...; was first published (and 40 years after Jerry Thomas has passed away) American prohibition had all but forced the cocktail culture underground into Speakeasies and the less salubrious but more prevalent, 'Blind Pigs'.

The quality of spirit nosedived, becoming more crudely and cheaply produced.London suddenly found itself in the midst of a huge influx of well-heeled Americans, thirsty for more elaborate and challenging drinks and The Savoy Hotel on The Strand became the No. 1 hotspot for the new cocktail set.Leading their way was Harry Craddock, an ambitious young American who quickly rose to the role of head bartender in the appropriately titled 'American Bar' in 1925.

Craddock's forward thinking popularised a huge number of 'mixed drinks' as they were known from the prohibition times in the US such as the Sazerac, as well as undoubtedly popularising the Dry Martini, whilst adding a more British feel to his creations, including the colonial influenced East Indian Cocktail.

By 1930, Craddock has assembled an impressive array of flavoursome recipes and first published The Savoy Cocktail Book which quantified the hedonistic and decadent times enjoyed in London's most elegant haunts.

Not only have these two bartenders' names lived on in legend, more importantly, many of their creations have survived the test of time, as well as changing fashion trends and palates.

Both books still remain in print today and will no doubt influence a whole new generation of bartenders for many years to come.

The cocktails


Mixed by Jerry Thomas


  • Two dashes of curaçao or or maraschino liqueur

  • One pony (around 30ml) of bourbon or rye whiskey

  • One small wine glass of vermouth

  • Three dashes of bitters (Angostura or The Bitter Truth's 'Jerry Thomas'bitters are excellent)

Shake with ice and serve into a claret glass.

Garnish with a quarter slice of lemon or thin piece of lemon peel.

Jerry's improved whisky cocktail


  • Two dashes of bitters

  • Three dashes of sugar syrup

  • Two dashes of maraschino liqueur

  • One dash of absinthe

  • One small piece of lemon peel, twisted to express the zest

  • One small wine glass of whisky (60ml)

Shake and serve into a cocktail glass (martini shape).
Thomas suggests moistening the rim of the glass with a piece of lemon.

Infamous Jerry Thomas Blue Blazer


  • Using two large silver plated mugs, with handles

  • One wine glass (60ml) of Scotch whisky (anything at cask strength will remain ignited for longer)

  • One wine glass of boiling water

Put the whisky and boiling water into separate mugs, igniting the whisky.
While blazing, mix both ingredients from one mug to the other several times, giving the impression of a continuous arc of liquid fire.
Sweeten with a small amount of sugar to taste and serve in a tumbler with a twist of lemon peel.

Thomas notes that "A beholder gazing for the first time upon an experienced artist compounding this beverage would naturally come to the conclusion that it was nectar for Pluto rather than Bacchus".

Sazerac Cocktail

Mixed by Harry Craddock


  • One lump of sugar

  • One dash of Angostura bitters

  • One glass of Rye or Canadian Club whisky

Stir well and strain into a cocktail glass that has been chilled.
Add a dash of Absinthe and a twist of lemon peel on top.

Up-To-Date Cocktail

Mixed by Harry Craddock


  • Two dashes Grand Marnier

  • Two dashes Bitters

  • Two measures Sherry (try a richly flavoured Oloroso or Pedro Ximénez)

  • Two measures whisky (Craddock recommends Canadian Club)