Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails – an inspiring book

One of the books I acquired at Christmas a few years ago was Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Robert Haigh, who goes by the slightly understated title of Dr. Cocktail. But let’s not get hung up on monikers. The book is inspiring and is a must read for any budding mixologist. Especially those who are keen to know a little of heritage and provenance of the old cocktails.

Book on the history of cocktails
Recommended reading for budding mixologists

I love his outspoken views on ingredients and how to improve on accepted cocktail recipes. I feel guilty that I have had a range of vermouths for a few months now. His view, they’re no good if they’re more than a few weeks old or so once opened. More of that here.

He also stands up for the use of egg white in cocktails, for the “silky mouth feel.” Sounds great doesn’t it?

I’ve tried out a few of his recipes and notice that I’m getting through a lot of brandy, gin and orange curacao. Remember before the 40’s vodka didn’t even exist and tequila is also not mentioned. A pretty limited range of cocktail ingredients, compared with what you’d need now.

The other thing that is immediately obvious too is that old-style cocktails tend to be sippers. They’re usually strong and short. I like these types of cocktails, but I appreciate that not everyone does. I ran an event for a group of event organisers recently and we did a taste test where we pitched 2 cocktails from 3 categories : Prohibition classics v. Modern classics v. newly created ones. And for Prohibition although the French 75 scored well, the Martinez bombed. Disappointing, seeing as the Martinez is one of my top 4 cocktails. But there you have it. Unusual ingredients in the form of the Maraschino, and it’s strength doesn’t work for everyone, especially as tastes have changed. But I still like it. So there!


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