Brace Yourself for the Baltimore Bracer, the 1950s Pirate Cocktail


From NIP AHOY: THE PICTURE BAR GUIDE by Robert H. Loeb, Jr., Wilcox & Follett, 1954

“‘Here’s an unmarried pirate, with a gleam in his unpatched eye and a yearning within, who’s charted his course to his lady-love’s heart – he hopes. To launch this journey he’s invited her to his cabin for cocktails. But all he can say is ‘You want it neat, babe, or with water?'”

That’s typical “high” seas pirate prose from author Robert H. Loeb, Jr., whose 1954 picture book cocktail mixing guide Nip Ahoy: The Picture Bar Book was released at the height of the 1950s post-war Cocktail Renaissance, the era that subsequently ushered in the swingin’ ‘60s booze, broads and bonhomie culture celebrated in all those Rat Pack movies and today’s Mad Men episodes.

Besides the complex liquid recipes and snarky red-white-and-blue illustrations (by Joel King), Nip Ahoy mixes in some vigorous verbiage that packs an impressive wallop and even waxes poetic on occasion. It’s Lit for getting well “lit.” Here’s Loeb’s opening salvo:

 “Mate – and I’m not being nautical – I mean playmate – do they laugh when you sit down at the bar to play? Do you blush like a Pink Lady when asked to mix anything more complicated than a whiskey and water?

And when friends are draped around your living room or playroom with that water-water-everywhere-but-not-a-drop-to-drink look on their faces, do you know how to go about Operation Mix and Stir? And to impress them even more with your hosting etiquette, can you offer a variety of fire-water mixtures?

Ah, mates, the sad fact of life is that most hosts and hostesses, when cast adrift in a sea of 86 or 100 proof, are bound to end up in Davy Jones’ Locker – which is where such landlubbers go because they don’t know how or what to shake or stir when entertaining a two-some, four-some or more-some.”

Loeb goes on to explain that his readers don’t need a Ph.D in Distilology to make use of his spirits guide: “You just make exactly like the picture tells you. You’re shown every move starting with the exact fuel you need, the “machinery” you mix it with and in and also what you serve it in. So, avast mates and lift your anchors and sail on to your social ‘Pleasure Island’ with Nip Ahoy.”

The Baltimore Bracer is actually considered a cordial, from a class of libations otherwise known as liqueurs. Loeb explains that despite their fancy designation, cordials are not to be feared by the bar tenderfoot.

“The run of the tiller mate and social pirate often gets his lines and sheets fouled when fooling around with cordials…Actually, only a super-buccaneer is in a position to stock his galleon with all the many kinds of cordials that are available.

However, ordinary deckhands like you and me will find that somewhere in our hold we’ve stowed away a bottle of Benedictine or curacao or crème de menthe without ever having tried to use it, because no one ever told us about the wonders that can be done with it.

Mate, remember this: a cordial is a delicious after-dinner treat that, though sweet and smooth as honey, banishes the stuffed feeling and soothes ruffled taste buds. It’s liquid candy with a lift!”


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One Response to Brace Yourself for the Baltimore Bracer, the 1950s Pirate Cocktail

  1. Great story, magnificent drink! I tried to prepare for my birthday, and my fellows said it was good. I suppose they were too cordial on this special day. I use to drink it Friday evening, and on the weekend, after a week of hard work as a dog trainer in Baltimore. Exactly as the pirate said, ‘You want it neat, babe, or with water?’”

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