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November 27, 2023 42 mins

This episode was recorded (mostly) live at the AC Hotel Los Angeles South Bay, where we talked about Collinses, the Bees Knees, and a man who is iconic in bartending history.

Research:

  • Brown, Jared, and Anistatia Miller. “Is the Bee’s Knees Cocktail Making a Comeback?” Imbibe Live. Feb. 22, 2022. https://live.imbibe.com/en-gb/blog/spirits-and-cocktails/bees-knees-cocktail-comeback.html
  • “The Gourd Club.” New York Times. May 10, 1878. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1878/05/10/80682606.pdf?pdf_redirect=true&ip=0
  • Garrett, Dylan. “Tom Collins.” Liquor.com. Sept. 5, 2023. https://www.liquor.com/recipes/tom-collins-2/#:~:text=The%20Tom%20Collins%20is%20basically,essentially%20a%20gin%2Dsour%20spritz.
  • Grimes, William. “The Bartender Who Started It All.” New York Times. Oct. 31, 2007. https://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/31/dining/31cock.html
  • Grimes, William. “CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; Shaken, Stirred or Mixed, The Gilded Age Lives Again.” March 26, 2003. https://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/26/dining/critic-s-notebook-shaken-stirred-or-mixed-the-gilded-age-lives-again.html
  • “In and About the City: A Noted Saloon Keeper Dead.” New York Times. December 16, 1885. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1885/12/16/103643963.pdf?pdf_redirect=true&ip=0
  • Kurash, Jody. “Cocktail of the Month: It’s the Bee’s Knees!” The Georgetowner. Sept. 14, 2022. https://georgetowner.com/articles/2022/09/14/cocktail-of-the-month-its-the-bees-knees/
  • Rothbaum, Noah. “Frank Meier, The Paris Ritz’s Mysterious Bartender Spy.” The Daily Beast. Aug. 2, 2015. https://www.thedailybeast.com/frank-meier-the-paris-ritzs-mysterious-bartender-spy
  • Sutcliffe, Theodora. “Jerry Thomas.” Difford’s Guide. https://www.diffordsguide.com/encyclopedia/2882/people/jerry-thomas
  • “Tom Collins.” Yorkville Enquirer. June 11, 1874. https://www.newspapers.com/image/339414525/?terms=%22Tom%20Collins%22%20&match=1
  • “Tom Collins in Town.” Carlisle Weekly Herald. July 9, 1874. https://www.newspapers.com/image/269986710/?terms=%22Tom%20Collins%22%20&match=1
  • Difford, Simon. “Collins Cocktails – recipes and history.” Difford’s Guide. https://www.diffordsguide.com/encyclopedia/490/cocktails/collins-cocktails-recipes-and-history
  • Mazzeo, Tilar J. “The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris.” Harper. 2014.
  • “Molly Brown Biography.” Biography.com. April 27, 2021. https://www.biography.com/activists/molly-brown
  • Seiter, Matt. “The Ricky and the Collins: Two Cocktail Classics.” Feast. Feb. 27, 2015. https://www.feastmagazine.com/recipes/the-rickey-and-the-collins-two-cocktail-classics/article_40844aa2-bdd7-11e4-9031-2f85f8e5854c.html
  • Thenon, Georges Gabriel. “Cocktails de Paris.” Editions Demangel. Paris. 1929. Accessed online: https://euvs-vintage-cocktail-books.cld.bz/1929-Cocktails-de-Paris/72/
  • Wondrich, David. “Imbibe!” Penguin. 2015.

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Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Stuff You Missed in History Class, a production
of iHeartRadio. Hello, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Holly
Frye and I'm Tracy V. Wilson. This episode was originally
recorded live at the AC Hotel, Los Angeles, South Bay,

(00:21):
which was a really really fun night with some really
really amazing listeners. We had a wonderful time. We did
have a little bit of a wild night in that
while we were right in the middle of a sentence,
there was a little blackout the whole neighborhood, not just
our room. Yeah, that shifted things around a little bit.
LA had rained that day and they lost power. Whether

(00:43):
or not those two things are related unclear, But after
a little break where we figured out a plan, we
did pick up. So you may be experiencing a little
splice in the middle here where we have studio recorded
segment of the show and then it will go back
to live. The audience was really, really lovely and rolled

(01:05):
with that whole madness completely, So thanks to everyone who
came that night. We haven't done this since before COVID.
I know, this is our first live show since pre COVID. Yeah,
it's pretty thrilling. Yeah, Well, hope we remember how to
do any of this. Yeah, it'll be good. Should we
just kick right in? Yeah? Hello, and welcome to the podcast.

