I learn so many interesting things researching vintage and antique items that cross my path. Take for instance those flat bottom or bent tip little spoons with red ball tops that I had found. They were less than 4 inches in length, were marked “E.P.N.S” and “Great Britain”. The flat bottom shape to the tip of the bowl seemed to indicate that they were to be used as a muddler. The decorative red ball end seemed to say that these were to be placed in the glass when serving the drink. But what drink would that be?
I found images of similar spoons on the internet and saw that some people were calling them jelly spoons or baby spoons…which made absolutely no sense to me. Then, thanks to Cheryl at antiquers.com, I found an advertisement that explained it all.
The ad shown above was for Abercrombie & Fitch and was in a November 1939 issue of The New Yorker magazine. These spoons were called “Old-Fashioned Cherry Spoons” and were to be used to crush sugar. They were also available at Von Lengerke & Antoine in Chicago.
I found an earlier ad for similar type spoons in a 1935 New Yorker Magazine calling them “Old Fashioned Cocktail Spoons”. A 1935 Scribner’s Magazine called them “Old Fashioned Muddler Spoons”. The Chicago Tribune carried an ad for these spoons in 1950 (shown above). In 1952 these spoons were still being advertised in The New Yorker. They appear to be been offered in boxed sets of eight. Quite a long run for this design.
Versions of these spoons have been marked “Made in England” in addition to “Great Britain”. The only manufacturer’s mark that I have come across on similar spoons is for Barker Brothers of Birmingham, England.
There have been many versions of the “Old Fashioned” cocktail over the years. It originated as what was called a “Whisky Cocktail” which was basically a small lump of sugar, a couple dashes of bitters, whisky and perhaps a little water. That was it. But over the years, inventive individuals added other ingredients such as fruit, including cherries. There were those who still wanted the “old fashioned” whisky cocktail, however, and that name stuck…the “Old Fashioned” cocktail.
Many of the early “Old Fashioned” cocktail recipes call for the drink to be served “with a spoon”. This must have been to stir and dissolve any of that remaining sugar at the bottom of the glass.
Stephen Visakay, in his book “Vintage Bar Ware” shows similar type “drink stirrer / muddler” spoons but the round Catalan tips were yellow not red. He indicated they were English circa 1930. Chase offered their own version of the “Old Fashioned Muddler”.
Apparently “Old Fashioned” cocktails remain tremendously popular. Within the past few years two books have been written solely on the subject of the “Old Fashioned”. In 2013 Albert Schmid published “The Old Fashioned: An Essential Guide to the Original Whiskey Cocktail”. In 2014 “The Old Fashioned: The Story of the World’s First Classic Cocktail with Recipes and Lore” was published by Robert Simonson.
There aren’t many bar tools that are specific to a particular cocktail. There is the Tom Collins spoon, which is a long bar spoon which is used to stir the drink when making it but not served with the drink. There is the julep strainer which could be used to strain a drink but, at least in early times, it was also served in the glass. And then there is the Old Fashioned spoon. I have learned something.
The muddler shown above is a Napier sterling silver combination mudder and jigger.
And the muddler spoons shown above are manufactured by Barker Bros. These would make a nice addition to your Old Fashioned cocktails. Both these and the Napier are available for sale at my Etsy shop http://www.Etsy.com/shop/queenofsienna