Archive | November, 2011

Uncle Sam needs a dram

17 Nov

Uncle Sam was worried about his condition. He knew something about psychoanalysis, so he determined to try it on himself. Seating himself at his desk, for twenty minutes he made his mind a blank, noting down on a piece of paper the random thoughts that rose into consciousness. This was the result:

“Business depression . . . prohibition . . . League of Nations . . . Socialism . . . cocktails . . . unemployment . . . free verse . . . profiteering . . . housing shortage . . . union labor . . . high balls . . . taxes . . . woman suffrage . . . stagnation . . . Mary Pickford . . . heart of the world . . . eighteenth amendment . . . disarmament . . . savings campaign . . . self-determination . . . Babe Ruth . . . vision . . . world series . . . Sinn Fein . . . bootlegging . . . Davis cup . . . Main Street . . . Jack Dempsey . . . Ku Klux Klan . . . hold-ups . . . home brew.”

Pensively, Uncle Sam contemplated what he had written. “I’m a sick man” he murmured weakly, and he passed his hand across his brow. “There seems absolutely no connection to my thoughts.” But suddenly a look of hope came into his eyes. “Perhaps it’s not so bad as I thought. Let me see!” and he counted eagerly: “One . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . five . . . six.”

The same idea, he saw, occurred six times, though in somewhat different form: “prohibition . . . cocktails . . . high balls . . . eighteenth amendment . . . bootlegging . . . home brew.”

He drew a deep breath.

“What I need,” he sighed, “is a good drink!”

— William Wallace Whitelock, “And did he get it? Uncle Sam psycho-analyzes himself”, Life, vol. 78, no. 2033 (20 October 1921), p. 2.

43. Dempsey cocktail

16 Nov

The New Jersey courts are trying to determine whether the late Battle of the Century was a “boxing exhibition” or a “fight”.  They should ask Georges Carpentier.

— “Life Lines”, Life, vol 78 (20 October 1921), p. 8.

Greek gods are no match for Tarzans in this game.

— Christopher Morley, “Dempsey vs. Carpentier”, Plum Pudding of Divers Ingredients, Discreetly Blended & Seasoned (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1921), pp. 234-8 (p. 238).

This cocktail, according to Robert Vermeire, who was the first to publish the recipe, “was introduced at Deauville, 1921, after Dempsey’s victory over Carpentier” (Cocktails: How to Mix Them, p. 26).  Jack Dempsey’s third defence of his world heavyweight boxing crown against the French challenger Georges Carpentier, who simultaneously held the European heavyweight and world light heavyweight titles, on 2 July 1921 in Jersey City, New Jersey was a key moment in the history of the “manly art” and ushered in the age of mass spectator sports. Thanks to the efforts of promoter Tex Rickard, who was the first to marry boxing and ballyhoo, the contest billed as the “Battle of the Century” set a number of precedents. The 90,000 spectators smashed the previous record for attendance and generated prizefighting’s first million-dollar gate (to be precise, $1,789,238 worth of tickets were sold). It was the first bout to be broadcast on the radio: transmission of a “voice description of each incident”, one magazine breathlessly announced, was “not only a novelty for the annals of sport, but a new development in the field of applied science” (“July 2nd Fight Described by Radiophone”, Wireless Age, vol. 8, no. 10 [July 1921], p. 10). An estimated 300,000 people, the biggest audience so far, tuned in. And this was a truly international event: millions of people all over the world, from Santiago de Chile to St John, Newfoundland, from Toledo to Tokyo waited impatiently for the opening bell.

The fight also turned Dempsey into one of the most famous men on the planet. Yet in the long build-up to the fight he was cast in the role of the villain. It was Carpentier, blond, good-looking, elegant, a decorated aviator during the war, who found himself playing the hero. He set women’s pulses racing and sportswriters’ hearts aflutter. The “First Citizen of Lens” was, according to George Bernard Shaw, a Greek god, the spitting image of Charles XII of Sweden, a genius, the greatest pugilist in the world who ought to be the 50 to 1 favourite. In Carpentier, proclaimed Frank Parker Stockbridge, “stands the prototype of Achilles, Launcelot, Siegfried and Roland, endowed with mystic powers that enable their possessor to conquer his opponents without disturbing the part in his hair or even breathing hard” (“Carpentier the Mysterious, Dempsey the Favorite”, New York Times, 26 June 1921). His gentlemanliness, his effortless nobility was inscribed in his physiognomy (specifically, his “dolichocephalism”):

