“Lift Your Spirits: A Celebratory History of Cocktail Culture in New Orleans” by Elizabeth M. Williams and Chris McMillian with foreword by Dale DeGroff, LSU Press, $22.50, 190 pages, hardcover
Many Crescent City residents insist the cocktail was invented in New Orleans. After all, the Sazerac, Herbsaint and the Hurricane were first concocted in New Orleans. But, while the city’s history and culture make that claim “both plausible and believable,” the cocktail didn’t begin in New Orleans, according to a new book from LSU Press.
A definition of “cocktail” is found in a New York broadsheet in 1806, authors Elizabeth M. Williams and Chris McMillian write in “Lift Your Spirits: A Celebratory History of Cocktail Culture in New Orleans.”
In their book, Williams, founder and director of the National Food and Beverage Foundation, and McMillian, a Louisiana native and renowned bartender, say their aim is to explore “just what it is about New Orleans that has made it the defender of the cocktail and a tolerant haven for drinkers” and to delve into “the history, the culture, and the soul of New Orleans as reflected in the cocktail.”
Throughout the United States, except in New Orleans, “the 13-year-long social experiment” of Prohibition (repealed in 1933) unraveled “the rich culture of drink that had developed over more than two centuries,” writes founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail, Dale DeGroff, in the book’s foreword. The reason, he says, is because “the drinks culture was integrated tightly into the fabric of daily life” of New Orleans, and “Prohibition was greeted with an almost comical shrug.”
In “Lift Your Spirits,” the authors share the cocktail’s history, more than 40 recipes, plus a sampling of some of the city’s top bars and lounges that offer “a well-crafted cocktail” and a glossary of terms. It is illustrated with black-and-white photographs.
The Crescent City’s longstanding cocktail and spirits culture is the reason Stitzel-Weller Distillery of Kentucky chose New Orleans as one of nine cities where it launched its new release, Blade and Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (suggested retail price, $49.99, 750 ml) and the limited release Blade and Bow 22-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey ($149.99).
The tasting, held May 17 at the Pigeon & Prince event venue, featured cocktails developed especially for the occasion. That launch event seemed to be the type of cocktail environment the authors discuss in “Lift Your Spirit,” which includes new craft cocktails by co-author McMillian.
Cheramie Sonnier is a food writer and columnist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on Twitter, @CheramieSonnier.