Thursday, May 19, 2011

Raise Your Glass to Tin House's Publication "The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto"

Tin House is on a mission to showcase not only the best of well-established authors and poets, but also to shed light on the great and forgotten and the new and unrecognized. As a result, Tin House has sent out into the world an impressive array of literary works, both through their magazine and through their own publishing house. In fact, UTNE recently gave praise to Tin House, nominating them for a Utne Independent Press Award in best writing. UTNE says, “These magazines are literally what Utne Reader is made of. Though we celebrate the alternative press every day and with each issue, once a year we praise those who have done an exceptional job.” Tin House has done an exceptional job. UTNE  praises the small publication, “In its 10th year, Tin House is wildly delightful, showcasing a roster of writers both emerging and established.” As evidence to such a feat, Tin House recently received a lot of praise for their republication of the book, The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto, by Bernard Devoto.

The Hour was originally published in 1948 as one man’s manifesto and tribute to the best hour of any adult’s day, cocktail hour. DeVoto, the book’s author, was a well-known literary critic in his time, as well as author and historian. In fact, the same year that The Hour was published, DeVoto received a Pulitzer Prize for another book of his, Across the Wide Missouri. It seems amazing that such an esteemed author has wandered into obscurity over the years. Daniel Handler’s introduction presents the book as sort of a cult masterpiece for the cocktail enthusiast. Handler himself discovered the book in a bookstore window sandwiched between vintage cocktail recipe compendiums. It is sad to think that such a great find would only be viewed by a select few lucky enough to discover it, but thanks to Tin House, the book is now once again available for the rest of the world to enjoy and with much praise from critics everywhere.

From The New York Times to an enthusiastic review from Blogcritics, the reviewers seem to enjoy DeVoto’s comedically snobbish tone as he frequently bashes rum and espouses whiskey as the most patriotic drink. As far as rum is concerned, it is clear from the second sentence into the book that he is not a fan, “Let us candidly admit that there are shameful blemishes in the American past, of which, by far the worst is rum.” All critics seem to agree: rum fans will not find this book entertaining. The third part of the book, “The Enemy” is dedicated to juice, another cocktail ingredient that DeVoto bans from the canon. In fact, the only two drinks that DeVoto does accept are “a slug of whiskey” and a martini with no added olives or orange bitters. For those who are looking for a 127 page long book espousing the beauty of a six o’clock martini or a glass of whiskey, then by all means, kick back with a nice glass of your favorite drink and enjoy. To end with a quote from DeVoto, “May six o’clock never find you alone.”

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