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The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  153 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
One part celebration, one part history, two parts manifesto, Bernard DeVoto's The Hour is a comic and unequivocal treatise on how and why we drink — properly. The Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author turns his shrewd wit on the spirits and attitudes that cause his stomach to turn and his eyes to roll — warning: this book is not for rum drinkers. DeVoto ins ...more
Hardcover, 136 pages
Published May 25th 2010 by Tin House Books (first published 1948)
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May 31, 2010 Kimley rated it really liked it
There's no doubt that Mr. DeVoto would consider me an olive-chomping barbarian, a fruity-cocktail-sipping heathen. I'm everything he despises - a woman who loves a good fruity cocktail especially if it has an umbrella or better yet a clear plastic monkey hanging on the edge of the glass by its long skinny tail! But he and I do agree on one thing which is that there is nothing better than getting together with some friends at the violet hour and having a few cocktails. And if someone is going to ...more
Christy Stewart
May 31, 2010 Christy Stewart rated it did not like it
Let's concentrate on the chapter entitled 'The Enemy,' shall we?

Mr. DeVoto, I couldn't agree with you more. The real problem isn't alcohol, it is this country's preocupation with sweets. Why, I can't count how many times I've been wandering the streets at the middle of the night, smashed on cupcakes, and raped and beat some random guy.

Now that that's out of the way, indulge me my silly feminist ideas, if you will.

I don't appreciate his comment that the reader should go into the kitchen and see w
Jun 20, 2008 Brandon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone on my list
Recommended to Brandon by: Dan Johnson
A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be caught outside on a warm spring evening by my neighbor, Dan, while I was pulling weeds. I had been gardening all day and was tired and dirty but throughly enjoying the day. He suggested Susan and I come over and have a cocktail with him and the invitation struck me perfectly. We rounded up our other neighbor, Barbara, and the four of us sat on Dan's front porch for the rest of the night watching the sun set through the trees, talking politics, listeni ...more
Sep 18, 2012 Zach rated it it was amazing
“The surest proof of the moral condition of the universe is that you can always find good whiskey if you go looking for it.” So declares Bernard DeVoto in The Hour, and I think that sentence serves as the real thesis of his manifesto. While he rails against rum and the various cocktails that were just becoming popular at the time of the book’s writing (he particularly dislikes soda as a mixer), the big point he’s making isn’t about a proper drink, but about the proper way to enjoy one. It’s call ...more
Jan 12, 2011 Jeff rated it liked it
Shelves: cult_books
The Hour of, of course, is the cocktail hour. Perhaps this would have been a better read had I a few drinks first, since, no doubt, it was written under the influence of a few.

You get the feeling when reading this that the author might have eventually reread this while sober and scratched his head wondering what exactly he had meant to say. Sort of like getting up in the middle of the night and writing something down only to wake up the next morning wondering what it meant.

Nevertheless it was a
Sam Erickson
Oct 28, 2016 Sam Erickson rated it really liked it
Sexist, obnoxious, and incredibly arrogant. The Cocktail Manifesto spews such blasphemes as calling Rum the worst blemish in American history and that the Manhattan is a sin against piety.
Still, even with hyperbolic and absurd rantings, DeVoto manages some particularly beautiful insights and descriptions of how and when to enjoy a cocktail.

It's certainly worth a read for the sake of itself.
Feb 26, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
Fantastic book, if you have a sense of humor about it. Obviously, DeVoto takes shots at all sorts of targets, and you can argue whether he hits the mark or not. But to me, I was laughing all the way through. Funniest book I've read in a while. Just don't take it too seriously, and you'll be fine. Except for his recommendations on how to make a proper martini. That's serious as a heart attack.
Oct 25, 2012 Edward rated it it was amazing
You will never again look at a Martini or think of rum the same way. Wonderfully entertaining.
Nikolas Xenophon
Sep 03, 2011 Nikolas Xenophon rated it it was amazing
I was absolutely taken by The Hour; DeVoto's writing is incredibly passionate. There is the essence of curmudgeon throughout the book, but the sarcasm is immediately evident, and makes it that much more hilarious. I would trust that he wasn't ready to start our granddaddy's war over a person making a cocktail other than the two he specified, but even if he was, his views are outlined so strongly that you have to give him credit for them! The detail he offers, with such illustrious nuance and vis ...more
Apr 09, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it
Shelves: us-of-a, americana
Bernard DeVoto's The Hour is a clarion call for adults to have a quiet hour of conversation with friends or loved ones over a good cocktail. His votive hour is right before dinner; in my household it is the hour before bedtime. I guess DeVoto would classify it more as a nightcap, but the same principle is at work. It is a time to talk and unwind, a time to be civilized as the troubles of the day recede away. DeVoto spends much of his time railing against "alien" liquors such as Scotch whiskey or ...more
Feb 01, 2014 Bill rated it it was amazing
(Actually 4.5 stars, but rounding up. Also, I read the 1951 edition, but Goodreads doesn't seem to have an entry for it.)

