February 24 is World Bartender Day so we’ll be mixing a bartender’s handshake, the Jimbo cocktail. It’s a drink that falls into the category of bartender’s handshakes – the shots given to industry friends when they drop by – but it’s also one enjoyed by the general public. But first, let’s talk about our bartender friends and World Bartender Day.
The bartender in front of you may be a magician who can stir a drink like Itzhak Perlman plays his Stradivarius, or someone who pulls on a beer tap. It doesn’t matter. Either way they are your advisor, your friend, and someone to respect. That’s why we have World Bartender Day, created in 2018 by Australia and New Zealand at an industry cocktail competition.
World Bartender Day
World Bartender Day is very close to our hearts here at The Drunkard’s Almanac. After all, a maxim we live by is that everyone should be on a first-name basis with three people: whoever cuts your hair, your car’s mechanic, and your bartender. We consider that a formula for good living.
The event is celebrated across the globe. And it should be, as bartenders are a critical element in the hospitality industry. The bartender concept, of course, goes back a long time, probably the 1400s. Then it wasn’t what you see now, it was innkeepers and owners of alehouses who would make their own beers and brews to serve clients.
Bartenders as we now think of them emerged in the early 19th century, when the term “cocktail” first emerged. Here we reported on that with the Improved Whiskey Cocktail for World Cocktail Day. By mid-century we had Jerry Thomas, arguably the first celebrity bartender. His book, the Bar-Tenders Guide aka How to Mix Drinks, or the Bon Vivant’s Companion, was the first to explain the new art of making cocktails.
Many followed. Harry Craddock and his Corpse Reviver No. 2. Harry Johnson and the Bijou. Not to mention Harry MacElhone and the White Lady. Women rose to prominence with Ada Coleman at the Savoy Hotel and her classic, the Hanky Panky. The world has never looked back.
Today we have bartending legends like Dale DeGroff to thank for lifting us out of the Dark Ages of Drinking during the 1980s and ‘90s. The tide of artificial sour mix and bad Appletinis started to ebb in the early 2000s as such bartenders created the Cocktail Renaissance.
It’s time to celebrate these doers of good, the maestros that stir a drink like Itzhak Perlman plays his Stradivarius. We owe it to them.
The Jimbo Cocktail
As we described when mixing the Ferrari for Enzo Ferrari’s birthday, a bartender’s handshake is a longstanding industry tradition between bartenders. A small drink or shot, sometimes something that might be a bit much for most of the general public. Some, like the Ferrari, are enjoyed by most. Others, such as the Crunk Like a Monk are a bit more esoteric and not for everyone.
In considering drinks to suggest for World Bartender Day we strongly considered the Malori – an equal parts mix of Jeppson’s Malört and Campari. If you’re not familiar with it, Jeppson’s Malört is Chicago’s famously (and proudly) unpalatable spirit. For now, just say there is something known as “Malört face” that may occur when an unsuspecting guest tries a shot.
We considered inflicting this upon you, but instead elected the Jimbo cocktail. Its story is told in Brad Thomas Parson’s book Amaro: The Spirited World of Bittersweet, Herbal Liqueurs, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas. The drink itself is an equal parts mix of rye whiskey and Amaro Meletti.
Jimmy Palumbo was a bartender at the Extra Fancy in Brooklyn. One night a group of twentysomething women came into the bar “seeking a round of shots, whiskey shots, but not too sweet and not, like sour, but strong, but not too strong.” Well then, there’s an easy order.
Palumbo wanted to indulge and then get them out the door, so he poured a combination of rye and Meletti. The women knocked them back and proclaimed “That. Was. Fucking. Amazing.” Another bartender leaned in and said, “It’s called the Jimbo. And ladies, this is Jimbo.”
That Jimbo was soon poured for industry friends and has become the house shot. It’s a shining example of bartender ingenuity and perfect for World Bartender Day.
- ¾ oz Rye whiskey
- ¾ oz Meletti Amaro
- Pour into shot glass or other small vessel.