Tradition in good taste for the holidays

If there is any holiday season that demands attention to tradition, we're in it.

With that in mind, I've been hitting the books to honor the season. The bar books, that is. Such classic cocktail bibles as "The Ideal Bartender'' (1917), "The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book'' (1935) and "The Savoy Cocktail Book'' (1937) provide fascinating looks at the society of their day as well as some great drinks. And, they make excellent last-minute gifts, available in various editions through the likes of eBay and Amazon.com.

"The Ideal Bartender" was written by Tom Bullock, an African American master bartender who in the early years of the 20th century was beloved by his customers at such upper-crust Midwestern and Southern places as the Pendennis Club in Louisville, KY, and the St. Louis Country Club in that Missouri city. His wizardry was so respected that the foreward to his book was written by George Herbert Walker, a patron of the St. Louis club and grandfather of President George Herbert Walker Bush.

The Waldorf-Astoria book is a post-Prohibition collection of pre-Prohibition drinks, honoring the bar at the storied Manhattan hotel that closed in 1929 then reopened in 1931 but without its iconic watering hole.

The Savoy book was written by Harry Craddock who reigned as head barman at The American Bar in London's elegant Savoy hotel in the 1920s and '30s where he was instrumental in transplanting the high-spirited American cocktail society to Europe.

That society, memorialized in jokes, films and stage plays, is acknowledged in each of the books. Such as this utterance by W.C. Fields: "Once during Prohibition I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.''

Incidentally, if you pick up any or all of these books, don't be surprised if some terms and ingredients are unfamiliar to you -- acid phosphate, carbonic, Calisaya, Bevo, shrubs, gum syrup and so forth. Remember how much the language and public tastes have changed since they were written. Nevertheless, it's easy to substitute an available modern ingredient for the original when necessary.

Here are samples from each of these guides to spruce up your holiday gatherings, begging with a trio of punches that were popular early in the 20th century.

From "The Ideal Bartender"

BRANDY PUNCH (serves 1)

2 teaspoons superfine sugar
1/2 fresh lemon
1 slice fresh orange
1 piece pineapple
1/2 jigger dark rum
1 1/2 jiggers brandy

Fill glass portion of cocktail shaker three-quarters full of shaved ice. Dissolve the sugar in a little water. Put juice from the half-lemon, sugar, rum and brandy into the glass with the ice. Shake very well, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with pineapple and orange.

FISH CLUB PUNCH (serves 8)

2 1/2 jiggers fresh lemon juice
4 jiggers peach brandy
2 jiggers cognac
2 jiggers jamaican rum
3 pints ice water

Pour all ingredients into a large punch bowl. Stir well and ladle into punch glasses and serve.

BLACK & TAN PUNCH (serves 10)

1 pound white sugar
Juice of six fresh lemons
1 quart Guinness Stout
1 quart champagne
Assorted fresh fruit slices

Mix the lemon juice and sugar. Pour into that mixture the champagne and stout, both ice cold. Stir gently, serve in punch glasses dressed with fruit.

From "The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book''


1 part brandy
1 part Plymouth gin
1 part French dry vermouth
1 strip of lemon peel
Club soda

Combine brandy, gin and vermouth into a coocktail tumbler with several ice cubes, stir gently, then top off with a splash of soda.


Juice of half a fresh lemon or lime
1 part raspberry syrup
1 part curacao
2 parts Jamaican rum

Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Shake, strain into a tumbler filled with fresh ice. Garnish with fruit if desired.


Whole peel of orange
Juice of one fresh orange
1 jigger whiskey
1 8-ounce bottle of ginger ale

Muddle the orangel peel in a tall glass, discard. Add remaining ingredients over ice and serve.

• From "The Savoy Cocktail Book''


1 dash fresh lemon juice
4 dashes grenadine syrup
1 part apricot brandy
1 part French dry vermouth
2 parts dry gin

Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with fresh ice. Shake vigorously, strain into a chilled cocktail glass rimmed with cocktail sugar.


1 dash orange bitters
1 teaspoon white dreme de menthe
1 part Italian sweet vermouth
1 part French dry vermouth
1 part English dry gin

Shake all ingredients well over ice, strain into cocktail glass with fresh ice.


1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash fresh orange juice
1 dash pineapple juice
1 dash fresh lemon juice
1 glass dry gin
1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar

Shake all ingredients together in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and serve.

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