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Gilded Age Cocktails Cocktail Book Review

Updated: Aug 29, 2021

A good reason to grab an Old Fashioned and sit down to read.

Cocktail book review: Gilded Age Cocktails

By Cecelia Tichi

Washington Mews Books


P. 168

Ok, so not only do I enjoy a good drink or two, but I like to read, in fact I like to read a lot - and I used to write a lot of book reviews for another site, although to be fair most of those were reviews of books about b

aseball. But I haven’t read a baseball book in close to a decade, but I have read many, many cookbooks, and books on cocktails, beer and spirits.

So after reading Gilded Age Cocktails, while I was mainly looking for gin cocktail recipes, I felt I had to review it. And maybe, just maybe I’ll make cocktail book reviews a part of the regular rotation of articles on the site.

So what exactly was the Gilded Age of Cocktails? It roughly denotes a 40-50 year span from just after the Civil War unil just before World War I. It was an era that produced many of the classic cocktails that still dominat

e the cocktail scene today including Martinis, Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, Ramos Gin Fizzes, Sazeracs, and some lesser known drinks that still get ordered at the bar.

Now unlike many cocktail books that focus primarily on the recipes, in this book the recipes often take a back seat to the storys, biographies, or situations that lead to the names of specific cocktails. That’s because by today’s standards the recipes were honestly often very simple as the elevated cocktail,

was in it’s infancy, nurtured by the technological development of simple things like a steady supply of good quality ice, and the success in the industrialization of the United States during those years. Money, education, and a rising middle and upper class

created a desire for fancy drinks,and the cocktail was miles above (classwise) of ordinary spirits.

For me at least this book touched a lot of places, that I’ve been known to frequent, from the halls fo the Ivy League schools of the northeast, to the classic get aways of the rich and famous of the time including Newport, Bar Harbor, Saratoga Spring, and many more - from the east coast all the way through the gold rush towns of the west, and out to Hawaii. It adds bit of color an

d history to those places, and the role that spirits had in the lives of those living there, (or just visiting), and in the lives of famous and influential men and women of the time, including Thodore Roosevelt, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Caroline Astor, Jack London and so on.

It’s a successful look back at another time, older, but perhaps not simpler, especially for those looking to do a bit of social climbing.

But in the end it comes

back to the booze. The recipes here are historical, and interesting, although most won’t appeal to the talented mixologists of today (although there are a few gems definitely worth trying). If you look closely at the recipes, its likely you’ll know a few of them by some other names, and that you’ll see a few that are quite similar to each other.

But on the whole you’ll find while the gilded age of cocktails wasn’t really a simpler time, you’ll find quite a few of the cocktails were quite simple. That’s largely because the cocktail itself, as a art form, or statement, or just a delicious libation, was working through it’s younger years and just starting to develop.

That said, I’m going to go into the kitchen and make myself a Van Wick.

This book is wll worth a read, both for it’s historic context, and for the handful of cocktails you’ll definitely want to try to make. And if anyone decides to make a Blue Blazer, please send me the video!


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