Archive | October, 2011

39. Joffre and Kitchener cocktails

30 Oct

Let’s drink to Victory!       buVÕ—a—la—vik—TWAR!       Buvons à la Victoire!

— François Denoeu and Robert A. Hall, Jr., Spoken French, vol. 1 (New York: Holt, 1946), p. 155.

These cocktails were invented by Louis N. Senor of New York during the early months of the Great War in tribute to two of the most prominent representatives of the Entente Cordiale and two men who enjoyed contrasting reputations before the outbreak of hostilities on 28 July 1914.

Joseph Joffre first saw active service during the Siege of Paris in 1870, but spent much of his career overseas as a military engineer, serving in Indochina, West Africa and Madagascar. After returning to France, and despite having never commanded an army, he was eventually made Chief of the General Staff in 1911, a position he acquired by default, since more obvious candidates had ruled themselves out on grounds of age and health. It was thanks to his victory in the First Battle of the Marne in September 1914 that he became a national hero. During August German armies had won a series of devastating victories and were now advancing on Paris. After suffering heavy losses, the Entente powers were in retreat and their field commanders at loggerheads. After intervening with Kitchener to prevent the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Force from the frontline, Joffre took advantage of a tactical error by the Germans and counterattacked. A German breakthrough was halted, famously, by the arrival of 6000 French reservists in Parisian taxicabs—a moment of solidarity that came to be seen as a manifestation of the union sacrée of the French military and civilian population, reminiscent of the citizen soldiers who had defended the young republic against the forces of reaction in 1795. Facing encirclement, the Germans retreated 40 miles, dug in, gave up their hopes of a swift conclusion to the war—and so began 4 years of stalemate. Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the “Miracle of the Marne”, “Papa” Joffre  was celebrated as the saviour of France.

If Joffre had previously been an obscure, if quietly impressive, military figure, then Horatio Herbert Kitchener, whose glittering career saw him progress relentlessly through the higher ranks of both the army and nobility, was an icon of Empire. Kitchener first won fame, and a title, in 1898 for his victory in the Battle of Omdurman, which re-established Anglo-Egyptian control of the Sudan and made him Baron Kitchener of Khartoum. He led British forces during the guerrilla campaign of the Second Boer War and was rewarded with a viscounty; he then spent an extended term as Commander-in-Chief in India and, frustrated in his ambition for the Viceroyalty, returned to Egypt as British Agent and Consul-General. At the start of the First World War, Kitchener, now styled Field Marshal The Right Honourable The Earl Kitchener, was appointed Secretary of State for War by his fellow Herbert, the Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith. One of the few to foresee a long war and huge casualties, Kitchener organised the largest volunteer army that Britain had ever seen, as well as a significant expansion of materials production to fight Germany on the Western Front. His imposing likeness on recruiting posters, coupled with the words “WANTS YOU”, remains one of the most instantly recognisable and imitated images of the twentieth century (designed by Alfred Leete, it first appeared on the cover of the magazine London Opinion on 5 September 1914, in the middle of the Battle of the Marne).

Kitchener’s and Joffre’s reputations suffered during the War. Kitchener shared some of the blame for the Gallipoli disaster, was held responsible for a shortage of shells in the spring of 1915, and stripped of his control over munitions and strategy.  “He is not a great man. He is a great poster,” Asquith is supposed to have said. Kitchener died in 1916, when a ship transporting him to Russia was sunk by a German submarine. After Verdun and the Somme, Joffre was replaced as commander-in-chief and appointed Marshal of France, but his role was largely ceremonial. For a time, though, both Kitchener and Joffre were potent symbols of Allied resistance to the Hunnish onslaught.

And that’s why, in faraway, still-neutral America, the tautologous Mr Senor created these two cocktails. The Joffre is sweet and the Kitchener dry, the former definitely more successful than the latter: sherry and dry vermouth is not working for me. (For another Kitchener-themed mixed drink, try the Khartoum.)

The Gen. Joffre: 1/3 Bacardi, 1/3 Dubonnet, 1/3 Italian vermouth, orange peel

Kitchener: 1/3 Bacardi, 1/3 Sherry, 1/3 French vermouth

— “New Drinks”, New York Hotel Record, vol. 13: 8 (5 January 1915), p. 13.