If Carpentier has any decided advantage in the coming contest in Jersey City, it is in that long head. Phrenology is far from being an exact science, but it is certain that a head of that shape packs a different sort of mental machinery from that carried in a more clearly spherical brain-case. It may not be any better; it may not be for pugilistic purposes as generally useful; but it certainly must be different. And the importance of this difference to its possessor lies in the fact that his instincts must necessarily impel him, many times, to do just the opposite of what a round-headed opponent would do under similar circumstances. Therefore, when the long-headed boxer, who is rare, meets the round-headed boxer, who is the usual type, long-head has a distinct advantage. (Ibid.)

Dempsey, it goes without saying, was a round head. In fact, he was, or seemed to be, everything Carpentier was not. Dark-haired, squash-nosed, unmannered, the “Manassa Mauler”—the nickname says it all—was a thug, a slugger rather than boxer. He had, after all, snatched the heavyweight crown from Jess Willard by rearranging the reigning champion’s features in a ferocious display of punching power. Newly minted middle-class fight fans sniffily disapproved of the man who had started his career as a barroom brawler:

Dempsey was a familiar type, and, speaking for the sensitive American man, a detested one. […] The rough-neck may be typical of millions of Americans and his roughness may be part of the pioneer virility that American still requires. […] But it makes no appeal to the protected educated urban population. They see in Carpentier a man of high spirit and high intelligence, “a man, damn it, whom you’d be glad to meet in a drawing-room”. In Dempsey they see a mere bruiser.

— “Carpentier: A Symbol”, New Republic, vol . 27 (20 July 1921), pp. 206-7 (p. 206).

And where his dashing French opponent had won the Croix de guerre and the Médaille militaire, Dempsey had been tried (and acquitted) of draft dodging. He had been, the New York Times admitted, “in many ways the most unpopular of white champions” (“Dempsey Proves Prowess”, New York Times, 3 July 1921, p. 1).  Everywhere people were praying that right would triumph over might and that the hero would vanquish the slacker, brain beat brawn, the Olympian subdue the Titan, the panther overcome the grizzly bear. “May a real fighter and a real man win” the Tennessee branch of the American Legion wired the Frenchman, “and carry the belt across the seas until this country can produce a one-hundred per cent American able to regain it” (“Legion Cheers Georges on”, New York Times, 2 July 1921).

Finally the day of reckoning arrived. Never before had a boxing match attracted celebrities and high society, but here among the crowd were William H. Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Henry Ford, Harry Payne Whitney, Vincent Astor, Kermit and Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., George M. Cohan and Al Jolson, who had closed his show in Butte, Montana, and flown all the way across the country just to take his $50 seat.  Twelve US senators and 90 Representatives joined foreign princes and dignitaries ringside. Atlantic City politician and racketeer Enoch “Nucky” Johnson was present. And, again for the first time, a sizeable contingent of women onlookers.

Carpentier was cheered as he entered the ring; but it was obvious from the outset, as the two men stood together, that the contest was a mismatch. Giving away at least 16 pounds to the characteristically unshaven Dempsey, Carpentier was clearly not even in the same weight class as the Utah man. In the words of the veteran sportswriter Grantland Rice: “they couldn’t have ballooned the Frenchman into a bona fide heavyweight, except in the papers, with two sandbags for added ballast” (Grantland Rice, The Tumult and the Shouting: My Life in Sport [New York: Barnes, 1954], p. 118). And whatever the extent of Carpentier’s vaunted “mystic powers”, Dempsey’s fistic powers were far superior. The challenger may have got away the first punch, and he walloped the champion with a right hook in the second round; but otherwise the “Golem” dominated (Scofield Thayer, “Gladiators, Brown Skirts, et cetera”, The Dial, vol. 71 [1921], pp. 246-9 [p. 247]), pounding away remorselessly at Carpentier’s body, before flooring him a minute or so into the fourth round. The “Lily of France” sprang up after an eight count, apparently fresh as, well, as fresh as a daisy, but he lasted just a few more seconds, when his jaw connected with “Iron Mike”, Dempsey’s fearsome right fist. As 90000 spectators rose up as one, Francis Hackett managed to catch “one glimpse of a god on all fours” (“Dempsey—Carpentier”, New Republic, vol 27 [13 July 1921], pp.185-7 [p. 187]).

