People have been writing books devoted to the art—science, craft, practice, habit, perversion, paraphilia, whatever—of mixing drinks since 1827, when Henry Slatter, publisher of the Oxford Herald, supplied the booksellers of that great English college town with a little pamphlet titled Oxford Night-Caps, Being a Collection of Receipts for Making Various Beverages Used in the University.
It’s not much as far as books go: a table of contents, 40 drink recipes, most of them already antiquated (the six recipes for Posset, a drink last in vogue in the 1660s, were at least five too many), and done. Still, it’s a start.
The next book out of the gate moved the talking stick in the matter of drink recipes across the Atlantic, where it would rest for 58 years. Jerry Thomas’ 1862 Bar-Tenders Guide was a mixed bag, with lots of old recipes thrown in for padding, but it also contained recipes for all the crazy American notions that had completely remade the whatever-it-is of mixing drinks: Cocktails, Sours, Cobblers, Juleps, Fixes, etc., etc. This was followed in due course with important books from Americus V. Bevill of St. Louis, Harry Johnson and William “The Only William” Schmidt of New York, “Cocktail Bill” Boothby of San Francisco, Patsy McDonough of Rochester, and a tribe of others too numerous to mention. These books defined the parameters of mixology.