Sunday, January 2, 2011


The "Eye Opener" (per Charlie Paul, 1902)
Early America was awash with booze, and the sheer quantities that an average person drank on a regular basis would make a frat boy blanch. The old timer's were better practiced as well, and had many different remedies to make you feel better after a night of over-indulgence.

They were called "eye openers", "pick-me-ups", "morning daisies" and the like. Eggs and absinthe were commonly mixed with lemon juice, shaken and soda water added. The reported effect being to "calm the stomach".

As long as humans have been getting cock-eyed on harsh hooch, they have been looking for ways to feel better in the morning. Rather than make an exhaustive all encompassing history in one post, the "pick-me-up" shall be a continuing series featuring a mix of recipes I'd probably dare not try, some history, and at least one that I have tried.

Here's the "Pick-Me-Up" that started it all for me. It comes from Charlie Paul's 1902 classic, "Recipes of American and other Iced Drinks". Basically an advertising vehicle published by the "McCorquodale & Co.., Ltd for Farrow & Jackson, Limited", it's a treasure trove of elaborate etchings of typical (and not so typical) equipment of the day, and includes many good recipes.

My favorite illustration in the book has to be the "Imperial Shaker". If this was installed in a bar I would make my way to see it in action for sure. Finally, to be able to ask for a "Ramos" with a clean conscience!

Charlie's "Pick-Me-Up" went like this:

"PICK-ME-UP, OR BRACER" L.D. (Long Drink)

Use a large soda-water glass, which half full with chipped ice ; squeeze a whole lemon in ; add half teaspoon of Angostura bitters ; then pour in a bottle of seltzer water, stir well with long spoon, and serve with straws.

Surprisingly, no alcohol! This is a truly refreshing drink with herbs to settle the stomach (in the Angostura bitters), bubbly water and lemon juice to help replenish and rehydrate and lots of bubbles to get things moving. A nice morning or afternoon bracer no matter what your current state.

Of course, this being 1902 the temperance folks had not yet completely won out, and morning cocktails were still relatively common. For the chap looking for a morning "histening", and doesn't feel like a "Daisy" or "Tossing a Ball", his remaining choices included the popular Eye Opener". (For more on this "lingo", see my post).

Some "Eye Opener" recipes called for "old whiskey", rum, or brandy, along with absinthe. Some even called for green creme de menthe. Most called for egg. I liked Charlie's recipe with the mix of brandy and rum.

EYE OPENER. S.D. (Short Drink)

Fill tumbler with chipped ice ; put in a teaspoonful of powdered sugar and a new laid egg ; add a liqueur-glassful of brandy, and a liqueur-glass of rum ; then shake well and strain off.

My Adaptation

Eye Opener

1) Fill shaker with chipped ice and add 1 teaspoon of powdered sugar.

2) Add new laid egg, 1 ounce of brandy, and one ounce of Pusser's rum. 

3) Shake very hard for 2-3 minutes. Wrap the shaker in a towel first if your hands not used to holding a cold shaker.

Then enjoy! This is a yummy "energy" drink!
A "liqueur-glassful" in Charlie's parlance would have been a 2 ounce glass. Four ounces of booze in the morning would get you going, but I'm not sure it would be in a good direction. Take it easy on yourself and use 1 to 1 1/2 ounces of each at the most. 

If your lucky enough to have access to a fresh laid egg, then this is a treat well earned. If not, hit up that neighbor with chickens, find the right stand at the farmer's market, or get the best eggs you can. 

Mmmm, fresh eggs. Thanks girls!

I used the Christian Brother's VSOP. A nice choice for mixing, and the only one I have right now. The rum was a harder choice. In 1902, London would have offered many choices of rum, and the only direction given here is simply "rum".

With egg and brandy, I wanted dark, sweet rum. The Pusser's seemed a perfect choice with it's deep demerara notes ringing of sweet toffee rather than bitter caramel. I wanted something with some "zing" too since there is no citrus juice in this recipe.

I practically gave it the "Ramos" treatment, shaking for a good 2-3 minutes. The results were surprisingly good. Even with access to fresh eggs, it's not an ingredient I use often when mixing drinks. This came out with the mouth-feel of a milk shake, or maybe just a good frothy eggnog. The Pusser's really helped with that illusion with it's apple and toffee flavors giving way to vanilla, nutmeg and even a hint of roses.

Now for one I wasn't brave enough to try. 

George J. Kappeler in "Modern American Drinks" listed this recipe in 1895 for a "Pick-Me-Up":

Pick Me Up.

A mixing-glass half full fine ice, half a pony absinthe, one jigger vermouth ; shake well until cold, strain into a star-glass, fill with seltzer.

A half-pony would be 1/2 ounce, so strong on the absinthe but not as ridiculous as some recipes. This is used with a base of 2 ounces of vermouth, shaken and carbonated. You would need to really like your vermouth! It may have done the trick, but in my mind would be an acquired taste for sure.

I do like vermouth, but not that much...and not in the morning, so this one gets my "pass" vote. Let me know if you decide to try it!

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