Jerry Thomas Invented Your Favorite Drinks (And Set Fires)

“Get you drunk, get your lady drunk, set some shit on fire, I can do it all.”

~Jerry Thomas


This might come as a surprise to some of you, but America likes to get itself drunk.  But while shots of whiskey with beer chasers is a tried and true method for shouting at your liver, “who’s responsible for the removal of toxins from my system now, huh jerk?” it can get old after a while.  That’s why Americans have made it a point to master the art of mixing liquor with different liquors to make delicious (and high octane) cocktails that can be enjoyed by men, women, and people who enjoy giggling at the word “cock”.  Cocktails (tee hee) are incredibly American, and every time someone in a bowler cap orders a Manhattan in a dimly lit bar, the nearest woman in the area becomes instantaneously impregnated.  This is science, and there’s no way to stop it.

We’re just saying, Jon Hamm is responsible for more accidental impregnations than the NBA.

So while most Americans appreciate the existence of a good, well-crafted cocktail, surprisingly few are aware of Jerry Thomas, the father of American mixology.  And that’s a damn shame, because Americans unknowingly give this man tribute every day, be they ordering an oversized margarita to a woman they just met, or be they ordering a sidecar from a clearly pissed off bartender at a wedding’s open bar.  All of these couldn’t be possible without the contributions of this portly man whose most famous drink involved arcs of blue fire.

Basically, Jerry Thomas is gonna get you drunk.  You’re welcome.

He may also disfigure you horribly in the process of doing so.

Jeremiah “Jerry” P. Thomas was born in 1830 in Sackets Harbor, New York.  The precise date of his birth is not known, as everyone in the entire state of New York spent the entire year in a never-ending bender to celebrate the birth of the world’s greatest bartender.  Needless to say, he was born with a BAC of “Russian Winter.”  The Midwife, who had never consumed alcohol in her life before delivering Jerry, immediately succumbed to an advanced case of cirrhosis.

While Jerry Thomas was only a teenager, he learned how to bartend in New Haven, Connecticut before heading to California for the Gold Rush.  While there, the nineteen year-old seasoned alcoholic worked as a Gold prospector, minstrel show manager, and bartender, before taking his success back to New York and opening a series of wildly popular saloons.

Also, every single image ever created of him required flaming alcohol.

Jerry Thomas opened Saloons throughout America, and toured Europe with his silver bar tools to show those damn foreigners how Americans drink.  But while Thomas was a wildly successful bartender- making more money than the Vice-President’s salary during one stretch- he became world famous for two awesomely American traits.  His first claim to fame was his ability to turn bartending in an experience, juggling, setting things on fire, and all-in-all acting like an 18th century bartending Tom Cruise.  His second claim to fame proved to be his legacy, as he published The Bar-Tender’s Guide in 1862, which not only was the first book of its kind to be published in America, but it featured the first published recipes for drinks ranging from Tom Collins to the Martinez Cocktail, which was a precursor to the martini.

Thomas’ signature drink was the Blue Blazer, which is actually way more badass than you’d expect from its, which is impressive because its name makes it sound like it’s something a pimp would wear on the job.  No, the Blue Blazer, which is shown in every damn picture of Jerry Thomas, was such a badass drink that, when Thomas poured it for Ulysses S. Grant, the no doubt pantsless Grant responded by giving Thomas a cigar to show how impressed he was.  The drink mixes equal parts warm bourbon (or whiskey or brandy) with boiling water, with a hint of sugar added.  This is put in a silver cup and set on fire.  The drink is then poured from one silver cup to another, forming long arcs of blue fire that give the drink its name.

Though we can’t figure out why they went with “Blue Blazer” as the name instead of “HOLY SHIT LOOK HOW COOL THIS IS YOU GUYS!”

The list of Thomas’ drink recipes was incredibly extensive, with literally hundreds of drinks with ingredients ranging from dried swim bladders to eggs.  And we mean eggs, as in “nine eggs whisked and added to flaming wine,” as in enough eggs to make one reader ask, “Is he making a drink or an omelet?”

Jerry Thomas enjoyed watching bare-knuckle boxing, and a well connected right hook from the Bartender was known to leave its recipient legally drunk for the next three days.  Thomas also collected art and purchased jewelry and wore gaudy jewelry while bartending.  What made this particularly American was that, at 205 pounds, he was one of the lighter members of the “Fat Man Association” which absolutely was a real thing.  While the “fat man wearing jewelry” thing didn’t catch on as much among male bartenders, the mixing style did.  When Thomas was born, the concept of a “Cocktail” was a simple “Punch”- that is, brandy or bourbon mixed with some sugar and maybe water.  Thomas took that shit and set it on fire.  Literally.

The look on his face literally says, “I will burn your sobriety to the fucking ground.”

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3 responses to “Jerry Thomas Invented Your Favorite Drinks (And Set Fires)

  1. “I’d like a single plum floating in perfume served in a man’s hat.”

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  3. Pingback: The 10 Greatest Drinkers in American History | affotd

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