Monday, March 10, 2014
Besides dealing in archives, Rabelais Books in Biddeford, Maine, is one of a handful of places in the United States selling new, out-of-print, and rare books on food and drink. To get to the bottom of what discerning collectors of cocktail books look for I went to Biddeford to meet with Don Lindgren, who owns Rabelais with his wife Samantha. Don pulled several different types off the shelf, ranging from the 19th century grand era and art deco 20s to post Prohibition and the 50s where he said they get sort of Mad Men like.
“One of the reasons classic cocktail books are cool, is that with just a few things slightly different from your standard home bar you can recreate100 or 150-year-old cocktails,” he shared. “It’s very different than reading a 100 year old wine book, because you are never going to drink the wines that they are talking about from the 1840s – they can cost ten of thousands of dollars. But you can recreate an 1860s or 1930s cocktail and everything that evokes from their individual eras.”
Classic cocktail books can also tell you when a cocktail first appeared. “First appearances are interesting and important, and sometimes the drink appears a bit differently than you expect, or with a different name. The “Mojito” first appears in print as the “Cuban Mojo’, for example.”
A cocktail book’s design can be stunning and evocative, and the author can be notable. Was it a bartender who had some real impact, like Jerry Thomas or Albert Crockett?” Lindgren explained.
The Bordeaux Wine and Liquors Dealers Guide
First edition. 1858. $ 600.
Buried deep in the back of each is an ad for Jerry Thomas' Bartenders Guide (the first and arguably the most famous cocktail book of all time) with his name. This is likely the first mention of this top-of-the-heap cocktail book.
Old Waldorf Bar Days by Albert Stevens Crockett
First edition book from the famous hotel is a mixture of cocktail recipes and stories. $600.
Printed during Prohibition in 1931. “People think booze was driven completely underground by Prohibition,” said Lingdren. “Well, legally yes, but some of the best and most famous cocktail books were printed and published and sold during Prohibition.”
The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock
One of the great iconic cocktail books, and a masterpiece of Art-Deco book design. Authored by legendary barman Harry Craddock, several drink recipes are published for the first time. $90 for a facsimile (a modern copy of the book that recreates the original). Original editions range from $600 – $3000 depending on condition. This book was published in America during Prohibition.
Recommended Practices for Handling and Dispensing Beer from the Bishop and Babcock Sales Co of Cleveland, OH.
A small catalogue of beer equipment and cocktail recipes from 1933. $400. Lindgren points out that this book is unrecorded, meaning there are no known copies in any library collection, so it’s very rare. It was published right at the end of Prohibition when people were legally opening commercial bars and needed equipment, on the other hand people needed to learn how to drink again. “During Prohibition some people were off at the speakeasy having a blast, but a lot of Americans were home with no booze in the cupboard and all of a sudden booze is reintroduced into neighborhoods that didn’t have any bars or speakeasies, and homes can now have a little drink cupboard. But they still needed recipes,” said Lindgren.
An unusual novelty cocktail manual, bound in wooden board with leather laces, with cocktails for each astrological sign. 1940. $400.
The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David A. Embury
Considered one of the last great cocktail books, published 1948. A third edition is $450.
Bottoms Up by Ted Saucier
Published 1951. Illustrations of pinups throughout. Saucier was the publicist for the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City for almost four decades. Second revised edition, $150.
Sharon Kitchens is a neo-homesteader learning the ins and outs of country living by luck and pluck and a lot of expert advice. She writes about bees for The Huffington Post and stuff she loves on her personal blog, deliciousmusings.com.
When she is not writing, she enjoys edible gardening, reading books on food and/or thinking about food, hanging out by her beehives and patiently tracking down her chickens in the woods behind her old farmhouse.
In her blog, Sharon profiles farm families, reports on farm-based education and internships, conducts Q&A's with master beekeepers, offers tips on picking a CSA, and much more.