Archive | September, 2011

32. Marconi cocktail

30 Sep

The intruder differed but little in his manner of approach from other strangers I had seen hovering about my friend, but to make sure of his identity—the painter had not yet noticed the man—I sent Marny a Marconi message of inquiry with my eyebrows . . .

— F. Hopkinson Smith, The Under Dog (New York: Scribner’s, 1903), p. 268.

MARCONI, Guglielmo, the man who made the inventors of telephone poles and wires look foolish. His inventions have made it possible for New York stock brokers to continue their business while journeying to Paris.

— Irwin L. Gordon, Who Was Who, 5000BC To Date (Philadelphia: McKay, 1914), p. 74.

The twentieth century didn’t truly begin until 12 December 1901. That was the day when inventor and entrepreneur Guglielmo Marconi, still only 28 years old, announced “the most wonderful scientific development of recent times” (“Wireless Signals Across the Atlantic”, New York Times, 14 December, 1901): he had succeeding in transmitting a signal across the Atlantic using “Herztian” (radio) waves and his new system of wireless telegraphy. And so began the revolution in telecommunications that would change the world forever: soon there would follow radio, television, mobile phones and the internet.

At the time, however, some were sceptical about Marconi’s achievement. The transmission, which originated in a station in Poldhu, Cornwall and was received 3500 kilometres away, in St John’s, Newfoundland, consisted simply of the repetition at intervals of the letter “S” in Morse code; as such, the sign was difficult to distinguish from atmospheric noise and there was anyway no independent confirmation of the reception. It didn’t matter, though: a year later Marconi sent another signal, west to east, from Nova Scotia to Cornwall, and on this occasion the press was present. And on 18 January, 1903, in the first transatlantic transmission from the United States, he forwarded greetings from President Theodore Roosevelt to the recently crowned King Edward VII (who had been a patron of Marconi’s work and two weeks earlier had received a message directly from the man himself):

In taking advantage of the wonderful triumph of scientific research and ingenuity which has been achieved in perfecting a system of wireless telegraphy, I extend on behalf of the American people most cordial greetings and good wishes to you and all the people of the British Empire.

Theodore Roosevelt

South Wellfleet, Mass., Jan. 19, 1903.

The monarch answered:

I thank you most sincerely for the kind message which I have just received from you through Marconi’s transatlantic wireless telegraph. I sincerely reciprocate in the name of the people of the British Empire the cordial greetings and friendly sentiment expressed by you on behalf of the American nation, and I heartily wish you and your country edvery possible prosperity.

Edward R. and I.

Sandringham, Jan. 19, 1903.

— Orrin E. Dunlap, Marconi, The Man and his Wireless (New York: Macmillan, 1937), pp. 141-2.

I think we know by now how this epoch-making event was celebrated. With a cocktail, of course! Tim Daly was swiftly off the mark; already in his Bartender’s Encyclopedia, published in 1903, we find a recipe for a drink “named after the renowned inventor, Signor Marconi, and [which] is as modern as that gentleman’s system of wireless telegraphy” (p. 88). Like Marconi, whose mother was Irish, the eponymous cocktail is a suitably Anglo-Italian mix:

1/2 jigger of Plymouth gin

1/2 jigger of Italian vermuth [sic]

I wonder if the type of gin, too, has symbolic value: Plymouth is just up the coast from Cornwall, where Marconi’s transmitting station was located.

To the gin and sweet vermouth we add:

1 piece of orange, which should be put in at the end.

In cutting the orange, go deep enough to get some of the pulp, as the oil of the orange and the fruit together make a delightful blend; strain into a cocktail glass, and serve.

We end up with a light, citrusy concoction, not unlike a Bronx, that goes down almost as quickly as one of Marconi’s wireless transmissions crossed the Atlantic Ocean.

The Café Royal Cocktail Book, which appeared in 1937, the year that Marconi died, has a different recipe, one which calls for 1/3 Martini sweet vermouth and 2/3 Calvados.

Cocktails in the House

27 Sep

It’s rare for cocktails to be discussed in the House of Commons—at least as part of official parliamentary business. But in June 1934 Robert Hudson, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, answered questions on entry permits granted to foreigner workers, leading to the following interesting exchange:

Mr. T. WILLIAMS [Don Valley] asked the Minister of Labour how many permits have been granted to foreign waiters and cocktail mixers to accept employment in British hotels during the past four months?

Mr. HUDSON Permits for the employment of foreigners in hotels—apart from those required for highly specialised posts—are limited to student-employés under reciprocal arrangements made with foreign countries which provide corresponding facilities for British students. The number of such permits issued during the first five months of this year is 252.

