History lesson: ‘Father of Mixology’ hails from Sackets Harbor

Father of mixology
Published: Apr. 7, 2023 at 7:17 AM EDT
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SACKETS HARBOR, New York (WWNY) - “Jerry Thomas is one of the lesser-known historical figures in the village,” Alex Morgia said. “Sackets has a lot of historical significance. Mostly, people know us for the War of 1812.”

Morgia is mayor of Sackets Harbor and also happens to own The Bottle of Sackets Harbor, the wine and liquor store where he has a copy of a special book.

“This is Jerry Thomas’ ‘Bar-Tender’s Guide,’” he said. “It’s the first cocktail book published in the United States of America and Jerry was born right here in Sackets Harbor.”

Known as the Father of Mixology, Thomas was a village boy born in the 1830s. He didn’t stay long, though, because once he took a talent in alcohol mixing, he started touring the country and bringing his drinks to saloons all over — and getting rich doing it.

“He was in San Francisco running a cocktail program getting paid $100 a week, which was more than the vice president at the time,” Morgia said, “so that’ll tell you where the nation’s priorities were.”

He popularized flips, fizzes, sours, and punches. And he was known for flashy bartending. His signature drink was called the Blue Blazer, where he would light whiskey on fire and toss it between mugs.

“Some of the stuff in the book is extremely complicated and involves mulling spices for hours, macerating lemon peels for days and days,” Morgia said.

Instead, Morgia mixed up something a little easier, an olden-day gin fizz.

With every splash and every shake bringing the Father of Mixology back home to Sackets.

“It’s fascinating to see such a small village, we’ve never been large, churn out some interesting characters throughout the years,” Morgia said.

“Oh yeah, I like that,” he said after taking a sip. “That’s a good one.”