This is a series of four essays by the noted historian about cocktails and the cocktail hour. For DeVoto, the Martini and whiskey (bourbon and rye) are the pinnacle of American achievement, and the Martini and whiskey slug are the only two cocktails. (He'll allow you to make an Old Fashioned for a demanding guest, but no Manhattans; and don't get him started on rum.)

It's very
Jul 30, 2013 Donna rated it really liked it

After reading, “Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto”, Bernard DaVoto, Avis’s husband became as familiar to me as Julia and Avis was. His books and work were mentioned so often I was intrigued. This book was not in my library’s system and had to be requested. It came from Washington, the other side of the country! I’m in NJ. This impressed me, why I don’t know.

This was a fun book…I knew it would be. I even loved the book’s jacket. It is a short rhapsody to the cocktail….and
Jan 27, 2016 Ethan rated it really liked it
Shelves: drinking
The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto is a short tome written by Bernard DeVoto in 1948 on the proper way to enjoy cocktails. The hour of the title refers to 6:00PM, and as for cocktails, in DeVoto's view there are exactly two acceptable cocktails, a dry martini made only with gin and vermouth, and a glass of whiskey. That's it, everything is derided with DeVoto devoting the bulk of his wrath to rum in particular as well any other overly sugary drink.

A reader with modern sensibilities is likely to be
Jan 02, 2012 Steve rated it liked it
Kind of disappointing. Popular historian DeVoto (Twain, edited Lewis and Clark journals down to 1 volume, Year of Decision) gives us a short volume here on the Cocktail Hour. Cranky and opinionated, and the writing is oddly archaic, even for 1951 when it was originally published. Humorous at times, and a nice record of times past (when bars watered down their liquor!). You can buzz through this in a couple of sittings (small pages, large type, lots of white space on the page, quotes and illustra ...more
Apr 08, 2010 Tosh rated it really liked it
Reading this book you can actually smell Manhattan circ. 1953. Bernard DeVoto was a Historian, who wrote the ultimate love object (the book of course) to the serious art of drinking, and drinking well. The man has a strong hatred for the drink "Manhattan" as well as Rum. In fact he hates all sweet cocktails with a passion. And if you think you should add that olive to the martini, forget it. Cocktail is not a food, its a drink.

The great thing about the book is the packaging - all the original i
Mar 08, 2010 TinHouseBooks rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tin-house-books
"The Hour is not simply a piece of humorous cultural patriotism either. It is a manual of witchcraft, a book of spells and observances."
—Wallace Stegner, author of Angle of Repose

"In an age when all that was old seems new again, Bernard DeVoto's The Hour couldn't have made a more timely reappearance. This book reminds me of one of the joys of being an adult—cocktail hour!"—Graydon Carter

