New Year’s resolutions can be boring, and tough to stick to, I’ve failed on many a resolution, even 2014’s ‘drink more bourbon’. I decided that 2018 would be different.
I love cocktails, ever since my first job as a barback in a busy Auckland bar in 1992 I’ve always been in awe of them, I suspect that like all people my age working in hospitality it has something to do with that wonderful Tom Cruise film Cocktail.
I moved to London in 1997, and was lucky enough to work at Pharmacy in Notting Hill with Dick Bradsell, the person I would credit with re-inventing cocktails in London, if not the world in the late 90’s. On starting here everything was like nothing I’d seen before, beautiful glassware, brightly coloured drinks, exotic names, amazing bar staff, lots of fresh fruit and puree’s, it was like stepping into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
I remember at an early cocktail training session with Dick asking what would be a good cocktail book to buy, he suggested David Embury’s ‘the Fine Art of Mixing Drinks’, which had been out of print for decades. I picked up my copy after a hunt, and loved how relevant, witty and opinionated it was.
We started running cocktail classes at Goat in 2013, and I soon remembered the words of David Embury on tequila halfway through a class, ‘at a pinch it might be used in a cocktail’ and ‘in general however, the only liquor I have ever tasted that I regard as worse than tequila is slivovitz’.
I started opening the books again.
What I quickly realised is that there were a lot of ‘classics’, and accompanying drinks in these books I had never tasted or had forgotten how, or never actually made. There was decades of knowledge of flavour combinations and techniques I was behind on.
And so came my idea of a new year’s resolution, in 2018 I will try a different ‘classic’ cocktail from these old books, every day for a year.
The Bon Vivants Companion or How to Mix Drinks – Jerry Thomas 1928 edition
Old Waldorf Bar Days – Albert Stevens Crockett 1931
The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks – David Embury 1953 British edition