From: Dial, vol. 71 (1921), p. 246.

In spite of what Shaw and American snobs might have told themselves, the outcome had never been in doubt. In the words of Edwin C. Hill of the New York Herald: “Dempsey won because miracles are so rare. Slim, pale boys are not sent out to beat down rugged men. The deer does not slay the lion, nor does the thoroughbred prevail over a bull with horns” (quoted by S.C. Lambert, “‘Fight Copy—Its Lesson for Advertisers”, Printer’s Ink, vol. 116 [14 July 1921], pp. 73-6 [p. 74]). If the fight, and the circus surrounding it, was the first sporting product of modern promotion techniques, of ballyhoo, it was also the first to demonstrate that such events rarely live up to the hype. You wouldn’t have known it from the press reaction the next day. The New York Times ran an eight-column banner on its front page and filled six of its eight news columns with stories of the fight. (Only the day’s news of President Harding, an attempted suicide and the marriage of the Duchess of Marlborough were permitted to share the page.) For the next twelve pages there were, again, nothing but fight stories and pictures. As if in apology, the staid old journal editorialized that same day, “The world may now gain its equipoise” (“Dempsey Still Champion”, New York Times, 3 July 1921).

The cocktail, then, is a generous tribute by an unknown French mixologist to the conqueror of the Gallic pugiliste.  (Dempsey, in fact, became extremely popular in France, and he and Carpentier remained friends for the rest of their lives.) Here’s the formula as reported by Robert:

2 dashes of Absinthe.

1 teaspoonful of Grenadine.

1/6 gill of Gin.

2/6 gill Calvados.

Craddock’s later version in the Savoy Cocktail Book equalises the proportions of gin and Calvados, but also reduces the amount of grenadine to just a dash. Personally, I think this combination needs a touch more sweetness than that; be careful, as always, with the absinthe. Incidentailly, that the drink contains Calvados is no surprise: the glamorous seaside resort of Deauville, where the drink was allegedly invented, is located in the Calvados département, the only place where the eponymous apple brandy may legally be distilled.

Decline of the guest

15 Nov

From: Judge, vol. 81 (10 September 1921), p. 10.

Counting cocktail calories

12 Nov

Those who are struggling with the effects of holding steadfastly to the Drinking Man’s Diet might be interested in the following remarks made by Prof. Edward Dodds (1899-1973):

It takes the average person a half hour on the squash court to work off the energy supplied by two dry martini cocktails, says Professor E.C. Dodd [sic], Courtland professor of bio-chemistry at the University of London.

“Perhaps squash racquets is one of the most exhausting of ordinary games and requires the greatest output of energy,” he said. “At the end of half an hour the average person will have utilized some 300 calories—equivalent in terms of food to, say, two slices of bread and butter, or, alternatively, to two dry martini cocktails.

“For every pint of beer a person drinks he will have to play squash racquets for half an hour. A glass of champagne is equivalent to about 10 minutes of squash, and a double whiskey and soda would require the full half hour to allow for the expenditure of the necessary amount of energy.

“Remember,” the professor continued, “that a large whiskey corresponds in food value to three boiled eggs, yet very few who had dined out would take six boiled eggs for a night cap.”

— “London Professor Discusses Squash, Beer, Cocktail and Whisky Equations”, Hartford Courant, 15 October 1933, p. A3.

Hmmm. Dodds’ figures don’t tally with these later values, but I guess it’s all down to the size of your martini!

From: Alice V. Bradley, Tables of Food Values (Peoria, CA: Bennett, 1956), p. 221.

42. Corpse Reviver cocktail

11 Nov

“Offer him a cocktail. What’s the French for corpse-reviver? Get busy, Crump.”

— P.G. Wodehouse, The Prince and Betty (New York: Watt, 1912), p. 89.

Jimmy stood before the table mixing fresh cocktails, the shaker in violent action. While he was asking Ruzzini whether he preferred a Manhattan or a Corpse Reviver, Lady Diana inspected her guest. She had been immediately impressed by the agreeable sound of his voice—the voice of a man irresistible to women …

— Maurice Dekobra, The 13th Lover (London: Payson and Clarke, 1928), p. 65.

