This is the first of a series of insights into Bar Books by Vancouver based Bartender Martin Corriveau. Trained and schooled in Finance, Martin has followed his true passion out west. He is the Head Bartender of La Pentola in the Opus Hotel
South American Gentleman’s Companion
2014 has been an amazing vintage for cocktail publishing, with high-profile releases from Jeffrey Morgenthaler and the Death & Co. crew.
One of this year’s most anticipated bar publications, however, isn’t a new book but a reprint of an old one. Charles H. Baker Jr’s The South American Gentleman’s Companion, unveiled a couple of weeks ago by Cocktail Kingdom, is the re-edition of an old 1951 book that had been out of print ever since its first and only release in 1951.
The South American is the younger brother of the cult classic The Gentleman’s Companion, a 1939 travelogue written while Baker was working (and traveling) as a food writer for the Esquire Magazine and Town & Country, that collects stories, cocktail and food recipes from around the world. The book’s drink section, subtitled Around the World with Jigger, Beaker, and Flask, has become over the last 10 years a favourite among craft bartenders. Part of the appeal is its flawed, yet unique, cocktail recipes straight from the source, mostly for its gonzo storytelling, humorous Victorian writing style and its blatant politically incorrect jingoism. Audrey Saunders, of NYC’s Pegu Club fame, has been preaching Baker’s gospel for a long time and today countless cocktail bars now feature Baker’s drinks such as the ‘Remember the Maine’, the ‘Jimmy Roosevelt’, the ‘Daisy de Santiago’ or the ‘Death in the Gulf Stream’.
The Gentleman’s Companion was a massive success, and in 1946 Baker’s publishers urged him to write a follow-up focused on drinks.
Helped by the Pan American World Airways, who sought to advertise its latest connections to South America, Baker went “up and down the Andes” looking for more stories, drinks and hangover cures. After much wait The South American Gentleman’s Companion, billed as “A Select Company of Hand-Picked South American Receipts, gleaned From Divers Chefs of High and Low Estate”, was finally released, but wasn’t met with the same enthusiasm. While the Tiki craze was well underway and a travel book might have felt at home in the middle of it, Baker’s style suddenly felt out of touch with the times, even though authentic, didn’t seem as foreign as Trader Vic’s faux-Polynesian beverages. The book was never re-published until now, and had become a collector’s item, until Cocktail Kingdom announced it would re-print it again, earlier this year.
“Bark like a fox”
“Oh Man, Something New Has Been Added”
Baker wasn’t a bartender, but a reporter nearly more interested with the stories than the drinks, therefore several recipes demand tweaking, and for this one reason the South American isn’t for the beginner cocktail mixer. For those who have a little more experience mixing drinks and who love to read about the people working behind the wood, this edition will be nothing but a treat.