(01:26):
I'm Holly Fry and I'm Tracy V. Wilson, and you
guys are here and you're amazing. Yeah. Correct. So we're
here tonight to talk a little bit about cocktail history, which,
as you may imagine, is a little difficult to pin
down because a lot of times, I mean, you've probably
done this at home. You're making recipes in your kind
of messing with them on the fly, and it's not

(01:47):
like someone standing there documenting. So how do we know
when something started or got changed? But it's a little
bit difficult, right. We're gonna try, though, tonight to delve
into the histories of two very well known gin cocktails.
They both have conflicting origin stories. There's not one accepted

(02:08):
background for them. We're also going to talk about a
man who is considered a pioneer in cocktail history and
in bartending specifically. And we are starting out Listen, I
loaded the deck because I picked one of my favorite
drinks and one of Tracy's favorite drinks to talk about.
So we're going to talk about my one of my
personal favorites. First, this is not a cool drink, y'all.

(02:32):
This is like that drink that when you order it,
bartender's go old school, and it is. But it's a
classic for a reason because it is very simple and
well balanced. So now we're going to talk first about
the Tom Collins. Yes, so Tom Collins fans in that.
As Holly just said, Tom Collins is a classic gin drink.

(02:56):
It's spirits, lemon juice, simple syrup or sugar and club sota.
So very simple, balanced and refreshing. But maybe you have
actually heard of a John Collins or a Vodka Collins,
maybe even a Pierre Collins. Holly told me some other Collins' backstage.

(03:16):
There are a lot of them, and those are names
for variations on this classic drink. It's highly possible, though,
that the original one was not Tom Collins, it was
John Collins. That was not the drink that's John Collins today.
Though today the John Collins is this version that uses
bourbon instead of gin, and the John Collins origin story,

(03:40):
which is not the bourbon one, involves a bartender named
John Collins. This version puts the origin of the drink
in London at Limmer's Hotel. That's where Collins was employed
as a bartender. And the idea here was that it
was a single serving version of gin punch, which was
made in large matches that they could ladle out. But

(04:02):
sometimes they weren't making that, and people still wanted a
gin punch, so they came up with the single serving version.
Makes all the sense in the world. Gin punch is
made with gin, lemon juice, sugar, and water. There are
some variations, like if you look up a recipe today
that will include bitters or some other ingredients, but it's
basically the same stuff that's in a Collins. But the

(04:23):
version called a John Collins had a little bit of
a twist on it because it was made with Yenavor
or Holland gin. If you've ever had yinavor, you know
it's not quite the same as gin. It's a close relative,
but it's also pretty distinctly different if you compare them
side by side, right, Yenavor has this multi year flavor.
It's got less of that juniper note that you probably

(04:43):
associate with gin. It's kind of got its own identity. Yeah,
if you've only read the word jenavor on paper and
no one has ever said it. You might think it's
pronounced Jennifer, because that is so if you're confused right now,
that's what that is. Some bartenders started making this drink

(05:04):
with Old Tom gin and that's drier than your neighbor is,
but not as dry as London dry gin is today.
Because of the difference in taste between you neighbor and
Old Tom drinks that are made with a spirit, they
tasted different enough that it seemed like we needed to
have two different names. So the Old Tom version, according

(05:26):
to this whole version of the story, became the Tom Collins.
But in addition to this London origin story, there are
a lot of other contenders because according to Difford's guide,
creation credit could be given to another bartender named Collins
who was working at White House Tavern in New York.
Or it might have been a bartender in New Jersey

(05:47):
or yeah, or it might have been a bartender on
the West Coast, or it might have been a bartender
in Australia. I mean, I read like so many different
countries this thing could have come from. And it's partially
because the name Collins isn't really rare, so any bartender
with that name could go, yeah, I totally made that
drink up, and we don't know. This is again that

(06:09):
hazy problem. And when the John Collins that we know
today came to mean a Collins made with bourbon or
whiskey instead of gin or you neighbor, we don't know
when that happened. It just kind of evolved. It makes
a little sense when you consider the multier flavor of
you neighbor, that that may have been the transition point
or someone's like, oh, we try bourbon in this John Collins,

(06:31):
then there you go. But we don't know, don't know.
Maybe the oddest twist on the Tom Collins, which is
a twist that's so odd that earlier today I asked, Collie,
are we sure this is real? It's a prank that
this became associated with. So in eighteen seventy four, the
hoax of a sort started in New York and so

(06:54):
in one paper that Holly found, which was the Yorkville
Enquirer of York South Carolina, claimed that this joke had
been started by a minstrel named Harrigan, and Harrigan had
enough connections all around town in the service industry, like
hotel clerks and bartenders and barbers and all of these

