No spoilers included.
The book is written in three parts – "the tale" (178 pages), the recipe (3 pages), and the addendum (24 pages).The tale is a fictionalized account of the author’s search for the recipe, in which the narrator and his wife visit many: places, people, documents, and relics associated with the history of the drink. The narrator often ‘time travels’ when he touches an historic artifact, and we are treated to vivid realistic and what appear to be well researched descriptions of former times and imagined conversations with important historical figures – “important” to the quest for the recipe.The history of the punch starts more than a century before the actual invention of the recipe, beginning with the start of the production of Pisco in Peru. It explains a great deal about the founding of the city of San Francisco, San Francisco’s maritime trade, and how Pisco came to be exported in quantity to the thirsty in northern California. It talks about how it is likely that various Pisco drinks came to the bay area, and how they were adopted by saloon keepers and it traces a likely evolution from into the famous Pisco Punch. No one will be surprised that the tale contains many many discussions of how wonderful Pisco is, its healing and healthful properties, and Pisco is being drunk on almost every page of "the tale".The narrative can be slow in spots, and a bit confusing, but it is immensely informative. There are about a dozen historic drink recipes in the margins and huge numbers of illustrations and photographs of pre- and post- earthquake San Francisco. It also contains the complete text and context of the quotes of the famous and the eloquent who have written about Pisco Punch. To give you an idea of the depth of research, the narrator looks import records from the customs house, and purchase and shipping invoices.After the fictionalized ‘tale’, there are three pages that explain how to make the punch, clearly laid out with lots of photographs. To me it looks just like a bar set-up from a Tiki-bar - the recipe for the bartender is “this many ounces from bottle one, and this many ounces from bottle two, etc.” Then there is the recipe for bottle 1, and the recipes for bottles two through five.The addendum (24 pages). The addendum is probably what you expected that the book would be - which is a to the point, well organized discussion of the history of the relevant bars, owners, bar staff – who worked where when, and who was likely or unlikely to have disclosed what to whom, what is known about the business and owner that is relevant to puzzling out the recipe. The addendum was written in the form of a research paper for a California historical society.It includes a discussion arguing that it is likely that the Bronson 1973 “Secrets of the Pisco Punch Revealed” article (easily found on the internet) which contains the “John Lannes” recipe is not likely to have been the famous / authentic recipe, but likely to have been a competitor's best attempt to copy the real article. After you compare the Lannes recipe with the ‘Wings of Cherubs” recipe, I think you are more likely to make (and drink) the Wings of Cherubs recipe - but I've yet to make either. They differ in that Lannes calls for lemon, Cherubs for lime, the ratios differ, and the Cherubs recipe has a more detailed method of preparation.While discussions of secret ingredients on the internet center on 'gum arabic' which Bronson believed to have been the missing link, the author reveals that there was another ingredient. There is a reasoned but entirely speculative discussion of what the ‘secret ingredient’ actually might have been which is highly entertaining.
Enlightenment is knowing that what was intended was a party - Vic Baranco.
More philosophy at Cocktails at 80
Thank you for the review. Very informative!
One thing left out however, was a link on where to get it :->
Thanks for calling attention to this book which, being both historical and informative about one of my favorite spirits, sounds as though it were written with me in mind.
AlchemistGeorge:They differ in that Lannes calls for lemon, Cherubs for lime
I wonder if the language issue, which confuses lemons and limes between North and South America, accounts for any part of this?
Maybe, but AFAIK, "lemon" in South America and in Mexico is called "lime" here in the US. Our common less acidic yellow lemon variety is pretty rare down there.
FWIW, the two cited recipes are San Francisco recipes, not Peruvian recipes. When I'm back at home I'll look in the book for the Peruvian drink that the author believes to have been the ancestor of the San Francisco drink and see which fruit it calls for. I think many of us have seen the lemon / lime discussion of the correct translation of Cuban drink recipes.
Apropos of this, I've always wondered how in the days before refrigeration and airplanes how bars in "the North" - New York, Chicago - had lemons and limes available for drinks - and when (what year) did they become available year round? I don't know how much citrus was being grown in California in the 1880s/1890s - this drink being the famous house drink they would have wanted to make it year round ....
I am the writer of the book. If you have any questions, I'll be glad to answer them from my point of view.
Thank you for the review and I am glad that you liked the book overall.