. . . to Jerry Thomas, “the Jupiter Olympus of the bar,” according to “The Bartender Who Started It All”, a story in today’s New York Times.
The tale’s jumping-off point is “Imbibe!” (Perigee Books, $23.95), a biography-slash-recipe book by David Wondrich, the drink correspondent for Esquire. Wondrich follows Thomas’s perigrinations from Sackets Harbor, N.Y., to California, where he worked as a bartender, gold prospector and minstrel-show impresario, and back to New York, where he ran a series of bars before going bust.
His signature drink, the Blue Blazer, was “a pyrotechnic showpiece in which an arc of flame passed back and forth between two mixing glasses,” according to The Times, and his most famous saloon was hung about with caricatures of the political and theatrical figures of the day by the fabled Thomas Nast, a friend of Mark Twain who bedeviled the infamous Boss Tweed.
At his peak, Thomas was earning $100 a week, more than the vice president of the United States. When he died, in 1885, newspapers nationwide “observed his passing in substantial obituaries.”
It is not known whether Thomas was a single-speeder or a connoisseur of porn. However, since he was a 205-pounder, a flashy dresser and a restless traveler, “usually carrying a fat wad of bank notes and a gold Parisian watch,” it is fair to assume that he was, at least, a masters road racer.by