(07:14):
kinds of people that he could really sell this hoax.
So the prank went like this. The person pulling the
prank would tell the pranky that he heard something very
bad about him, like maybe his wife left him for
another man. And then the pranking would be like, whoa,
where did you hear this information? That's terrible, And so

(07:35):
this person pulling the prank would be like, oh, Tom
Collins told me I just saw Tom Collins down at
the bar or the hotel, or the shop or wherever.
So there, of course was no Tom Collins, and this
person who had just been told this horrible thing would
run off to try to find somebody who did not
really exist, and so he would get to the bar
and the bartender would be like, Nope, no Tom Collins here,

(07:56):
but I saw him down at the hotel, So go
to the hotel. Repeat this whole cycle. Every place the
fictional Tom was supposed to be No, no, you just
missed him. He went down to this other place. Yes, wow,
goose Chase. And so this poor person would be led
all over town by this this joke. Don't play this,

(08:17):
don't do that, that's mean. This prank was so popular
in eighteen seventy four that it was super easy to
find a lot of newspaper articles about it all over
the United States. Some of these articles were kind of
written with a wink, like they were like, let's keep
this Tom Collins thing going, and they would write it
up like Tom Collins is in town this week and

(08:37):
there was no Tom Collins, and they were kind of
perpetuating the myth. But others, when you read them, are
kind of like the print version of a massive eye roll,
where they're just like, oh, go the Tom Collins thing.
That same newspaper Tracy just mentioned the Yorkville in choir
that write up about it opens with quote. For the
last two weeks, people have been talking about Tom Collins.

(09:01):
Newspapers have published mysterious hints about Tom Collins, the brick
piles have been placarded with allusion to Tom Collins, and
peripatetic vendors of card photographs have offered to sell correct
likenesses of Tom Collins to the uninitiated. It was very
provoking to hear one man say to another, have you
seen Tom Collins, and then for both of them to

(09:23):
explode with laughter. It seemed very stupid, and upon the whole.
I think that it was so that reporter maybe got
duped in the Tom Collins thing and was feeling a
little salty about it. Definitely had feelings. So what does
all this have to do with the cocktail? Right? One
origin story of this drink is that there was a
bartender who came up with the idea of, like, when

(09:46):
somebody comes in demanding to seek Tom Collins, making him
a drink and making him pay for it, and that drink,
of course, would be the Tom Collins. This doesn't really
work out though, because we know the Tom Collins existed
before eighteen seventy four, when this frank suddenly became a
fun thing, a fun, fun thing for people to do. Yeah,

(10:10):
doesn't sound fun at all, But if you are a
cocktail person, you may look at what's in a Tom
Collins and be like, Hey, isn't this a gin Ricky?
They are very very similar. In an article for Feast
magazine in twenty fifteen, Matt Seider wrote, quote the Ricky
and the Collins. I can't seem to write about one
of these cocktails without including the other. They are too

(10:32):
similar to warrant individual attention to sort of sound for them. Both.
They are a lot alike, right. Both of them have gin,
they have citrus, the Ricky usually has lime instead of
lemon juice. They have syrup or sugar, and they have
club soda. And they both have variations that have whiskey.
We've talked about the John Collins. The John Collins the
Joe Ricky is the version of the Jinriky that has

(10:55):
bourbon or whiskey. But the main difference, according to Cider,
is that the Jinriky is made in the glass that
the beverage will be served in, whereas the Collins is
mixed in a shaker and then strained over ice and
then topped with club soda. The subtleties of cocktails. The
Town Collins is also really similar to a gin fizz.

(11:18):
The fizz may or may not contain egg white, depending
on where you get it. That's not the main difference, though.
The key differentiator is that the Fizz is shaken with
ice and then double strained into a glass without ice
before being topped with club soda, but the Colins is
shaken and then strained over fresh ice before the club

(11:40):
soda is included. Similarly, very nuanced difference in the two
of them If that sounds like a lot of drinks
are very similar, Yes, that's true. Yeah, it's one of
those things. If you start mixing drinks or looking up
drinks on your own, you're like, isn't this They're often
so similar. It's like those tiny subtleties are what changed things.
So at this point we're gonna pause for a sponsor break.

