Here’s How!

One of the few notable drink recipe publications to come out of the United States during Prohibition is a series of diminutive Here’s How! volumes attributed to one “Judge Jr.” (Probably not a real person.) These four volumes, each around 60 pages, were printed in 1927-1929 in a distinctive retro two-color letterpress style, first by the Leslie Judge Company, and later by the John Day Company.

The four books are:

  • Here’s How!, 1927
  • Here’s How! (New & Revised Edition), 1927, which contains almost entirely new content
  • Here’s How Again!, 1928
  • Noble Experiments, 1929

With a few exceptions, each page features one skeletal drink recipe introduced with some inanity like “Your own grandmother will fall for this” or “And if you don’t say this is a peach of a drink you’re ca-razy!” Most pages conclude with some equally inane witticism, often virulently sexist—the sort that once passed for white collar male cameraderie. More to the point, scofflaw references abound.

A charming peculiarity of the series is its habit of refering to rum as “Mc Carty” and gin as “Gordon water” (both winks to liquor smuggling). A helpful glossary is included at the beginning of each book.

As a whole, the recipes reek of desperation. They’re uniformly rudimentary. They exhaustively recombine the same small selection of ingredients, and a few are clearly the result of raiding the pantry in search of novelty. These are not recipes by professional bartenders. Rather, they are the improvisations of a few men (some, evidently, in publishing) committed to keeping their bit of cocktail culture alive in spite of Prohibition, and these enthusiastic volumes are the wildly elaborated journals of their private fun. Even the drink names, rendered in grandiose black letter, are obviously of the “…and what, gentlemen, shall we call this concoction?” variety.

Nevertheless, these little volumes made a lasting impression. Some of the recipes turn up in well-known later collections, notably The Savoy Cocktail Book. A few of the drinks seem to present new ideas (and are therefore included—perhaps too generously—in Martin’s Index). The books themselves are neat objects, prized by collectors, and fascinating artifacts of a particular time.