In 1898 the joint forces of France and Germany launched a surprise attack on Britain. Their aim: to dismantle the Empire and share the spoils between them. When (not for the first time in the years to come) an initially hesitant America could no longer ignore its cultural ties to the mother country and announced it would stand firm with Britain against its European enemies, there was jubilation in London, as Britishers and expatriate Yankees felt a renewed sense of kinship.

Everyone spoke to everyone else, and over a whisky and soda a reign of brotherhood began. “I can’t do much,” said one of the crowd to his own circle of excited listeners. “But blow me if I don’t go in for American drinks. Here, miss, a corpse reviver, please.” Never were the American bars so popular as through the next week or so. It was a tribute that the least might pay to a new ally!

— Louis Tracy, The Final War (New York: Putnam, 1896), p. 200.

For at least half a century British writers had been fascinated by the weird and wonderful world of “American drinks”. But it’s telling that, in Tracy’s novel, one of many in the 1890s and early 1900s predicting a future conflict with Germany, it is specifically the  “corpse reviver” that is poured in celebration. Just as, to later generations, the martini and the manhattan would become synonymous with the cocktail, so for the Victorians the “corpse reviver”, along with a few other exotically-named and largely extinct beverages (and always the same ones),  was iconic and instantly evocative of the whole species. So, for example, one vistor noted, correctly, that “every thing you drink in America is iced; whether it is brandy-cocktail, gin-sling, corpse-reviver, stone-fence, eye-opener, New Jersey lightning, mint-julep, Japanese, or Catawba cobbler” (“American Hotels and American Food”, Temple Bar, vol. 2, p. 353 [1861], pp.  345-56 [p. 353]). Another observer of American hostelries sounded an awestruck note when he recited what would become a familiar litany: “The number and variety of the ‘drinks’ themselves is extraordinary. I should not have room for a list of them even if I could remember one half the strange titles. But there are the ‘cocktail’, ‘smash’, “sling”, ‘julep’, the ‘back straightener’, the ‘corpse reviver’, ‘moral suasion’, the ‘bottomless pit’, and many others (Stephen Buckland, “Eating and Drinking in America: A Stroll Among the Saloons of New York”, Macmillan’s Magazine, vol. 16 [October 1867], 453-64 [p. 458]).

From: Judy, vol. 33 (31 October 1883), p. 216.

By the time Tracy’s novel was published, however, and even by the time these accounts were written, the bolder British bibber had been able to enjoy American drinks without leaving London.  In the early 1860s “Professor” Jerry Thomas himself was demonstrating the novel art of mixology in a bar on Coventry Street (near Haymarket), and by 1880 there were several American bars operating in London, foremost among them the one run by Leo Engel in the Criterion (in Piccadilly Circus and still open today). One of the drinks Thomas was reported to prepare was called “Corpse Reviver”. The U.S. exhibits at both the London Exposition of 1862 and the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1867 featured mock American bars dispensing potations native to the great republic, among them the corpse reviver (the Parisian display, incidentally, was called the “Professor’s Bar”). That drink figures in a tale published in 1862, in which James Payn is taken to “the American Bar” as a way of avoiding a bothersome social obligation. After paying lip service to the established pantheon of spirits, he is served a “Corpse Reviver” by the “Transatlantic gentleman” presiding there—presumably Jerry Thomas:

As I watched the liquid fly from one crystal vessel to another in his nimble hands, I perceived that milk was an ingredient, and my heart sank within me. He promised, however, that a tumbler of this would make another man of each of us, and, in a certain limited sense, he was right. The immediate effect of the Corpse Reviver was to fill us with an extraordinary courage and determination.

— “How I Stopped the Brownes from Asking Me to ‘Come in the Evening’”, Chambers Journal, vol. 17, no. 431 (5 April 1862), pp. 220-3 (pp. 222-3).

