There are many books that are out of print, but worth looking for in used book stores or online. Irvin S. Cobb’s Own Recipe Book is one such book. It is a paperback booklet printed by Frankfort Distilleries in 1934. Prohibition had just ended and they were looking for a way to advertise their products. They hired Irvin S. Cobb to write the booklet.

Irvin S. Cobb was a journalist, humorist and storyteller who was born in Paducah, Kentucky. He moved to New York in 1904 where he wrote for such publications as the Evening Sun and The Saturday Evening Post. He was opposed to prohibition and had many a story from that era. He was the perfect person to write this booklet for Frankfort Distilleries.

Irvin S. Cobb’s Own Recipe Book, by Irvin S. Cobb. Louisville and Baltimore: Frankfort Distilleries, Incorporated, 1934, Forward, Index, Illustrated, Pp.52. 

This paperback book was written by Irvin S. Cobb to promote the products of Frankfort Distilleries after prohibition. It is cleverly written and illustrated. The index is simple and more for finding specific types of drinks than facts in the book. The illustrations are pen and ink drawings illustrating the story he is telling in the book. 

The book starts with Cobb’s retelling the story of American distilling in his own way. Not exactly an accurate history but an entertaining story. This takes about half of the book. The halfway mark is noted by a two page illustration of Frankfort Distilleries products. What follows are a couple of pages of the history of Paul Jones. These stories are told with Cobb’s humorous flair and are very entertaining.

 Then comes the drink recipes. This is the real value of the book. These are traditional American cocktail recipes. There are Sours and Fizzes, Collins and Slings, Flips and Toddies. These are the drinks that people were drinking from the gay nineties to the roaring twenties. The drinks of the Gilded Age and Prohibition. The recipes are split into styles of cocktails and include all of the classic recipes. Here is his recipe for a Manhattan:

Manhattan (medium)

 2/3 Four Roses or Paul Jones whiskey, 1/3 Italian Vermouth, dash of Angostura bitters. Stir well with cracked ice, strain and serve with cherry. One of America’s greatest contributions to civilization. If you like your Manhattan on the dry side, substitute French Vermouth for Italian, and twist of lemon peel instead of cherry. If the recipe given is too dry for you, make the drink half and half, whiskey and Italian vermouth.

Cobb often adds a comment at the end of the recipe. Another example of the comments is that Cobb states the Old Fashioned Cocktail was invented at Louisville’s Pendennis Club. These comments are of interest to anyone interested in cocktail history. They may have been proven wrong, like the old fashioned cocktail comment, but they are of interest for the fact that they are being said in 1934. Here is his old fashioned cocktail recipe:

Old Fashioned Whiskey

One-half piece of sugar, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, 1 ½ jiggers Four Roses or Paul Jones whiskey, 1 slice orange, 1 slice lemon. Muddle sugar and bitters with pestle. Add cube of ice, whiskey and curacao and decorate with fruit. This cocktail was created at the Pendennis Club in Louisville in honor of a famous Kentucky Colonel. I claim it worthy of him. 

This simple book is a rare find, but well worth adding to a library just for its drink recipes. Cobb’s storytelling ability is very entertaining and this booklet will encourage people to find and read other works from this talented writer from Paducah, Kentucky.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller