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OP: ABC of Mixing Cocktails

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by Harry McElhone

Dean & Son, Limited. Hardcover. Very Good Plus in Very Good jacket. Eleventh edition. 

Even after nearly 40 years in business, there are still certain out-of-print books that give us a thrill when we come across them. This is one of those scarce titles that we had yet to handle. Acquiring such a prize gets our blood pumping, and we are elated to be able to offer it here.

Scottish born Harry McElhone (1890–1958), who had a natural flare for self-promotion and branding, was one of the most well-known bartenders of his day. In fact, he is still highly revered among cocktail aficionados as one of the godfathers of the craft. McElhone earned his chops working at the Plaza in New York and Ciro’s Club in London, but he is primarily associated with Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, which he bought in 1923 and operated until his death.

In 1922, while still working at Ciro’s, McElhone published his wildly popular ABC of Mixing Cocktails. The handy, pocket-sized book lists hundreds of cocktails alphabetically for ease of use behind a busy bar. Our stated eleventh edition copy has tabbed pages for even more functionality. 

This edition boasts nearly 400 recipes, many of which are credited to their originators. McElhone’s own recipes, including the Monkey Gland, are present, of course. And the “Scoff-law,” which is often attributed to him, is actually here credited to his bartender at Harry’s, Jack. Also included are general instructions and advice for running a bar, a brief note on wine, some selected toasts, and a smattering of advertisements.

Our copy is in Very Good Plus condition and bears one of the brightest examples of the red clothbound case we have seen on the market. This may be partly due to the presence of the extremely scarce jacket, scarcer still in this illustrated variation. The majority of copies available with a jacket bear a black and white photograph of McElhone on the front. Ours is heavily chipped along the top edge and is missing the rear flap, but, fortunately, the text and illustration are not affected. There is a small, light dampstain to a front corner of the jacket. A magnificent find, one we hate to part with, but one we know will bring great joy to another.

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