These cocktails were not the only ones inspired by the First World War or Anglo-French partnership. Perhaps the most famous is the French 75, invented by Harry MacElhone and named after the French field gun, which played a key role in slowing down German progress at the Battle of the Marne . (More on that another time, perhaps.) Then there’s the Entente Cordiale, whose ingredients, more obviously than those of the Joffre or Kitchener, have a symbolic value: One part French vermouth, one part dry gin, one part Dubonnet (G. Selmer Fougner, Along the Wine Trail [Boston: Stratford, 1935], p. 188).

Prescription cocktail glasses

29 Oct

An optician in Chicago has propounded to the Minnesota State Association of Optometrists the startling but extremely comforting theory that drunkenness may be cured by wearing the proper kind of eyeglasses. We wish he had not complicated his statement and placed a further tax upon the credulity of the skeptical by saying that by the same method consumption may also be cured. It is the usual mistake of great discoverers that they claim too much.

It has been noticed that the general entr’acte exodus at theatres of all who are not so effectually hemmed in that escape is impossible is prompted by a thirst so insistent that it will not be treated with the “silent contempt” which is said to be so effective in cases of toothache. During the half hour preceding such exodus the young men who thirst have been straining their eyes in a blinding glare of life to distinguish the natural charms which are obscured if not concealed by grease paint and cosmetics. It is this effort to focus the vision which does the mischief. The strain on the brain centres robs other portions of the body of their just proportion of energy, causing nervous irritability, which is especially evidenced by a strong craving for alcohol. […] The wearer is able to contemplate the stage with the calm and impartial scrutiny of one divested of illusions, and as his nerve centres are not exhausted, he is able to sit through a play without once recollecting that he had made an appointment to meet a business friend for a brief conference in the foyer.

This is merely an illustration of the practical working of a great principle. No doubt many men drink more that they would if fitted with glasses which would make invisible the annoying incidents and unsatisfactory environments of their daily life. Glasses which will enable us not to see what we do not want to see would undoubtedly result in a great moral uplifting for humanity, and one incident of this would undoubtedly be a diminished craving for alcoholic stimulation. Of his method of treating the cocktail habit the distinguished Chicago specialist says:

Instead of using drugs, I use fogs and prisms to relax the eye strain, and find that they are equally effective. The glasses take away the power to focus on near objects and nullify the tendency to convergence. The eyes assume a position of perfect rest, relieving the former eye strain. In all my clinical experience I find that the patient under such conditions has lost the appetite for strong drink, and by a persistent use of such a pair of glasses the appetite will eventually be permanently destroyed.

It is possible that the cause of temperance can best be promoted by the distribution of eyeglasses. The idea is a new one, but it is attractive. If it be true that the desire for liquor can be permanently destroyed by this means, a great reform is easier of accomplishment than it would be if the desire to drink has to be accommodated y arguments addressed to the moral sense.

— “Eye Strain and Thirst”, New York Times (26 November 1904).

38.2 Prohibition cocktail

28 Oct

The only good prohibtion drink is water.

— W.L. George, “Hail Columbia! Parthian Shots”, Harper’s Monthly Magazine, vol. 142 (May 1921), pp. 774-88 (p. 786).

The phrase “prohibition cocktail” and “prohibition drink” could mean two things in the early twentieth century. To dry mouths in dry counties, desperate for a “kick”, it was the often lethal product of amateur experiments in chemical engineering. Take this example from pre-Volstead Massachussets:

Thirsty residents of prohibition Brockton have discovered a chemical cocktail which takes the place of the old-fashioned “stretch”, a mixture of alcohol and water which has been consumed with dire results. They have found that water poured into spirits of camphor precipitates the camphor and leaves a chemical cocktail which has a flavour not unlike that of a mint julep.

Arraigned in the Taunton Police Court, William Bavot told of his experiences: “I drank four of these cocktails, your honor, and was on my way home, when I heard a noise overhead. I looked up and saw a herd of elephants flying on pink wings. They alighted on the telegraph wires over me and began to sway back and forth. The leader had hears of baby-blue color with pink patches and only one eye. The leader flapped his ears, and the band began to dance on the wires. I was so fearful that they would fall on me that I began to perspire, and then I lost consciousness. When I came to I was in the police station. Never again.”

— “Effect of New Cocktail”, Washington Post (20 June 1908), p. 6.

