It’s a good thing same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts. Because if Mrs. Bum ever leaves us for greener pastures (and let’s face it, just about any pasture is greener than ours), we want to marry Old Mr. Boston.
We’ve had a man-crush on the pleasingly plump, suavely smiling, top-hatted toff since the late 1980s, when we bought our first copy of the Old Mr. Boston Deluxe Official Bartender’s Guide. Back in those pre-Internet, pre-cocktail-culture days, there were only three ways to find historical drink recipes: go to a saloon and ask the barkeep, on the off-chance he knew more than you did; go to your local library, on the off-chance it stocked vintage bar guides; or go to any liquor store in town and buy a Mr. Boston guide — your only sure bet.
While you could also canvas thrift shops, swap meets, and used book stores in search of other bar books, what you usually found was older editions of Mr. Boston — which date from 1935, when the Mr. Boston distillery started publishing the guide as a way to push their product line (which ran the gamut from “Rocking Chair Kentucky Whiskey” to “Mint Flavored Gin”).
Over the years we’ve chased down printings from five different decades (the rum pictures here date from 1974, above, and 1941, below). None of these editions offered much in the way of Tiki drinks, but this year that’s finally changed.
In fact, almost everything’s changed. The current (67th) edition has come a long way from that 1980s printing on which the Bum cut his teeth (and fried his stomach lining). Mr. Boston has not only caught up to today’s cocktail revolution with of-the-moment recipes from today’s top bartenders, but includes authentic versions of some vintage tropicals (namely the Derby Daiquiri, Mai Tai, Straits Sling, Eastern Sour, Fog Cutter and Zombie).
Not only that, co-editor Jim Meehan also saw fit to include six of the Bum’s original drink recipes (Ancient Mariner, Bum’s Rush, Castaway, Hai Karate, Restless Native, and Sea Of Cortez). Talk about full-circle: Twenty years ago we first encountered Mr. Boston while looking for Tiki drinks, and today we find our own drinks in his storied pages. Yet another reason to coo over that high-collared, mutton-chopped, pot-bellied dreamboat.