LOST RECIPES OF PROHIBITION: Notes from a Bootlegger’s Manual
October 28, 2015
October 28, 2015
Matthew Rowley is a writer, editor, public speaker, and author based in Southern California. He is a past board member of the Southern Foodways Alliance and the Museum Council of Philadelphia and the Greater Delaware Valley. He earned degrees from Truman State University and the University of Kansas and conducted postgraduate studies at the Wharton School of Business.
Rowley’s 2,000-volume culinary library is open to chefs, bartenders, historians, journalists, and students. When not writing for clients, he maintains Rowley’s Whiskey Forge, a sporadic blog devoted to the history and practice of distilling, cocktails, and good eats.
Nearly everyone has heard of bathtub gin, but how many people know what it really was—or how to make it? During the height of the Prohibition, one anonymous physician compiled more than 200 recipes for “compounding” spirits, hiding the manuscript from authorities. By adding extracts, essences, and oils to plain old sugar moonshine, bootleggers would simulate the taste of gin, whiskey, cordials, rums, absinthes…booze that was otherwise impossible to procure. The potential profits were staggering.
This document fell into the hands of author Matthew Rowley, who became fascinated with the process of compounding and the historical events that led to this mysterious and lucrative manuscript. In addition to annotating the actual pages of the book, Rowley provides a historical background, and gives his readers an overview of the process, updating some of the recipes for modern distillers, bartenders, and cocktail enthusiasts.
Alamawhoozlum? Alamagoozlum. It’s a mouthful, and not just because the recipe—from Charles H. Baker Jr.’s 1939 “Around the World with Jigger, Beaker, and Flask”—makes about a 10-ounce drink. A blend of herbal Chartreuse, malty genever, and a hefty dose of bitters, it’s one you can share with a friend. Or two. Baker credits its invention to financier J. Pierpont Morgan, but in 1873 the Pelican Saloon in Los Angeles advertised drinks that included the Alamagoosier. Was it the same drink? Without a recipe, it’s hard to say, though that Bris Around the Corner cocktail in the same ad gives me pause . . .
Shake all the ingredients without ice for 10 seconds to emulsify the egg white. Add ice, shake again until shilled, then strain into a large coupe (or two smaller ones).
Lyon’s two shrubs are among my favorite recipes in the notebook, each lifted from Joseph Fleischman’s 1885 compounding manual. Both are good over ice (maybe with a bit more rum or iced tea for an impromptu punch) or as a cordial, and I’ve used them in margaritas to good effect. For each, Puerto Rican 151 is fine but Lost Spirits Cuban-style rum is grand. Here’s a scaled-down and slightly tweaked version for home.
Combine the rum, juices, and citrus peels in a large swing-top jar. Seal and let macerate 24 hours in a cool place. Meanwhile, make a syrup by heating the sugar and water in a nonreactive pot. When cool, combine with the strained rum mixture, stir to blend, and bottle.
The West Indian shrub is identical, except that it uses fresh lime juice in place of both the lemon and orange juices.
Named for Cuban president Gerardo Machado, the elegant El Presidente is a mix of rum, curaçao, grenadine, and one specific vermouth. Tropical drinks historian Jeff Berry notes in “Potions of the Caribbean” that Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry, a moderately dry French vermouth, works in an El Presidente, but that the other dry vermouths simply don’t. He’s right. In fact, it’s a pretty bad drink with the regular sort of French vermouth that dominates the market. If you can’t find Dolin, do as Berry suggests and mix equal parts of dry French and sweet Italian vermouths.
Stir the rum, vermouth, and curaçao in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe. Twist the orange peel over the drink, drop it in, and garnish with a cherry.
These recipes may be reproduced with the following credit:
Recipes from LOST RECIPES OF PROHIBITION: Notes from a Bootlegger’s Manual by Matthew Rowley. (Countryman Press, October 2015; $27.95/hardcover; ISBN: 978-1581572650).
Contact: Devorah Backman