By Kaleigh Lawson
Before it was trendy to use the word “crafted” in reference to our beer, wine, and cocktails, it was the only way drinks were made. When you wanted a drink you didn’t walk down the grocery store aisle and grab a plastic bottle of pre-made margarita or Bloody Mary mix— everything was made from scratch.
Yes, making a cocktail from scratch is more work. You will definitely need more ingredients, BUT with a little luck, skill, and patience you are likely to be sipping on a cocktail that tastes 10x times better than your quicker, artificial version.
I am guilty of taking the easy way out when it comes to my cocktails, but I have also sipped on a truly crafted cocktail. On one of my adventures, I found myself in a dimly lit speakeasy in the wild west of South Dakota imbibing on cocktails mixed with ice chipped and carved from a large block of ice. And while absinthe cotton candy dissolving atop a finely aged whiskey might seem more innovative than classic, it definitely made me a believer in taking the time to create an artistic beverage my taste buds will thank me for.
David Wondrich perfectly captures the vibrant history that surrounds the beginning of cocktails in America. In this book, you’ll find yourself being taken on a journey through the history of popular drinks Jerry Thomas made and how to make them, and a little bit about the life of mixologist, Thomas. I paid close attention to the drink called the Knickerbocker. Knickerbocker is in my blood—not the drink, just yet—the actual New York Knickerbocker family. Naturally, I was curious to learn more about the drink named for my ancestors. As it turns out, it was a popular drink all the way through the civil war, but the last record of it seems to be in the early 1880s. This once popular cocktail is definitely one I’ve added to my “Must Try” list along with several others that caught my attention like the Champagne Cobbler, Apple Toddy and a Port Wine Sangaree.
As for the question of shaken or stirred? Well, that is up to you and the drink. You don’t always have to side with James Bond on this one. Some drinks require one versus the other, and in every other case, that depends on if you care if your drink is cloudy or clear.
Imbibe! has definitely stirred up some mixology excitement inside of me. I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves start creating and, of course, sampling some of the classic cocktails that Thomas developed and Wondrich breathed life back into.
( USE SMALL BAR-GLASS. )
½ A LIME OR LEMON, SQUEEZE OUT THE JUICE AND PUT RIND AND JUICE IN THE GLASS
2 TEA-SPOONFULS OF RASPBERRY SYRUP
1 WINE-GLASS [2 oz] SANTA CRUZ RUM
½  TEASPOONFUL OF CURAÇOA
Cool with shaved ice; shake up well, and ornament with berries in
season. if this is not sweet enough, put in a little more raspberry
SOURCE: JERRY THOMAS, 1862.
NOTES ON INGREDIENTS: Choose the lime over the lemon. Some
find this recipe too tart. Rather than adding more raspberry syrup
(which can be purchased in larger organic markets or easily made by
macerating raspberries in rich simple syrup), I prefer to increase the
curaçao to 2 teaspoons. Raspberries, blackberries, orange pieces,
even pineapple can be part of the garnish. The only difference
between Thomas’s Knickerbocker and his White Lion is that the latter
replaces three- quarters of the raspberry syrup with pulverized
sugar. I’ll take the knee pants.
In his 1863 book, Thomas offers a “Knickerbocker Punch” that’s
half brandy and half port, with pieces of orange and pineapple in the
glass; delicious, but no Knickerbocker.
NOTES ON EXECUTION: This drink should be built and shaken in
the glass for authenticity. But if you don’t have a shaker small enough
to cover a 6‑ to 8‑ounce tumbler and would prefer not to pour it back
and forth between glasses, the floor, your shirt, and the boss’s wife,
g’ahead and cheat and make it in the big shaker. It really doesn’t
make a damn bit of difference to the final drink. Just don’t shake the
lime rind in with everything else; it can make the drink bitter.