(12:11):
All right, So the Tom Collins, as we've said, has
a number of possible origin points. But so does another
long lived and popular gin cocktail, Tracy's favorite or one
of them, the Besneys. Look, everyone loves it. There's a gas,
there's a happy gas for the Besneys. This too, is

(12:31):
a classic. It has a lot of crossover ingredients with
the Tom Collins. So there's gin, of course, there's lemon juice,
and instead of simple syrup or sugar, there is honey syrup.
Just is my own personal aside. If you're making this
at home, honey syrup and honey are not the same thing.
You have to dilute your honey with water to get
honey syrup or it won't flow properly in your drink. Anyway,

(12:51):
that's just my own personal psa. The Besneys is a
stronger cocktail than the Collins because it does not get
topped with like a club soda, which dilutes the the
alcohol by volume of it. And you just make those
three basic ingredients, usually shaken with ice, and then it
streams into a chilled coop. Please chill your coops. It's
my other, my other psa Holly as a number. I've

(13:15):
learned so many things about cocktails from Hollywood, just as weekend,
not even from this, just from like random side conversations
Frank Meyer. When the Ritz Hotel opened in Paris in
nineteen twenty one, Frank was working as head bartender at
the Cafe Parisian there and as part of that job

(13:37):
worked up a cocktail menu for the bar. And in
nineteen twenty nine there was a man named George Gabrielle
Finnell writing under the pen name RIP, and he published
this book titles Cocktail the Three. I'm guessing that was
how you would want it to be said, and frank
Meyer's b's knees was included on page seventy two. And

(13:58):
this recipe is written pretty charmingly, not with like measurements
in terms of ounces or any other actual measurements. It's
fractions of the drink. And this is not even like
one part this and one part this. It is like
one sixth of the drink is ju de citrent that
is lemon juice. A sixth of it is miel. I

(14:23):
forgot how to say that, even though Duo Lingo has
told me a lot of times how to say honey
and French. Two thirds of the volume is Gordon's dry gent.
And then this comes with the direction frappe latout or
hit it all that means, of course shaking it. Frank
Meyer merits a short aside. He's a pretty interesting character
in addition to elevating the role of head bartender to

(14:45):
really being a guest services and hospitality manager, because he would,
according to various accounts, come out from behind the bar,
talk with customers, do things like table touches that are
very common today but weren't necessarily then. In addition to
all of that, he was also an accidental spy, according
to writer to lar J Mozeo, who wrote The Hotel

(15:07):
on Place Vendome Life, Death and Betrayal at the Hotel
Ritz in Paris. So, according to that book, when Paris
was occupied by the Germans in World War II, Meyer
stayed and he kept the bar open, and a lot
of Nazis started to frequent the place, and Meyer is
said to have used his position to eavesdrop on his
German clientele and then use that information to aid the

(15:31):
French resistance and British forces. He is also believed to
have assisted Jewish hotel guests who needed papers to get
out of the city to safety. So kind of a hero,
h but don't get too excited. He also may have
made some dodgy financial deals with people, like saying, hey,
if you give me your money, I will pay all

(15:52):
your debts while you're gone, and then when the occupation
is ended and you come back, everything will be taken
care of. He didn't do that. He pocketed the money
in a lot of cases that ultimately got him in
hot water. He got fired from his job, and he
kind of vanishes from the historical record after that. So
sort of a hero, sort of a cheat, total mixed bag.

(16:13):
Another story of where the bees knees comes from is
tied to a well known historical figure, and that's Molly Brown,
as in the Unsinkable Molly Brown, survivor of the Titanic disaster.
She was also an activist two championed women's rights and workers' rights,
and a very wealthy woman who was active in philanthropy.

(16:34):
She may have invented the Bee's Knees cocktail. Historians Jared
Brow and Anastasia Miller turned up a nineteen twenty nine
newspaper mention of the bees Knees that gave Brown the
credit for creating it in Paris while she was in
one of the city's drinking establishments that catered exclusively to women.
So because this mentioned as the same year that cocktails

(16:57):
the parih came out, doesn't really answer the question of
who invented the drink. It does place its origin, though,
pretty squarely in Paris in the nineteen twenties. So there
is also another common origin story for the Besnies that
I bet sad on you have heard, which is that
it was a prohibition era drink that came about because

(17:18):
the lower quality gin that was what hello. The lower
quality gin that was available at the time, like the
honey serrut, covered some of that and smoothed out the flavor. Look,
we have the other two origin stories that are actually
in print. This one seems pretty trophy. It existed already,
It wasn't that. That's like a cute way to describe it.

(17:41):
But there's a lot of stuff that ties cocktail history
to like prohibition doings that doesn't really have legs. Yeah,
the expression of the bees knees was pretty popular during
the jazz Age. It makes sense that the cocktails creator
would invoke a saying that meant something that was great
and then reference bees because of having honey in it.

