Discover more from Drink Seco
drink seco issue no.5
Lost and forgotten cocktails, Strange drinking practices from around the world, Famous authors and their favorite drinks, and A guide to cocktail bars in Melbourne!
Happy New Year! Sorry, it’s been a minute since the last newsletter, it’s been a bit of a hectic period of our lives.
I hope you all had a happy and peaceful holiday season and are looking forward to this year, I know I am. The holidays are always tough for me, and to add to that, we didn’t have a stable home base this Christmas, making things trickier. I’m definitely not at a Grinch or Frank Costanza level, but could get around some ‘Festivus for the rest of us’.
Thankfully, in the past four years, I’ve had Kate who adores the holidays and always manages to radiate such positivity and lightness, even when things get tough.
Over the past few months, this newsletter has come to you from everywhere, from San Sebastian to Saint-Émilion and the Swiss Alps. We are currently based in… (drum roll please) Denver, Colorado, USA! Where we will hopefully stay for a little bit. Moreover, hopefully, now that we’re more settled I can get you these newsletters more regularly.
I know Denver is dubbed ‘Menver’, after its reputation for swarms of single men, but I’ve yet to experience that. Call it my ‘gay-colored glasses’, but all I’ve encountered are women and lesbians! No complaints there!
Not sure if it's the nostalgia in the air post-Christmas or the possibility of new beginnings, but this Drink Seco newsletter will be taking a little look into The Ghosts of Cocktail’s Past…
So for all you history and cocktail nerds, get excited!
The New York Public Library’s incredible menu collection
The lives of lost cocktails
Famous authors and their drinks of choice
Different cultural drinking practices and traditions
and to bring it back to 2023; A guide to the best cocktail bars in Melbourne, Australia
Let’s get into it!
What’s on the menu?
This week I discovered the New York Public Library has a collection of menus from various New York restaurants dating back to 1843. Started by Ms Frank E. Buttolph in 1900, the collection today contains over 40,000 menus (15,000 of them digitized). Incredible.
The archived collection has inspired chefs across the world and helped historians track culinary trends or mark important food and cultural dates.
For example, 1932 marks the earliest reference to sushi in New York. Likewise, the library’s archives contained volumes of the Green Book—Victor Hugo Green’s guide to helping Black motorists safely find restaurants and lodging while traveling, dating back to 1937.
Further, these menus are beautiful! The earliest ones are handmade with exquisite care, and design.
Check out this 1900 handmade Valentine’s Day dinner menu from the Alcazar Hotel in St. Augustine, Florida, that includes a ten-part classical music program accompaniment.
It’s definitely a sad contrast to QR code menus now…
The lives of lost cocktails:
Anyway, I thought it would be a fun idea to look through these menus and the data collated by the library to see what I could learn about cocktail trends throughout history.
Obviously, this is a slightly flawed undertaking because many of the menus are only for food and similarly, I’m sure some drinks were just ‘assumed’ and weren’t printed. Then, of course, there was the prohibition of alcohol from 1920-1933.
Nonetheless, I found some new and interesting cocktails and popular drinks on the menus…
Milk Punch - Basically Eggnog without the eggs, a Christmas cocktail consisting of whisky, brandy, and milk. This was featured in 152 menus from 1856-1962.
Lalla Rookh - The obsession with milk continues, this cocktail contains pony vanilla cordial, milk, brandy, and rum! It was featured on 166 menus between 1889 and 1959.
Oyster Cocktail- Exactly what it sounds like, made with 6 oysters, seasoned with lemon, salt, pepper, and tabasco. Served in a glass with a small spoon. A heavenly idea for some and a hellish one for others. This featured on a whopping 461 different menus from 1896-1987. I also came across ‘clam cocktails’ which I can only imagine is a similar thing. Truly, truly, sign me up for this. PLEASE.
Rock and Rye Cocktail - Consisting of whisky and pure candy syrup. This was featured in over 156 menus, dating from 1900-1965.
