Well, today is December 25 and you know what that means. Big birthday. Lots of presents. Screaming children. An acute need for a Christmas drink. But we’re not talking about the person you first thought of, and today we’re going to mix up the Horse Collar cocktail on Christmas.
Sure, Jesus was good and could change water into wine, but he never lived to see distillation invented and the poor guy never did get to have a martini. But hope is not lost as December 25 also happens to be the birthday of two historically significant drinkers: Charles H. Baker Jr. and Humphrey Bogart.
This poses a dilemma – which path to follow? Bogart is of course a household name, and as he once said “The whole world is three drinks behind” even if in his case the whole world was more like ten drinks behind him. Mostly a whiskey and martini guy, he was well known for starting fights and drinking to the point of passing out with his head on the bar. Admirable qualities, indeed, but we do have other opportunities in mind for exploring Mr. Bogart’s drinking and believe a nod to one of our inspirations would be in line today. Thus, we’re going with Baker.
We should pause for a moment to note that if you are focused on Charles Dickens and Ebenezer Scrooge we do also cover the Dickens cocktail to celebrate the publication of A Christmas Carol.
Charles H. Baker
So who is Charles H. Baker Jr. anyway? Born on Christmas day, 1895, he came from a humble family and started his career in the abrasives business, later moving to New York as a magazine editor and short story writer. In 1932 he made a very wise career move by marrying an heiress to a huge mining fortune. That jump started his career of traveling the world writing on “exotic” food and drink for magazines like Esquire, Town & Country and Gourmet.
He certainly did it with the right people. Here you see him (left) pictured in the Bahamas with Ernest Hemingway, one of our all-time favorite drinkers. Baker simply associated with the best, and that included William Faulkner, Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn. As he put it “All really interesting people – sportsman, explorers, musicians, scientists, vagabonds and writers – were vitally interested in good things to eat and drink. This keen interest was not solely through gluttony, the spur of hunger or merely to sustain life, but in a spirit of high adventure.” The Drunkard’s Almanac agrees.
When you get down to it Baker is likely the first of what we would now call a lifestyle writer, exploring the food and culture of far-flung locales long before Anthony Bourdain was born. To a large extent he was pretty much forgotten until bartenders rediscovered his 1939 book The Gentleman’s Companion: Being an Exotic Drinking Book or Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask. That tome is actually one part of a two-volume set, the other component being The Gentleman’s Companion: Being an Exotic Cookery Book or Around the World with Knife, Fork and Spoon, but you’re on your own for dinner. Besides, those recipes might require killing some member of an endangered species or make you want your cardiologist on speed dial.
The Horse Collar
The Gentleman’s Companion is admired by readers as much for its prose as its recipes, and when it comes to drinks that’s a pretty tall order. While there’s no telling how many cocktails he encountered he chronicled around 500 different libations. Never refusing a drink, he believed every cocktail deserved a chance to shine. Even if some ill-conceived recipes were a “freak fit only for the drain.”
So where does this leave us in terms of selecting Drink of the Day? The Editorial Board of The Drunkard’s Almanac pondered this question and selected a drink appropriate for a cool winter day, one evocative of Christmas cheer.
Today the Drink of the Day is the Horse Collar, straight out of The Gentleman’s Companion. Because it contains cloves, an ingredient which may not be in a drunkard’s pantry, we hope you read this in time to rush to the store if you must. Although you will note that the recipe suggests a tin cup for mariners and a silver julep cup for fancies an ordinary coffee mug will do an admirable job.
- 3 oz Rum Use a white or amber rum here.
- 1 Orange Peel One orange peel per cup preferably cut in an unbroken spiral. Stay away from the bitter pith, break out your peeler and do a good job.
- 1 tsp Brown sugar
- 6 Whole cloves
- Boiling water
- Assembly is as simple as it gets:
- Add all ingredients to cup
- Add boiling water to fill