Straight Up or On the Rocks is an early scholarly attempt at understanding the history of the cocktail in the United States. In fact, it goes so far as to assert that the cocktail is a distinctively American invention, born out of the culture of rugged individualism.
Published in 1993 by American food and culture writer William Grimes (1950– ), the book begins with the martini, “the standard by which all others are judged…the undisputed model of perfection.” From this apex of mixology, Grimes takes us back through the colonial years to the pre-Prohibition golden age of mixed drinks, through the illicit, debauched frenzy of the Jazz Age to the more reserved mid-twentieth century.
Though perhaps not the final word on cocktail lore and history, this is certainly an engaging and enlightening book to keep any curious tippler well-versed. In 1999, when Grimes became the restaurant critic of The New York Times, copies of Straight Up or On the Rocks became scarce and expensive as front-of-house restaurant staff sought to arm themselves with copies of the book, since Grimes’ photo appeared on the jacket.
Thankfully, those frantic days are over and we can offer here a Near Fine first printing.