Dry January is coming to an end! As someone who didn’t participate, I still feel entitled to celebrate with a cocktail on February 1. And Toni Tipton-Martin’s Juke Joints, Jazz Clubs & Juice (Clarkson-Potter, 2023) has plenty of inspiration.
Happily, Tipton-Martin’s introduction to this compilation of recipes inspired by Black mixologists begins on a snowy winter day with a cup of tea, setting the stage perfectly for this season. (In the South, we often have to be content with imagining snow rather than actually getting to enjoy it.) She quickly moves into the realm of the serious, however: the lack of documentation of the roles African Americans played in the 20th century’s developing art and science of mixology, the association of drinking and Black communities with dereliction.
This book of cocktails is an unearthing of a different narrative: the often-foundational contributions of people of color to the cocktail world, from the gentlemen’s Colored Mixologists Club, created to distinguish mixology from bartending, to Black women who sidestepped restrictions on female and Black ownership of taverns through a variety of creative means. Side by side are Tipton-Martin’s own recipes along with original recipes that inspired them from people like Rebecca West, post-Prohibition caterer and author of Rebecca’s Cookbook, and Tom Bullock, early mixologist and author of The Ideal Bartender.
Tipton-Martin has organized the book by how the drinks are made: brewed, batched, built, layered, shaken, and stirred, as well as nonalcoholic—which I found to be a fun way to try some techniques I’d never aspired to before. I definitely need to practice my layering, but the cognac, coffee, and cream recipe—inspired by both the long history of brandy drinking in African American cocktail culture as well as the more recent Can I Mix You a Drink? by T-Pain (Kingston Imperial, 2021)—was delicious regardless. It also gave me a reason to make a brewed recipe, the homemade Coffee Liqueur, which will remain a staple on my home bar.
Not to be missed is the Blackberry Ginger Bourbon Smash, which is one of the most perfectly balanced cocktails I’ve had the pleasure of drinking, much less making. On Tipton-Martin’s recommendation, I made it with Uncle Nearest bourbon, named for the enslaved man, Nathan Green, who is now credited with teaching Jack Daniel how to make whiskey. I also happened to have a bottle of lavender Empress gin, so imagine my delight on learning that I could top a lightly spicy, lightly sweet whiskey cocktail with my favorite liquor for added complexity.
Tipton-Martin’s cookbook is like sipping a beautiful layered cocktail like the rainbow-hued pousse café: visual delights, surprising details, complex flavors, technical know-how, and ultimately stories of frustration and triumph, of joy in spite of oppression.
Recipes from Juke Joints, Jazz Clubs & Juice
Get these recipes and more in Juke Joints, Jazz Clubs & Juice