I was gifted this set of books from Gary Regan. They are two books that Gary considers classics for the food and cocktail student and I agree with his assessment of the books. The author, Charles H. Baker, Jr. was a world traveler in the 1920s and 30s who collected the recipes found in these two volumes. They offer an interesting glimpse into the world of food and drink of the time. Whether it is a recipe for a turtle soup or an exotic punch, Baker has an interesting little story to say where he found the recipe. The book was first published in 1939 and there are many references to Prohibition in the United States. He glorifies in the fact that the Philippines was a place to get good Bourbon for a julep during Prohibition. He assured his readers at the time that although good aged Bourbon was hard to come by but that will change.
Baker also does a good job in his description of different spirits used in the cocktails. He dedicates a chapter in volume two to this subject. He also provided a chapter on bar equipment that discusses the different shapes of glassware and cocktail shakers. He notes that a good Martini should never be shaken but always stirred and that aluminum shakers tend to give the cocktail a “brassy flavor”. He is especially fond of juleps and punches. There are about a dozen different julep recipes, including the one used in Louisville’s Pendennis Club, and about 20 different punch recipes.
The Gentleman’s Companion Volume 1: Being an Exotic Cookery Book or, Around the World With Knife, Fork and Spoon, by Charles H. Baker, Jr. Crown Publishers: New York, 1946. Contents, Forward, Index, pp.220.
This is a very interesting cookbook with recipes from around the world. Some are a bit exotic but all are interesting. The author details where he found the recipe and discusses the finished product. Chapters include such headings as: “Soups from Far & Wide”, “Fishes from the Seven Seas” and “Game of All Sorts”. They are well written and entertaining. He is particularly fond of seafood recipes.
This is a good book to own if you want to have an exotic or gourmet dinner with your bourbon party.
The Gentleman’s Companion Volume II: Being an Exotic Drinking Book or, Around the World With Jigger, Beaker and Flask, by Charles H. Baker, Jr. Crown Publishers: New York, 1946. Contents, Foreword, Index, pp. 217.
This volume is similar to volume one except it deals with drink. The lone illustration in the book is in the first pages and shows two people with Julep Glasses with the caption “The Mint Julep is one of Mankind’s Truly Civilized Inventions”. That sets the tone for the rest of the book. He describes different cocktails and other drinks found around the world. Some of the Chapters include: “A Design for Drinking”, “A Company of 267 Assorted Potations”, Kernels of Advice” and “Miscellaneous Bar Equipment”. The stories behind the recipes are entertaining and educational. Most of them were collected overseas in the 1920’s and 30’s so there is also historical interest as well as practical use to the recipes. This is a very good book for the home bar.
Photos courtesy of Rosemary Miller and from the archives of Michael Veach