Mr. WILLIAMS Before the Ministry grant a permit do they ascertain whether the foreigner in a specialised occupation is displacing a long-established British workman?

Mr. HUDSON To the best of my knowledge, I do not think that cocktail mixers can be regarded as specialist workers.

Mr. T. SMITH [Normanton] Will he be insured?

Mr. H. WILLIAMS [Croydon South] asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that two British employés, with many years’ service at the Savoy Hotel, were recently displaced by foreigners; whether his Department granted permits to the latter; and, if so, for what period?

Mr. HUDSON I have no information leading me to suppose that any employés at this hotel have been displaced in consequence of permits issued by the Ministry; but if the hon. Member will give me any particulars that he has I will have inquiry made.

Mr. WILLIAMS Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this specialist cocktail-mixer has been employed by the Savoy Hotel for no less than 14 years, and that he has now been dismissed and replaced by an importee from New York, and does the Department give a permit in such cases as that?

Mr. HUDSON I am not aware of that, and if the hon. Member will give me the particulars I will have them looked into.

Mr. HANNON [Birmingham Mosely] Surely we can get cocktail-mixers in this country. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take steps, in consultation with the committee for training waiters, in order to see that we have no more foreigners mixing cocktails?

— HC Deb 28 June 1934 vol 291 cc1285-7.

Broadway Billy Rose

24 Sep

Billy Rose (1899-1966) was a lyricist and Broadway impresario, the co-writer of such hit songs as “Me and My Shadow”, “Does the Spearmint Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight” and “I Found a Million Dollar Baby”, and the producer of shows like the Ziegfeld Follies of 1934, Jumbo (1935) and Carmen Jones (1943). In 1946 he published an entertaining autobiography, illustrated by Salvador Dali, which contains this martini-related anecdote.

Time Magazine, 2 June 1947.

Why didn’t I join the crowd and have a few drinks? For two good reasons. First, hard liquor tastes to me like something you take for the grippe. Second, I’ve been selling it in my nightclubs for years, and taking on a cargo of lightning bugs has no glamour for me. It would be like a soda jerk going on a walnut sundae binge.

But before the Anti-Saloon League sends around that long, white ribbon, let me say I don ‘t object to other people drinking. There’s only one drink at which I draw the line. That’s the Martini.

Scotch and soda is a lullaby that puts you to sleep in easy stages. The Martini is a baseball bat to the base of the skull. Eight ounces, and dowagers do the bumps.

This yellow mixture had spoiled my first two summers at Mt. Kisco. Our week-end guests had been witty and civilized folk, and I had enjoyed their company very much—during the day. But around 7 P.M., these arthritic athletes would come off the tennis court and congregate in the game room for what they called “Happy Cocktail Hour”. Eleanor, always the good hostess, would have a big pitcher of Martinis waiting.

During the first couple of drinks, everybody would have a good time, including me. And then—whammo! Martini number three would take hold. From them on, everyone would have a good time, excluding me.

By the time we hit the dinner table at 9, our guests would be more bleary than bright. And for the rest of the evening, I’d be the sober little guy in the corner everybody felt sorry for.

“Once and for all, I’ve got to slug it out with Mr. Martini,” I said to myself. And the following summer I did.

I started by holding a stop-watch on my guests. Few of them consumed more than two Martinis the first hour. I realized that if I could throw some hot soup into them before they buddied up to the third Martini, everything would be all right. The problem was how to get my guests to the dinner table an hour earlier.

The plan I finally evolved darn near broke me. It was to build a small movie theatre and substitute Ginger Rogers for gin, Veronica Lake for vermouth and Olivier for the olive. This meant ripping the stalls out of the stable, bringing in half a mile of electric cable, building an asbestos booth, buying a couple of projectors, and bulldozing the film companies out of their new pictures. I finally finished it late in July, and George Jessel christened it “Loew’s Rose.”

If peace of mind is worth anything, the theatre paid for itself the first month. The day it opened, I casually remarked at lunch, “We’re showing the new Bing Crosby movie tonight. We’ll have to start dinner early because the operator lives in Mt. Vernon.”

Nobody squawked. And so, instead of sitting down at 9 with a bunch of howling hooligans, I picked up my soup spoon at 8 in the company of reasonably reasonable people. Marc Connelly was there that evening, and it was nice to hear him talk like Marc Connelly.

