An untitled woodcut, bold in design, apparently created for use on broadsides or banners during the Whigs' "log cabin" campaign of 1840. In front of a log cabin, a shirtsleeved William Henry Harrison welcomes a soldier, inviting him to rest and partake of a barrel of "Hard Cider." Nearby another soldier, already seated, drinks a glass of cider. On a staff at right is an American flag emblazoned with "Harrison & Tyler." Library of Congress.
Thanks to everyone who participated in this week's Food History Happy Hour! In this episode we made the Jersey Cooler from the Roving Bartenter (1946), but the cocktail itself appears to have been invented by the famous Jerry Thomas as it appears in his 1862 How to Mix Drinks.
With the primary ingredient hard cider, I thought it a particularly apt cocktail for our discussion of apples in America! I chose apples as the topic for tonight's Food History Happy Hour because mid-September is when apple harvest in the Northeast usually really starts to get underway. Coincidentally (on my part, anyway), tonight is also the start Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year, which runs until Sunday. One of the components of Rosh Hashanah is the use of apples and honey, particularly in Ashkenazi Jewish households, who originate in Eastern Europe. Apples and honey are eaten to symbolize sweetness and prosperity for the coming year.
On a more somber note, I learned that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away just minutes before the start of the show. In fact, I almost didn't do tonight's episode because I was so upset. But I figured that the notorious RBG would power through if it was her, and it was fitting to be talking about apples and hoping for peace and prosperity in the coming New Year. So we poured one out for Ruth and gave her a toast.
We talked about the origins of hard cider, with an aside about the 1840 presidential campaign of William Henry Harrison, why hard cider fell out of favor, the origins of apples in the mountains of Kazakhstan, Johnny Appleseed, the story of Red Delicious, heirloom apple varieties, and the not-so-American origins of apple pie.
Jersey Cooler (1946)
From the 1946 Roving Bartender by Bill Kelly:
You can see other, slightly more complicated versions below:
Jersey Cocktail (1862)
As far as I can tell, this is the oldest version of the Jersey Cooler (called cocktail here), invented by the famous Jerry Thomas from his How to Mix Drinks from 1862. Because the earliest reference is from Mr. Thomas, who was a born and raised New Yorker, I think that the "Jersey" in this instance refers to New Jersey, not Jersey, England.
Here's his recipe:
(Use small bar glass.)
1 teaspoonful of sugar.
2 dashes of bitters.
Fill tumbler with cider, and mix well, with lemon peel on top.
Our next episode will be on Friday, October 2, 2020 and since it will officially be October, we'll be talking about pumpkins and the origins of the much-maligned pumpkin spice!
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10/14/2020 01:46:24 pm
Thank you for this episode on the Jersey Cocktail. I was surprised at how much the cocktail ingredients have changed over the years. I made it using each of the recipes you presented. The 1906 version was my favorite. Is it normal for a cocktail recipe to change over the years?
10/14/2020 10:31:26 pm
I'm so glad you enjoyed it! And yes, cocktail recipes do change somewhat, although some of the original Jerry Thomas cocktails do persist as-invented. But the variations are very similar to how cooks vary recipes - you can have a LOT of different recipes for apple pie, for instance, or yellow cake, even though they all largely contain the same basic ingredients. Same goes for cocktails - new bartenders and mixologists like to put their stamp on things, and sometimes you get trends as well, like adding fruit, or using a certain brand of liquor, etc. It's fun to look at a single cocktail throughout the ages - something I think I might do more of in the future!
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Sarah Wassberg Johnson has an MA in Public History from the University at Albany and studies early 20th century food history.