by Byron A. and Sharon Peregrine Johnson; Texas Monthly Press; 274 pages; $19.95.
In the early years of Western settlement, the saloons were, like practically everything else, rough and squalid. But by the 188Os they had become splendid cathedrals where, amid the dark gleam of polished mahogany, bartenders dispensed drinks of a variety and potency unimaginable to our parched age of white-wine spritzers. Between the Civil War and the century’s turn, 150,000 people entered the saloon business. Backed by a suprisingly extensive industry devoted to turning out barroom fixtures, they learned to mix sangarees and toddies and fixes and flips, to keep their domain immaculate with endless polishing, and to be “men of sense and humanity.” This handsome book recalls their world.
The illustrations, mostly drawn from bar-fixture catalogs, range from cigar cutters and spice stands to the sepulchral majesty of the Alhambra, a particularly grand bar with twin twenty-four-foot French plate-glass mirrors.
The second half of the book gives recipes for the drinks that were sold across such bars and teaches today’s reader how to mix up a Yard of Flannel, a Yellow Dog, or a Pennsylvania Railroad Sour.