This is the latest addition to my library’s cocktail books. It is a modern reprint by Vintagecocktailbooks.com. The book was originally copyrighted in 1891 by “The Only William” (William Schmidt). There is no indication in the text as to where “The Only William” worked before he wrote this cocktail book, but he does state he had worked for three decades in the hotel and bar industry. The book was published in New York City, so it is probably safe to say he was based somewhere in the northeastern states. He is actually very progressive for a 19th century white male and states a very modern sentiment that he is for true temperance – i.e. drink in moderation, but not for Prohibition. I also find it interesting that he expresses his thoughts on the ephemeral nature of taste when he says “a drink will be twice and thrice as palatable if prepared by a fine looking bartender, in fine cut glasses to delight the sight, and when accompanied by a pleasant remark to charm the ear.”
I am glad to see that these old books are being reprinted. This company seems to be printing the new edition from digital scans of the original book. This makes the book look a little “muddy” on the pages as the scan picks up the age and discoloring of the pages of the original book, but that also means the reader is seeing what the original book looked like when it was published.
The Flowing Bowl: What and When to Drink, William Schmidt, New York City, N.Y.: Charles L. Webster Co., 1892 Contents, introduction, index, 294 pp.
William Schmidt states in his introduction that he has written this book because he is always being asked advice about cocktails and spirits. The book reflects the questions he has been asked in that the first one hundred pages are chapters that discuss such subjects as the history of different drinks (beer, wine, coffee, sparkling water…) and menus from feasts served during different eras such as in ancient Greece, Rome and the Emperor Charles V. Schmidt includes a chapter with drink recipes as he makes at the bar.
The next chapter gives recipes for rectifying your own spirits to make these cocktails. He states that there are certain products, Cognac for one, that the real product can not be duplicated and should be used in his recipes. Next he has chapters on making punches and bowls. These are separate chapters from the cocktails because these are drinks that are designed to be made at home for entertaining large groups of people. Finally, Schmidt has a chapter of his favorite poetry.
The book is very well designed. Between the table of contents and the index, it is easy to locate recipes and other subjects of interest. The book lacks any illustrations of the cocktails or bar ware which leaves it up to the reader’s imagination as to what a cocktail should look like when it is served.
The book is entertaining to read. I got a real feeling of a 19th century bartender talking to his customers, making cocktails for them and discussing everything from different types of spirits, to their favorite poems about drinking. It makes a very good reference book about cocktail recipes, but also about food menus from history that might be the inspiration for a 19th century banquet. The book will make an excellent addition to anyone’s spirit library.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller