A Bon Vivant's Guide to Drinking in the New Year

A prohibition guide to fabulous New Year's drinks.

“In all ages of the world, and in all countries, men have indulged in ‘Social Drinks,’” but “whether it is judicious that mankind should continue to indulge in such things … it is not my province to decide," wrote George A. Zabriskie, who owned “Cliff Dale,” the big 1911 estate whose two-story foundation ruins still stand atop the Long Path of the Palisades.

He added, "The Eighteenth Amendment will soon be a dream. Drink hearty, and best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

Eric Nelsen, Historical Interpreter for the Palisades Interstate Park Commission and director of the historic Kearney House, has provided readers with a glimpse into Zabriskie's life through his book on alcoholic beverages, The Bon Vivant’s Companion: or, How to mix drinks, containing directions for mixing most of the beverages used in America, with the most popular British, French, German, Italian, and Spanish recipes embracing cocktails, punches, juleps, cobblers, etc. in endless variety. 

Zabriskie's original copy is housed in the library of the New York Historical Society. Nelsen said that the book is an elaborate Christmas card “Compiled for His Friends by George A. Zabriskie.” There is a “Dear ______” space left for a friend’s name to be written above the introduction. Other copies of the Companion have also survived and can be found at the New York Public Library and elsewhere.

Nelsen said that along with recipes for Green Swizzles and Montana Clubs—for Bronx Terraces and Knickerbockers—for Tuxedos and Zazas and Vermouth Frappes—are witticisms and snatches of poems and limericks (“Let school-masters puzzle their brains/With grammar, and nonsense and learning—/Good Liquor I stoutly maintain—/Gives genius a better discerning.”), a discussion of the term “cocktail” and its origins, even a chapter about famous Americans—Washington, Franklin—and their propensities to quaff a drink or two (there is a hilarious anecdote about a drunken Daniel Webster greeting a fish he caught on his line as though it were the Marquis de Lafayette).

Here are some of Zabriskie's cocktail recipes: 

Jersey Sunset

Into a straight champagne glass put a scant teaspoonful of sugar with enough water to dissolve. Add a twist of lemon or lime peel and half a whiskey glass of fine old Monmouth applejack. Now put in enough broken ice to cool, fill with water, and finish with a dash or two of Angostura bitters, which should not be stirred in, but be allowed to drop slowly through the amber mixture, imparting to it the sunset hues which probably suggested its name. In winter, instead of ice, hot water is used, making a most genial drink—A Hot Sunset.

For a party of forty.

1 dozen eggs
2 quarts brandy
1 pint Santa Cruz rum
2 gallons of milk
1½ pounds white sugar

Separate the whites of the eggs from the yolks. Beat them separately with an egg-beater until the yolks are well cut up and the whites assume a light fleecy appearance. Mix all ingredients (except the whites of the eggs) in a large punch bowl, then let the whites float on top, and ornament with colored sugars. Cool in tub of ice and serve.


1 dash Boker’s bitters
1 dash maraschino
/8   jigger Plymouth gin
/8  jigger Martini Russie vermouth

So raise your glasses and let's end the year with a toast from the pages of Zabriskie:

Here’s a toast to all who are here,
No matter where you’re from:
May the best day you have seen
Be worse than your worst to come.

Happy New Year, Fort Lee!


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