(18:03):
So now we had to transition because we cannot talk
about cocktail history, particularly in the US, without discussing Jerry Thomas.
He was born Jerry or Jeremiah. We're not sure pee
Thomas on October thirty at eighteen thirty in Second's Harbor,
New York. Some sources actually say it was eighteen thirty two.
Who knows. If you're wondering what that pee stands for

(18:27):
me too, we don't know. Never never was ever disclosed
in any sort of way. It's not certain. As I
said it, his given name was Jerry or Jeremiah. He
said both at different times when he got interviewed. His
parents were Jeremiah and Mary, and he had three brothers
that we know of, George, John, and David. And when

(18:47):
Jerry was still a kid, although once again exact dates
I don't know. The family moved to new Haven, Connecticut
when Jerry was sixteen. I keep trying to speak into
the microphone, like I know, I gotta know. I fear
it will cut on and feel like an event. Horizon
will open up so much. It's like with the puff

(19:09):
out at your house, and every time you walk into
a room, you flip the lights went back the back
and there's a blazing sun. Yeah. So, when Jerry was sixteen,
he started working as a barkeep in New Haven, but
just the following year switch trajectories completely and went to sea.

(19:29):
He told a reporter years later that he went to Cuba.
That may or may not have been true. Uh. He
did end up though, on a ship called the Ann Smith.
The Ann Smith was based out of New Haven, and
on the Ann Smith he went to California via the
very lengthy route that ran down the North American and

(19:49):
South America. Comments around Cape Horn and then up north
on the West coast window from a passenger's account that
there was a lot of alcohol flowy very on this shit.
We don't really know whether Jerry Thomas was pouring any

(20:09):
of that alcohol though, but the Ann Smith got to
know got to San Francisco on November fourth, eighteen forty nine. That,
of course, was not long after the start of the
California gold Rush. Thomas really wanted to get in on
that action, so he jumps ship. Didn't work out for

(20:30):
him though, I mean the gold rush didn't work out
for most people who were trying to get gold. It
worked out for people who ran bars and ruffles himself
and sell things to people trying to get gold. Associate
he was working as a bartender. So at last his
bartending career has begun. No, not really, because he left

(20:51):
that job. He was very fickle at seems. He left
that job less than a year in to start a
musical group. And this music group toured up and down
the state of California and apparently did pretty well. But
he didn't stick with that either. He left that enterprise.
There was one story I read that suggested that while

(21:11):
they were traveling, a bunch of the other this is
dark so get ready, a bunch of the other musicians
got cholera and died and he had to bury them.
I don't know if that's true or not, because he
told a lot of lies, but he he did leave
his musician life. He was back on the East Coast
in New York by eighteen fifty two, and when he

(21:32):
got there he was really flush with cash. He had
sixteen thousand dollars in his pocket, not adjusted for today's
money sixteen eighteen fifty two, so he was rolling hot.
We don't know how he got that money. Mysteries about,
but it doesn't matter because he spent it all nealy fast.
He is said to have been a sporting gentleman, meaning

(21:54):
that he gambled like crazy. His New York Times obituary
indicated that his money came from an inheritance. That doesn't
quite seem right, but according to that when his father died,
he got a small sum and that was what enabled
him to travel. And the New York Times included this
really cute description of him that as he traveled, quote,
he developed quite a taste for pictures and brick the brack.

(22:18):
Not quite what you would expect of a man who
was traveling the seas, but yeah, he did like stuff.
His whole story is wild, because the next thing that
may have happened is opening a bar in eighteen fifty
two under the Barna Museum of All places. That too,
is difficult to verify, though before long he was back

(22:39):
in New Haven at the City Hotel. He might have
traveled around the country for a little bit, kind of
working in bars and saloons wherever he went. As he
made this little journey, he definitely claimed that was what
was happening. I was not in New Haven for very
long though, and was working at the Metropolitan Hotel in
New York in eighteen fifty eight. He was the principal

(23:01):
bartender there. This was a good job at a well
established location, and Thomas did well enough that he could
travel to Europe and see prize fights, maybe do some
guest bartending there. Yeah, it's one of those things where
if you look up, Jerry Thomas says he bartended. So
how much of that is we don't know. But his

(23:22):
really big move in terms of like becoming a figure
in this scene, happened in eighteen sixty when he and
his brother George opened up a drinking establishment at six
twenty two Broadway, and this became an incredibly popular spot.
Like it is written up in all of the newspapers.
It attracted all of the actors of Broadway. It attracted
very famous people, including Royalty. It said that Prince Edward

(23:45):
stopped there when he was visiting New York. But while
Thomas was really good at making drinks and really good
at engaging with guests, he really really sucked at managing business,
and that business ultimately tanks. So not long after Jerry
Thomas's bar at six twenty two Broadway closed, he published
a book. And that book is The Bartender's Guide, how

(24:08):
to Mix Drinks or The bon Vivant's Companion. And each
of those title segments gets used as the title of
this book when people talk or write about it, and
that is because the cover of the book reads Jerry
Thomas's Bartender's Guide, how to Mix Drinks, Receipts for mixing
all kinds of punch, eggnog, july smashes, Powper's cock Fails,
and its seguris, Maul's Toddy slings, sours, flips Flip, and

(24:32):
two hundred other fancy drinks. Uh you know, we leve
alone title. The title page of this book is even wordier.
It doesn't match what Ali just said. The words are
all completely different. This reads how to Mix Drinks or
The Bonvivant's Companion, containing clear and reliable directions for mixing

(24:54):
all the beverages in the United States, together with the
most popular British, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish recipes
embracing punches, juliets, coddlers, etc. Etc. Etc. In endless variety.