And it’s been that way for the past seven summers. After the movies, the guests usually come back to the game room. And if they feel like a Martini, it’s all right with me. My bedroom is on the other side of the house.

— Billy Rose, Wine, Women and Words (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1948 [1946]), pp. 109-110.

31. White Lady

21 Sep

Modernity, it would seem, has reached out from the age of machinery into the world of the restless shades who haunt ancient castles and houses. One of Britain’s famous lady ghosts is reported to have been seen again—this time with bobbed hair. […] Have the ghosts of history, like the ghost of Hamlet in modern dress, brought themselves completely up-to-date to accord with the world of today?

— “Even Ghosts Have Joined the Moderns”, New York Times, 17 January 1926.

The “White Lady” is the ghostly equivalent of Smith: it’s the longest entry in the spirit world’s telephone directory, with countless spooks across different cultures going by that particular soubriquet. And the name is not exactly uncommon in the other spirit world either. In the first decades of the last century several new-born, and quite distinct, cocktails were christened “white lady”. The one that survived, a gin-based confection, is usually credited to Harry Craddock of the Savoy. Here’s how it appears in the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930):

1/4 Lemon Juice

1/4 Cointreau

1/2 Dry Gin

In 1919 another great mixological Harry, Dundee-born Harry MacElhone, who at the time was working in Ciro’s Club in London, created a “white lady” that combined brandy, Cointreau and crème de menthe. That recipe appears in a few other bar books and cocktail guides of the period, like G. Selmer Foughner’s Along the Wine Trail  (New Boston: Stratford, 1935), before it was dropped from the repertoire. In the 1986 reprint of Harrys ABC of Mixing Cocktails, however, the brandy is omitted and the formula given as “1/3 Lemon Juice, 1/3 White Crème de Menthe, 1/3 Cointreau”. MacElhone’s son, Andrew, himself a distinguished bartender, then notes that in 1929, after he had opened the famous Harry’s Bar in Paris, his father changed that “original” recipe to “1/3 Gin, 1/3 Cointreau, 1/3 Lemon Juice.” MacElhone, Sr. evidently capitulated before the greater success of the Craddockian version: he began using the same ingredients, but in slightly different proportions.

But there seems to have been another drink called “white lady” that predates even MacElhone’s first attempt. In a 1907 article about the epidemic consumption of absinthe and other related aperitifs, the Washington Post reported that over a ten year period admissions to insane asylums had increased 37 percent: “If Frenchmen do not stop drinking green, yellow, snow-white, and sky-blue ‘pick-me-ups'”, worried the paper, “the whole race promises to end in shady, high-walled gardens, digging for buried treasure” . Along with intriguingly named mixtures such as Swiss Girl (white absinthe, eau vulneraire and ice water), Fireman’s Hose (champagne cognac, orgeat syrup, ice water and served with a straw) and Tiger’s Milk (Santa Cruz rum and four liquors), we read of the White Lady, a kissing cousin of the Green Fairy:

The White Lady is another reliable awakener of tired youth and regenerator of maturity. To make her eyes shine you take white absinthe, shaken with the whites of two fresh eggs to form a protecting coating to the lining of the stomach. Prolonged gayety is the primary effect. Secondarily, a brain jolt, as if done with a bung-starter, after gladsome hours. The White Lady really requires a traveling companion, or at least a messenger boy, to tell the cabman where to drive.

— “Some ‘Crazy Drinks’ are Rapidly Sending French to Insane Asylums”, Washington Post, 8 September 1907, p. 7.

By the end of the 1930s, certainly, Craddock’s white lady was firmly established as a modern classic. One of the best-known writers of the early twentieth century—the Stakhanovite producer of schlocky thrillers, E. Phillips Oppenheim, who, like most of his fictional heroes, was a “firm believer in cocktails before a meal”—confided to an interviewer that the white lady was his favourite tipple, with the dry martini a “close second”. However, Oppenheim clearly preferred MacElhone’s take, because he helpfully describes his drink of choice as “one-third Cointreau, one-third lemon juice, one-third gin” (Alfred Campbell, “Oppenheim’s Pet Cocktail”, Boston Globe, 3 January 1937, p. 58). Both Oppenheim and the White Lady feature in that classic collection of post-Prohibition cocktails, So Red the Nose, in which prominent authors and journalists contribute their own recipes named after some of their recent works. Oppenheim’s is called “The Man Without Nerves” (the title of a 1934 novel) and is basically a martini: 2/3 Dry Gin (Gordon’s or Booth’s High and Dry) and 1/3 Noilly Prat (from a freshly opened bottle). “Use plenty of ice,” cautions Oppenheim, “shake like hell, and serve foaming in a fair sized glass. A small strip of lemon rind cut very thin might be allowed, but nothing else.” Interestingly, he adds: “No liqueur, syrup or Grenadine should ever find its way into an apéritif” – interesting because there is a cocktail called “Oppenheim”—whether it was invented on the Guernsey scribbler’s behalf I don’t know—which is basically a Manhattan jazzed up with Grenadine. Arthur Meeker, Jr. who had just published a novel with the title Vestal Virgin (1934), bestows that very name on a mixture consisting of 1/3 gin, 1/3 Cointreau and 1/3 lemon juice. “This prescription”, Meeker is quoted as saying, which he claims first saw the  world at the Place Bar in St. Moritz, Switzerland, “is commonly known as a White Lady; but what else can you call a Vestal Virgin?” (Sterling North and Carl Kroch, So Red the Nose, or Breath in the Afternoon [New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1935], no page numbers).

