For many bartenders and craft cocktail enthusiasts today, “Imbibe!” is their bible — the book that started their quest for simple but top-quality drinks.
When David Wondrich, one of the world’s foremost authorities on cocktails and cocktail history, first published “Imbibe” in 2007, only a handful of bars around the country were paying any sort of attention to the well-made drinks explored in the book, which is both a biographical look at the life of Jerry Thomas, father of the American bar, and a cocktail recipe how-to featuring the drinks Thomas included in his 1862 “How to Mix Drinks, or the Bon Vivant’s Companion,” the world’s very first bartender’s guide.
Nowadays, of course, that’s changed. Many bars, including some in Austin like Half Step, Drink.Well or Weather Up, are now putting those very recipes front and center in their bar program or using them as inspiration for more original creations. Wondrich, whose “Imbibe,” won a James Beard Award, has decided to update the book because he recognizes that it’s become such an important tool for bartenders, their copy of it “nestled on a high shelf behind the bar.”
“If your book is being used as a textbook, then you’ve got to make sure the information in it is up to date. Otherwise, you look bad and, even worse, the people relying on you look bad,” Wondrich writes in the preface to the revised edition, which published last week.
Among the things he’s updated and revised include sections that are now irrelevant — he no longer has to try and convince people why a particular cocktail is worth making — as well as corrected errors and the addition of new information, including more Thomas anecdotes and recipes.
“Jerry Thomas intended his book to be a register of the world’s drinks, and if I could help him posthumously achieve that goal, it would be churlish to say no,” Wondrich writes in the preface. “Accordingly, among the twenty-odd drinks I’ve added to the second edition, you’ll find the Singapore Gin Sling, the Caribbean Green Swizzle, the Peruvian Pisco Sour and the Argentine-Uruguayan San Martin Cocktail, all of them dating firmly to the pre-Prohibition age.”
If you’re still waiting to get your own copy of the updated “Imbibe” (Perigree, $26.50), here’s a cocktail recipe from the book to either build up your excitement for it or slake your thirst until you get your hands on it. Either way.
With its rum and its lime juice, its syrups and liqueurs, the Knickerbocker is the spiritual progenitor of the Tiki drink. Think of it as an 1850s Mai Tai — similar drink, different island.
1/2 of a lime
2 tsp. of raspberry syrup
2 oz. Santa Cruz rum
2 tsp. of curacao
Squeeze the juice from the lime; put juice in a shaker. Add the rest of the ingredients, as well as shaved ice, and shake well. Pour into a small glass. Garnish with whatever berries are in season.
— Adapted from David Wondrich and Jerry Thomas