(25:16):
There's more that I have to say. There's an equally
long subhead that we're not reading regarding all of the
appended manual for manufacturing cordials, liquors, fancy syrups, etc. Et cetera.
That section, though, was written by Professor Christian Schultzho's title
is Practical Chemist and Distillery print against title. To be

(25:39):
very very clear, Jerry Thomas did not invent those recipes.
He basically, during all of his travel, was collecting them.
It was the first book of its kind in North America, though,
and he had learned bartending the way I mentioned earlier
that people learn it all the time by going and
working in bars, often as like a junior bartender or
a barback, and you know, picking up all of the
various tricks the other bartenders and master printenders were teaching him.

(26:04):
The recipes were known to barkeepers, but at this point
they hadn't been written down anywhere and I kind of
feel like this might have been like the magician who
tells the tricks where they're like Jerry. But because he
had traveled so much, he had been exposed to a
lot of different drinks. And this was a very successful book,
although like his other business deals, he made a really

(26:27):
really lopsided deal with the publisher. He didn't get any
residuals off of it. He got paid the one time
for the book and that was it, even though it
went to printing after printing, after printing. The year after
the book came out, Jerry moved to San Francisco and
worked at the Occidental Hotel. He wrote a second book,
which sadly is now lost. This was titled Portrait Gallery

(26:50):
of Distinguished Bartenders. He was really on the move all
the time. He did not stay in San Francisco long either,
and he had it to Nevada. I almost said it
the way I say it in my head, which is
the way people will yell at me for saying when
the US Civil War. And then he had it right

(27:12):
back to the East Coast and got a job at
the Metropolitan until he opened up a new establishment of
his own with his brother near Madison Square. And there
the art that he had collected over the years, which
included a series of prints by previous podcast subject William Hogarth.
Those are all hung up on the walls so the

(27:32):
people could come, they could have some food, they could
look at all this art, and they could drink. And
this became really successful as an assigned I think the
hogart thing was cheeky, because if you know Hogarth's works,
they're all like morality tales about not giving into excess
and drinking and carousing with loose humans. So I'm like,

(27:56):
I'm like, Jerry, where you being a little cheeky tiky.
In eighteen sixty seven, Jerry got married. He married a
widow named Henrietta Waits. Henrietta already had a daughter who
became part of their family, and then she and Jerry
had a child together, a son. So he went from
this life on the move, I mean, he shifted careers
so many times to this kind of sessile one in

(28:18):
New York, complete with a business and family responsibility. And
I don't know why I choked on that word, with
business and family responsibility. And this was really in the
course of just a couple of years. He went from
like free Meeland to sit in. Still, the bar did
move north in eighteen seventy two to a location on
Broadway near thirtieth that's because Rent went up at his
old one, and once again he created a sort of

(28:39):
combination bar restaurant museum to great success. Oh, Jerry, you
never learn how to handle money. It's so sad he
was making. I read one thing that said like they
routinely brought in over four hundred dollars a night, which
today would not be amazing for a bar, but in
eighteen sixty seven or I guess that was seventy two solid.

(29:01):
But he spent more than he made all the time.
He bought stuff on credit, constantly thinking he's gonna jush
up the bar, somemore, and it all caught up to him.
He and his brother tried things like they tried to
rebrand the bar and have additional grand openings to try
to like reinvigorate the business. They also added pool tables,
and at one point they added a shooting range in

(29:23):
the bar, which you know, what goes together rudder is
alcohol and gun. I did not find any evidence that
anything went horribly awry, thankfully, But the thing is, none
of this worked because by eighteen seventy six he had
to not only sell the business, he had been in
business at this point for so long. He was literally

(29:44):
the most famous bartender in the city. And it was
suddenly like, but I can do it anymore because I
don't know how to run a business, which he really
needed a better business bar. Yeah, I'm going to travel
back in time and I'm gonna make Jerry Tummas happen
in a new way. I feeling today maybe he could
make it go of like one of those axe throwing bars.
Them seems similar to like a side range bar hoochin violence. Yeah,

(30:09):
I feel like the story we've already told about him
has had some very wild detours. There are also a
lot of stories about Jerry Thomas that are difficult to substantiate.
For example, allegedly, at one point he was planning to
cross the Atlantic Ocean in a ballot. We're not done.

