Today, I’m delighted to release the first major database update to Martin’s Index of 2015. Chronologically, we’re working on the early 1930s, but there’s some backfilling going on, too, and I’m realizing that future updates are likely to follow that pattern: new recipes from one or two milestone sources plus a smattering of content from more obscure sources and stragglers from earlier references.
The ostensible focus of this update is Albert Stevens Crockett’s Old Waldorf Bar Days (1931). This is a terrific book, mainly for its first half, a humorous, name-dropping recollection of life at the “big brass rail” at the Waldorf-Astoria in the early years of the 20th Century. By the time Crockett wrote this book, however, Prohibition had been in place nearly a decade and the Empire State Building was rising where the Waldorf-Astoria had once stood. This is not a book of its time, but one about a prior era.
Crockett was a writer, not a bartender. The book is fun to read, but the recipe section is a chore. The formulas are sketchy, often dubious and redundant, although many connect with the episodes in the front of the book. Worst, it’s impossible to determine the veracity of the formulas. Perhaps Crockett consulted with former Waldorf staff when compiling them, or maybe many of these recipes are merely approximations of distantly recollected tipples? It is quite possible—even likely—that Jacques Straub’s 1914 book Drinks (already well-represented in Martin’s Index) is a better reference to the repertoire of the old Waldorf. It’s even possible that Straub’s recipes are the more recent, despite being published seventeen years earlier. Still, I was able to wring out about 65 recipes that seemed worth including, and a future database update will expand on these with new drinks from Crockett’s 1935 sequel, The Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book.
Another American source examined for this update is a doozy: the second edition (1934) of G. F. Steele’s self-published My New Cocktail Book. This obscure product of Prohibition is mostly a repetition of pre-Prohibition and Prohibition-era drinks (including many from the Judge Jr. books), but includes a number of jaw-droppers, such as—perhaps—the first mixed drink calling for Tequila to appear in print, as well as a few concoctions that could be interpreted as proto-exotics—1934 being the year Don The Beachcombers opened in Hollywood. Some of these recipes may even date to the first edition (1930), and I will try to sort that out in the future.
The other new recipes in this update are from English sources: eleven from the 1929 edition of the Sideboard Manual for Gentlemen—many editions were published with varying content, so we’ll be revisiting this book series later—and fourteen from the 1930 edition of Cocktails by “Jimmy” Late of Ciro’s. Ciro’s is the London bar that Harry McElhone worked at extensively during the 1920s prior to moving on to Paris, and Ciro’s is probably where much of Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails came together. Nobody seems to know who this “Jimmy” was, but he apparently succeeded McElhone and his book ostensibly represents how Ciro’s had evolved in McElhone’s absence. In any case, the Pegu Club Cocktail certainly evolved!
Onwards! Next up is probably Patrick Gavin Duffy, Frank Meier, the Craddock-led UKBG, and maybe the Cafe Royal. There’s also the vexing problem of de Fleury’s dense and overwhelming 1700 Cocktails for the Man Behind the Bar which must be sifted through. Lots of work to do!