Due to his pioneering work in popularising cocktails across the United States, US bartender Jerry Thomas is considered "the father of mixology."
In addition to writing the seminal work on cocktails, his creativity and showmanship established the image of the bartender as a creative professional. As such, he was often nicknamed "Professor" Jerry Thomas.
Thomas was born in 1830 in Sackets Harbor, New York. He learned bartending in New Haven, Connecticut before sailing for California during its mid-1800s Gold Rush. While in California he worked as a bartender, gold prospector and minstrel show manager.
He moved back to New York City in 1851, where he opened a saloon below Barnum's American Museum; it would be the first of four saloons he would run in New York City over his lifetime. After a time running his first bar he went on the road for several years, working as the head bartender at hotels and saloons in St. Louis, Missouri, Chicago, Illinois, San Francisco, California, Charleston, South Carolina and New Orleans, Louisiana. At one point he toured Europe, carrying along a set of solid-silver bar tools.
He was well known for his showmanship as a bartender: he developed elaborate and flashy techniques of mixing cocktails, sometimes while juggling bottles, cups and mixers. He often wore flashy jewelry and had bar tools and cups embellished with precious stones and metals.
At the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco, Thomas was earning $100 a week-more than the Vice President of the United States. Upon returning to New York City, he became head bartender at the Metropolitan hotel before opening his most famous bar on Broadway, between 21st and 22nd Streets, in 1866. Thomas was one of the first to display the work of Thomas Nast, and in his famous saloon he hung caricatures of the political and theatrical figures; one notable drawing, now lost, was of Thomas "in nine tippling postures colossally".
Thomas died in New York City of apoplexy in 1885 at the age of 55. His death was marked by substantial obituaries across the United States. In their obituary, The New York Times noted Thomas was "at one time better known to club men and men about town than any other bartender in this city, and he was very popular among all classes."
His famous book – the first written collection of cocktail recipes and methodology – is the Bartenders Guide, alternatively known as How To Mix Drinks or A Bon Vivant's Companion. First published in 1862, it has been in continuous print ever sense and is still regarded by bartenders the world over as an essential guide to the craft. He would update it several times in his lifetime to include new drinks that he discovered or created. The first edition of the guide included the first written recipes of such cocktails as the Brandy Daisy, Fizz, Flip, Sour and variations of the earliest form of mixed drink, Punch. The 1876 edition included the first written recipe for theTom Collins.