Historical Flight: George J. Kappeler

By Jonathan Laurel March 22, 2019 Cocktails

Our next historical cocktail flight is inspired by none other than the cocktail titan of late 19th century, George Kappeler. Serving as head barman at the Holland House Hotel, George J. Kappeler became one of the most famous bartenders of New York, and of the Golden Age in general. Kappeler seems to have had a knack for garnering media attention to his person and his craft, so it makes that sense his magnum opus, Modern American Drinks, has become one of the most famous cocktail books of the last two hundred years.

Published in 1895, Modern American Drinks: How to Mix and Serve All Kinds of Cups and Drinks is a terse, no nonsense compendium of 456 drink recipes. Counting by name only, 36 are credited to Kappeler himself, with other estimates going to 75 or so. Not only are some of these cocktails personal favorites of our staff, but we refer to their specs to guide us when investigating many other early 20th century sources. The Widow’s Kiss, for example, walks a delicately balanced line between booze and herbaceousness, and its 4:1:1 formula is a commonly used jumping off point for many herbaceous liqueur cocktails.

For this flight, we are featuring (from left to right) the Curaçao Frappé, with dry curaçao, cognac, picon, orange bitters, and citric acid; the Widow’s Kiss, with apply brandy, bénédictine, yellow chartreuse, and monk bitters; and the Liberal Cocktail, with Kentucky bourbon, picon, sugar, and bogart bitters.