The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks – Literary Monday

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The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks is a modern classic.  First published in 1948, it is probably more popular today that it was when the book was initially released.  The cocktail crowd discovered this book a few years ago and fiercely battled for the limited number of used editions that would pop up on eBay, Amazon or in used bookstores.  While not quite as expensive as the original Jerry Thomas books (oh, I kick myself for being so cheap in the late 1990’s and not upping my eBay bid but the book was already over $100), it’s close.  In fact, the book is so popular, the publisher issued a new edition with Robert Hess and Audrey Saunders writing the prefaces to the book.  If this book doesn’t have cocktail credibility, I don’t know what does.

So, you may ask, who is this master mixologist and how did he come to write The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks and what does The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks teach a willing disciple.  Well, David Embury was a lawyer by trade and spent his career specializing in income tax and corporate law in a Wall Street law firm.  But, David Embury was so much more.  He was a cocktail affeciando who came of age immediately before Prohibition and then endured the drought that ensued.  At the age of 62, he wrote the book The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks as an ode to a lifetime spent studying and drinking cocktails.  

The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks was a how-to cocktail book for the 1940’s.  The book provided background information on various spirits and liqueurs, how to use them, how to shake or stir them and how to serve them.  The book delved further into classic cocktails and explored short drinks, tall drinks, party drinks and hot drinks.  In doing so, David Embury provided a blueprint for making the most common drinks of the day.  Right up our alley, David Embury also discussed the use of ratio’s in concocting a cocktail (see DOTW’s very own DIY Cocktails for a full discussion on the use of ratios to make your own libation).  But, be prepared, Mr. Embury liked his cocktails with a little more octane than we generally drink them today.  In some of the drinks where DOTW suggests a 3:1:1 ratio, Mr. Embury recommends a 8:1:1 ratio.

Get your drink on and give The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks a try.  DIY Cocktails is nice accompaniment to the The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.  Explore the cocktail culture of the mid 20th century and allow a clear master of his craft guide you. 

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