10.2 Jerusalem’s Between the Sheets

1 Aug

The usual recipe for this cousin of the Sidecar calls for brandy and rum. For no other reason than that I wanted to include Charles Baker’s tale of his introduction to the drink, I followed instead the formula outlined in his Gentleman’s Companion and supposedly taken from the “bar book of Weber at the King David” in Jerusalem. This concoction, “already quite famous throughout the near east”, requires gin instead of rum and in practice is too similar to a Sidecar to count as a separate cocktail here. Anyway, here’s Baker’s story, compellingly idiosyncratic as always, and evocative of the power of the cocktail to set the world to rights. Or at least to cure the sniffles.

We ran into it one dank day of sleet and rain in early January, just after the first Arab-Jewish riots which started with a murder of a poor old man stoned to death in a Haifa melon patch, between halves of a soccer match! and had just reached a climax beside the Dome of the Rock mosque—which has religious significance for both Arab and Jew, and unfortunately overhangs the famous Jewish Wailing Wall. We won’t go into the politics of the thing, but it was a nasty mess, with British Tommies in the streets finally, and machine guns and barbed wire entanglements—all the modern civilized show . . . We were disillusioned at all this wholesale murder in Christianity’s own heart city, sad at the sight of a fifteen year old Arab girl—the daughter of a fine Arab friend—crushed under a heavy slab of masonry tossed from a rooftop as she returned from worship after the end of Ramadan—the Mohammedan Easter—and we were wearied at the thought of the drawn knives, the murder from ambush which would follow all this blood debt throughout Palestine. We had both sinuses pounding, were coming down with definitely something, as well—when in the weird, almost Egyptian-looking sanctum of the King David Weber took charge; first with a hot rum toddy, then—on evidence of renewed life—with the following origination. Of cognac, cointreau, dry gin and lemon juice—strained—take equal parts. Shake briskly with lots of cracked ice and serve in a Manhattan glass.

— Charles H. Baker, Jr., The Gentleman’s Companion, vol. 2: Around the World with Jigger, Beaker, and Glass (New York: Crown, 1946 [1939]), p. 17.

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