Oh, folks, my dear friend Camilla has for Christmas gifted me a new edition of Charles H. Baker Jr.’s 1939 The Gentleman’s Companion, Being an Exotic Drinking Book, or, Around the World with Jigger, Beaker, & Glass. Baker was a professional American gallavanter and food & drink correspondent for Esquire and Gourmet back in the day, and Gentleman’s Companion, as with any good vintage cocktail book, reads like a Mr. Show skit about the younger years of Rich Uncle Pennybags or, not to put too fine a point on it, like John Semley parodying my own affected but well-meaning foppishness (with an added dash of casual period racism).
Take for example, a typical entry:
THE BARBADOS BUCK, Being a Fine Refreshener We Ran into One Early January Afternoon upon Introduction to the British Club that Clings to the End of the Dock at Bridgetown like a Determined Spider.
Tom Hartnett and Larry Stucky and I had been lying naked on a sugarwhite beach, talking about Gilbert & Sullivan, and about the days we used to play baseball against each other at Yale and Trinity, and then we went into town for a quick one before all the West Indies cruise passengers had to be lightered off to the Reliance anchored out there, and a friendly British Lieutenant suggested this cooler, which is also a bracer . . .
So, it being xmas eve, which, as it turns out, is the anniversary of the eve of the author’s birth (Baker, not me), and our house having no more pressing responsibilities than the roasting and hosting of a sort of bird and a few friends, respectively, we decided we should set to work sussing out some of the recommendations of the charming Mr. Baker. And why not, in the process, keep you dopes up to date in real time to profit from our self-education?
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LEFT BANK SPINE STIFFENER.
Dated Paris, 5:10am, May 6th, 1926, and well remembered, too!
Cinzano, or good Italian vermouth, 2 jiggers
Absinthe, 1 jigger
Shake with fine ice until well chilled, leaving in three teaspoons of the fine ice to keep the chill edge on.
I will admit we were a little wary of this one, but in the spirit of spine-stiffening, it seemed worth a shot. Skipped the ice because we weren’t intending to let them sit long. Well-rewarded for our bravery and enthusiasm (I speak particularly of myself, who is no great fan to start with of things overly anisey). Bright, medicinal, could perhaps benefit from a spritz of lemon juice or a bit of rind, but this is certainly going in the remembering books.