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Legendary Bartenders: 5 Infamous Spirits of the Cocktail

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In the underground world of itinerant bartenders, the mixing of vermouth and bitters shift into exaltation and become almost more revered than the individuals who’ve created them. Let’s exhume the avantgarde folks who once poured their hearts into others’ half-full glasses and take a look back on some of the industry’s most significant bartenders.

Jerry Thomas was more than your average bartender. He was also a brilliant writer. Responsible for America’s first published drink recipe-style book astutely named, Bartender’s Guide: How to Mix Drinks or the Bon-Vivant’s Companion. Thomas was also responsible for concocting the notorious Blue Blazer and was cited as earning more than $100 per week, which, according to the New York Times was more than the U.S. vice president’s salary during that time period.

In 1899, Coleman began working at the Claridge Hotel in London and eventually moved on to the American Bar at the swanky, Savoy Hotel. She was referred to as “Coley” and quickly worked her way up to become the first—and to this day—only head bartender ever to work for the Savoy. Coleman was known for her upscale clientele and eventually invented her famous cocktail, the Hanky Panky for the actor, Sir Charles Hawtrey.

Condè Nast Traveler depicts Baker as a “Gilded Age bon vivant,” an “unlikely hybrid of Indiana Jones and Jay Gatsby.” After he was bequeathed a small inheritance from a relative, he spent his days as a world-traveler. In 1926, he boarded a cruise ship and voyaged around the globe where he experienced “exotic” cocktails created by the people of foreign nations while America was still under Prohibition. Baker kept written record of the food and beverage recipes that he’d savored, cultivating them into what’s known today as The Gentleman’s Companion.

American bartender Dale Degroff began his career in bartending at New York City’s iconic Rainbow Room. He’s won several notable awards including two James Beard Lifetime Achievement Awards. He’s currently a partner in the Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) training course, the founding president of the Museum of the American Cocktail, and has authored two influential bartending books The Essential Cocktail and The Craft of the Cocktail. His three-decade-long career has proven that he truly is King Cocktail.

Many of the bartenders named in this article lived in a much less litigious time. Today, bartenders require extensive training, certification, and insurance in order to work in such a fast-paced industry. You face many types of risks and exposures that could result in a drawn-out legal battle. Unfortunately, you can’t avoid lawsuits completely, however, you can safeguard yourself with liquor liability insurance.


Ashley Baker writes about marketing, business, and insurance for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Ashley is a former Licensed Massage Therapist. She has a background in writing for state political offices, newspapers and was the web editor for two regional magazine publications. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with her family, attending college football games or kayaking. Find Ashley on LinkedInInstagram, or Twitter.

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