(30:32):
He was going to be armed with a knife in
case he went down in the water and had to
fight off sharks. But this plan was sported because he
couldn't get enough gas to fill the blue Also, he
just he bolstered some of the false information himself. At
one point, he told a journalist that he had invented

(30:56):
the popular drink known as Tom and Jerry, which includes
an egg, sugar, brandy, and sometimes also rum. He said
he named this drink after his two pet mice, Tom
and Jerry, and also after himself. Had it's just like

(31:16):
exciting light. This makes yeah, so uh yeah, he said.
He named this after his two pet mice, Tom and Jerry,
also after himself, using that short version of Thomas. He
said this came to him as an idea in eighteen
forty seven when a patron just wanted an egg mixed

(31:39):
with sugar, and he decided it just sounds yeah, yeah,
and he decided to improve on that. And the thing is, though,
this is a drink that has roots in the eighteen twenties,
so it was not something that he thought of in
eighteen forty seven. Yeah, it's a brandy slip. I mean
it's not. He didn't. By the way, if you're not

(32:01):
in the flips, come alone. It's good. There are plenty
of things, though, that we do actually know and are
verifiable about him. He was absolutely known every write up
to be quite a dandy. He loved like super expensive
slaxy jewelry, maybe this is where the money problems came up.
But he really changed bartending forever because, in addition to

(32:21):
writing down and sharing all of these recipes, if he
had learned over the years, he is also considered the
father of flare bartending. If you don't know what that is,
that's the kind of bartending. Like if you ever saw
Tom cruising cocktail, it's that kind where you're flipping the
bottles and you're spinning things, and you're throwing a lemon
and catching it in the lemon press and all of that,
and it all goes back to Jerry. His most famous

(32:43):
drench is a showmanship classic. It's called the Blue Blazer.
It's terrifying. Yeah, I'm gonna tell you about it. If
you've ever seen a woodcut of Jerry Thomas, it probably
included the illustration of him making a blue blazer. This
is a woodcut that was in the book. This drink,

(33:04):
as written by Thomas, calls for one wine glass of
scounch whiskey. Plus these were smaller wine glasses, so I
still still glass and just when it's getting weirder's yet
plus the same measure of boiling water. Okay, And then

(33:25):
here's the instructions. Quote, put the whiskey and the boiling
water in one mug, ignite the liquid with fire and
wild blazing. Mix both ingredients by pouring them four or
five times from one mug to the other, as represented
in the cut. If well done, this will have the

(33:48):
appearance of a continued stream of liquid fire, sweetened with
one teaspoon of pulverized white sugar, and serve in a
small bar tumblert when a piece of lit evant peel.
The blue Blazer doesn't have a very phonious or classic name,
but it tastes better to the palate than it sounds
to the ear. Tamas also makes what maybe it's a

(34:12):
good suggestion practicing this trick of pouring this boiling water
and flaming stuff from one basel to another. Try that
with cold water before you try it with stuff that's
boiling or on fire. There are also people who make
the blue blazer today. You can find videos of it online.

(34:34):
It's terrifying. It's terrifying. And since we're talking about gin
drinks tonight, I also want to make sure we mentioned
some of the gin drinks that are in Jerry's book
that are not the ones we've discussed, for example, the
gin and pine, and this is made simply enough and
is true to its name. Quote, split a piece of
the heart of a green pine log and defined splints

(34:57):
about the size. Oh, just wait of a cedar lead pencil,
and take two ounces of the same and put into
a quart decanter, and fill the decanter with gin. Let
the pine soap for two hours, and the gin will
be ready to serve. She likes some wood in your gin, delicious.

(35:18):
There is also an entry for a gin straight that's
exactly what it sounds like. The recipe is the same
as a brandy strait, but it's gin instead. And those
directions say, quote, in serving this drink, you simply put
a piece of ice in a tumbler and hand it

(35:38):
to your customer. Wish the bottle of brandy worth hurting.
There some of Thomas's strength. They're just straight alcohol. He
also does have a section, although it is brief that
our temperance drinks, and most of these are based with lemonade. Yeah,
some of those actually sound pretty good. Fight his fame

(36:01):
and his showmanship and his influence, Jerry Thomas's last years
were pretty low key. After he closed his final bar
and was kind of out of money. He worked at
various small bars around New York. He tried to restart
his entrepreneurial efforts, including one that was also a minstrel theater,
but nothing ever really got off the ground. This might
be my favorite fact about Jerry Thomas and has nothing

(36:23):
to do with cocktails. In eighteen seventy eight, he started
an organization known as the Gord Club. This is exactly
what it sounds like. It was a group of people
who were really enthusiastic about gords and their cultivationship. Well,
there's some great guards. I can see how you can't

(36:43):
rise if you grew the best gourd. He was really
excited and he got written up in the paper for
this amazing club he had started. I think we need
Gord Club t shirts. But he lost so much money
on his business efforts that went awry, gambling, and then
he speculated on the stock market that he lost absolutely everything.