A testament of its emblematic status during the interwar years is the fact the white lady was selected as one the cocktails to be buried in a time capsule beneath a newly built bar in London’s West End:

Five cocktails, which may not be drunk for more than one hundred years, have been deposited in the foundation of a new cocktail bar under construction in Park lane [sic].

The five cocktails chosen as an example for posterity of the most popular form of mixed drink of this generation were a dry Martini, a Bronx, a Manhattan, a sidecar and a white lady.

Each cocktail was mixed and poured into a small phial, which was sealed. The phials were placed in a modern cocktail shaker and this, with a parchment giving the formulas of the cocktails, was placed in a cavity in the foundations.

— “Five Cocktails Mixed to Amaze Posterity”, Baltimore Sun, 24 April 1939, p. 3.

In the autumn of 1914 the American press became very excited about the “White Lady”, a ghost that had haunted the House of Hohenzollern for centuries. According to tradition, the spectre’s appearance presaged a death in the royal family—and with the country now at war there were, allegedly, some who feared she would soon return (“Will the White Ladies of the Hohenzollerns and Hapsburgs Walk Again?”, New York Times, 18 October 1914; “Ghost Traditions of the Hohenzollerns, New York Times, 20 December 1914). In 1941, during the next European conflict, a “white lady” was again exciting consternation—this time in the pages of Das Schwarze Korps, the house magazine of the SS. With “pachydermous German humor”, as the Chicago Tribune phrased it, an editorial protested the continued use of English words by hotels, bars and other places of amusement. Why, its blowhard author wondered, did establishments have to be called the “Carlton” and the “Bristol” instead of something more stirringly Teutonic?

In gin mills and lobster palaces the writer noticed the same deplorable persistence of inappropriate snobbery. He found on a liquor list the words “brandy” and “German whisky”, as if their German equivalents were not good enough. Then there are mixed drinks which, tho [sic] no longer called by the English name, “cocktails”, still are listed under such names as “Sidecar, Ohio, Manhattan, and White Lady”.

But bartenders, the Kultur warrior cautioned, should not go too far in the other direction: cocktails (or gemischte Getränke, I suppose we ought to say) with appellations like Stuka or Fallschirmjäger (paratrooper) bordered on the sacrilegious! But where did der Mann aus dem Volke stand in all of this? What goes unsaid, an American observer reported, is that “the thirsty German today is lucky if he can get a drink—mixed or unmixed—at any price, fancy or not, and under any name—German, English, patriotic, or snobbish” (Alex Small, “Stuka Cocktails Pack a Punch—and Get one Back”, Chicago Daily Tribune, 26 November 1941, p. 10).

30. Roosevelt cocktail (and the Teddy Hat)

19 Sep

I have never drunk a cocktail or a highball in my life. With the exceptions hereafter noted, I never drank whisky or brandy except under the advice of a physician. […] I never have drunk beer, nor do I drink red wine. The only wines that I have drunk have been white wines—Madeira, champagne, or, very occasionally, a glass of sherry. […] Mint juleps I very rarely drink. At the White House we had a mint bed, and I should think that on the average I may have drunk half a dozen mint juleps a year. Since I left the White House four years ago, to the best of my memory, I have drunk mint juleps twice—on one occasion at the Country Club at St. Louis, where I drank a part of a glass of mint julep, and on another occasion at a big luncheon given me at Little Rock, Ark., where they passed round the table a loving cup with the mint julep in it, and I drank when the cup was passed to me.

— “What Roosevelt Told Jury”, New York Times, 28 May, 1913.

