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Bible For Mixologists: Jerry Thomas' The Bar-Tender's Guide

cover of jerry thomas' book the bar tender's guide

In the previous article on books that shaped modern mixology, we focused on Richard Cook's 1827 book Oxford Night Caps, considered to be one of the first ever publications to talk about mixing drinks and captured several popular techniques and cocktails that were relevant then and formed the roots of modern mixology. Continuing this journey of going down history's lane, this article brings to light another important publication, Jerry Thomas' The Bar-Tender's Guide which was first published in 1862.

The Book

The Bar-Tender's Guide is the very first drinks book published in the English language. It contains some of the very first references to cocktails popular today. The cocktail culture that is prevalent in these times rose due to Thomas' book. His writing happens to be an invaluable asset to any mixologist who wants to leave a mark with his skills and innovation. 

bar tender's guide jerry thomas amazon

The book includes the history of bartending and cocktails. It also throws light on the tools and techniques used by bartenders in the 19th century, nearly 200 years ago and also makes the reader ponder about their influence in today's mixology. Many of the methods mentioned in Thomas' book are applicable even today.

The book provides an idea about which cocktails were popular in America in the early 1860s. There is proper mention of cocktails known even today such as Fancy Brandy, Fancy Gin, Japanese, Manhattan, and Jersey. It also sheds information about Thomas' own experience as a notable bartender. It talks about Thomas' adaptation of British drinks such as Gin Punch by [Alexis Benoit] Soyer, Punch Jelly during his time working as a barman in the Bowling Alley Bar in London’s Cremorne Pleasure Gardens. A sample of Thomas' remarks on the Punch Jelly adaptation: "...the strength of the punch is so artfully concealed by its admixture with the gelatine, that many persons, particularly of the softer sex have been tempted to partake so plentifully of it as to render them somewhat unfit for waltzing or qua drilling after supper." The book also introduces mixologists to bottled cocktails and punch to speed up service.

jerry thomas book pn bartending

Throughout two decades, Thomas' book The Bar-Tender’s Guide was reprinted as How to Mix Drinks by Jerry 'The Professor' Thomas. It was again later retitled as How to Mix Drinks or the Bon-Vivant's Companion. Thomas' publisher printed an 1876 edition during the barman’s lifetime. He published a posthumous edition in 1887, two years after Thomas' death. This edition included numerous cocktails that were famous in the late 1880s. Today, owing to copyright laws (or lack thereof for the book) the mixology bible is available on the Internet to access and learn the rich history of bartending.

About The Author

Jerry 'The Professor' Thomas was a barman in New York City. In the 1860s, he was earning $100 a week behind the bar which is equivalent to upwards of $3,500 per week today. He is remembered as the original cocktail showman and also considered the founding father of bartending. He was well known for his cocktail, the Blue Blazer, a cocktail that contained whisky and boiling water. Thomas would set these ingredients on fire before tossing them back and forth in the containers, thereby creating a spectacle.

While it is normal to learn about spirits and cocktails and enjoy them, it is key to consume alcohol moderately. It is absolutely necessary that one serves and drinks responsibly to maintain good health and to stay out of harm's way. If you know anyone who finds it difficult to control their alcohol consumption, please refer them to a professional immediately.