Over the past few years, I’ve put together a modest library of drinks-related books, most of them out-of-print and many fairly old and somewhat rare. Apparently, I haven’t been alone; as I check out the usual places on eBay and other online sources for old books, I’ve seen prices rise exponentially, just in the few years I’ve been collecting.
Take David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, for example. Three years ago I was shocked by the $40-50 price tag I was finding for the book online; I eventually found a copy at Powells.com for $10, and snagged it immediately. Today? Check this out: as of this moment, a copy of the 1961 edition in good condition is running at $225, with two days left to bid. That’s downright depressing, for someone hoping to expand his collection.
You can at least find Embury; other vintage cocktail books are so rare that I can’t even recall finding them online, much less at a hyper-inflated price. Such is the case with Harry MacElhone’s Barflies and Cocktails, from 1927. Cocktail geeks with greater experience, timing and/or resources than I have wagged this volume temptiingly online and in press as it has, among other things, the first known printed recipe for the Pegu Club. But despite my sporadic searches, I have yet to see a copy for sale.
This drink apparently comes from that book, and it’s a cocktail I’ve been meaning to try ever since David Wondrich wrote it up in last fall’s edition of Drinks magazine. Wondrich notes that the author included a section of recipes contributed by regulars to Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, where Macelhone presided. Credit for this drink goes to a Philadelphian named Chuck Kerwood, apparently known as the “wild man of aviation.” Yeah, well, if you had a couple of these under your belt, you’d be pretty wild in the cockpit, too.
- 1 ounce VSOP Cognac
- 1 ounce Grand Marnier
- 1 ounce dry vermouth
Stir with ice; strain into chilled cocktail glass and twist a strip of lemon peel over the top.