GSN Book Review: Hoffman House Bartender’s Guide by Charley Mahoney

image002This extremely rare paperback book has been the holy grail for many a collector of cocktail guides over the past few decades and is finally now available to a wider audience.  Originally published in 1905, this revised facsimile of the 1912 edition still holds valuable information to anyone who is seeking to learn as Charley puts it, “how to open a saloon and make it pay”.

You would think that one hundred years of business acumen and research into how to please the thirsty masses would make this guidebook obsolete, but not so.  In fact, no higher testimony is given this book than by the inestimable Jim Meehan, previously of NYC’s award-winning PDT bar who provides the introduction.  In particular are the various sections on comportment when tending bar.  Every maxim is still fitting in 2015.  “Don’t let any man go away dissatisfied, even if you lose by it”, “Don’t think because you are the owner of a saloon that you can do as you like in it”, and in particular “There are a certain number of men behind the bar who think they know it all, and who turn out drinks irrespective of the individual taste of the men most to be considered – those who pay for them and drink them”.

The recipes included within are pretty much your standard early 20th century fare, but also include many original cocktails which were submitted by the readers of the Police Gazette.  In fact, this publication was printed as a special mail order guide by the 19th century equivalent of the New York Post.  As this Wikipedia entry for the Police Gazette so eloquently states, “Ostensibly devoted to matters of interest to the police, it is a tabloid-like publication, with lurid coverage of murders, Wild West outlaws, and sport. It is well-known for its engravings and photographs of scantily clad strippers, burlesque dancers, and prostitutes, often skirting on the edge of what is legally considered obscenity.”  Bar culture would have been a natural fit for the man of the day, I suppose.

Hoffman House Bartender’s Guide by Charley Mahoney (1912 facsimile) Published by Cocktail Kingdom

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