A reminder of Jake Didier’s place in cocktail history

13 Oct

When man would talk of woman, or, indeed, of other men, / Why something that is intangible will find expression then. / Jake Didier, the “Reminder” man lacks the art to say: / Of harmless things that have a sting when said a certain way.

— “Innuendo”, Mixer and Server, vol. 12:8  (August, 1903), p. 2.

From: Mixer and Server, vol. 13: 5 (May 1904), p. 80.

In the early 1900s Jacob A. Didier, author of the bar manual Reminder and treasurer of Local 173, the Binghampton, NY chapter of the Bartenders’ International League of America, made a number of original contributions to the still young art of the cocktail. Some of these ill-conceived potations were featured in the pages of Mixer and Server, the official magazine of the BILA, and it’s quite clear they were best washed down with a refreshing Lethean draught. Didier seems to have been especially attached to the delusion that milk and cream deserve a place in the cocktail glass. Hence, for example, the Eagles’ Fizz, baptized in honour of the Fraternal Order of Eagles:

The juice of half a lemon, one-half spoonful of sugar, the white of one egg, two-third glassful of fine ice, one drink of Old Tom or Plymouth Gin, one dash of Vanilla extract, one-half pony of cream. Shake up thoroughly, strain into a fizz glass, fill the balance with seltzer or carbonated water, and serve.

— Mixer and Server, vol. 12:3 (March 1903), p. 48.

Or how about the Widow’s Dream, a kind of pousse café, the description of which begins promisingly:

Dreams are a study; some dreams  are tinged with pleasure, others bear the imprint of sorrow. There is one dream, however, that is a dream. When a widow of handsome figure unhooks her tresses after reading a choice serial and lays her heaving bosom on the immaculate sheets, she invariably dreams. It is condeded that a ‘widow’s dream’ beats all other dreams the length of the stretch.

So far so good, no? Then comes the rude awakening: “Take a 2 1/2 oz. sherry glass; float carefully in  successive layers the following:  1/4 glass of Benedictine, 1 fresh egg, 1 pony of cream (on top) and serve” (Mixer and Server, vol. 12: 4 [April 1903], p. 22.). If the lady in question was dreaming of arterial congestion and a plus-sized coffin, then I suppose the cocktail is well-named.

And here’s one I actually dared to try, the Royal Flush, a whiskey sour with a dairy floater. “It is royal in every sense of the word, ” lied the Mixer and Server. “There is no ‘four-flushing’ in Jake’s repertoire. He always flushes a la royal.” Which, it transpires, is the language of poker and not, as I first thought, of colonic irrigation. Nevertheless, it’s precisely the health benefits of this busted flush that are its selling point:

In these modern days, where breakfast foods are in front of the calcium, there should be some liquid nutritity, and the “Royal Flush” has got them all lashed to the mast. Never let it be said, however, that the drink is not at all hours a choice palate tickling production.

The drink is not at all hours a choice palate tickling production. There, I said it.

Use a mixing glass; one fresh egg, one teaspoonful of powdered sugar, juice of one-half lemon, fill glass two-thirds full fine ice, one drink of whiskey, one teaspoonful of Santa Cruz rum; shake this thoroughly, strain into a fizz glass, fill up with milk while you stir it with a spoon, and serve.

Mixer and Server, vol. 12: 7 (July 1903), p. 2.

Other creations were perhaps more successful—Cardinal’s Punch, say, or the Fin-de-Siecle Sour (a Royal Flush but instead of adding milk a bottle of liquor, any kind of liquor, is placed in front of the customer so that he may help himself; it sounds suitably millennial). Didier’s most interesting innovation, though, was the Golf Cocktail, a missing link in the evolution of the modern martini. Or if not a missing link, then at least an example of analogous structures in the comparative morphology of the two drinks. Because in the Golf we have an instantly recognizable combination of ingredients, gin, vermouth and bitters—but it’s much dryer than most martinis served up in 1903. That, in fact, was the point:  “A feature of the concoction is that is is ‘Extra Dry’. People who have delighted in imbibing in extra dry champagne have now turned to the extra dry cocktail. Competent critics declare the cocktail to be one of the best in Jake’s extensive repertoire.” That last part is certainly true. And here is the recipe:

A goblet 2/3 full of cracked ice., 3 dashes of Hosttetter’s bitters, 1/3 drink of French vermouth, 2/3 drink of Gordon gin; stir well, strain into cocktail glass, put in olive and serve.

Mixer and Server, vol. 12: 5 (May 1903), p. 68.

Now that, Jake Didier, is a fine cocktail. And even better with Hendrick’s gin.

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