The Oxford Companion, Part 10

Fern bars

When I first reached legal drinking age most bars were designed to be patronized by men – that is, by people who couldn’t care less what the places looked like. As a result, most bars looked and smelled terrible. (But I quickly got used to it.) read more »

The Oxford Companion, Part 9


Vodka is unlike other forms of alcohol in that there is no justifiable excuse for drinking it … you might as well inject vodka into your bloodstream. Russian writer Viktor Yerofeyev read more »

The Oxford Companion, Part 7

The classic cocktails (continued)

The Manhattan

This mixture of whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters, garnished with a maraschino cherry, is believed to be the original “cocktail” in the modern sense of the word. Invented around 1880, the Manhattan became almost instantly popular, with the Boston Herald calling it “as good as anything that can be manufactured.” read more »

The Oxford Companion, Part 6

The martini (continued)

Global consternation erupted when, in Dr. No, James Bond ordered a Smirnoff vodka martini. He then compounded this felony by instructing that it be “shaken, not stirred.” read more »

The Oxford Companion, Part 5

The Daiquiri

The Daiquiri is one of those terrific drinks that happened by accident. Around the turn of the twentieth century an American engineer named Cox, working in the small town of Daiquiri in Puerto Rico, was entertaining some American visitors. He was about to whip up some drinks but realized he was out of gin. read more »

The Oxford Companion, Part 4

The Tiki phenomenon (continued)

As I mentioned, I came of legal drinking age at a time when you could only get tiki drinks at Chinese restaurants. The pioneering Don The Beachcomber was no more and as far as I knew all the Trader Vic’s had closed, except for a few locations abroad. read more »

The Oxford Companion, Part 3

The Tiki phenomenon

I had the great misfortune to reach legal drinking age just as the tiki drink phenomenon was turning into a parody of itself. Formerly terrific drinks like the Zombie, the Scorpion and the Rum Runner were now available only in Chinese restaurants and they all tasted exactly alike, being made by then out of nothing but fruit juice and rum. read more »

The Oxford Companion, Part 2

TOCSC pays for itself

I had barely dipped my toe into The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails when the book paid for itself – which is saying something – because I found the guy I want to be in my next life. I was still early in the B’s (the TOCSC entries are alphabetical) when I came across Charles Baker. Charlie had an allergy to hard work, so he married an heiress named Paulene Paulsen – her father, August Paulsen, had built a fortune via lead and silver mines in the mountains of the Coeur d’Alenes district of northern Idaho. read more »

Visit the Greycourt website »