Top 10 bartenders throughout history
Throughout the ages, there have been a number of boundary-breaking bartenders who have shaped the industry for future generations of mixology pioneers.
Whether by creating a new trend in bartending or producing a seminal text on cocktail recipes and methods, some of these trail-blazing bartenders throughout history have produced the blue print for today’s bartenders.
From the lesser-known bartenders of the early 20th Century, to the mavericks of the contemporary era, we take a look at some of the bartenders throughout history who have moulded the industry to an almost unrecognisable extent across history.
Our list includes the first bartender to pioneer the use of flair and fresh ingredients, as well as the man who authored the world’s most famous cocktail book.
Click through the following pages to discover our pick of the top 10 pioneering bartenders in history. If you think a certain cocktail maverick deserves a mention on this list, let us know by leaving a comment below.
The original cocktail pioneer Jerry Thomas released his seminal work – A Bar-Tender’s Guide over 150 years ago, in 1862, altering drinking culture for generations to come.
Considered the ‘father of American mixology’, Thomas was one of the first bartenders to exhibit theatre in his craft and explore the medium of mixed drinks in all its forms.
The first edition of A Bar-tender’s Guide included recipes for cocktails such as the Fizz, Flip, Sour and Punch and was updated several times throughout Thomas’s lifetime.
William “Cocktail Bill” Boothby
William Boothby, otherwise known as “Cocktail Bill” worked at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel bar in the late 1800s to early 1900s, becoming one of the best bartenders on the west coast and pioneer of the original cocktail “golden age” – between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of Prohibition.
While his cocktail book Cocktail Boothby’s American Bartender didn’t impact the industry too greatly, the third edition of the text (which had to be completely revised after printing plates were destroyed in San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake) became a sensation when it was published in 1908.
This re-titled The World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them is one of the last seminal works on West Coast bartending before Prohibition and is also one of the foremost texts used in the contemporary revival of the craft.
Not did Ada Coleman trail-blaze a path for aspiring female bartenders of the future, she also created some of the world’s most enduring and iconic cocktails.
Coleman, affectionately known as “Coley”, first starting working at Claridge’s Hotel in London in 1899 before becoming head bartender of The American Bar at The Savoy in the early 20th Century.
Here, she mentored Harry Craddock and created such iconic mixes as the Hanky Panky, which went on to be included in Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book – the most famous cocktail book ever written. She was the first and only woman to be awarded the position of head bartender at The Savoy.
While the New York Bar in Paris was already popular when it was created in 1911, it was it’s former head barman, Scottish Harry MacElhone, who turned it into an institution when he bought the bar in 1923, renaming it Harry’s New York Bar.
The establishment is one of the most famous bars in history and under Harry’s watch such iconic cocktails as the French 75, Monkey Gland and Bloody Mary were conceived.
Over the years, a number of famous faces have visited the bar, such as Ernest Hemingway, Rita Hayworth, Coco Chanel, Humphrey Bogart and the Duke of Windsor.
German bartender Hugo Ensslin authored the 1917 book Recipes for Mixed Drinks – often said to be one of the most influential cocktail books of all time.
While Ensslin was not regarded as one of the bartending greats during the time that he worked in some of New York’s second rate hotel bars, his book is his enduring legacy that has shaped the bartending world across generations.
Recipes for Mixed Drinks, which contains around 400 cocktail recipes, was most likely the last alcoholic drinks book published in the US before Prohibition was declared.
As the original author of The Savoy Cocktail Book and one of the most famous bartenders of all time, Harry Craddock of course deserves a mention on this list.
He rose the fame as the head bartender to succeed Ada “Coley” Coleman at The American Bar at The Savoy during the 20s and 30s, creating iconic classic cocktails which have become synonymous with the Prohibition era.
Craddock was born in the UK’s Stroud before moving to the US to work in a number of notable bars including New York’s Knickerbocker Hotel and Hoffman House. He then moved to The Savoy during Prohibition where he popularised the dry Martini and created the White Lady Sour. He published The Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930.
Donn Beach (born born Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gantt) is largely known as the forefather of modern tiki cocktail culture, credited with creating the Zombie cocktail, which is made of fruit juices, liqueurs, and various rums, in his Hollywood-based Don the Beachcomber restaurant.
Beach was very secretive over the ingredients used in his cocktails and instructed his bartender to use coded references, meaning that today there are many different versions of the Zombie.
However, Beach’s competitor Victor Bergeron played a large part in popularising the tiki trend through his chain of California-based Trader Vic restaurants. He also claims to have created the Mai Tai cocktail.
Salvatore Calabrese – otherwise known as “The Maestro” has spearheaded the trend of high class bartending across the world for more than 30 years.
Having formed a talent for combining flavours while working at a bar in Maiori, a small village on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. He then moved to London in and took a position at the iconic Duke’s Hotel in St James’s, where he developed a niche market for special Cognacs before moving on to the illustrious Lanesborough Hotel in Knightsbridge.
He is now the face and name of Salvatore’s Bar, at The Playboy Club in Park Lane and continues to grab headlines by creating was was the world’s most expensive cocktail. He is also the author of 10 cocktail books including Classic Cocktails, which sold one million copies.
Renowned New York-based bartender Gaz Regan, formerly Gary Regan, has helped pioneer the idea that bartending is a profession with the potential to “change the world” through countless appearances, columns and drinks partnerships over the years.
Having been raised in a British pub in Lancashire, Regan emigrated to New York in 1973 at the age of 22, where he has been tending bar ever since.
As well as writing a regular column in The San Francisco Chronical, he has also had work published in magazines in U.K., Australia, Austria, China, Czech Republic, Germany, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, New Zealand, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, and Switzerland.
He is a regular speaker at various industry and consumer events and has also worked with drinks groups such as Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Heaven Hill Distillers.
Tony Conigliaro is best-known for pioneering the molecular mixology trend among bartenders, inspired by experimental chefs of the modern era.
He founded the iconic “bar with no name” 69 Colebrook Row in 2009, where an in-house cocktail laboratory appeals to methods similar to those used in molecular gastronomy, creating such drinkable delights such as the horseradish-based Prairie Oyster and Terroir cocktail, which uses “distilled clay”.
Conigliaro also co-founded The Drinks Factory and The Zetter Townhouse, and also used to work at Isola, and The Lonsdale.
Speaking to The Spirits Business recently, he said that despite the widespread repetition of old trends in the cocktail industry, bartenders will continue to innovate by the blurring of boundaries not only between food and drink, but also between cocktails and other cultural areas such as music, art and literature.