Happy Hour – One From the Vault


Welcome to Happy Hour!
I am your guest host this evening and I want to talk about Professor Jerry Thomas, author of “The Bon Vivant’s Companion or How to Mix Drinks”, written in 1862, the first cocktail book ever and still available today. My copy is the seventh printing, with an introduction by Herbert Asbury [Gangs of New York] written in 1928 in a florid style, that is worth the price of the book alone, I mean, just take a look at this opening sentence.

“The Lord smiled benevolently upon the city of New Haven, Connecticut, on a stormy winter’s night in 1825, and His official tot bearer, the stork, rode the gale from Heaven and deposited a little stranger within the humble cottage home of Mr. and Mrs. William Daniel Thomas, respectable though pious people, who were ever ready to drop a coin into the collection plate or provide a fried chicken for the pastor.”

If that’s not enough to make you want to grab a cocktail and read on there are pen and ink drawings from newspapers published during the 1860 – 1880 period of famous bars and bartenders…and drinkers. And you will find plenty of recipes, from punch to syrups to Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters. Professor Jerry Thomas is credited with the invention of the Tom and Jerry and a concoction called The Blue Blazer, which involves hurling flaming whiskey from one tankard to another, try at your own peril.

Tonight, I’m going to make a Whiskey Daisy, another reason why I love this book is most of the recipes have 3 or 4 ingredients, because sometimes you don’t want to start preparing your Friday night Happy Hour cocktail on Wednesday.

Without further ado, as it appears in the book, available to read online at: https://euvs-vintage-cocktail-books.cld.bz/1929-The-Bon-Vivant-s-Companion-or-How-to-Mix-Drinks-by-Jerry-Thomas/XX/

Use small bar glass
Three dashes gum syrup*
One wineglass of Bourbon, or rye whiskey
Two dashes orgeat syrup
The juice of half a small lemon

Fill glass one-third full of shaved ice.
Shake thoroughly, strain into a large cocktail glass,
and fill up with Apollinaris** or seltzer water.

*Sugar syrup, as prepared by Professor Thomas, Fourteen pounds of loaf sugar, one gallon of water, boil together for five minutes, and add water to make it up to two gallons.
**Sparkling mineral water

Anyone else have a favorite cocktail book, vintage or otherwise?



  1. I’m more of an experimental mixologist so usually don’t use books.  I am all about Happy Hour though and on tonight’s agenda is Dank Aaron
    Followed by Holy Mountain Violent Astronomy

    • I hope you are watching some baseball while enjoying a Dank Aaron! I would totally drink that.

  2. Last day of vaca. Moms makin strawberry daiquiris. Packing up now and hitting the road early Saturday. 

    • Do you have along drive tomorrow?

      • Myrtle Beach to south jersey. Bout 9 – 10 hrs

  3. Anything with whisky. Even just a little ice and a orange slice. 

    • It depends on the whisky though. I was perfectly happy drinking Jim Beam on the rocks until I had Michter’s. Now I drink Jim Beam in mixed drinks only.

  4. Ellie made me a nice cocktail with raspberry vodka, raspberry liqueur, and some blueberries.

  5. This sounds like a book I’d like. As does the Whiskey Daisy. Thanks!

    • I hope you check it out, it’s really entertaining, and useful!

  6. This is very late but if anyone’s still reading, I used to have a book called something like “A Bachelor’s Guide to Home Entertaining.” It was published right after the war, in 1948 or so. It was phenomenal. It presumed that The Bachelor lived in a city in an apartment (not a hotel, which was common enough) and it was the housekeeper’s night off. A full 90% of the book was devoted to drinking. How to stock a bar. What to serve if hosting a “stag party” (all your male cronies). What to serve if guests brought their wives, so there would be ladies present. What to serve if you were able to lure your own lady back to your bachelor pad. There were precisely two dinner recipes, and one was for a baked chicken. In the section where your cronies are bringing their wives it talks about party snacks, like mixed nuts in a bowl and olives. It was from that book that I learned the ironclad Rule of the Three Cheeses. Serve one hard cheese, like cheddar, one medium, like Swiss cheese, and one soft, like Brie. I still follow that rule.

    • @MatthewCrawley I love stuff like that. There was a Playboy Bar Guide too, from the 50’s or 60’s?  The ladies are all in heels [HA!] and dresses [HAHA!], the men are all suave and handsome. That idealized version of adult life is dangerous, for years I thought being an adult meant swanky cocktail parties with intelligent convos, nice clothes, fancy food and beautiful surroundings. I think I pulled that off maybe once, and one of the guests threw a hissy fit because his girlfriend wanted him to wear dress slacks instead of jeans. I just don’t know the right people.

  7. @sedevilc I had another one from around the same time, put out by the Mr. Boston distillery company. They still produce these books but mine, from the Truman era, was a true gem. There must have been 100 recipes for gin martinis alone, and there’s stuff about bar etiquette, like swish vermouth around in the martini glass first, then mix your martini in a cocktail shaker and pour, and when to use olives and when to use a lemon peel. At the height of the “Mad Men” craze I was asked to help organize a fundraiser with a “Mad Men” theme. I jumped in with both feet. I made a playlist, assigned the volunteers their food contributions (I made roast beef rollups; you smear a slice of deli roast beef with a mixture or cream cheese and sour cream, roll it like a jelly roll, and slice into thirds using toothpicks to hold it all together) and worked the bar. It was a very fun but exhausting evening. We raised thousands of dollars. We requested “cocktail attire,” which for men meant suits so easy enough, but some of the women really went to town. One woman…I said to her, “How did you get your breast to do that?” “Oh, it’s a vintage wire pushup bra. I never get to wear this but it looks fun, doesn’t it?” “Well, I’m a guy, so not for me, but yes, you look phenomenal.” 

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