On 23 March 1909, shortly after leaving the White House, Col. Theodore Roosevelt (as the ex-president preferred to be known) embarked on an African safari that would last almost a year. This was no holiday in the sun. After all, Teddy (as the ex-president hated to be known) was famous for preaching what he called the “doctrine of the strenuous life”, the life spent not in “ignoble ease”, but in toil and manly effort. For it was it was only by refusing to shrink from strife, danger and hardship, he thought, that the individual could achieve greatness and the nation fulfill its imperial destiny (Theodore Roosevelt, “The Strenuous Life”, in The Strenuous Life: Essays and Addresses [New York: Century, 1901], pp. 1-21 [p. 1]).

Roosevelt’s adventure in British East Africa played up to his image as a rugged outdoorsman and the embodiment of swaggering virility, but ostensibly it had a loftier purpose. His party, which included zoologists and his son Kermit, and was led by the Great White Hunter R. J. Cuninghame, had been sent, he later recounted, by the Smithsonian “to collect birds, mammals, reptiles and plants, but especially specimens of big game, for the National Museum at Washington.” (Theodore Roosevelt, African Game Trails [New York: Scribner’s, 1910], p. 3). At times, though, the trip resembled less a scientific expedition than a murderous rampage: Roosevelt and his companions killed or trapped more than 11,397 animals. Tons of salted carcasses and skins were shipped to Washington; in fact, there were so many that it took years to mount them all.

Once the Dark Continent had been successfully emptied of wildlife, Roosevelt set out on a triumphal procession through the Old World, warmly greeted by the crowned heads of Europe, cheered by commoners and showered with honours and awards: first to Rome, then to Vienna, Paris, Brussels, The Hague, Copenhagen, Christiana, Stockholm, Berlin—where Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Colonel, “the world’s two chief exponents of the strenuous life” (Frederick E. Drinker and Jay Henry Mowbray, Theodore Roosevelt: His Life and Work [Philadelphia: National Publishing Co., 1919]. p. 355), stood energetically shaking each other’s hand for almost a full minute—and at last to London.

When Roosevelt arrived back in New York after almost 15 months away, he was feted just as rapturously as he had been abroad: a welcoming committee of 2,5000 dignitaries, congressmen and senators had assembled in the harbour. A huge parade, led by ex-Rough Riders, the volunteer cavalry regiment he had commanded with distinction in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, escorted him up Broadway and Fifth Avenue between the throngs of huzzahing citizens. Newspapers hailed his return, and Governor John Franklin Fort echoed their tributes when he called Roosevelt not only “the greatest citizen of the Republic” but “the greatest citizen of the world, and recognized as such, I believe, in every nation” (ibid., p. 406).

It was surely  inevitable that someone would invent a cocktail to celebrate, in the most American way possible, T.R. stepping back on native soil:

Inspired by the homecoming of Col. Theodore Roosevelt, “Pop” Harris, an eminent artificer of mixed intoxicants, announces to the world the birth of the “Roosevelt cocktail”, guaranteed to make a mollycoddle bite a malefactor of great wealth, or a milksop thrash a Rough Rider. The recipe, to which six nations contribute, is:

One half jigger of San Juan rum (Cuba).

One quarter jigger of vermouth (Italy).

One quarter jigger dry gin (England).

Dash of absinthe (France).

Dash of Kirschwasser (Germany).

Serve in Venetian (Austrian) cocktail glasses

— “A New Roosevelt Cocktail”, Baltimore Sun, 18 June 1910, p. 2.

There we have it: a cocktail drawing on spirits native to lands which Roosevelt had recently visited (but not, mercifully, all of them). The Venetian glass, though, is a bit of a cheat: Venice, which had been an Austrian possession, was absorbed into the Kingdom of Italy in 1866. Another recipe called for the drink to be served in “frapped in silver mounted cocoanut shells”, which represented the killing fields of Africa (“Latest Jambouree; Roosevelt Cocktail”, Mixer and Server, vol. 19:7 [15 July 1910], p.  18).

If you’re wondering what the rest of the Sun article is driving at, well, “a malefactor of great wealth” is what this presidential trust buster called the plutocrats of the time. And “milksop” and “mollycoddle”, along with “immensely”,  were favourite words of T.R.; a mollycoddle he defined as “nothing but a grown-up sissy—a grown-up sissy of either sex” (Drinkwater and Mowbray, p. 430). He used the term to describe pacifists and any other group symptomatic of the decadent effeminacy of the nation. When Harvard proposed abolishing football and other dangerous sports, Roosevelt bristled at the thought that his alma mater “should turn out mollycoddles instead of vigorous men” (“No Mollycoddles, Says Roosevelt”, New York Times, 24 February 1907). This cocktail, then, is definitely, not one for the ladies.

