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The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto by Bernard…

The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto (1948)

by Bernard DeVoto

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A wonderful homage to the cocktail hour, martinis, and whiskey. A little dated, but still delightful! ( )
1 vote tloeffler | May 13, 2014 |
This is a series of four essays by the noted historian about cocktails and the cocktail hour. For DeVoto, the Martini and whiskey (bourbon and rye) are the pinnacle of American achievement, and the Martini and whiskey slug are the only two cocktails. (He'll allow you to make an Old Fashioned for a demanding guest, but no Manhattans; and don't get him started on rum.)

It's very much a product of its time, and I don't agree with any of his assertions (I happen to enjoy Manhattans and Scotch), but the writing is so amusing that I can't help but love the book. I'm pretty sure I could find a great quote on just about every page. It's a slim volume that shouldn't take more than an hour or two to read. A must-have for readers of good food writing. ( )
  wjohnston | Feb 1, 2014 |
Delightful book. Even though he insults rum right and left, as well as many other drinks, DeVoto makes you feel like one of the chosen by sharing his view of the cocktail hour.

I've won a copy of this book on First Reads and it sounds highly entertaining. ( )
  Athenable | Jan 10, 2014 |
I picked this up on vacation because it looked amusing. And there were a few hilarious lines but most of it was sexist or boring or both. DeVoto believed in only one cocktail, the gin martini, and everything else is anathema. There, now you needn't read it. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
Shaking your head over “martinis” which are mere sugary cocktails in martini glasses? Or worse yet, *gasping* in horror over belly shots? Looking forward to that first civilized sip of whiskey as you put a harried work day to an end? I highly recommend the intoxicating writing of Bernard Devoto’s “The Hours: A Cocktail Manifesto.” Originally published in 1948, this slim volume, now in reprint (with an excellent forward by Daniel Handler), is an absolute delight.

A Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner, Mark Twain expert, writer for many years for Harper’s Magazine, and a curmudgeon to the core, Devoto has crafted an elegant paean to “the violet hour,” “an hour of diminishing, of slowing down, of quieting” to sip a gin martini – one of only two cocktails he countenances (the other a slug of whiskey.) Discussing his favorites, Devoto is truly rhapsodic – “art’s sunburst of imagined delight becoming real” – and offers suggestions for the place (“a martini is a city dweller, a metropolitan”) as well as what to hum as one mixes the first batch (“neither barbershop nor jazz, between the choir and the glee club.”)

Equally quotable is his skewering of his dislikes: “Nothing can be done with people who put olives in martinis, presumably because in some desolate childhood hour someone refused them a pickle;” “Hot drinks are for people who have had skiing accidents, though it is an open question whether anyone who skis is worth giving liquor to or his life worth saving;” or on the topic of Daiquiris –“Mainly it is drunk as all sweet liquors are, in a regressive fantasy, a sad hope of regaining childhood’s joy at the soda fountain.”

Some question the extent to which this is satire. Bernard Devoto’s wife, Avis, was a good friend of Julia Child. I am in the midst of reading the women’s correspondence in "As always, Julia," Joan Reardon, editor. Upon first meeting, Julia won Bernard’s admiration after drinking down two or three of his martinis without turning a hair. On the other hand, Avis notes that Bernard is quite the oenophile, being very good at the parlor game of identifying the vineyard and the year. I believe The Hour was written in good fun. You’ll have as much fun or more when you read it. ( )
  michigantrumpet | Jan 31, 2011 |
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