In praise of the EUVS Digital Collection, a unique library of cocktail books, available to all for free.
One may be tempted to think there’s something selfish about the hobby of collecting. You amass stuff, keep it for your own pleasure. No one barely ever gets to see the objects you’re so keen on. But there’s also another side to the story: a discerning collector is actually helping safeguarding things that might be valuable for future generations.
In the cocktail world, people collect old shakers, old spoons, old strainers… And, of course, old books. Truth be told, most collectors in our industry are pretty generous: ask them and they’ll let you visit them, look at the items they have, take notes, photos. Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do against the biggest constraint of them all: a collection is tied to a physical location. Take Paul Ricard. In 1958, he opened on the isle of Bendor the Exposition Universelle des Vins et Spiritueux (EUVS), a place anyone can visit. It houses his collection of bottles and books, and it’s open to the public. Fantastic, but only if you happen to be in the area… Things are changing, though, and the news will be welcomed by all cantineros.
César Giron, grandson of Paul Ricard and current Martell Mumm Perrier-Jouët CEO, is also a collector and he has been gathering an impressive amount of bar books in all languages. He’s bought them wherever he could find them, acquiring on his way items from other collectors personal stashes. He could have just kept them to himself or bequeathed his books to the EUVS. But this was not enough for César Giron, so he came up with an idea that quite frankly, will change the life of many bartenders… It’s simple enough, but time consuming: why not digitize the books and put them online for everyone to enjoy for free? (You read that right, FREE).
Late last year, a dedicated EUVS platform was launched. It really is mind-blowing: dozens and dozens of books, previously out of reach, are now available to all and sundry. Seriously: even Czech books. For context, a second website was launched, where noted cocktail detectives Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown provide commentaries about the most significant titles and a timeline that will provide essential context to bartenders and enthusiasts on a quest for great drinks from the past.
When we met César Giron last May in Paris, he was very candid about the project: “My family owes its fortune to bartenders, this is how I try to repay them in my own, small way”. A small gesture for him, maybe. Not so for bartenders and cocktail experts.
Just think about it… We’re now less than twelve months away from the next Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix. Well, the 2016 class will have a huge advantage on competitors from other years. Thanks to this platform, they already have access to 18 classic and very scarce Cuban volumes. Six booklets from Floridita, five from Sloppy Joe’s, the seminal 1924 Manual del Cantinero, the 1930, inaugural manual from the Club de Cantinero or the essential 1948 Arte del Cantinero.
On top of that, curious cantineros will be able to track works showcasing how Cuban cocktails were received and reinterpreted by contemporary European and American bartenders – 1937’s Café Royal Cocktail Book or 1938’s Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix‘Em, for instance.
With such unlimited access comes great responsibility: it’s now impossible to claim you weren’t able to properly research the classic recipes and their long forgotten (yet excellent) companions. This treasure trove will allow all competitors access to first hand documentation. And more is coming. We always knew the 2016 Grand Prix was going to be a blast, but now we can be assured that the generosity of a few dedicated individuals will help make it even more authentically Cuban than other editions… if the young cantineros seize this tool. They really should.
The EUVS Digital Collection is a unique library of cocktail books, available to all for free. It can be reached via two website:
* For the whole collection on a barebones website: https://euvs-vintage-cocktail-books.cld.bz
* A curated collection, presented in groups for serials, in chronological order and commented by Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown: http://euvslibrary.com