Pop Harris’ creation was not the only Roosevelt-themed cocktail to make it into the papers. Two years later, when the Colonel tried at the Chicago convention to secure the Republican presidential nomination again, this time at the expense of his successor and incumbent William Taft, a story appeared in the Chicago Tribune describing how two national delegates of the rival Republican camps met over a couple of cocktails in bar of the Congress hotel. The waiter appeared with their order and dropped a piece of lemon peel shaped like a Rough Rider’s hat into each man’s drink; the Taft supporter peevishly fished it out:

“What’s that,”  he said, a bit sharply.

“It’s the new campaign drink—now, see,” he illustrated, “the rim of the glass represents the ring, and here’s where we drop the hat.”

“Fine work,” remarked the Roosevelt man.

“Huh! The drink’s fine, all right, but here’s where I show you how to get Teddy’s hat out of the ring,” responded the Taft man, somewhat grumpily. In a jiffy the lemon skin was on the floor.

The Chicago campaign drink is the invention of Charles W. Svendsen, manager of the Congress hotel’s liquor department. The inventor had been loafing around the Pompeian room an hour seeking the “psychological moment” to spring it on the public it looks like a winner.

Here is the way it is made: Use an ordinary mixing glass. Fill it with chopped ice, dash in a few drops of orange bitters. One-half pony of raspberry syrup, one pony of gin, one-half pony of dubonnet. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Drop hat as you serve the guest.

“It’s the greatest scheme ever invented to tell a man’s politics,” said Svendsen. “If the hat stays the drinker belongs to Roosevelt. If the hat is tossed out he is a Taft follower.”

— “Like Cocktails? Try ‘Teddy Hat'”, Chicago Tribune, 11 June 1912, p. 5.

Roosevelt was not the only politician to be immortalized by a mixologist—his Vice President, the teetotal Charles Fairbanks, much to his embarrassment, was also thus honoured. But Roosevelt, too, despite the rumours of heavy drinking that had dogged him throughout his career, claimed to practise moderation in his habits of refreshment. Understandably, he had to tread carefully in the wake of the Fairbanks “cocktail incident”: at a luncheon in St Louis shortly after his deputy’s debacle, the organizers insisted that no cocktails be served (much to the chagrin of the chef, Jules Bole), because the city didn’t want “any political revolutions over this cocktail business” (“No Cocktails for President, New York Times, 2 October 1907, p. 1). That still didn’t stop a preacher lambasting him for “gulping” champagne at the function (“Roosevelt’s Drink Stirs Up Preachers, New York Times, 7 October, p. 6). It was unlikely, then, that he would have approved of either Harris’ or Svendsen’s bibulous tribute. He was so sick of the whispers, in fact, that in 1913 he instituted a libel suit against a Michigan newspaper editor who unwisely accused him in print of insobriety. Over five days, witness after witness testified that they had never seen Roosevelt intoxicated, and he himself took the stand to describe, in scrupulous detail, exactly how much alcohol had passed his lips during his life (the New York Times called it “almost a count of drinks”), before the defendant was forced to retract his claims. When Roosevelt admitted, though, that he had sipped part of a mint julep at the St. Louis Country Club (a city, it seems, in which he struggled to enjoy a quiet drink), the Post-Dispatch feared, with tongue in cheek, that he would “come very near losing his case”, especially when the julep in question was made by Tom Bullock, “than whom there is no greater mixologist of any race, color or condition of servitude”. (Yes, Bullock was black, hence the newspaper’s rather backhanded compliment.)

To believe that a red-blooded man, and a true Colonel at that, ever stopped with just a part of one of those refreshments . . . is to strain credulity too far. Are the Colonel’s powers of self-restraint altogether transcendent? Have we found the living superman at last?

When the Colonel says that he consumed just a part of one he doubtless meant that he did not swallow the mint itself, munch the ice and devour the very cup.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 28 May 1913; reprinted in Tom Bullock, The Ideal Bartender (St Louis: Buxton and Skinner, 1917), p. 3.

There is yet another Roosevelt cocktail listed in the Café Royal Cocktail Book (1937), which consists of equal parts lemon juice, grenadine, gin and Jamaica rum; but, given the year of publication, and the general purpose of the collection, namely to showcase more recent creations rather than classic cocktails, I’ll assume that this particular concoction was designed to honour Teddy’s fifth cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who entered office as the 32nd president of the United States in 1933.

