The year 1917 began with our nation on the brink of World War I, which would eventually happen a few months later when President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany. On a different gridiron, the New Year began with Oregon beating Pennsylvania in the third annual Rose Bowl. And throughout the year and across the country, bars, saloons, and taverns were as popular as ever. But what were bars serving 100 years ago?
To begin, you have to first consider what people were drinking and where they were getting their recipes. Cocktails were big. Hugo Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks was a wholesale guide written in 1917, and a quick glance will reveal some classic recipes along with an introduction that reads:
“The object of this book is to give a complete list of the standard mixed drinks that are present in New York City, with directions for preparing same in the most simple manner to get the best result. It is intended for use in the home as well as a guide for those employed in Hotels, Clubs, etc.”
What better way to get a grasp on what bars were like than to look at a bar manual, of sorts? And it’s worth noting that this guide also inspired a later cocktail bible called The Savoy Cocktail Book from Harry Craddock. It’s also worth noting that some of the advertisements contained in Ensslin’s book show that Champagnes were popular, as well.
Beer? Schaefer was brewed in the very neighborhoods where Recipes for Mixed Drinks was intended to have influence. But there was also “Gold Medal Tivoli Beer” from Springfield, Massachusetts. Consider this compelling ad:
“The delightfully crisp, clean flavor and richness of Gold Medal Tivoli beer appeals to the palate in no uncertain way. Recommended by physicians and approved by connoisseurs.”
Recommended by physicians and approved by connoisseurs?! Now, that’s quite a statement. But what about the ways in which it was served? According to the ad, Gold Medal Tivoli could be purchased “in bottles or on draught”, and half way across the country in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, “on draught” was about to be made even better.
On Reed Street, the R. Perlick Brass Works company was opened, which would become the country’s leading producer of draught beer tap systems, enhancing the enjoyment of beer from sea to shining sea.