Thursday, August 4, 2016

Mr. Boston Bartender's Guide is Now Online

You don't have to be a traditionalist to enjoy bourbon, but many bourbon drinkers are. For many bourbon drinkers, their favorite cocktail recipe is this one.

Ingredients: bourbon whiskey, glass

Directions: Pour bourbon into glass. Drink bourbon.

But some bourbon drinkers also enjoy cocktails with a few more ingredients. If you are a traditionalist and a cocktail lover, you probably will want to bookmark The Old Mr. Boston Bartenders Guide Website.

The new website, launched this week, contains more than 10,500 drink recipes. Each of them was entered into the database as originally found in the printed books.

Old Mr. Boston was a distilled spirits producer established at the end of Prohibition in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston by Irwin "Red" Benjamin and Hyman C. Berkowitz. They sold a full line of distilled spirits, everything from bourbon and rye whiskey to cordials, all under the Old Mr. Boston brand name.

The original Old Mr. Boston Bartenders Guide was compiled and edited by Leo Cotton, a purchasing agent for the Old Mr. Boston company. The first edition was published in 1935. It has been revised and updated 74 times.

The brand, book, and new website are all owned by Sazarec, which has integrated its own company history into the Mr. Boston history due to Sazarec's roll in the development of cocktails dating from the 1795 arrival of Antoine Amedie Peychaud Sr. in New Orleans, where he began to make bitters from an old family recipe.

How Mr. Boston became part of Sazerac is a tale in its own right. Mr. Boston was an independent operation from its founding in 1933 until 1970, when it was acquired by Louisville's Glenmore, then one of the largest distilled spirits companies in the U.S. Although owned by Glenmore, Mr. Boston continued to operate out of its Boston headquarters until 1986, when everything was moved to Louisville. In 1991, Glenmore was acquired by United Distillers (now Diageo).

As was typical during that period of industry consolidation, acquiring companies usually wanted only a few of the acquired company's assets and quickly sold the rest. Barton bought a number of these discarded brands, including Mr. Boston. In 2009, Barton's parent did the same thing and Mr. Boston became part of Sazerac, which seems happy to have it.

“The Mr. Boston books have covered the evolution of the cocktail in America since Prohibition, but sadly, they were let go over the years,” said Mark Brown, president and chief executive officer, the Sazerac Company. “The ties between our company and that brand are inextricably linked, with not only the Sazerac Cocktail, but our heritage in New Orleans, a city long synonymous with the cocktail culture.  It was a natural fit to bring it all together where we are ensuring the future of the brand for at least another 80 years as the ‘go to’ site for professional and amateur mixologists.”

The site is nicely designed and fun to play with. Like the books it is more than recipes, but the recipes are its heart and soul. Over the years, as the company tried to modernize, it dropped both 'Old' and 'Mr.' from its name. Now that the Guide has achieved icon status, it seems right to restore the original 1935 title. The Old Mr. Boston Bartenders Guide was not the first cocktails book and there are many others that reflect the modern mixology movement more accurately, but touchstones are important, to traditionalists anyway.


Michael Shoshani said...

I bought a copy of this around 1987 or so, when it was a Glenmore publication. That copy has disappeared over the ages, as have many of the house brands of whiskey featured at the time (such as Old Thompson). Nice to see it returning in a well-designed and well-executed online format.

Brian (AKA The Dean) said...

I believe Old Thompson is still made. I have seen it in liquor stores (I suppose it could be old stock), and it is still listed on Sazerac's website. But at 80% neutral grain spirits, I wouldn't miss it if it disappeared.

Back when I was just getting started in bartending, Old Mr Boston was an invaluable guide to cocktails. I noticed, as time went by, many of their recipes seemed to be a bit staid/old-fashioned (not to be confused with the drink). A quick peek at the website reveals they may be mixing the old traditional recipes with some newer versions. Funny thing is, the older I get, the more I appreciate the older/traditional recopies (with a couple big exceptions). The classics remain, well, classic!

Cranecreek said...

Thank you Chuck for writing this article. I think it's a great site and the inclusion of recipes of cocktails in previous years is informative and fun. Some even back to editions from the 50's.