After the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment, that sort of deadly drink—often consisting of methanol laced with artificial flavouring and coloring so that it resembled, say, whiskey or gin—became increasingly prevalent. Even if it didn’t kill you, it was hard to stomach. “There are two kinds of Prohibition cocktail,” noted Geoffrey Kerr in Vanity Fair, “the gin and lemon variety, which tastes like sulphuric acid; and what is supposed to be a dry martini, which tastes like a concentrated solution of quinine. Either kind should be regarded as purely medicinal and swallowed at one gulp” (Vanity Fair, vol. 27: 4 (February 1927), pp. 67, 110). In New York, according to the Chicago Daily Tribune, the “synthetic mixed drink” was “a nauseating draft, a melancholy, depressing drink that smells like the back room of an apothecary’s shop”. So revolting, in fact, that, according to one bootlegger, dedicated topers were turning their backs on cocktails:

“The saddest epitaph on the tombstone of Bacchus,” he said, “is that the dry Martini, the Manhattan, and the Bronx, which a few years ago were the instruments of conviviality, have now become the agents of sobriety! What a fall. Synthetic stuff has done it. The cocktail as now served on Broadway discourages drinking. No wonder the flappers and their mammas and papas are going in for hard likker straight. It’s safety first.”

— Arthur Evans, “1923 Cocktail Driving Gotham to Hard Likker”, Chicago Daily Tribune (12 December 1923), p. 12.

Sometimes, though, what was sold as booze (under the counter, of course) had no effect at all. “Manhattan and Martini Prohibition cocktails,” reported the Daily News after analysing the contents of some illicitly obtained bottles, were so innocuous that they “could be used for soothing syrup for children” (“Will Prohibition Put an End to Drunkenness?”, Daily News, 29 October 1919; repr. in Mixer and Server, vol. 28: 12 [15 December 1919], pp. 44-5 [p. 44]). In fact, that’s often precisely what it was.

“Prohibition cocktail” had a second meaning: it was another name for a temperance drink, a mixed but still legal beverage. Even before the Volstead Act went into force the term was often used mockingly:

The Bone Dry Room at the Hotel Majestic will be opened by Copeland Townsend as a “training room” for Prohibition, to let people see how they like the idea of sitting around playing checkers and drinking soft stuff.

Here are some suggestions of the menu: Water Wagon Phizz, Aris Ale, Prohibition  Cocktail, Dry Martinette, The Old Oaken Bucket, Automobile Cobbler, Aereoplane Dip and Orange Fizzade. The prices run from 25 to 60 cents.

“There will be a lot of places of this sort if Prohibition becomes a fact,” said Mr. Townsend. “I am merely taking time by the forelock and opening the first Bone Dry Room.”

— “Hotel’s Bone Dry Room”, New York Hotel Record, vol. 17:14 (25 March 1919). p. 8.

When a character in a contemporary minstrel show asks what a “prohibition cocktail” is and receives the reply: “A prohibition cocktail is a glass of milk with a prune in it” (John E. Lawrence, Dixie Minstrel First Part [Chicago: Denison, 1924], p. 25), his interlocutor is voicing a common opinion, at least among the bibulous. The very notion of a non-alcoholic “cocktail” was either nonsensical or grimly, healthily disgusting.

But some among the Dry Ascendancy saw an opportunity. Soda fountain operators, as we’ve mentioned before, were quickest to capitalize on the new status quo and earned fat profits with formulas such as this: “Prohibition Cocktail. Pour into a warmed mug ½ ounce of mint syrup, ½ teaspoonful of tincture of ginger, ½ ounce of fine quality molasses, and a dash of extract of peppermint. Fill with water” (“The Soda Fountain”, Confectioners’ and Bakers’ Gazette, vol. 40, no. 456 [10 September 1919], p. 22). And several years into the Noble Experiment Roxana B. Doran, wife of James M. Doran, the Commissioner of Industrial Alcohol, earned fleeting fame with the publication of Prohibition Punches (Philadelphia: Dorrance, 1930), the result of a nationwide campaign to popularise fruit-juice drinks. Her own recipe for “1930 Cocktail” was composed of grapefruit juice, pineapple jucie, limes and ginger ale, garnished with fruit and a spring of mint (“Mrs Doran Introduces New Cocktail at Dinner”, Baltimore Sun [2 January 1930], p. 2).