29. Ben-Hur cocktail

18 Sep

Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

— John 18:11; Lew Wallace, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (New York: Harper, 1880), p. 522.

Here’s an interesting Italian take on the vodka martini. The Angostura bitters that were traditionally added to a martini have been replaced with the native Campari, that distinctively bitter liqueur that goes into the negroni.

Saint Vincent, Italy. Dec. 1—A new cocktail, packing the kick of a chariot horse and named “Ben Hur”, was awarded first place last night in a barmen’s contest.

Devised by Lazzaro Baglietto, it contains two-thirds vodka, one-third white vermouth, two drops of bitter campari apperitive, an orange rind and a cherry.

Baltimore Sun, 2 December, 1960, p. 3.

The cocktail was obviously devised as a tribute to the Charlton Heston vehicle released in 1959. That classic film, which won a record-breaking 11 Oscars, was actually the third adaptation of Lew Wallace’s epic 1880 novel Ben-Hur: a Tale of the Christ to be brought to the silver screen. Two silent versions preceded it: the first, in 1907, was just 15 minutes long and the second, in 1925, which starred Ramón Navarro as the Jewish prince, was a huge, early hit for MGM, the same studio that made the later movie.

The novel itself was a bestseller and has never been out of print. Almost immediately after publication there was a clamour for it to be dramatized, but for years Wallace steadfastly refused, objecting to the very idea of portraying Christ on stage. Only when William W. Young proposed an ingenious solution—that Jesus be represented by a beam of light—did Wallace relent. The resulting play ran for 21 years and was seen by over 20 million people. The show-stopper was the live chariot race involving four teams of real horses running on a giant treadmill, their hoof-power turning a 35 ft panoramic backdrop to create the illusion of speed.

The success of both the novel and the play led, in true American fashion, to all sorts of attempts, by private individuals and businesses, to bask in the reflected glory of the “Ben-Hur” name. In 1894 the composer and sheet music publisher E.T. Paull issued the Ben Hur Chariot Race March and the Supreme Tribe Of Ben-Hur, a fraternal beneficial society, was founded in Crawfordsville, Indiana, where Wallace lived. A year later, Cottonwood, a small community in Limestone County, Texas changed its name to Ben Hur. There were Ben-Hur bicycles and Ben-Hur flour and Ben-Hur coffee and Ben-Hur race horses. So why the hell not a Ben Hur cocktail?

Collier's Weekly, vol. 31 (9 May 1903), p. 24.

Lippincott's Magazine Advertiser, Supplement of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, vol. 55 (March 1895), p. 23.

28. Brooklyn cocktail

17 Sep

“McNair, you haven’t been long on this seaboard and you might not take it as an impertinence if I try to tell you something: Society in New York is divided, like cocktails, into two general classes—Bronx and Manhattan, with a thousand varieties of each. Of course Manhattan cocktails are rather out of style, but Manhattan society is the whole thing, if you care about that kind of thing. If you come to New York and choose Bronx—by that I mean the upper West Side, from here to the Zoölogical Gardens—you’re welcome at once and as good as in. You won’t find us any more vulgar or foolish, taking us as we come, than the Manhattan set, and we spend almost as much money. We’re the brains of New York in this section—engineers, able business men, lawyers, surgeons.

— Wallace Irwin, Venus in the East (New York: Doran, 1918), pp. 72-3.

The Manhattan and the Bronx are classic mixes from the Golden Age of cocktails—delicious and nutritious, it goes without saying, but elegant and eloquent too. If each represented, in the minds of writers at least, the borough after which it was christened, then perhaps it was inevitable that, as the fortunes of The Bronx declined after its heyday in the early twentieth century, the cocktail, too, would fall out of favour. It was equally inevitable, as Brooklyn grew in size and importance, that someone would invent a drink to celebrate its rise. In 1910, just 12 years after Brooklyn’s consolidation with New York City, the New York Herald brought word of the first attempt:

There’s another new cocktail in town. This time Brooklyn Borough has the distinction of naming it.

It’s the Brooklyn cocktail. Manhattan and The Bronx have been similarly honored; Richmond [i.e. Staten Island] and Queens have yet to be heard from.

The inventor of this new drink is from the Rhine section of Cincinnati, and strangely enough now has his abode in Brooklyn, his lounging place being the Schmidt café, just at the right hand as one leaves the Brooklyn end of the bridge, first saloon you come to.