"If in the well and truly made martini DeVoto finds "water of life" and the blessing to the spirit, so also De
May 05, 2011 Katie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Katie by: James
Shelves: cocktails
This is a hilarious little book. A colorful and cranky rant, there are so many good lines in here. While there are countless more abominations of drinks nowadays, at least now I know that upsetting concoctions (and insufferable cocktail parties) have been plaguing the American people for much longer than my lifespan. While I like Manhattans and even rum, I can't argue with a nice, no-frills slug of whiskey. This is a witty and entertaining reflection on the rituals of American drinking and I'd r ...more
Nov 02, 2010 Patricia rated it it was amazing
A meditation and appreciation--no, truly, it IS a manifesto, occasionally verging on a rant--on the pure, philosophical beauty of the 6 o'clock hour and its appropriate libations. The latter number only two: whiskey (optionally with ice and/or water) and the properly made martini (gin and very dry vermouth only, never sullied with anything sweet or salty). Wonderfully written with an eloquent wit seldom found nowadays (this book was originally published in 1948). A hilarious gem of philosophy an ...more
Brittany Holmgren
Jul 06, 2014 Brittany Holmgren rated it did not like it
Though the author has an elegant way of turning a phrase and there's something almost poetic at times to this book, I cannot recommend it to anyone. The author and I have very different views on alcohol, and on whiskey. But I could agree to disagree, despite the dismissive tone to any who might disagree with him. The patronising sexism was the thing that made me give up, made me go "is it better to set this on fire, rather than pass it on to someone who would appreciate his taste in whiskey?"
Apr 28, 2011 Jon rated it really liked it
Curmudgeonly. Opinionated. Old school, when that school did not admit women, Jews, blacks, foreigners, the poor, or the handicapped, and gay was what you were after an hour of Beefeater and vermouth at 3.7 to 1. If your social sensibilities will allow it, this is enjoyable tongue in cheek or as a privileged period piece. Otherwise, put it on the back shelf with Evelyn Waugh and Rudyard Kipling, next to The Great Gatsby .
Paul Jellinek
Feb 19, 2011 Paul Jellinek rated it really liked it
A little over the top at some points, but mostly a hilarious ode to the two drinks that DeVoto considers the pinacle of the American liquor cabinet: straight American whiskey (bourbon or rye) and The Martini. (Caution: Do not read if you've recently had surgery and the stitches haven't been taken out yet.)
Apr 17, 2012 Megan rated it really liked it
Is DeVoto's The Hour sexist? Yes. Is it classist? Oh my, yes. It may or may not be the snootiest thing ever written, and in that it's kind of hilarious. I want to believe that DeVoto's nose was in the air literally the entire time he was writing, which I'm sure made operating a typewriter difficult.
Tom Holme
Jan 02, 2012 Tom Holme rated it really liked it
A devilishly clever indictment of American drinking mores (I may never look at sweet vermouth the same). While I won't dismiss the moments Devoto slides into sexist language, neither will I damn him for it like some other reviewers here seem to want to.

If you believe in the timeless elegance and beauty of a martini or slug of bourbon, then this volume might be for you.
Erin Tuzuner
May 24, 2011 Erin Tuzuner rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, food
DeVoto's language and devout seriousness to a proper cocktail is sure to put a smile on your face. He is unintentionally hilarious with his severe pronouncements and character assassinations for the more prosaic of drink requests. A fun, informative read.
Aug 27, 2013 Dan rated it it was amazing
Curmudgeonly hilarious. Though best taken with a grain of salt (buy certainly NOT grenadine or fruit juice), a must-read for whiskey enthusiasts. To those that gave a one-star rating, I would encourage you to throw out that olive, take another sip, and lighten the fuck up.

Great read!
Dec 26, 2012 Melody rated it did not like it
I picked this up on vacation because it looked amusing. And there were a few hilarious lines but most of it was sexist or boring or both. DeVoto believed in only one cocktail, the gin martini, and everything else is anathema. There, now you needn't read it.
Larry Brennan
Apr 02, 2011 Larry Brennan rated it liked it
Shelves: foodie-books
Overall, mostly interesting as an artifact of its time.

I'm interested in this because it was written by noted American historian Bernard DeVoto, the husband of Avis DeVoto who helped Julia Child publish her first book.

Robert Lindstrom
Mar 25, 2013 Robert Lindstrom rated it really liked it
Shelves: drinks
Fun read. Gets bogged down a little in the middle. Good finish.

It's funny to think that this guy spends paragraphs railing against cookbooks, their editors, and publishers. His wife was Avis Devoto, one of the primary people responsible for Julia Child's success.
Jun 01, 2010 Athena rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
Delightful book. Even though he insults rum right and left, as well as many other drinks, DeVoto makes you feel like one of the chosen by sharing his view of the cocktail hour.

I've won a copy of this book on First Reads and it sounds highly entertaining.
Feb 19, 2011 Jeff rated it it was ok
Short and to the point, but not short enough and the point was not really worth making. As a 500 word New Yorker "shouts and murmurs" humor piece, a smile. As a book, a yawn.
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Bernard Augustine DeVoto was an American historian and author who specialized in the history of the American West.
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