“Bartenders were important men in their milieu, but that milieu—which we shall discuss—compiled its historical record by anecdote and barroom reminiscence, not systematic investigation backed by documents”
-David Wondrich, in Imbibe!
The historiography surrounding bartending and mixology is perfectly encapsulated by this quote. Bartenders are very scientific about their beverages and not about where they come from. Other than cocktail menus, it is impossible to examine who created what first. Details surrounding bartenders and mixology are often an imperfect oral history. The recipes of two cocktails with the same name may be different. Many of these menus have been lost to time. While mixology can certainly have an effect on society, for the most part, it is something that exemplifies what is going on in larger society.
Almost every book or source surrounding bartending and mixology is itself a cocktail recipe book first and foremost. The history in these books exists for the purpose of aiding the craft of cocktails; it not a precise historical study of mixology. Creating this website was difficult because I could not approach it like anything I have ever done in the past. There was lots of sifting through information to determine what was useful and what was reasonably credible. Useful primary sources were the most difficult to find. Bars have a taboo around them, which means they often exist in the shadows. Bartenders kept their recipes secret for a long time and many do today. Old recipe books are few and far between. Prohibition served as a massive barrier of information and tradition; this time period is also hard to research because people were breaking laws.
Mixology specifically is uncharted territory historically. There is plenty of study conducted about society during these times and even their general drinking habits. Prohibition garners a large amount of attention in this regard. However, what was happening to the cocktails themselves is harder to pin down. I hope that this website provides information and spurs more research.
In many ways, the practice of bartending is a historical one. Every cocktail is a mix of something old with something new. I'm excited for the future as we learn more about the past.