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12 Rounds

12 Rounds With… Ted Haigh (aka Dr. Cocktail)

Photo by Yousuf Karsh

Ask Ted Haigh how he would like to be introduced and he would say, “as half the great wit of the century”. Well, sir, we’ll let history be the judge of that. For those of us who drink and drink regularly, we are pleased as Swedish Punsch to call him “Dr. Cocktail”. The title is apt since Haigh has been tinkering with cocktails since before he was old enough to drink them. He may be a graphic designer for film by day, but heck, that just pays the bills (still, you can check out his awesome folio at www.tedhaigh.com). A self-proclaimed cocktail archeologist, Haigh is the author of “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails“, as well as the curator and designer of the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans. He also writes a regular column for Imbibe Magazine.

01) What inspired your interest in cocktails?

My lifetime preoccupation with artifacts of the world before I was born. Old movies, old 78rpm records, old cars, old books, old newspapers and so much more…

02) What was your first formative cocktail experience?

I was on a solo bus trip at about 18 years old. In Washington DC. I timidly stepped into a bar and, trying to look and act older than I was, I ordered the first drink that sprang to mind…a Tom Collins. It was delightful.

03) What is your all-time favorite mixed drink?

That is like asking a painter what his favorite color is. It changes. Old Fashioneds, Ford Cocktails, and Blinkers will always be on the list.

04) Favorite place to drink?

My house with Nurse Cocktail, but the tied runners-up would be Musso & Franks and Eric Alperin’s place, Varnish.

05) If you don’t know the bartender, what do you order?

A young Cognac on the rocks, unless they appear really invested.

06) If you could make any drink with the 12 Bottles, what would you make?

Assuming this game permits the use of mixers, I’d make a Sidecar, a Between the Sheets, a 5 to 1 Dry Gin Martini with a twist, a Manhattan, an Improved Whiskey Cocktail, an Absinthe Frappé, a nice glass of Irish Whiskey on the rocks. Ergo, I’d make everything I possibly could.

07) If you could replace any one bottle with another, what switch would you make? And why?

I would regretfully replace the Irish whiskey because though I love it, as a cocktail ingredient it is rare. I’d replace it with Benedictine.

08) Outside of the 12 Bottles, what should people make an effort to try?

The many revival spirits now on the market.

09) If you could only have one mixed drink for the rest of your life, which would it be?

An Old Fashioned, but I reject the premise.

10) With whom (living, deceased, or fictional) would you like to most share a drink?

Not just one person: Thomas Edison, Jerry Thomas, Harry Johnson, George Kappeler, Ernest Hemingway, Chas. Baker, Flannery O’Connor, Edgar Allan Poe, and Rachel Maddow; one at a time or together.

11) On which one item should the home bartender splurge?

A cocktail shaker they utterly love.

12) One piece of advice for the home bartender…

Refrigerate the damned vermouths! (and Sherry, and Port, and Madeira…) if it’s going to be around for more than a week and it isn’t distilled, refrigerate it!

Every July, you’ll find Doc in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail. If you’d like to keep an eye on him the rest of the year, head over to www.drcocktail.com or take a gander at his comprehensive Internet Cocktail Database, which is probably the most complete web resource for drink recipes, ingredients and barware. Doc can also be followed on Twitter @Dr_Cocktail.

The doctor would also like us to know about Darcy O’Neil’s Acid Phosphate. In his words, “the most unlikely successful ingredient revival in my lifetime… Find it. Horde it.” FYI, O’Neil is a chemist turned bartender; acid phosphate was used by old-time soda jerks as a less-expensive, longer-lasting citrus substitute. (To buy, acid phosphate, go here).

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