Brooklynites call the place it fronts on the plaza, but it looks like a back yard before cleaning-up day.

The name of this inventor who has made Brooklyn famous is Maurice Hegeman, of the “Follies of 1910”, and he says the idea came to him one night when he was in bed. “I could not sleep,” said the talented Maurice, “so I put my mind on inventing a cocktail for Brooklyn, one that would compare with the Manhattan and The Bronx. After I thought it out, I got right up and went to Schmidt’s place of business and made me a couple of them. After I drank them I went home and my insomnia was gone. Fact is, I slept 12 hours without waking up.”

Hard cider is the basis or body or life or whatever it is of the New Hegeman drink. The ingredients are as follows:

Half a whisky glass of hard cider emptied into a long glass in which are three good-sized lumps of ice.

Half a jigger of absinthe.

Fill glass to brim with ginger ale.

Only three ingredients, it will be seen.

When asked what his excuse was for naming a pint of liquid a cocktail, Herr Hegeman said: “I know a cocktail is supposed to be a small drink, but there is no law about it. And I wanted Brooklyn to be known by a cocktail.”

The inventor recommends the drink for hot weather.

— “The Brooklyn Cocktail”, reprinted in Mixer and Server, vol. 19:8 (15 August 1910), p. 39.

Cider. Absinthe. Ginger ale. Is it any wonder the Brooklyn 1.0 didn’t catch on? Still, it wasn’t long—just a month or so, in fact—before another proud Brooklynite, or a visitor at any rate, raised his own alcoholic monument to the former City of Churches. The Kansas City Star reported:

Gentlemen, the Brooklyn cocktail.

And with it a panegyric by its inventor, Henry Wellington Wack, a lawyer, who is at the Hotel Nassau, Long Beach.

Until yesterday Brooklyn struggled along without a cocktail named in its honor. Here is Mr. Wack’s appreciation of his handiwork:

“The Brooklyn is the nearest approach to the amborosial nectar of the gods that the magical compounder of liquid, ventricular inspiration has so far produced for the gustatory gratification of mankind. It fits the throat like a velvet flame and pumps into one’s stomach with a merry laugh. It sharpens the appetite and the wits and dulls the edge of malice. It sends worry scampering down the alleys of the past. When the Brooklyn becomes our national drink, riches and poverty will dance a can-can on the grave of trouble.”

Here is the recipe:

“Three parts gin, one part French and one part Italian vermouth, one-half or one-third raspberry syrup. Embalm in a shaker of cracked ice and shake the very life into it. Serve repeatedly, smoking cold.”

“It sounds all right,” said a bartender at the Hoffman House, “but it would take a steward to make it. Why not put vanilla in it instead of raspberry? Why clutter up a perfectly good cocktail with a lot of extraneous matter?”

At the Waldorf-Astoria, where “the cocktail hour” has been an institution ever since the hotel was opened, the sirup [sic] was also in disfavor.

“All he forgot was the ice cream,” said one of the bartenders.

At an experiment station far removed from the Broadway zone, a hard-working bartender was asked to give his verdict.

“If I lived in Brooklyn,” said he, testily, “I’d stick to beer.”

— “The Brooklyn Cocktail”, reprinted in the Washington Post, 6 September 1910, p. 6.

Despite the fond hopes of its cranky creator, Brooklyn 2.0 did not become the “national drink”. Only with its third iteration did the drink finally make a mark. A prototype can already be found in Jack’s Manual (which, like the two newspaper reports, was published in 1910), and after Prohibition, though with some alterations, the recipe was still included in many of the best bar guides of the time: Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails, the Savoy Cocktail Book, the Café Royal Cocktail Book, and so on. This is the formula in Harry Craddock’s magnum opus (which is identical to many other contemporary sources):

1 Dash Amer Picon

1 Dash Maraschino

2/3 Canadian Club Whisky

1/3 French Vermouth

It’s basically an embellished dry Manhattan (oddly enough for a place that prides itself on being distinctive): as the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan occupy opposing banks of the East River, so the eponymous cocktails are mirror images of each other, one dry and the other sweet. Jack Grohusko’s recipe, though, is even closer to a Manhattan: he calls for 50% rye whiskey and 50% Italian vermouth, in addition to the amer picon and maraschino (Jack’s Manual [New York: McClunn, 1910], p. 31).

The Brooklyn is not to be confused with the Brooklynite, which is a completely different kettle of ball games: a combination of Jamaica rum and honey with a dash each of lime juice and bitters (Stork Club Bar Book, p. 112).

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