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Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Blue Blazer: Liquid Fire, Frisco Style

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 2:02 PM

click to enlarge A Blue Blazer being concocted at Keens Steakhouse in Manhattan: Consider practicing with water first. - ZAGAT.COM/FLICKR
  • A Blue Blazer being concocted at Keens Steakhouse in Manhattan: Consider practicing with water first.
Next year marks the 150th anniversary of Professor Jerry Thomas's arrival in San Francisco, and anyone familiar with the professor's contributions to the general well-being knows that when it comes to celebrations, there's no such thing as starting too early. Thomas (acclaimed as "the greatest bartender of the past" in Harry Craddock's definitive Savoy Cocktail Book) crafted libations at the Occidental and El Dorado saloons, inventing the martini, the Tom and Jerry, and other delectable cocktails in the process. He also wrote the trailblazing Bon-Vivant's Companion, a bar guide of singular prose. (Baltimore eggnog, he writes, is "a nourishing diet for consumptives," and while a cobbler is simple to concoct, "it is necessary to display some taste in ornamenting the glass after the beverage is made," words every barkeep should live by.)

The Blue Blazer is Thomas's most crowd-pleasing concoction. He invented it for a 49er who wandered into the Dorado one afternoon in search of a drink that would make up for all the months he'd spent in the foothills. After an hour's meditation, the professor poured equal parts whisky and boiling water into one of two silver mugs, lit it with a match, and poured the flaming blue liquor back and forth half a dozen times from one mug to the other. The miner loved it (he awoke from a drunken stupor three days later) and so will you and your guests. "A beholder gazing for the first time upon an experienced artist compounding this beverage," wrote Craddock, "would naturally come to the conclusion that it was a nectar for Pluto rather than Bacchus." The professor himself warns the novice "to practise for some time with cold water" before tossing around the real thing. Adding a pulverized sugar cube and a bit of lemon peel after the fact couldn't hurt either.

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Matthew Stafford


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