A Proper Drink
With the above quote, Simonson succinctly elucidated my seeming disparate obsession with both books and booze. This was my AHA! moment where I triumphantly pointed at the book and yelled "THIS! This is the connection!" and my hairstylist said "Yeah, I really need you to sit still." Because this isn't expected behavior at a salon.And so I did. But not before I marked this page that this quote is on and tattooed it into my brain.
Ok, so it's not that remarkable to relate bookies and cocktail aficionados. It's not surprising that the Venn Diagram of the two has so much overlap. But, I've really been struggling to justify my cocktail-books-whatever blog. When I'm at a library conference it's "I have a book blog... that includes cocktails." And when I'm at a bar it's "I have a cocktail blog... that includes books." But finally finally I can write about a book that perfectly blends my two loves.
In A Proper Drink, Simonson delivers a thoroughly researched- if anecdotal- historical account of our modern cocktail Renaissance. (Like, and an index to die for, y'all- it's straight up librarian porn.) Though names may overlap and stories occasionally contradict, Simonson creates a balanced profile of the current cocktail scene and a valuable view of its antecedents.
A Proper Drink begins with the man to whom I had always given credit for bringing sexy (i.e.- the cocktail) back: “startender” Dale DeGroff. DeGroff, indeed, was instrumental for shaping our modern appreciation for a good tipple- but there were others. Working in isolation, bartenders and home hobbyists were, like DeGroff, seeking out and dusting off decades old cocktail manuals. They were championing the use of fresh fruit juice, homemade syrups and mixes, archaic and hard-to-find liqueurs, and the least likely of crucial ingredients- good ice. Slowly, and mostly thanks to the burgeoning internet, these hermetical cocktail aficionados began finding each other and forming unique bonds that can only be forged by the fires of pure artistry… and booze.
Simonson’s book focuses largely on the key players in the cocktail scenes of New York and London, but makes several pit stops in and references to other influential areas like Melbourne, Germany, San Francisco, and a place where, arguably, cocktail culture never died- New Orleans. Each section includes carefully researched and anecdotal cocktail recipes, including their (at times) dubious parentage.
This book is not for everyone, but it is certainly for me. Articulate, well indexed (a personal turn-on), interesting, and educational- Simonson takes you behind the bar to meet the legendary and infamous few to whom I lift my Hanky Panky in a toast of gratitude and awe.
There will be posts to follow with all the yummy recipes!
Simonson, R. (2016) A proper drink: The untold story of how a band of bartenders saved the civilized drinking world. New York: Ten Speed Press.