Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I’m a little late with a post on Darcy O’Neil’s new book Fix the Pumps, but I’m going to plead having been locked in a snow cave for several years, researching and writing. So here goes:

Just when you think you are starting to get a handle on a topic, you find out there’s a whole lot left to learn. For example, I’ve always understood that the trend towards sweeter cocktails over the twentieth century was mostly about covering up substandard bad booze during prohibition and lost “drinkways,” which refers to the fact that American bartender traditions, which used to be passed on orally from one bar-man to the next, were lost during the thirteen year noble experiment in a dry country. When booze became legal again, nobody remembered how to make a good, stiff drink anymore.

Of course, tastes were turning towards the sweet in non-alcoholic beverages like Coca-Cola, too and Darcy O’Neil, in his great new book, Fix the Pumps, a history of the soda fountain, has recently connected the dots. What with soda fountains originally touted as an alternative to the saloon, it’s hard to imagine these two ever being anything more than bitter enemies, except when they’re mixed in a glass – as in a Cuba Libre. And this is, indeed, another aspect of the over-syrupification of drinks over the 20th century, in that we began to see alcohol mixed primarily with pop, which is often cheaper and definitely more convenient than fresh mixes of other sorts.

Darcy is also responsible for reviving an old ingredient, Acid Phosphate, which he sells on his website, connected to his blog, The Art of Drink. It can be bought as a package deal with the book Fix the Pumps. Many contemporary bartenders are now experimenting with this new-again old ingredient, creating ingenious cocktails. For more on Acid Phosphate, check out his blog entry on the matter.