Meehan’s Bartender Manual by Jim Meehan, Ten Speed Press, US $40.00, Pp 488, October 2017, ISBN 978-1607748625
Humans have fermented, distilled, and imbibed alcoholic beverages for medicinal purposes and pleasures for thousands of years but mixing drinks is relatively modern. Many historians credit America for the popularity of cocktails, though most influential bartenders in America were immigrants who mixed concoctions from ingredients sourced from all over the world. In Meehan’s Bartender Manual, Jim Meehan writes about cocktails about cocktails, bars and bartending. Instead of focusing on a particular time and place, he covers the entire history and art of bartending and related subjects such as bar designs, tools, and techniques, service and hospitality. He also gives recipes for more than 100 cocktails including classics and his own signature, ranging from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century punch to the neo-classical cocktails we drink today. He also gives spirits primers to help stock your bar. Each recipe includes information on the origin of the drink, the “logic” behind why it works, and “hacks” for the curious bartender.
Jim Meehan says that punch spread around the globe thanks to the British Royal Navy. It is interesting because the British favored beer and wine over spirits at that time. The advantage of punch was that, unlike beer and wine, spirits like rum didn’t spoil during long sea voyages. As ships returned to England from India and British colonies in the Americas — where sugarcane was planted and rum was distilled — they brought punch with them. Many factors contributed to punch’s popularity, ranging from the practical to the patriotic. In America, punch became political when England passed the Molasses Act of 1733 to regulate and tax the flow of molasses, which was used by New England distillers to make rum. However, after a few decades, punch started falling from favor but never disappeared.
If the punch was the king of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century mixology, then the julep inherited the crown in the nineteenth century. Julep became the world’s most talked-about mixed drink. American juleps, particularly fancy renditions prepared with English rum, cognac, and champagne, were America’s first notable contribution to the global recipe canon. The julep supplanted English punch which had reigned for ten generations as the acme of the mixologist’s art. Like other drinks, punch and julep also suffered and were revived after the repeal of the Prohibition. Most mixographers date the contemporary cocktail renaissance back to 1987, and more specifically, to the Rainbow Room and a young actor –turned –barman named Dale DeGroff. The Rainbow Room, opened by legendary restaurateur Joe Baum, was set sixty-five floors above midtown Manhattan’s Rockefeller Plaza, where guests’ view of the city competed with views of the celebrities, politicians, and socialites who frequented the venue.
You don’t learn how to tend bar from reading books. You learn the art of tending bar through thousands of hours spent watching, listening to your colleagues and guests. However, reading it will help you how to learn while you work in the bar. Do you know how to mix like a pro? Probably no! Do you know whether to shake or stir a proper martini? Probably no! If your answer is in the negative, all you need is Meehan’s Bartender Manual. With this necessary and accessible handbook, you will be able to make your cocktails like a pro for yourself and your guests at home. You will be able to stock and equip your home bar — from liquors and mixers to condiments, garnishes, and equipment. Meehan’s Bartender Manual is a Bible of bartending.