The oldest of the new books is Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide: 75th Anniversary Edition, which was edited by Jonathan Pogash with Rick Rodgers and draws on the efforts of many other esteemed barkeeps.1 In the beginning, the Guide existed to shill for Old Mr. Boston, a Massachusetts company that once sold a line of 148 liquors, including the finest mint-flavored gin, butterscotch schnapps, and premixed apricot sours ever distilled in the neighborhood of Roxbury. Now, the liquor brand is a shell of its former self, and the book is the closest thing we have to a standard wet-bar reference. It is, like Hoyle’s Rules of Games, Emily Post’s Etiquette, and Vātsyāyana’s Kama Sutra, a volume without which no home is truly complete.
Before old-fashioned became popularly synonymous with a particular drink made with American whiskey, it described a general style. In keeping, the book later presents the rum old-fashioned and the tequila old-fashioned and more. There’s a “Bad-Humored Old-Fashioned” for fans of Dutch gin, a “Oaxaca Old-Fashioned” for mezcal enthusiasts, and a scotch old-fashioned for aficionados of fucking up perfectly good scotch.
But I must counsel that if you ever find yourself in a bar where it comes to light that there are no bitters on the premises—not even a bottle gathering dust and DNA evidence somewhere behind the Frangelico—then do not order any liquor in any form. The absence of bitters from a professional bar indicates genuine degeneracy. Stick to bottled beer and watch the bartender closely. (Return.)