How to Mix Drinks or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion by Jerry Thomas, 1862

by Gaz Regan · Monday, March 9th, 2015 · gaz regan's library

How to Mix Drinks or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion by Jerry Thomas, 1862

Jerry Thomas 1862 Cover

Jerry Thomas 1862 Title Page

Jerry Thomas 1862 Brandy Crusta

This book, the world’s very first cocktail recipe book, entered my library in the mid-1990s after I met John Martin Taylor, aka Hoppin’ John ( on a press trip to Europe where we sampled olive oils of various hues and guises.  Once John knew that we were on the lookout for this tome, he made it his business—quite literally—to find us a copy.  If memory serves we paid $125 for it.  A steal at today’s prices, and a decent price back then, too.  There aren’t very many copies of this book around.

In How to Mix Drinks or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion, sometimes just called “the 1862 book” among cocktail geeks, we find the Brandy Crusta, and here we have a template for a host of classics.  The drink is made with brandy, curaçao, simple syrup, bitters, and lemon juice.  It’s basically a Sidecar with bitters,  and a Sidecar belongs in the New Orleans Sour family (so named—by me—because the Crusta in Thomas’s book is credited to a certain “Santina, a celebrated Spanish caterer” who worked in the Big Easy) since it calls for a base spirit, an orange flavored liqueur, and citrus juice.  Other drinks in this family include the Margarita, the Cosmopolitan, the Kamikaze, and the Lemon Drop.  This book is widely sought after for myriad reasons.  The Brandy Crusta, in my opinion, is the most important drink therein.

Some Quotes from the book:

“We very well remember seeing one day in London, in the rear of the Bank of England, a small drinking saloon that had been set up by a peripatetic American, at the door of which was placed a board covered with the unique titles of American mixed drinks supposed to be prepared within that limited establishment. The ‘Connecticut Eye-openers’ and ‘Alabama fog-cutters’ together with  lightening-smashes, and ‘thunderbolt-cocktails,’ created a profound sensation in the crowd assembled to peruse the Nectarian bill of fare, if they did not produce custom.”

“For the perfection of this education, the name, alone, of Jerry Thomas is a sufficient guarantee . . . His very name is synonymous in the lexicon of mixed drinks, with all that is rare and original.”

Excerpted from The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan, 2003:

“Jerry Thomas was born in 1832, and before he was 30 years old he had visited England and France where he demonstrated his skills using a set of solid silver bar tools.  Prior to this he had tended bar in New Haven, Connecticut, and served as First Assistant to the Principal Bartender at the El Dorado, the first gambling saloon in San Francisco, and a barroom complete with curtained booths where certain ladies of the night plied their trade, grand chandeliers, and huge mirrors on the backbar—the backbar being a collective term for the shelves where bottles of liquor are displayed, mirrors, drawers, and cupboards, etc., was known as the “altar” to many barkeeps of the time.  One customer described the walls there as being filled with ‘lascivious oil paintings of nudes in abandoned postures.’ . . .

“Ten cocktails are contained in the recipe section of Thomas’s 1862 book, and all of them contain bitters.  Indeed, it would be decades before anyone dared give the name “cocktail” to a drink made without this ingredient.. 

Various and sundry other drinks still popular today are also detailed in this tome:  the Champagne Cocktail (which is erroneously shaken) and the Blue Blazer, a Thomas creation, which is actually more of a pyrotechnical display than a thoughtful creation.  It has much in common with many drinks made by today’s flair bartenders—looks good, tastes, well, okay. 

Thomas also wrote about the Mint Julep, various Milk Punches, and curiously enough, Punch Jelly.  This “drink” must be considered to be a forerunner to today’s Jelly Shots, although Thomas served it more as a dessert than a drink.  It was rather potent, though—readers were warned: ‘This preparation is a very agreeable refreshment on a cold night, but should be used in moderation . . . many persons, particularly of the softer sex, have been tempted to partake so plentifully of it as to render them somewhat unfit for waltzing or quadrilling after supper.’

6 Responses to “How to Mix Drinks or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion by Jerry Thomas, 1862”

  1. robert maclean says:

    Gaz – do you happen to know a little more history about the small drinking saloon behind the BoE?

  2. Iris says:

    Gaz- Do you happen to know where I find a copy, I need one and looking months already. You selling yours? Thanks Iris

    • Michela says:

      Ok this is a long shot, but I have a first edition 1862 version of this book and this seems to be the only thing online about it.. I was wondering if you happen to know the value?

  3. Christin says:

    I have one of these books where is a good place to find it’s worth

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