A Collection of Great Vintage Cocktail Books

In his 1922 book Cocktails: How to Mix Them, honorable barkeep Robert Vermeire provides the generally accepted story for how the cocktail came to be. Over a hundred years earlier in America, distressed over the loss of his prize-fighting cock, a squire offered his daughter’s hand in marriage to any man who brought the animal back alive. When a cavalry officer arrived at his door bearing the live cock in tow, the squire’s daughter, in her excitement, mixed up some drinks, blending whiskey, vermouth, bitters, and ice. The delicious concoction was christened on the spot, and the “cocktail” was born. With the holidays fast arriving, you might savor some tips from some storied barkeeps and writers. Click through for a small selection of vintage cocktail books, along with a few newer selections by writers we love, to help you get through the season of merry-making.

The Savoy Cocktail Book

While this classic of mixology by Harry Craddock offers up an elaborate recipe for the otherwise simple Sazerac, its pages are also filled with elegant illustrations and anecdotes behind the cocktails. The Savoy Hotel Special Cocktail (No. 1) tells the story, by way of footnote, of Peter, ninth Earl of Savoy, who brought 83 of the most wealthy and beautiful women to England as his wards and married them to the most powerful noblemen. In conclusion, he states, “That is why he wore armour.”

The Savoy Hotel Special Cocktail (No. 1)

1 Dash Absinthe
2 Dashes Grenadine
⅓ French Vermouth
⅔ Dry Gin

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze lemon peel on top.