So that’s the background to Harry Craddock’s cheekily named “Prohibition Cocktail” in the Savoy Cocktail Book. This one, at least if enjoyed outside the US, was legal, delivered a kick and actually tasted nice. It was everything other prohibition cocktails were not. Even more cheekily, it’s almost exactly the same as Craddock’s Charlie Lindbergh cocktail: the sole difference is that this recipe calls for a single dash of apricot brandy, not two (the Lindbergh also specifically calls for the proprietary brandy Pricota):

½  Plymouth Gin

½  Kina Lillet

2 Dashes Orange Juice

1 Dash Apricot Brandy

Squeeze lemon peel on top.

From: “Advertisements You Have Never Seen”, Life, vol. 70 (25 October 1917), p. 676.

38. Charlie Lindbergh cocktail

24 Oct

His light, luxurious hair is at the same time one of his outstanding characteristics and reportedly one of his greatest aversions. Friends say that he fears his curly hair, if there is anything in the world he fears. They tell that he wets it and tries all manner of methods in an attempt to render it inconspicuous. There is even a story, well vouched for, that on days when the weather is damp Lindbergh is the most apt to be ill-natured for on such days his hair is likely to become unruly.

— Dale Van Every, Charles Lindbergh: His Life (New York: Appleton, 1927), pp. 8-9.

In his way, he [the statue of Jean Jacques Dessalines] seemed to symbolize the Haiti of former years, which had so gloried in its freedom from foreign domination. His back was turned resolutely upon Hospital Hill, where Marine Corps officers now dwelt in the flower-shrowded [sic] chateaux which once had housed the local politicians and statesmen. Or perhaps he was merely expressing contempt for the two peppy, up-to-date cafes which cultivated American patronage by advertising: “Ice Cream, Sandwiches, Beer on Draught,” or “Try our Lindbergh Cocktail!”

— Harry L. Foster, Combing the Caribbees (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1929), p. 133.

In June 1919, just 15 ½ years after the Wright Flyer’s 12-second maiden flight, British aviators Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown became the first men to fly non-stop over the Atlantic Ocean. After starting in Newfoundland and landing nose-first in a Connemara bog 16 hours and 27 minutes later, they made headlines around the world, were carried aloft by Londoners and received knighthoods from George V. But their faces did not appear on shaving mugs and commemorative plates. They weren’t showered with awards from foreign dignitaries. Brecht and Weill didn’t compose a radio cantata about their exploits. They didn’t become the avatars of the aviation age. No one named a cocktail after them.¹ And, sooner than it ought to have done, their daredevilry slipped from popular memory.

Yet almost a century after he made the first solo transatlantic flight in 1927, we all still remember Charles A. Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis. When, after his astonishing display of bravery, and 33 ½ hours in the cockpit, an exhausted Lindbergh stepped on to the runway at Le Bourget airfield near Paris, he made sure to pay tribute to Alcock and Brown. No one was listening, though, and the undemonstrative 25-year-old, blandly, blondly handsome, was instantly transformed into a celebrity, a conquering hero, a demigod by the flashbulbs of the waiting press. Crowds rushed to touch him, or tried to strip his plane for souvenirs, or grabbed at his hair to take away a relic. Presidents, kings and latter-day Caesars lavished extravagant praise upon him. “A superhuman will has taken space by assault and has subjugated it,” wrote Benito Mussolini with characteristic bombast to the American ambassador in Rome. “Matter once more has yielded to spirit, and the prodigy is one that will live forever in the memory of men” (The Flight of Captain Charles A. Lindbergh from New York to Paris, May 20-21 1927, As Compiled from the Official Records of the Department of State [Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1927], p. 18). Mussolini was not the only observer in whom Lindbergh’s flight into the wild blue yonder inspired purple prose. Many felt a keen desire to seek the higher meaning of his triumph. The Reverend Seldon P. Delany, for example, sermonized that the pilot had provided a “practical lesson in mystical religion” by setting forth into the unknown and trusting in God. Another pastor, Ralph W. Sockman, agreed that Lindbergh was an excellent role model, saying that the “courage of our aviators . . . is a tonic for the souls of men. We do well to remember that anonymous heroes among us are showing similar hardihood in the spiritual realm” (“Lindbergh’s Daring Praised in Pulpits”, New York Times, 23 May 1927). Glenn Frank, president of Lindbergh’s alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, believed the flier to be an agent of global peace: “You have proved,” he cabled his former charge, possibly hoping for a future donation to support the football team, “that we no longer dare tolerate the narrow nationalisms that delay the moral and intellectual reunion of mankind” (“Wisconsin Sends Greeting”, New York Times, 23 May 1927). Why did Lindbergh’s exploits provoke high excitement and lofty speculation? The journalist Mary B. Mullett thought she knew the reason why:

We shouted ourselves hoarse. Not because a man had flown across the Atlantic! But because he was as clean in character as he was strong and fine in body; because he put “ethics” above any desire for wealth; because he was as modest as he was courageous; and because —as we now know, beyond any shadow of doubt—these are the things which we honor most in life. To have shown us this truth about ourselves in the biggest thing that Lindbergh has done.

— Mary B. Mullett, “The Biggest Thing That Lindbergh Has Done”, American Magazine (October 1927).

Maybe. Or maybe the biggest thing he had done was to fly across the ocean in pursuit of a $25,000 prize. Lindbergh’s flight was, of course, a tremendous feat of endurance and gutsiness, even if it was not wholly unprecedented. “It was not so much what Lindbergh did,” Orrin Edgar Klapp has claimed, “as the fact that he did it alone that most impressed Americans” (Heroes, Villains, and Fools: The Changing American Character [Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1962], p. 43). In the end, that’s what distinguished him from Alcock and Brown: the solitary nature of his accomplishment (even if the title of his autobiography, We, expresses the interdependence of man and machine). And by seeming to prove that the individual still counted for something in an increasingly impersonal world of Taylorian production and mass consumption, Lindbergh, like the other titans of the Golden Age of Sports (an era unthinkable without radio broadcasts, a development that his British predecessors just missed out on), allowed ordinary men and women to fantasize that their lives might not be entirely without purpose, that greatness might yet be possible.

Anyway, cocktails! Almost lost amidst the ballyhoo surrounding Lindbergh is this nugget of news:

Although Col. [sic] Lindbergh is not a drinking man, he found on his arrival in London that Englishmen were drinking a cocktail created in honor of his great transatlantic flight.

An American cocktail mixer, employed in one of London’s largest hotels, is the inventor of the “Charlie Lindbergh” cocktail. It is compounded of equal parts of kinnalillet [sic] and Plymouth gin, two dashes of orange juice, and apricot and lemon peel.

— “Lindbergh Cocktail Invented in London”, Washington Post (11 June 1927), p. 2.

That “American cocktail mixer” was of course Harry Craddock of the Savoy, saluting his compatriot in his own inimitable way; here’s the recipe for the Charlie Lindbergh as it appears in the Savoy Cocktail Book:

2 Dashes Orange Juice.

2 Dashes Pricota.

1/2 Kina Lillet.

1/2 Plymouth Gin.

Squeeze lemon peel on top.

Pricota is a long-defunct make of apricot brandy, for which any currently available variety will do just as well. All in all, the Charlie Lindbergh cocktail is appropriately light and zesty—a tonic for the souls of men.

Harry MacElhone in Paris also produced a cocktail for the occasion. His was called Spirit of St Louis and, to be honest, is a pretty lacklustre affair: “2 ounces of Gin, 1 white of egg, 1 teaspoonful of Grenadine, 2 drops of Fleur D’Oranger”.

And should you wish to raise a glass to Messrs Alcock and Brown, or Louis Blériot, or Amelia Earhart, or the Wright Brothers, or any other pioneer of flight, then I suggest you fill it with an Aviation cocktail. See also the Prohibition cocktail.

* * * * *

¹ However, at a banquet in honour of the airmen, guests were served a menu that included dishes such as Oeufs Pochés Alcock, Suprême de Sole à la Brown and, after the make of their aeroplane, Poulet de Printemps à la Vickers Vimy (Heiner Emde, Conquerors of the Air: The Evolution of Aircraft, 1903-1945 [New York: Bonanza Books 1968], p. 69).

Just like mother used to shake

24 Oct

— Punch, vol. 179 (3 September 1930), p. 261.

37. Maiden’s Blush

22 Oct

Scroop is an epic of high living and confused thinking. Its authoress handles her shaker with considerable skill, though the outcome is perhaps too often a “Maiden’s Blush”. After all, though life may not be all beer and skittles, it is, thank Heaven, even less all cocktails and chemmy.

— “Review of Scroop by Altamira Chickweed”, Punch, vol. 179 (6 August 1930), p. 163.

