Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipes – Literary Monday

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I often look through piles of books at used bookstores hunting for old cocktail and drinking books.  It’s not often that I actually find much, or at least much that is affordable.  But, I was lucky enough to strike gold a few weeks ago when I came across a number of books in the Complete Imbiber series that spanned the 1950’s through the early 1990’s and Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipe that was published 1936.  The books were truly amazing finds.  Not that I need anymore books but I was in heaven!

According to Gaz Reagon, an authority on cocktail history, Harman Burney “Barney” Burke was “an American barman who plied his trade in London, Paris, Berlin, and Copenhagen before returning to America after repeal”.  This fact is also alluded to by the publisher in the introduction where he states “[f]rom Piccadilly to Paris; to Berlin in Germany’s heyday; to Copenhagen and back to Paris; to Park Avenue and the New America, Burke has mixed for the connoisseurs who know their drinks and never inquire how they are mixed”.

Mr. Burke was very particular and fastidious in his instructions.  This trait shines through in his instructions from eating while drinking, whether those drinks are wine or cocktails, to the number of shakes or stirs to execute the perfect cocktail.  According to Mr. Burke, cocktails should accompany appetizers and he provides a number of appetizer recipes.  Interestingly enough, a number of these recipes call for anchovies, something that most Americans wouldn’t touch with a ten foot poll in the 21st century but that are so delicious if you give them a try. 

While reading the Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipe, I came to four realizations.  First, really good things can come in small packages – this small sized book packs quite the punch.  Second, brandy really needs to stage a comeback.  I love brandy but the brandy drinks looked incredible.  In the book, brandy was featured in the most number of recipes, followed by gin, which is enjoying a renaissance.  Third, the Long Island Ice Tea wasn’t the first drink to pack a punch.  While we know this, people often talk smack about this drink, partially because of the number of spirits used.  In the Statemen’s Treat, Mr. Burke uses six spirits and some lime juice.  While different than the modern Long Island Ice Tea, you can see that its genesis was clearly in earlier drinks.  Fourth, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  A number of Mr. Burke’s top 15 drinks rank high at the turn of the 21st century as well.

Here is the list of Mr. Burke’s top 15:

  1. Martini
  2. Manhattan
  3. Bronx
  4. Old Fashion Whiskey
  5. Sidecar
  6. Clover Club
  7. Gin Rickey
  8. Gin Fizz
  9. Bacardi Cocktail
  10. Alexander Cocktail No. 1
  11. Rock and Rye
  12. Whiskey Cocktail
  13. Sherry Cocktail
  14. Dubonnet Cocktail
  15. Champagne Cocktail

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

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