Duck Duck Book


47 – jigger, beaker, & glass
07.8.2007, 8:03 am
Filed under: technology

Jigger, beaker, & glass : drinking around the world / Charles H. Baker, Jr.
Lanham, Md. : Derrydale Press : Distributed by National Book Network, [2001]
[MCL call number: 641.874 B167j 2001; one copy, no holds]

Imagine for a moment that absinthe was still available for legal sale, and you had some, and you wanted to know how to drink it.  You could ask a very old bartender, or a very old drinker, if you could find one of either; but at this point you might have more luck consulting a very old book about liquor and how to drink it.  I would recommend Charles H. Baker’s Jigger, Beaker, & Glass for this sort of project — it provides an astonishing catalog of libations and detailed instructions for making each one, together with a dictionary of cocktail ingredients and a huge amount of commentary and advice. 

Baker’s general advice, in particular, is worth attending to.  Of course the entire book is advice on how to chose liquor, what to mix it with and how to so mix, and of course how to drink your drink once you’ve mixed it.  But he sets aside particular important nuggets in numbered sections, such as this earnest injunction on page 10:

WORDS to the LIQUID WISE No. II, STILL further INSISTING that SHAKER & GLASSES ALWAYS BE CHILLED — ESPECIALLY when MAKING COCKTAILS for a VERY FEW GUESTS
Mixing 2 cocktails in a huge, room-temperature shaker, and pouring them into room-temperature glasses, is careless business.  The ice melts rapidly, dilutes the drink, and the whole mix warms so fast that instead of being really chilled the final outcome is also not far from room temperature. . . . A warm cocktail is like half-way objects in life — neither this nor that, and often a reflection on the judgment and discretion of those present.

Further “WORDS” on the use of Jamaica rum, choosing eggs for cocktails that require them, the spicing of hot drinks, punch terminology and garnishes, a reliable method for dealing with broken cocktail glasses, and other important subjects are peppered throughout the text.

But the bulk of the book is an encyclopedia of recipes for cocktails and other drinks made with liquor.  Hot and cold, complicated and devilishly simple, familiar and exotic, it is hard to characterize the scope and content of Baker’s recipe file.  Some drinks appear on their own:

GIN & QUININE WATER, or “GIN & TONIC” — ORIGINATED to COMBAT FEVERS, REAL or ALLEGED, & which LATER BECAME an ESTABLISHED DRINK in INDIA & the TROPICAL BRITISH EAST, & STILL LATER BECAME ACCEPTED over HERE by AMERICAN HOSTS WHO WANTED to IMPRESS FOLK with HAVING COMBED THE ORIENT
This is merely a gin highball, using dry or old Tom gin — either 1 or 1 1/2 jiggers — and filled up with chilled quinine tonic water.  All Americans, and some Britishers not so hidebound as to insist on brassy, half-warm drinks, added 2 lumps of ice, and a twist of lime peel.  We like the latter style better, but must warn all those who embrace this drink to remember it is a medicine and not primarily a stimulant only.  On more than one occasion we have temporarily showed aberration on this subject, with the result that our ears rang unmercifully and the next day we felt like Ramses II, réchauffé.  We suggest from 2 to 4 drinks of gin and tonic as being plenty for any one sitting.

And others appear in sections with their brethren — such as the “five delicious champagne opportunities” (pages 21-24), seventeen “hot helpers” (hot toddies, more or less, pages 50-60), and eight mint juleps (pages 61-69).  The drink recipes are followed by a section of serious advice (such as how “TO ALLEVIATE APPARENT DEATH from TOXIC POISONINGS, & ESPECIALLY SHOULD, in any HAPPENSTANCE, the QUALITY of the LIQUOR BE SUSPECT,” on page 171), instructions on the equipment necessary for a proper bar, a list defining the various liquors and mixers and providing recipes for many, and a very minimal index.

Truly, Jigger, Beaker, & Glass is a pleasure to read (though it does make a person thirsty) — for its careful and sometimes exotic recipes, for its attention to the details of drink-making, and for its wit.  You could pick up this book without ever intending to mix a cocktail or concoct a punch, and still find it delightful — but if you need the recipe for a Flor de Naranja, Sevillaño (also called a Spanish Orange Flower Cooler, page 35-36), or you are eager to know how to make marigold liqueur (pages 165-66); or if you need careful instruction on the differences between dry gin, Old Tom gin, Holland gin, and sloe gin (pages 185-86), you will find Baker’s book helpful as well as engaging.

 * * *

Jigger, Beaker, & Glass was originally published as volume two of:

The gentleman’s companion … By Charles H. Baker, Jr. …
New York, The Derrydale Press, 1939.
[MCL call number: R- 641 B16g: one copy reference only in two volumes]

Volume one of The Gentleman’s Companion deals with food and is subtitled The Exotic Cookery Book; or, Around the World with Knife, Fork, and Spoon; it is worth a glance as well.

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1 Comment so far
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I have a book rather like that one that I picked up years ago at The Strand. The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David A. Embury. Doubleday & Co., Inc., Garden City, NY. 1948. Here’s what he wrote about the Gin and Tonic:

“Remember that this is not merely a thirst quencher but also a tonic. It does contain real quinine, and too much quinine, while not intoxicating in the ordinary sense, nevertheless can produce a head that feels like a fully inflated balloon. Take due notice and govern yourself accordingly.”

Comment by Rebecca H.




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