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Imbibe! From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  916 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
A lively, historically informed, and definitive guide to classic American cocktails. Cocktail writer and historian David Wondrich presents the colorful, little-known history of classic American drinks-and the ultimate mixologist's guide-in this engaging homage to Jerry Thomas, father of the American bar. Wondrich reveals never-before-published details and stories about thi ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published November 6th 2007 by Perigee Books (first published 2007)
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Aug 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On April 3rd, 2009 I had my first ever real cocktail. Sure I'd had mixed drinks before, on the level of "Jack and Coke" or "vodka and orange juice" but on that fateful day almost three and a half years ago I sat down at the bar at the just-barely-opened Cure in New Orleans and ordered a Sazerac. I had no idea what I was asking for other than that there was a decent bit of whiskey and a hint of absinthe involved. I won't say that the skies opened up and golden light poured down because that would ...more
Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cocktails
Der verrückte Professor
Es gibt Koryphäen, die ihr Fachgebiet geprägt haben. Ihre Namen sind mit dem Gebiet auf ewig verbunden, teilweise bis zur Synonymität. Jerry Thomas ist eine dieser Koryphäen – wer sich auch nur ansatzweise mit der Wissenschaft der Mixologie auseinandersetzt, trifft ziemlich schnell auf seinen Namen. Er ist der Roger Federer der Mixkunst, der Pelé der Mischgetränke, der Muhammad Ali des Cocktails. Was machte ihn so besonders? Er war einer der ersten Bartender, die das Poten
Sep 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a fascinating read about the first "celebrity bartender" Jerry Thomas and a hands-on approach to early cocktail culture. More than just a historical depiction, it tells the story of Thomas through Thomas' own drink recipes and the history behind each. It's part salute to the cocktail and part bartenders bible. Would recommend a permanent place behind every bar for reference and cocktail list idea generator. Reading a chapter on Martinis influenced the Aviation Blonde Martini at Elev ...more
Michael Batz
Dec 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I give the content 5 stars -- it really is a wonderful historical compendium that can be relied on to try out some classic and long lost drink recipes -- but do not care much for Wondrich's writing style, which is very dense and affected. Filigreed sentences in top hats and tails may be appropriate given the topic and time period, but I find myself zoning out. I wonder if I'll ever finish it.
May 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It took me 309 days to finish this. It was a slog. The writing was at times convoluted. The required ingredients pricey and sometimes unobtainable. I suppose I learned some stuff, but I didn't enjoy it.
Dec 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book covering the early days of American cocktail mixing, writing and drinking, from the mid-1800s through the early 1900s. Lots of interesting cocktail recipes, with discussions about how they came about, what the ingredients were like and what some variations might have been. He tracks down the earliest mentions of many of them, and tries to pin down the inventors, with varying degrees of success.

I also really liked the discussion of early bar tools and what the liquor was like back then
Felisa Rosa
As far as history goes, nothing is as murky as the history of specific types of foods and beverages. Consider, for example, the chili cheese dog or the margarita. Most mixed drinks have about eighteen different people who claim to have invented them. Bullshit origin stories abound on the web, and some of these tall tales are printed with gravitas in actual reference books. I guess it makes sense. I mean who wouldn't want to lay claim on inventing the margarita?

Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to
Aug 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, culinary
9-4-13. I haven't finished but this is clearly a 5-star read: I love the history, the subject, the style of language: densely authoritative, with a lovely wit that doesn't distract from the details. I find it fascinating that our obsession for information in this age, at least as far as recipes and technique, was disregarded in theirs, in favor of imbibing rather than documenting. Perhaps you could say it was the age of living in the moment, being present and all that, but it's alcohol, so . . . ...more
Nov 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recently relocated from Pittsburgh, Pa to Leeds. Pittsburgh, during my final years there, had finally caught on to the craft cocktail craze, and I was pleasured to be a customer of some of the finest mixologists the nation had to offer. Once here, I found myself missing their delectable creations and needed to resort to shaking my own (or stirring depending on the ingredients).
This book, recommended to me by one miss Maggie Meskey (of Salt of the Earth fame). is terrific. Not only is it full o
Greg Pettit
Although this was an interesting history of bartending and specific drinks, I put it down because I was losing interest. I don't fault the book for that, just that my desire to read it waned as I went on.

The author has done considerable research, and the book is equal parts history and recipes. Perhaps it would work better as a bar companion book, where you could learn how to make a drink while also learning some historical anecdotes about it. I enjoyed that there were notes for every drink abou
Jun 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mixology
David Wondrich regales us with tales of the Professor Jerry Thomas and describes the tales and the tricks of mixology. This fascinating telling details the history of the United States and the development of this culture as uniquely from the United States. The best drinks and mixologist came from the States during the turn of the century until prohibition.

