Cups & Their Custom by Henry Porter & George Roberts (1863)

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 14.15.35Londoners Henry Porter and George Roberts were not fans of the new American bars nor of cocktails that were displacing traditional British compounds such as punches and cups. By 1860s, the colonial intrusion into British drinking habits insinuated by Reform Club chef Alexis Benoit Soyer, Leo Engels at the Criterion, the Bowling Alley Bar at the Cremorne Pleasure Gardens led these to authors to comment:

For the ‘sensation-drinks’ which have lately travelled across the Atlantic we have no friendly feeling  . . .we will pass the American bar . . .and express our gratification at the slight success which “Pick-me-up,” “Corpse-reviver,” “Chain-lightning,” and the like, have had in this country. 

Generally, British tastes were not attuned to the sweet offerings of the American cocktail menu nor the tooth-numbing coldness at which they were served. Thus, Cups and Their Custom (aka: Drinking Cups and Their Custom) offers a view into a world of lower alcohol strength drinks that rely more on spice and complexity than on heavy citrus and heavier spirit ratios.

Besides wine-based cups and a variety of punches a few other classic British compounds are presented: wassail, lamb’s wool, metheglin, dating back to medieval and Elizabethan times. Ales and beers play a primary role in a few of these concoctions. There are even a handful of essential liqueur recipes as well as a formula for a blood-warming Hunting Flask.

This book was so popular that a second edition was published in 1869.

As the bar world looks for inspiration in creating lower-alcohol drinks as well as beer-based offerings, this book becomes a tempting inspiration for drinks development.—Anistatia Miller