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Drawing from “New and Improved Bartender’s Manual”

Harry Johnson


Wrote the first book about managing a cocktail program, and invented bar management consulting

Born in Prussia, Harry Johnson entered the hospitality industry in 1861, in San Francisco, at the Union Hotel. He opened his first bar in Chicago around 1869, but it burned in the Great Chicago Fire (1871). In 1877, Johnson purchased the Little Jumbo bar in New York City. Johnson is mainly remembered as author of the “New and Improved Bartender’s Manual, or How to Mix Drinks in the Present Style” (1882), which he self-published in both English and his native German. In addition to documenting many recent drinks, his is the first book to discuss cocktail bar ownership and operation. Around 1890, Johnson stopped bartending and worked as a professional expert, inventing bar management consulting as a new job for himself. The degree of success he achieved in this new role is unknown, but he significantly updated his book in 1900, and re-published it. Although there’s little evidence he achieved particular fame or influence in his day, his book is, today (i.e., retroactively), held by many to be second only to Jerry Thomas’ in significance amongst 19th Century works.

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