Unfortunately, my library only has one copy of this book and I waited a few months for the copy to arrive. Once here, I enjoyed the details a
John Doyle
"Imbibe" is part cultural history and part cocktail recipe reference book. I was expecting the former so the latter was distracting for me. It was interesting to learn that "old fashioned" was coined in the late 19th century to refer to cocktails made without citrus, which was first added after 1870. And who knew that Scotch became fashionable in the early 20th century when golf crossed the Atlantic from Scotland and players became enamored with all things Scottish? Apparently nostalgia and fads ...more
Zachary Olsen
Apr 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is astoundingly, and thoroughly well-researched - that's coming from a person reading it in 2016, well into the craft cocktail craze. And Wondrich is largely responsible for that - when this book first came out, many of the ingredients used in these classic cocktails were unavailable, or at least only in obscure estate sales and god knows where. Today, this book can be considered a primer to classic cocktails, but when it first came out, it must have been revolutionary. Cheers to David ...more
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An amazingly well-researched book if you're into making cocktails. I can't get over how thorough, well-done, and practical this book is. Last night I celebrated finishing by mixing up their Manhattan recipe from 1890 and i'm pretty sure its the best one I've ever had. If you're not into cocktails you'd probably be bored to tears by this book, but if you're an aspiring "mixologist" then this is a must-have, extraordinary read. Well-written, witty, and educational, I can't say enough good things a ...more
I wanna try these recipes in the style of "Julie & Julia." Except I won't have a liver if I have a tasting every night, so weekly will have to do. Sounds like a way to start my summer! Oh- my favorite parts? Learning the mysterious origins of a favorite drink- the Manhattan and hearing what the author did with fellow friends at the Professor's grave. The witty and snarky remarks made this a fun read.
Jun 09, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is much more of a historical record or reference book than a book to sit down and read cover-to-cover. Full of great information and interesting historical tidbits, it is a page turner for the aspiring mixologist, but for the casual tippler like myself, I just can't stay glued to a book that spends pages speculating on London Dry vs. Holland gins. Still, having said that, I do kind of look forward to trying my hand at a few of these recipes in the future.
May 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read the convoluted truth behind the 'classic' mixed-drinks-BS so many bar menus spout now, and try the recipes yourself. You can't lose. Wondrich is as interested in the US's foggy past as he is about drinking. He's also the only kind of perfectionist you can be behind the bar-- intent and informed.
Excellently detailed and a wonderful book. Wondrich is the best writer stylistically writing about cocktails these days, and his books are also the most detailed historically. (I wish I had his patience; on a recent attempt to research the Last Word's history, I gave up rather quickly.) I can't wait for his next book.
Dec 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book for a book club at a local wine shop and enjoyed learning so much about pre-Prohibition era cocktails. It makes a great reference for recipes and with so many spirits available now, it's getting easier to re-create the historical recipes. At the book club, we tried 5 of the recipes and I now need to go stock my bar in order to make the Saratoga!
May 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the gold standard in the field of cocktail history. On one hand, it's a modern translation of Jerry Thomas' 1862 bon vivant's companion. On the other hand, it's a well-researched history of the cocktail movement pre-prohibition. Not meant to be read as an introductory something by Dale DeGroff or Gary Regan first.
A great examination of historical drink recipes and lots of helpful tips and suggestions on which brands to use. Being a novice to drinking, I did find some of the discussion hard to follow without knowing the different kinds of liquors, but still a good book overall. Some of the recipes call for a multitude of ingredients, and being broke I can only afford a few items at a time.
Leah W
Dec 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: charming social drinkers
Recommended to Leah by: Susan
This is a fun little run-through of cocktail history (and prehistory), with dozens of recipes thrown in amongst the stories and speculation. It's a fun, easy read, well worth it for any cocktail enthusiast; it makes me thirst powerfully for some strong libations... except when it makes me woozy just to read it.
Jun 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-w
You can't call even the best recipe books really 'readable' but Wondrich has done it here. Part history of the cocktail, part recipe collection of those historic cocktails, this books is indispensable for anyone wanting to learn the foundations of cocktail creation, both from a mixological and socialogical point of view.
Murf Reeves
Aug 01, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with a passing interest in the cocktail
Recommended to Murf by: Dale Degroff's website.
I am a lover of the cocktail especially the history and its relation to the development of america, and Imbibe tells a real good history by including the creation stories, rumors and heresays that go along with the life in a bar. Imbibe also shows the family tree of various cocktails and includes a lot of the original recipes as well as contemporary counterparts we partake of today.
Mar 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thirsty nerd with a PhD in comparative lit writes this comprehensive history of the American Cocktail and pretty much knocks it out of the park. I've tried several recipes from this book and almost all of them are fantastic. It's also just a great historical read.
Feb 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable biography of both Jerry Thomas and the history of drink mixing in America. Knocked one star off just because Wondrich's writing style can grate at times. He tries a little too hard to emulate the hard-boiled speech of the late 19th/early 20th centuries.

Lots of fun for the historical perspective on cocktails, but they do start to blur many combinations of rum (or whiskey), juice and syrup can we discuss in the next 100 pages. Still fun to get to the root of what we rare drinking today.
Sep 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

As read as its gonna get. Not a huge fan of the writing style, felt like I had to work hard to get the information I really wanted. But beautifully researched and really interesting. A necessity for bartenders like myself.
Dec 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Imbibe! is a great read on how the cocktail came to be. It's factual, funny, and filled with fizzes. It's a book you can drink with your eyes, preferably while drinking a cocktail with your mouth.
Mar 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely wonderful. Wondrich writes nearly flawless prose about booze! A victory of a book.
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Born on the banks of the Monongahela. Raised in major urban centers. Ex-bass player, ex-English professor, ex-ragtime writer. Mixographer. Brooklynite. Likes port and Stilton and Artemus Ward.
More about David Wondrich...

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