In case you’d checked earlier than last week, I’ve filled our Cabinet (pun totally intended) here on the site, so you curious cats can see what lurks therein. I haven’t gotten to the Bar of Eagerness yet… since I am less proud of what’s in it… but soon!
UPDATE: Make that ‘now.’ The Cabinet is fully up to speed, warts and all.
Need a reason, or yet another reason, to read David Wondrich’s awesome book, Imbibe? Here’s an excerpt from early in the opening chapter that really highlights the approachable, yet professorial, writing style and the clarity of the message:
[On mixed drinks] They are easily abused; they can degrade lives and even destroy them. Even if appreciated in moderation, they are appreciated in surrounding that rarely lead to detached meditation on truth and beauty (if those are not the same thing) or constructive engagement with the great moral and social questions of the age.
And yet neither are they contemptible. A proper drink at the right time – one mixed with care and skill and served in a true spirit of hospitality – is better than any other made thing at giving us the illusion, at least, that we’re getting what we want from life. A cat can gaze upon a king, as the proverb goes, and after a Dry Martini or a Sazerac Cocktail or two, we’re all cats.
Well said, good sir. That second half really speaks to me, and sets a bar for the kind of drinking that I would eagerly wish upon anyone and everyone.
I feel that the name of this fancy thing bears some explanation. It also seems like a good place to start filling up all this empty space! First, some history:
My lovely wife, Elyn, and I began our amateur explorations into cocktails when we were just dating. It was about 4 years ago, and we were eager to explore this boozy world together. We would wander into liquor stores and get things that looked pretty or interesting or both. I’d been thinking of cocktails in terms of what I’d had thus far (simple highballs, White Russians, and a few unnaturally colored mixtures at local bars), and shopped accordingly.
I considered surrounding this set with mini-bottles, but a shot glass required less dusting.
We armed ourselves with a few mass-market cocktail recipe books and tried to make due with what we could find. We learned our way with a few decent liqueurs, a few affordable base spirits, but not a lot of citrus or bitters and even less sense of where to go next. Then the holidays rolled around and Elyn picked up a book for me that changed everything: Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh.
I pored over every recipe and each story on our winter vacation, swept along by the sudden avalanche of perspective. I’d been thinking of liquor, as well as cocktails, in very shallow terms. Here, there was history! There were stories behind every drink! There was humor and levity right alongside a very tangible sense of… what? Importance? Substance? The word I came to realize was written into each page and explanation was significance. Reading that book made me feel the significance of these drinks.
From there, we read Imbibe by the excellent David Wondrich, and our understanding grew and deepened. I can’t speak for Elyn, but personally I felt like I’d found a period of history that resonated with my tastes; namely, from the days of punch through Prohibition is where I think my palate belongs.
A formidable trio of resources.
Don’t get me wrong, I still completely enjoy creations more recent than 1933. But there is a simplicity and elegance to those old recipes. Just as I like learning the roots of words and watching How It’s Made, I really think you can taste the origins of modern drinks in those old recipes. In this fellow’s opinion, that is the right kind of significant drinkin’.