The Man Who Drank Around the World
As he tells it — tongue-in-cheek — after making a fortune in the stock market, Esquire writer Charles H. Baker set out to travel around the world drinking cocktails. From Cayenne Wine in Trinidad to Absinthe Frappés in Cairo, Baker catalogued his travel libations in The Gentleman’s Companion: Being an Exotic Drinking Book, Or, Around the World With Jigger, Beaker and Flask (1939). The book is fascinating and funny — and a classic among cocktail books. Baker drinks with Faulkner in New Jersey and gets marooned in Shanghai; he makes a Pendennis Club Cocktail variation with ripe kumquats then steals camels near the Pyramids of Giza; he gets married, apparently drunk, in Hong Kong. All this is to say the book is a romp, covering the pre-WII globe with a spirit of wild adventurousness and sodden abandon. Baker can be serious, too, as when he documents the Arab-Jewish riots that broke out after the stoning of an old man in Haifa. And his description of the sunset falling over a nearly unreachable 500-year-old mountain temple while dreaming of Genghis Kahn and drinking Broken Spurs (gin, vermouth, port, egg yolk), reveal incredible imaginative and descriptive powers— and a serious commitment to strong drink. During much of the global trip, Baker and his companions seem to bring their own booze with them, while the rest of the time they must make do with whatever the locals have. Hilarity ensues. New drinks are created. Classic recipes are altered. As a helpful aside, Baker includes no less than twenty-seven ‘hair of the dog’ drinks. The book could have been titled, Destination: Hangover, or, How to Wake up with a Headache Abroad.
Presumably, a few people have traveled around the globe in Baker’s footsteps (at least a few of them). His is a journey every cocktailer should take into account while traveling. When I began this project, one of my first steps was to create a Google map. Below you’ll find all the locations Baker mentions in Jigger, Beaker, Flask.