“Is it any wonder that mankind stands open-mouthed before the bartender, considering the mysteries and marvels of an art that borders on magic?” Thus begins the brief introduction to this slim volume. It would have been helpful if the author had actually discussed the mysteries and marvels of mixology, but alas it is a mere compendium of recipes, albeit very good ones.
Tom Bullock (1872-1964) was a man ahead of his time, and probably at least in certain powerful circles the most well-known African-American bartender of the 20th century. In fact, he is given testimonial in the book by the grandfather and great-grandfather of our 41st and 43rd POTUS (POTI?). As well, his bartending skills are discussed by yet another president who is perhaps more well-regarded, Theodore Roosevelt. You can read all about it in the book. The majority of this slender hardcover is given over to just under 175 recipes that were served by Bullock at a variety of highly regarded bars in Kentucky just prior to prohibition. Glancing through the recipes, I am immediately reminded of Jerry Thomas’ collection of recipes in his seminal “How to Mix Drinks” cocktail guide first published in 1862. Since The Ideal Bartender was published in 1917, it is clear that not too much had changed in terms of cocktails during the intervening years.
The introduction by Ian “Rum Ambassador” Burrell is poignant and upbeat. Perhaps most enlightening though, is that many of the collected recipes would be nigh impossible to make just ten years ago. Many call for Old Tom gin and absinthe, several others require obscure spirits and liqueurs like Batavia Arrack and Creme Yvette. It’s a significant sign that we have truly come full circle in the bartending world. Tom would be proud to know that he had a hand in the cocktail renaissance.
The Ideal Bartender by Tom Bullock (1917 replica) Published by Cocktail Kingdom