Don’t believe what the Barbeque Expert in the Wall Street Journal Said – This is an outstanding, must-read book!
Title : A Proper Drink
Subtitle : The Untold Story of How A Band Of Bartenders Saved The Civilized Drinking World
Author :Robert Simonson
Publisher: 10 Speed Press
Binding: Hardcover, 342 pages, Medium Octavo
Cost: $27.00 US
REVIEWED BY: Chris Carlsson, Spirits Review.com
Notes: A little bit of personal history, I ask the indulgence of my readers so I might clarify my perspective/take on this book.
I first heard of this book in The Wall Street Journal ((October 1-2 ,2016 edition) in the Books section.
The review was written by a noted barbecue author and expert , who proceeded to trash it fairly mercilessly for not being a pedantic, dry as a no vermouth martini, history book full of cold facts, footnotes, and projections as to the fate or lifespan of the craft he chronicles, in short not a proper history book of the classic type and format. That I can agree with, it is so much more fun to read ! He also goes on to complain about the ‘ faceless entities’, “hangover inducing number of bartenders”, and the “200 cocktail insiders who were interviewed for the book. The review in and of itself is an entertaining read and demonstrably shows the reviewers lack of contact with the people and culture that is captured so vividly in this book to people who know them and and the culture they helped shape.
I highly recommend this book to both the above people and to people who wish to learn more about how the cocktail culture became what it is today. Happily most, with a few sad and heartfelt exceptions, of the people in this book are still very much involved in the industry/business/lifestyle and very accessible. For those already familiar with the persons in this book it is very much like listening in a one to one conversation at a bar with a drink at hand and listening to wonderful and important tales of life experience and history, the characters come alive and you feel it is they who are talking to you directly – indeed I have heard many of these stories in the oral history of the industry in various places with these people. It is a cocktailians version of sitting by a fire and listening to the tribal elders describe the oral history of the tribe. For those not familiar with the entities in this book it is a great way of learning about them enough so that you get a good grasp of their achievements, roles, and personalities so when you do meet them out in the cocktail world you will be able to recognize them, enjoy their company and stories, and listen to what they have to say (Don’t forget to buy them a drink). So do your homework by reading this book and enjoying its rich history and entertaining storytelling then go out and find these people, their bars and products, and enjoy all of it.
Final Thoughts: I classified this book under History. I must add recent history ( this is being written in 2017 AD) as this book goes back roughly 30 years till recently and many of the people named in this book feel old enough after their usual 12 hour shifts and night time existence without me adding to their burden….On the other hand we now have a generation of both bartenders and their customers who are blissfully unaware of what came before, the struggles and transformation of the bar culture and its people, and happily what it is today. Things were not always the way they are, and we are much better for the blood, toil, tears and sweat that is documented in this book and we are indebted to Robert Simonson to chronicle this history for those who came after it and reap the rewards on a nightly basis.
Website: Robert Simonson.net
A very straightforward webpage that is attractive and easy to navigate.