“She’s not like the others, thank God!” said Mrs. Vivian piously, and reached behind her to take a second cocktail from the serving table. “Vonnie’s straight and pure and clean, she is, as I, her mother, ought to know, thank God!” “Mother, please!” protested Vonnie, trying in vain for a maiden’s blush.

— Gordon Arthur Smith, “Another Waterloo”, Saturday Evening Post, vol. 198:25 (19 December 1925), p. 131.

When Prohibition was finally overturned in 1933, repeal parties were celebrated throughout the land. But as the booze once more ran freely in the home of the free, it became immediately apparent that, after almost a decade and a half of swilling bathtub gin and bootlegged Canadian whiskey, American taste had been debased and an entire generation grown up unpractised in the ars bibendi.

Changed drinking habits resulting from years of schooling in the speakeasies became evident yesterday as throngs flocked to high-class restaurants and hotels cafés where liquor was being served.

Old retainers in prominent hotels looked puzzled and scratched their heads as they accepted repeated orders for hard drinks. Although the best domestic wines, some of them aged since before prohibition, and the finest vintages of France and Italy were available in many resorts, the overwhelming majority of orders was for highballs, cocktails and “straight drinks”. […] The most popular drinks in the Times Square and Grand Central districts as well as in the hotels along Park Avenue seemed to be Scotch-and-soda and the “old-fashioned” cocktail, the base of which is rye whiskey”.

— “Hard Liquor Leads in Hotel Drinking”, New York Times (7 December 1933).

In his memoir the British journalist C.V.R. Thompson also remembered the helplessness of the servers that December night, as they struggled to cope with the demands of a clientele used to furtively swigging cocktails out of teapot spouts:

So I stayed up all night to celebrate Repeal. I had dinner at the Plaza. There were only two drinks, champagne and dry martinis. That was all the staff knew how to serve. “A terrible night, sir,” said the headwaiter.

“I ask you to believe, sir,” he explained, with ponderous sincerity, “that I have not taken a single drink during Prohibition. This is a new world to me, sir. In the old days, I could, of course, mix a perfect champagne cocktail, or a Manhattan, or a dry martini. Any of those normal drinks. But these young people, sir. They have been asking me for T.N.T.’s and Maidens’ Blushes and Death in the Afternoons. How, sir, can I know what they are talking about?”

— C.V.R. Thompson, I Lost My English Accent (New York: Putnams, 1939), p. 88.

Those evocative, Jazz-age names might not have rung a bell with our waiter, but they ought have given him some indication of the lethal effect of the cocktails they describe. All three cocktails list absinthe as a major component, but only one is palatable—and unsurprisingly it’s the one that doesn’t allude to high explosives or tauromaquia. The other two, TNT (½ absinthe and ½ whiskey) and Death in the Afternoon (½ absinthe and ½ champagne), a foul decoction dreamt up by Ernest Hemmingway and called, obviously, after his 1932 study of bullfighting, are symptomatic of the lingering influence of Prohibition, when the goal was to get drunk, quickly, and by any means necessary. (They are reminiscent, too, of the Belle Époque cocktail attributed to Toulouse-Lautrec, the Tremblement de Terre or Earthquake, which consisted of ½ absinthe and ½ cognac and did double duty as an emetic and elephant tranquilizer.)  Even one of the Savoy Cocktail Book’s two recipes for the much more romantic-sounding Maiden’s Blush (1/3 absinthe, 2/3 dry gin, 1 teaspoonful grenadine) uses so much absinthe, an extremely assertive ingredient even in small quantities, that the drink becomes unbalanced and the taste of the gin is overwhelmed. And that, of course, would have been precisely the point during the Volstead years. The other Savoy recipe omits the absinthe entirely, which makes for a rather bland and undistinguished cocktail (1 dash lemon juice, 4 dashes orange curaçao, 4 dashes drenadine, 1 glass dry din).

The Café Royal Cocktail Book contains the most promising contemporary formula for the Maiden’s Blush.  It’s a kind of synthesis of the two Craddock versions: the absinthe is scaled back, although what I take to be the characteristic anise flavouring of this cocktail is retained, and the dose of lemon juice is increased to lend a zingy freshness to the whole:

1/2 Dry Gin.

1/4 Lemon Juice.

1/8 Absinthe.

Teaspoonful powdered Sugar.