Gilka Kummel - A German herbal liquor with cumin and fennel flavors. This digestif was featured on 153 menus between 1900-1962.
Claret Punch- A classic punch, made with claret red wine (a heavy red), brandy, Cointreau, and lemon juice. A long-running feature in the menus collected, featuring 151 times from 1856-1974.
Manhattan Cocktail- And entering more familiar territory, traditionally made with vermouth, Boker’s Bitters, whiskey, and gum syrup - featured in 150 menus, from 1899-1968.
Also noteworthy is “Goblet of Milk” which is featured on over 130 menus! Hilarious. Why was everyone such big milk drinkers?
If this interested you as much as it did for me, you can check out the digitized collection of menus here:
And if you’re after some more weird old-fashioned cocktails, this website called Lost Cocktails is great!
Famous authors and their drinks of choice:
Continuing on with the theme of looking into the past and cocktail history, and because I know everyone has ‘Read more books’ on their new year resolution list. I thought I’d share some famous authors and their drinks of choice. This way you can truly get into the reading spirit and channel the author’s energy, simultaneously expanding your mind and taste palate.
F. Scott Fitzgerald:
Where better to start than the royalty of the 1920s literature and party scene? F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed he never wrote while drinking, but he was known to party hard, and that gin was his weapon of choice. Perhaps it's no surprise then that the famous drink served by Tom in The Great Gatsby is a Gin Rickey. A simple drink consisting of 2 ounces of gin, and 1/2 ounce lime juice, topped up with club soda, served in a tall glass garnished with lime. Try adding a simple Gin Rickey to your cocktail and book hour.
Book pairing: The Beautiful and Damned
Eliot, like others in the Jazz Age, was a fan of dry martinis, in particular a classic gin martini. Here’s my favorite dry gin martini recipe for a classy book-reading night.
2 dashes of orange bitters
.5 ounces of dry vermouth
2 ounces of gin
Book pairing: The Waste Land and Other Poems
Not for the faint of heart, Oscar Wilde was an absinthe drinker… Pernod absinthe was popular when Wilde was drinking and still remains iconic, but I’m not sure how well this accompanies a reading session. Also, can we just acknowledge “Tonight’s folly is tomorrow’s regret” on the poster…
Book pairing: The Picture of Dorian Gray
A man who once claimed "A man does not exist until he is drunk" and whose drunk escapades are well documented. He is associated with all sorts of cocktails but is probably best known for the Mojito, invented at La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana, Cuba where he often drank.
a handful of mint
1/2 a lime
.75 ounces of simple syrup, and
2 ounces of white rum.
Book pairing: The Old Man and the Sea
Moving forward in history, Maya Angelou incorporated sherry into her daily writing routine, regardless of the time of day. She once said: "I might have it at six-fifteen a.m. just as soon as I get in, but usually it’s about eleven o’clock when I’ll have a glass of sherry.” I’m certainly not endorsing her drinking habits, but maybe it’s time to bring back sherry. An Australian friend of mine told me that there’s a ‘Sherry Drinking Club’ at her university…
Book pairing: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
Different cultural drinking practices and traditions:
Over my many years of traveling, I’ve learned some pretty funky cultural drinking practices and traditions from around the world. I thought since this newsletter was all about history and cocktail traditions, why not share them all with you now?
The French: Starting us off in a very French style is the importance of eye contact when saying ‘cheers’ before drinking. The French believe that if you don’t, it means seven years of bad sex! Trust the French to have this as their biggest fear. Although let's just say I’ve always looked people in the eye since, just to be sure…
Similarly, in the Czech Republic, if you don’t make eye contact when saying cheers or drink every last sip before you place your glass on the table, or if you cross your arms whilst toasting, you’ll be cursed with bad sex.
