The discovery of Fire. The invention of the wheel. Newton’s Laws of Motion. These are some of the points by which human progress has been measured. Today we’re celebrating another important milestone: July 7 is the anniversary of the first whole-loaf bread slicing machine and to honor that enormous achievement we’ll be mixing the Nice Bitter Toast. That’s right, a sliced bread cocktail.
We know you’ve often wondered about the origin of sliced bread. It was a momentous occasion, advertised at that time as “the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped.” Sales of pop-up toasters boomed. The world clearly took note and went on to spawn the phrase “the greatest thing since sliced bread” as the highest praise.
The Origin of Sliced Bread
We have Otto Frederick Rohwedder to thank for changing the world. He was born in Davenport, Iowa, in 1880. As a jeweler he worked on watches became convinced he could figure out a way to automate slicing a whole loaf of bread. By 1812 he had a prototype, but that and the blueprints were destroyed in a fire. It took until 1828 for him to recover and have a working machine ready. He filed for a patent and in 1932 US Patent 1,867,377 was issued.
The first commercial use of the machine was by the Chillicothe Baking Company of Chillicothe, Missouri on July 7, 1928. Some have claimed the first use was actually in Battle Creek, Michigan, but we dismiss this as unlikely since nobody has produced documentation to support it.
The “Kleen Maid Sliced Bread” that Chillicothe sold proved popular. By 1930 the Continental Baking Company introduced Wonder Bread, and this was followed in turn by other companies. Only three years later, in 1933, more sliced than unsliced bread was sold for the first time.
Rohwedder went on to sell his patent rights to the Micro-Westco Co. across town and came on board as VP in charge of sales management for the baking machinery division. He worked there until his retirement in 1951.
It’s not that there wasn’t some drama along the way. In 1943 US officials imposed a ban on sliced bread as a wartime conservation measure, figuring that the heavier wrapping of a sliced loaf was wasteful. This brought on distraught housewives, adamant that the frenzied slicing of bread to make breakfast toast and lunch sandwiches for the family each busy morning was too heavy a burden to bear, even during wartime. The ban was quickly rescinded.
The Nice Bitter Toast
The invention of sliced bread, of course, led to a booming electric toaster market. Our Editorial Board was unable to determine an appropriate cocktail emblematic of sliced bread on its own. But once toast enters the equation things change.
The word ‘toast’, of course, is used to denote a ritual during which a drink is taken as an expression of honor or goodwill. But we’re looking for something more directly related to sliced bread.
Enter the Nice Bitter Toast cocktail. It comes to us from Giancarlo Jesus in 2013 when he was at the Hawthorn Lounge in Wellington, New Zealand. As in the Breakfast Martini we mixed for W.C. Fields’ birthday it uses toast as a garnish, so we’re good to go.
Nice Bitter Toast
- Nick and Nora or coupe glass
- 1 oz Mezcal
- 1 oz Tequila
- ½ oz Cynar
- ¾ oz Fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp orange marmalade
- 1 Egg white
- Garnish: (optional) toast crumbs
- Add all ingredients to your trusty shaker.
- Shake briskly without ice to froth the contents.
- Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
- Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with toast crumbs if desired.
- Tip: for easy toast crumbs simply put breadcrumbs (preferably panko) in a pan and heat on the stove and toss as they heat. They'll turn golden pretty quickly. In a pinch you can always empty the crumb tray in your toaster.