Warren Bobrow, the Cocktail Whisperer
“I’m late to the game,” admits cocktail historian Warren Bobrow, one of the headliners for the inaugural Asheville Cocktail Week. Bobrow spent nearly 20 years in the financial world before attending the French Culinary Institute, where he studied under famed New York Times food writer Alan Richman. The author of numerous books, Bobrow will host a dinner at Cucina 24 and a seminar at the S&W. He’ll also do a book signing at Malaprop’s to promote his latest work, Cannabis Cocktails.
“We’ll be talking about bitters and the stomach and healing,” he says of his planned discussion, noting that his other book, Apothecary Cocktails, deals with ailments that, up until the 1940s, people would have gone to an apothecarian to cure. “Bitters, acidulated beverages, shrubs, anything with vinegar played a huge role in that. Gentian root, wormwood … it was all used for digestion, and they all go back to the early apothecary.”
The original apothecarians, Bobrow explains, blended ingredients that they had in their kitchens and grew in their gardens to create curative tinctures and remedies. “And some of them were really interested in healing, but in those days, the doctors were out in the field doing the curing for people who would break an arm or split their head open. So the apothecarians became the formularies,” he says.
Bobrow believes it’s imperative that knowledge of historic healing practices, tonics and remedies not be lost. “Today you see all these bartenders pounding Fernet-Branca — and for a hangover, there’s nothing better — but all of these have a medicinal history in healing. But back then, most of those products had cannabis in them, and looking back, probably the only ingredient that actually did anything was cannabis.”