Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails

Darcy O'Neil :: July 20, 2009 10:33 PM

Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh has released the second edition of his influential book. The first edition was serendipitously release just as the cocktail renaissance was beginning. Some, including Dr. Cocktail, would say that his book, combined with a bunch of enthusiastic, but lost, cocktail bloggers helped pave the way for what we are now experiencing. Without Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails a lot of writers would still be quoting early editions of the Mr. Boston Bartending Guide, or possibly worse.

The first edition provided context, about the history of the cocktails, to many bloggers. It also inspired many to seek out lost bar guides and archived newspaper articles to find those forgotten cocktails, myself included.

This “revival” has benefited the whole industry. Bartenders are gaining respect (in some places) and the idea of drinking for pleasure, as opposed to getting wasted, can only benefit an industry that is viewed upon as a legalized drug ring. Once professionalism and craftsmanship are removed, it pretty much is. But, with many bars succeeding on the quality of a cocktail vs the quantity served, the idea of bars as a intoxication centers will hopefully abate.

As much as Ted Haigh thanks the pioneers, as he calls the early group of writers and bloggers, we thank him for his attention to detail and research prowess. The first edition of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails set the bar for many to aspire, and the second addition pushes it a little higher, just as many of use were within reaching distance. This new edition includes more cocktails, updated and corrected histories, beautiful photographs and more of Ted’s witty banter.

It’s doubtful that this edition will have the same impact that the first edition did, just five years ago. Back then, cocktails were, for the most part, candy coated liquid abominations. Today, in most major cities there is at least one bar serving excellent cocktails. That’s pretty good for a part-time cocktail enthusiast and a bunch of Internet weirdo's who like fine drinks. I suspect this edition will solidify the nature of the classic cocktail and be a point of reference when somebody says “is there such a thing as a good cocktail”.

Obviously, Ted and the Bloggers are not solely responsible for the cocktail renaissance. Dale Degroff, Gary Regan, Dave Wondrich, Jeff Berry, Simon Difford and too many other to name here, published books or websites that catered to a very small group of people five years ago. Today, there is significantly more interest in classic and well crafted cocktails. Also, the hundreds, and now possibly thousands, of talented bartenders who took up the banner of the classic cocktail and made it happen. It’s great to write about things, but there always needs to be people on the “pointy end of the stick” to make things happen.

So, hat’s off to Ted “Doc” Haigh, and the rest of the merry bunch of cocktail writers, bloggers and professional bartenders. In five years we have changed the way people think about cocktails, maybe not everywhere, but at least somewhere.

Finally, I have a mint condition, signed copy, of Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails for sale. When Ted signed it, I told him I’d sell it on eBay and I’d have enough to buy both of us a drink. Ok, maybe I’ll hold onto it a bit longer and in another five years I’ll be able to get four drinks out of it. Go out and buy the new edition, it’s better anyway. (Buy it at your local book store, but if you must, you can buy it from one of the mega sites)

Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails [Chapters] [Amazon]


From the Publisher

In this expanded and updated edition of Forgotten Cocktails and Vintage Spirits, historian, expert, and drink aficionado Dr. Cocktail adds another 20 fine recipes to his hand-picked collection of 80 rare-and-worth-rediscovered drink recipes, shares revelations about the latest cocktail trends, provides new resources for uncommon ingredients, and profiles of many of the cocktail world''s movers and shakers. Historic facts, expanded anecdotes, and full-color vintage images from extremely uncommon sources round out this must-have volume. For anyone who enjoys an icy drink and an unforgettable tale.

About the Author

Ted Haigh, a.k.a. Dr. Cocktail, makes his living as a graphic designer in the Hollywood movie industry and has worked on such spectacles as O Brother Where Art Thou?, American Beauty, and The Insider. He has been researching cocktails since the '80s and has been referenced by the New York Times, Esquire, the Malt Advocate, Men's Journal and writes regularly for Imbibe Magazine. He is a partner in, an encyclopedic database of cocktail knowledge and curator and designer of The Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans.

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