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).

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One Response to “38. Charlie Lindbergh cocktail”

  1. Traveling Saver April 2, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    I wish I knew what Lindbergh was thinking when he found out they named an alcoholic drink after him!

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