3 dashes Raspberry Syrup.

Shake and strain off into coloured glass. Put a slice of lemon on top.

Ignoring the directive to dust off the coloured glass, I tweaked the recipe slightly and used simple syrup and grenadine instead of powdered sugar and raspberry syrup.

The Maiden’s Blush was a key cocktail of the interwar period, evidenced not least in the fact that the British composer of light music, Joseph Engleman, gave the title “Maiden’s Blush” to the first movement of his 1937 suite Cocktail Cabinet  (the remaining parts of the work were “Orange Blossom” and “Manhattan”). The name, of course, is ancient, a poetic cliché dating back at least to the balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet. It subsequently became attached to a variety of apple introduced in New Jersey in 1817, the “Queen Pomological”, according to the New York Times, and also to an alba rose, which in the Victorian language of flowers, where different roses symbolized different stages of a love affair, meant “If you love me, you will find it out”. Less romantically, or perhaps more romantically, depending on your point of view, there was also a maiden’s blush sundae, which “consists of half an orange shelled out, with bisque ice cream and sliced orange on top” (“Oddly-Named Trade Teasers”, Bulletin of Pharmacy, vol. 30:4 [April 1916], p. 163).

But there also seems to have been an earlier cocktail with the same appellation (which, as I say, was a fairly common turn of phrase and perfectly suited to the denomination of mixed drinks). Take, for example, this letter, which appeared in Notes and Queries:

Some time in the ‘sixties—I think earlier than 1866—I heard a comic song on American drinks of which the chorus ran:—

Stone-fence, a Rattlesnake, Renovator, Locomotive

Pick-me-up, a Private Smile, by Jove it’s worth a fiver,

Colleen Bawn, a Maiden’s Blush Cocktail or a Flash of Lightning

Julep, splash and sangaraee, or else a Corpse Reviver.

Notes and Queries, vol. 157 (13 July 1929), p. 24.

Or how about this passage, published in 1872:

Having passed over the ridge, and some distance from it, the camp has much the same appearance as when you were approaching it, but when you get a few miles away all signs of life, so to say, disappear, and you are on a somewhat lonely road until you change mules about halfway on your journey, at an inn called the “Dewdrop Inn,” by Harvey and Co., on the canvas walls of which you noticed that it was notified in large black letters, that the said Harvey and Co. were licensed to sell wines, spirits on draught and in bottle, beer, long-cooling beverages, American drinks, pick-me-up, ginger cocktail, maiden’s blush, skittles, drink of the period, rum and milk, cigars and tobacco, groceries and bread, anything and everything, refreshments and beds at all hours.

— Charles Chapman, A Voyage from Southampton to Cape Town, in the Union Company’s Mail Steamer “Syria” (London: Berridge, 1872), p. 153.

Finally, in the satirical weekly Judy (an imitator of the better-known Punch), we find this snippet of news, which alludes, by way of explanation, to Edward Bulwer Lytton’s popular drama, The Lady of Lyons (1838), one of whose main characters, Claude Melnotte, is a gardener’s son who masquerades as a foreign prince to woo the eponymous heroine:

The fashionably dressed Englishman, who has just been sentenced to twenty years’ penal servitude in France for robbing churches, was one of the ‘lions’ of Lyons society. This British Claude Melnotte was much sought after by the sportive ladies of Lyons, as a man of taste and talent. It was he who introduced ‘Chinese Cocktail’, ‘Pousse L’amour’,  ‘Maiden’s Blush’ and ‘Dan Godfrey’s Tickler’ to the fair sex of Lyons.

— “Pepper and Salt”, Judy (26 August 1885), p. 104.

But what was in the nineteenth-century Maiden’s Blush? I have found no recipe (yet), but I did turn up this nugget in the slick French arts magazine Réalités:

A cocktail that was allegedly Toulouse-Lautrec’s favourite was served at the dedication of a room filled with souvenirs of the painter on the premises of the Moulin Rouge.  It consists of absinthe, mandarine, bitters, red wine and cognac and is known as a “Maiden’s Blush”.

— Réalités Monthly Magazine, issues 92-97 (1958), p. 81.

There’s no way of telling whether that’s the same Maiden’s Blush as the one described in the extracts above, although, interestingly, it has absinthe in common with the later version. One thing’s clear, though: Toulouse-Lautrec, a notorious votary of the Green Fairy, had terrible taste. He and Hemmingway had a lot in common; they would have made formidable drinking buddies.