(37:05):
He even had to sell off his collection of art
and curios. He continued, literally to the end of his
days to talk in the press about plans that he
had where he was going to start a new bar,
where he was going to reinvigorate an old bar, but
none of those ever really materialized. On de Zepber fourteenth,
eighteen eighty five, Jerry had been working at the Hotel Brighton,

(37:27):
which he was hoping to reinvigorate and turn into a
proper bar. He left in the early afternoon to go home,
and then shortly after he walked in the door, he
died of what was officially recorded as vascular disease of
the heart. He was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery at the Bronx.
And we had just touched on some things about Jerry Thomas,

(37:48):
but if you want a way more in depth look,
as well as an examination and analysis of his work,
which is pretty great. One of the best resources is
a book called Imbibe. If you're into cocktails, you've probably
seen it. It's written by David Wondrich, who is an
amazing cocktail and spirits historian. It's such a good read
whether you like drinks or not, but if you love
cocktails and you want to know more about their history, especially,

(38:10):
it's like the magic history book you always wanted. He
cannot recommend it to us, so it was life was
really one of ups and downs. It is safe to
say that Jerry, with his flare for the dramatic and
dress and service style, he'd be pretty pleased with the
iconic stature that his name holds today among the drink
of a shitados. There is in fact a speakeasy in

(38:31):
Rome called Jerry Thomas. To loop back to the beginning
of the show, though Jerry included recipes for the Tom
Collins in an updated edition of The Bartender's Guide because
it didn't exist when he first put it out. He
actually had three versions. But he's an interesting thing because
if instead of giving the drink a new name when
it was made with a different spirit, he just called

(38:52):
them all Tom Collins, but he would be like Tom
Collins whiskey, Tom Collins Blandy, and that Tom Collins gin.
So you know, full circle on gin cocktail history. Yeah, yay,
thank you for that's Jerry Thomas and some of our

(39:13):
favorite gin beverages, which you know, we had been asked
when this live show initially started to do something potentially
involving cocktail history, which is always fun to talk about,
and so I was delighted when we got the chance
to have a little little gin time. I have listener mail, listen,

(39:34):
I may never, ever, ever, ever stop talking about pumpkins,
because to me, it's Halloween year round. But here we are.
This is from our listener Kristen, who writes, Hi, Holly
and Tracy, Happy October. I just listened to the episode
about jack o' lanterns. I liked the episode, but when
Holly mentioned pumpkins sprouting up randomly in the garden, I

(39:55):
just had to write in I love growing pumpkins and
tell everyone with gardens if they want something that looks
great all summer with no effort, pumpkins are your best friend.
The big green leaves hide all the weeds, and then
you get pumpkins in the fall. They are the best.
For years, we have let our kids smash our jack
of lanterns in the garden after Halloween. Every spring, new

(40:16):
plants sprout from the random seeds left over. They bring
me joy three out of four seasons of the year.
Thanks for all your podcasts that bring me joy all
year round. And here is a pick of our new
family member, Mila. She is a Lab Retriever Husky mix.
She is sweet, wild, and sassy. We just love her.
She is beautiful. Oh my goodness, this dog is beautiful.

(40:37):
I'm a little obsessed, so please kiss Mila right on
the snoop for me if she's into that. I also
wanted to mention the other thing that Kristen doesn't mention,
that is great if you are growing pumpkins, you can
eat those pumpkin blossoms. They're very delicious, especially the first

(40:57):
The first series of blossom that you get are all
going to be male and so you can't get any
fruit from them anyway, so you may as well pluck them.
You can put them in case ideas, you can deep
fry them, you can do all the yummy things. I'm
a fan. I'm telling you pumpkins year round. So thank
you Kristin for reminding me that there was more about

(41:19):
pumpkins to talk about, and thank you for sharing its
beautiful pictures of my list. She's so pretty, and also
just encouraging people to grow pumpkins because I agree they
are very very fun to grow. I love them. I
love them. If you would like to write to us,
you can do so at History Podcast at iHeartRadio dot com.
You can also find us on social media as Missed
in History, and if you would like to subscribe and

(41:41):
you haven't yet, you can do that easy as pie.
You can do that on the iHeartRadio app, or anywhere
you listen to your favorite shows. Stuff you Missed in
History Class is a production of iHeartRadio. For more podcasts
from iHeartRadio, visit the iHeart Radio app, Apple Podcasts, or

(42:01):
wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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Holly Frey

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