I first met Gary and Mardee Regan when they were working on their Book of Bourbon and Other Fine American Whiskeys book in the early 1990s. In 1996 they came back to the United Distillers Archive while they were working on a new book, New Classic Cocktails. The premise of the book was to find cocktails that would be the drinks that would be served as classic cocktails at the end of the 21st century. They wanted to see what the archive held on cocktails as far as history and recipes. They did not uncover anything new, but we had a good time doing the research. It convinced them that with this book, they needed to include as much history of the cocktail as possible so future researchers would have a better idea as to its origin. The Regans depended upon bartenders to give them the information they needed and in one case, it turned out to be pure marketing, but the attempt was made and there is information about when who and how the cocktail was created.

New Classic Cocktails, Gary and Mardee Haiden Regan, New York, N.Y.: MacMillan, A Simon & Schuster MacMillan Company, 1997, Contents, Introduction, Bibliography, Index, Illustrations, 132 pp.

In this book, the Regans are trying to foretell the future. They have collected cocktail recipes from bartenders around the world. The idea is that these are recipes that people will consider “Classic Cocktails” in the future, the same way as the Manhattan, the Old Fashioned and the Martini are considered classic cocktails of the past. The book starts with an introduction of their premise, followed by a brief history called “The Evolution of the Cocktail” and then a chapter titled “What Makes a Classic Cocktail” and a brief chapter titled “How to Make a Drink”. All of this in the first 10 pages of the book. The next 120 pages are cocktail recipes.

The cocktail recipes include the history of that particular cocktail, including where they found the recipe, a color photograph of the cocktail, and the recipe. These cocktails are made with a variety of spirits, with only a small portion using Bourbon or Scotch. Most are rum, vodka and tequila drinks. The history often states the name of the bartender/mixologist who created the drink. For example, The Harper Cranberry was created by Kenji Tachihara at the D-Heartman Bar in Tokyo. They write that Tachihara wanted the cocktail to be all-American and that was why he chose cranberry juice to mix with the I.W. Harper Bourbon since the cranberry is native to America. In one case, however, they were given made-up information. The Seelbach Cocktail, from the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, is stated as being created by an unknown bartender in 1917 but rediscovered in 1995 by Adam Segar, the marketing person for the hotel. Segar has since left the hotel and has recently admitted that he and others made up the cocktail in 1995. With this in mind, the reader should be wary of the “history” of the cocktails. Still, there are some interesting and tasty cocktails in the book that could possibly become future classic drinks.

The book is well-designed. The contents list the cocktail recipes and the index makes it easy to find cocktails made from different spirits. The index also lists the bartenders credited with the creation of the drinks. Color photographs of each cocktail show what the customer should expect of the presentation. It is a very attractive book and well worth adding to any spirits library.

Harper Cranberry: 2 ounces I.W. Harper Bourbon, 3 ounces Cranberry Juice. Fill a double old-fashioned glass with ice cubes. Add the Bourbon and cranberry juice and stir until chilled. Serve at once.
The Seelbach Cocktail: 1 ounce Old Forester Bourbon, ½ ounce triple sec, 7 dashes of Angostura bitters, 7 dashes of Peychaud bitters, 5 ounces chilled Korbel Brut, 1 orange twist for garnish. Combine the Bourbon, triple sec and both bitters in a champagne flute; stir briefly, just to blend. Pour in the champagne. Twist the orange peel and rub the exterior of it around the rim of the flute; drop the twist into the cocktail. Serve at once.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller