Black History Month: Tom Bullock and the Overall Julep
Tom Bullock’s (1872-1964) influence in the history of cocktails in the US is undeniable, yet little is known about the author of the first cocktail manual written by a Black bartender.
Bullock was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of a former slave who fought for the Union Army in the American Civil War. Bullock began his bartending career at the Pendennis Club, an elite private club in Louisville where Bullock started work as a bellboy. Bullock also enjoyed a brief stint at the Kenton Club, a short-lived rival started in 1885 by businessmen who were denied membership to the Pendennis. Bullock eventually landed a bartending position at the St. Louis Country Club, whose client included banker George Herbert Walker and brewing magnate August Bush Sr.
Bullock’s skills as a mixologist were highly regarded, and earned him a bit of notoriety in a libel suit involving Theodore Roosevelt. Rumors spread during the 1912 presidential elections that Roosevelt was secretly a drunk. Following a speech in Marquette, the Iron Ore newspaper published a damning editorial, claiming: "Roosevelt lies, and curses in a most disgusting way, he gets drunk too, and that not infrequently, and all of his intimates know about it."
Roosevelt sued for libel, testifying in court that since leaving the White House he had drank two Mint Juleps. One was at the St. Louis Club, where he claimed only to have taken a couple of sips. On May 23, 1913, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an editorial that challenged Roosevelt’s claim and boosted Tom Bullock’s reputation: "Who was ever known to drink just a part of Tom’s? Tom, than whom there is no greater mixologist of any race, was taught the art of the julep by no less than Marse Lilburn G. NcNair, the father of the julep."
Whether he had more than two sips or not, Roosevelt ultimately won his suit, and Bullock earned national fame as one of the country’s leading bartenders.
In 1917, Bullock became the first known Black author to publish a cocktail manual, The Ideal Bartender. Bullock’s is one of the last cocktail manuals published before Prohibition, and provides rare insight into pre-Prohibition cocktails and drinking culture.
The Ideal Bartender collects Bullock’s own recipes, including for a special gin-based julep created by Bullock called the Overall Julep.
Overall Julep – St. Louis Style (1917 Recipe)
Use a large Mixing glass; fill with Lump Ice. 2/3 Wineglass Rye Whiskey. 2/3 Wineglass Gordon Gin. ½ Wineglass Imported Grenadine. Juice ½ Lemon. Juice ½ Lime. Shake well; pour into tall, thin glass; add one bottle Imported Club Soda and serve.
Overall Julep (Updated Version)
1 oz rye whiskey 1 oz London Dry Gin ¼ oz grenadine ½ oz lemon juice ½ oz lime juice
Combine the whiskey, gin, grenadine, and juices in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake well. Pour into a tall Collins glass and top with club soda. Garnish with lemon wedge and serve.