7.1 Gin fizz

19 Jul

Trifling with a Manhattan cocktail, Tom’s lynx eyes sought the mirror in front. At 5.15 exact, Abel Cram dashed into the room. Eagerly scanning the ticker, he leaned, with utter exhaustion, against the bar, his watery eyes half-shut.  “Gim-me—Gim-me—a gin fizz!” he huskily cried.

— Richard Savage, Delilah of Harlem (New York: American News Company, 1893), p. 48.

J’ai bu trois gin-fizz et j’étais très animée.

— Simone de Beauvoir, La force des choses, vol. 1 (Paris: Gallimard, 1963), p. 93.

1 1/2 oz. gin

3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 oz. simple syrup

2 oz. club soda

In its day the gin fizz, and not just the famous New Orleans Ramos gizz, was a hugely popular summer drink, as iconic, in its way, as the martini or mint julep. When the maharajah of Kapurthala travelled to New York in 1922, he sipped a manhattan (in the Manhattan club, no less) and “pronounced it delicious”. “What seemed to please him most, however,” reported the Boston Globe with pride and satisfaction, “was a gin fizz”. In fact, he liked it so much “that on his return to the Waldorf he ordered one of his attendants to go back and get instructions just how the beverage was made. The prince intends to enjoy it when he gets to his oriental home” (“Cocktail and Gin Fizz”, Boston Daily Globe, 22 August 1922, p. 1).

In an age when industrial pharmacology was in its infancy, cocktails and another alcoholic drinks were always purported to possess “medicinal” benefits. In one case, at least, originally published in the New York Herald, it was proved that a gin fizz could be successfully employed in cases of choking—long before Harry Heimlich invented his eponymous maneuver in 1974:

That the popular beverage, gin fizz, in certain ailments, may be used as a substitute for the surgeon’s knife was demonstrated by Dr. Robert S. Adams, house physician of the Waldorf-Astoria, when he was called to the apartment of Miss Dorothy Gresham Parsons, of Seattle, Wash., who had swallowed a squab bone while crossing the Atlantic on board the Lorraine, of the French line. Through the aid of the gin fizz Dr. Adams forced the squab bone from throat of Miss Parsons and ended her suffering.

Dr. Adams admits that his discovery of this particular use of the famous New Orleans beverage was an accident. When he went to the apartment occupied by Miss Parsons he found that the squab bone had become lodged in her throat in such a way that an operation might be necessary. While he was talking with her a waiter rapped ar the door to speak to Dr. Adams. The waiter was carrying a gin fizz to another room.

Sight of the gin fizz gave Dr. Adams a happy thought. It occurred to him that if he could produce hiccoughs in Miss Parsons the bone might be dislodged without the use of the surgeon’s knife. He requested his patient to drink the gin fizz, informing her that it would cause hiccoughs. The gin fizz, together with the physician’s suggestion, produced hiccoughs, and the bone, which had been in the young woman’s throat for three days, became dislodged, and by using pincer the physician extracted the offending squab relic.

Dr. Adams said that he would not advise the swallowing of squab bones by persons who wish a legitimate excuse for drinking gin fizzes.

— “Gin Fizz in Surgery”, Washington Post, 12 October 1911, p. 6.

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