Today I came across an interesting bit of literature while researching the class I’m teaching tonight at the Brooklyn Brainery, What Dickens Drank: Historic Summer Cocktails. It’s a passage from Transatlantic Travels, by Captain J. E. Alexander, an English tourist in America in 1833. Writing about travels in America became quite popular in the 1840s, and several books (including Dickens’ American Notes) originated in this time period. Often these books are invaluable because they record specifics of daily American life that no one else thought to write down.
In this case, Alexander stops by a very famous bar in New York, the City Hotel, which featured America’s first celebrity bartender, a “Mr. Willard.” We don’t know much about Willard, because unlike like Jerry Thomas, he didn’t write down his famous cocktail concoctions. But since the cocktail was considered a very American drink, Alexander took the time to record three recipes in his travel book; these are some of the earliest cocktail recipes on record.