Postscript. There was also an older cocktail called the “Ladies’ Blush”, which was a specialty of Leo Engel, who ran the show at the Criterion, one of the earliest American bars in London. A recipe is included in his book American and Other Drinks (which is also one of the first cocktail books published in Britain):

To a wine glass of Old Tom gin add one tea-spoonful of Noyau and five drops of Absinthe; sweeten to taste, about one tea-spoonful of sugar. Shake up well with shaven ice, strain, and pour into a coloured glass, the rim of which has already been damped with lemon juice and dipped in white sugar.

— Leo Engel, American and Other Drinks (London: Tinsley, 1878), p. 95.

Cherry, cherry

16 Oct

A couple of weeks ago we quoted a 1908 newspaper report describing how cocktail garnishes had fallen out of fashion in Chicago. Perhaps local trendsetters had grown bored of dropping cherries into Manhattans because they’d been doing it longer than anyone else—that’s if we choose to believe one of those probably apocryphal tales that abound in the history of cocktails. According to The Champion of Fair Play, the trade journal of the liquor dealers of Illinois, the man who changed the world forever was Col. Neumeister, a millionaire cheese manufacturer based in the Windy City:

Maraschino cherries at the time were a drug on the market with absolutely no sale. Last year there were upwards of five million bottles sold in the United States alone. The originator had over a thousand cases of the cherries that he could not dispose of for four dollars a case to bakers and confectioners, the only ones that had any use for them. He put a cherry into a Manhattan cocktail which was being served to himself and his friend, Potter Palmer, the foremost hotel man in Chicago at the time, and the proprietor of the world famous Palmer House. And right there was born the cherry in the cocktail idea that is now used in every civilized country in the world. A week later cherries were worth fifteen dollars a case and following the lead of the Palmer House bar, were used in nearly every bar in Chicago. New York and other cities soon came in line, and in thirty days the fad had extended to the Pacific Coast. Like the mint julep, so dear to every southern [sic], and other fancy drinks, the cocktail itself was not the invention of a professional mixologist, but a customer who wanted a change from the regular run of drinks.

— “Cherry in the Cocktail”, Mixer and Server, vol.20:5 (May 1911), p. 64.

From: Southern Pharmaceutical Journal, vol. 3:12 (1911), p. 20.

Then again perhaps Chicagoans had a better reason to forgo the cocktail garnish than mere boredom. For Harvey Washington Wiley (1844-1930), Chief of the Bureau of Chemistry of the US Department of Agriculture and father of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906,  the maraschino cherry was one of the worst examples of chemical adulteration in modern industrialized food production:

A very common method of treating cherries is to bleach them in a brine of common salt and sulphurous acid until all the natural color has disappeared. The cherries are then thoroughly washed for the removal of the salt and sulphurous acid and at the same time the juice and soluble portions of the cherry are removed, so that at the end of the washing there is little left but the cellular structure. The cherries are then saturated with sugar or sugar and glucose and colored a deep artificial red by coal tar dye or cochineal. If the natural flavour of the cherries has been destroyed by the bleaching an artificial flavour is often added. The product is a cherry of an even deep red tint, more or less sweet, according to the use of greater or less quantities of sugar of glucose, and having a flavour of almond oil. When cherries of this kind are preserved in a solution of alcohol, flavoured or unflavored they are called maraschino cherries. The name is taken from a kind of cherry first used in making the product. They are used to a very large extent with certain beverages such as cocktails, soda water, mint juleps, etc., and also in ice cream and other preparations for the table. Little can be said in praise either of the taste or wholesomeness of these preparations and they are valuable chiefly for their supposed attractive appearance. The offense which is committed against the aesthetic taste of the individual in the preparation of such a product probably offsets any good effect which comes from attractiveness or ornamentation. The product cannot be regarded in any sense as resembling even in color the natural fruit, since practically the whole of the natural fruit, except its cellular structure, has been withdrawn and artificial substances substituted in place thereof.

— Harvey. W. Wiley, Foods and their Adulteration (Philadelphia: Blakiston’s, 1907), p. 371.

Wiley’s fulminations against the food fakery behind the humble maraschino cherry led to this response:

From: The Denatured Cocktail”, Mixer and Server, vol.21:1 (January 1912), p. 49.

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