Germany: In Germany there is a pre-wedding drinking tradition of the groom’s best man kidnapping the bride-to-be, leaving subtle hints for the groom. The bride-to-be and her kidnapper drink until the groom shows up to rescue his bride and pays the bill. Not too sure how common this is these days… you better hope you’re marrying a clever cookie.
Thailand: In Thailand, it’s very rude to finish your drink before the eldest person at the table leaves. You can keep topping up your glass but it must stay 1/2 full at all times.
Russia: Similarly, in Russia, it is also considered rude to have empty glasses at the table, but instead of keeping them half full at all times, they just put the glasses under the table once they’re finished. Imagine the amount of washing up after a meal! Not to mention all that extra glassware needed!
Australians: Australians ‘Shout’ rounds of drinks for everyone when out drinking, it is considered rude not to participate and the ‘shouting’ usually continues until everyone has evenly shouted a round (or two). There is also the admittedly, bogan, party rituals of ‘doing a shoe-y’= drinking beer out of someone’s shoe, and ‘Goon of fortune’ which consists of pegging a bag of cheap wine to a rotary washing line (called a Hills Hoist in Aus) and spinning it around, whoever it lands on has to drink.
A guide to the best cocktail bars in Melbourne, Australia:
On another note, and to bring things back to the present and into the future, here’s a guide to some of the best cocktail bars in Melbourne, Australia. Far from the shoe-y and ‘Goon of fortune’ practices, these institutions are all class and great cocktails.
A bit different from the rest of Australia known for its beautiful beaches, amazing outback and bush, and of course the deadly wildlife. Melbourne is a hub for good food and wine, ranging from classic pubs to natural wine bars, and classy cocktail bars.
For this newsletter, I’ve decided to focus on the cocktail bars, often hidden and unassuming but sure to delight.
The Caretaker’s Cottage:
The new kid on the scene, run by hospitality veterans/royalty is located in the tiny former caretaker’s cottage of the cathedral built in 1914. A gem of a spot, complete with all its heritage features, paired with carefully chosen vinyl. Despite being billed as a “tiny pub” seating max 40 people, the real magic is in the cocktail game.
It won the Melbourne Good Food award for Bar of the year. Be sure to stop in.
The Black Pearl:
Perhaps Australia’s most well-known cocktail bar. You can’t go wrong here. With an exciting cocktail list of in-house creations, and great service.
The well-respected Melbourne staple, named best international cocktail bar at the prestigious Spirited Awards in 2017, is probably better known as just another classic full-proof drinking spot in Fitzroy to start or end your night in.
A wine bar and restaurant, that also makes a great cocktail, perfect for everything from the local hangout to the special date night. Delicious, locally sourced food and wine, inspired by Australia’s immigrant history. Effortlessly cool, with an exciting menu and cocktail list.
Bar manager, Nick was actually the runner-up in the global Diageo World Class Cocktail Competition this year.
No surprise, Gerald’s Bar is on the list for a little taste of Europe. (You might remember me writing about the Gerald’s in San Sebastian in my previous newsletters).
Gerald’s is unique in its vibe and ability to capture the European dining experience. Whatever you want, Gerald’s has it. Delicious, seasonal, ever-changing menu? Great local or international wines? Classic cocktails? Cozy, and charming, most people dining and drinking are regulars and know each other.
The Pearl Diver:
For elegant, modern Australian cocktails and dishes, come to The Pearl Diver. There are at least four different varieties of oysters to choose from on any given day too if you needed more convincing.
The promise of Aussie spirits, wines, and oysters does not disappoint.
Back to the ‘golden age’ with classic cocktails in a classic cocktail bar. The rustic floorboards, taxidermy, old piano, and bar feel like you stepped back in time.
It's the seemingly effortless attention to detail in everything they do at the Everleigh which makes it so appealing. Cozy up and enjoy the night.
That’s all for this week! I hope you enjoyed this edition of the newsletter. There’s a lot more to come! Enjoy the rest of your week and please let me know if you’re brave enough to try any of those cursed milk cocktails…