The “corpse reviver”, even if it was just the name rather than the thing itself, was so familiar that it could be mentioned in a treatise on angling or an article on the development of photographs.¹ This repeatedly drew the ire of Americans. For them the corpse reviver was an ersatz drink, about as authentic as  Dolmio pasta sauce or an Irish pub in Kuala Lumpur.  A writer styling himself simply “An American” despaired of the “beverages called ‘corpse-revivers’ sold as American drinks near the Haymarket” and “an American restaurant totally misrepresented at the Paris Exposition”. Genuine Yankee drinks, he continued, “have names strange enough; but the fact that certain decoctions are called ‘brandy-smashes’, ‘mint juleps’, and ‘sherry-cobblers’, scarcely justifies the invention of the Haymarket ‘corpse-reviver'” (“English Hotels”, Every Saturday, vol. 5 [30 May 1868], pp. 691-4 [p. 691]). James Maitland, author of The American Slang Dictionary, and therefore someone who ought to know, was just as scornful of “the names invented in London and Paris for the so-called ‘American drinks’—the ‘corpse reviver’, the ‘nigger-girl’s smile’ [!] and the ‘Pride of Columbia’. No man living in the United States ever heard of the one or drank the other, or if he did he never lived to tell the story” (The American Slang Dictionary [Chicago: Kittredge,1891], pp. 8-9). Let’s call one more witness, just to prove that this corpse reviver business really did irk the purists:

The popular idea of American drinks in London as paraded on programmes at some of the hotel and public bars seems to have been derived from the Western stories of Davy Crockett’s time or the dime novel series of cow-boys and mining life. Perhaps the author has not been in the right locality in America, but certainly, in a pretty extensive series of rambles in his own country he has failed to find such titles for mixed drinks as Pick-me-up, Corpse Reviver, Buckshot, Bull’s Eye Hitter, Lay me out, Cock of the Walk, Cowboy’s Delight, Lightning Swizzle, Sherry Slap Up, Whiskey wake’em up. Why, in the name of all that is absurd it should be thought such appellations as these are American and would be attractive to Americans in London, none but the genius who contrived them can tell.

— Curtis Guild, Britons and Muscovites, or Traits of Two Empires (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1888), pp. 37-8.

This was wounded national pride: before the twentieth century a still-young American culture had exported little beyond its shores apart from Mark Twain and cocktails. And here was a bunch of Limeys taking liberties with their libations!² But surely these commentators were not suggesting that the term “corpse reviver” itself was of European provenance. By the late nineteenth century it was clearly established as a colloquialism, both in American and British English—one that could refer to a morning bracer or a patent medicine or any improvised combination of alcoholic fluids designed to lubricate the human machine. Here are a few examples of that use:

1. And if a critic follows at a respectful distance in the wake of his author, and tries to understand the man he passes judgment upon, he becomes tame, his sentences flag; he must—like a New Yorker at a drinking-bar—have his ‘nip’ to screw him up. He is languid without acid; his mental stomach wants something that bites; but after he has taken, again to quote our Cousins, his ‘gum-tickler’, or ‘corpse-reviver’, he is galvanized by the venom into being slightly amusing.

— J. Hain Friswell, “On Health of Mind”, in The Gentle Life: Essays in Aid of the Formation of Character (London: Sampson, Low and Marston, 1870), pp. 287-pp. 293-4.

2. . . . and it is not impossible that somebody may yet advertise a ‘corpse-reviver’ at only one dollar a bottle.

— “Some Old Patent Medicines”, Popular Science News, vol. 24:8 (August 1890), p. 126.

3. I had the distinguished honour to be with Chamley Turner the joint inventor of a most successful ‘corpse-reviver’, as we called it, the potency of which was so great, as Turner used to say with a roar of laughter, either to kill or cure at 100 yards. Turner used to sit upon a bed holding up a dying Egyptian soldier in his brawny left arm, with a cup of the corpse-reviver in his right hand. It being Ramadan, we had always the greatest difficulty to make them during the daytime take medicine even which would contain brandy . . .

— Andrews Haggard, Under Crescent and Star (London: Blackwood, 1895), p. 65.

4. Once on board, a ‘corpse reviver’ was the first thing we demanded. A ‘ reviver’ for one man consisted of an egg, a squeeze of lemon, a little sugar, a dash of Angostura, worked up with a swizzle-stick. To this was added a wine-glass of square gin or whisky.

— Alfred Searcy, In Australian Tropics (London: Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1907), p. 189.

So that was one, general sense in which the phrase was used. But at least since Jerry Thomas, who, as I say, seems to have peddled a drink in London called the “Corpse Reviver”, the name designated a specific beverage, too. The trouble is, that name seems to have been promiscuously attached to all manner of compounds. And that may have been the real problem for the American grumblers. ( After all, if a drink was mixed by Jerry Thomas, the famed alcoholic resurrectionist, surely there can be no question of its authenticity?)

What was in these Corpse Revivers? If Payn’s anecdote, which I quoted above, does in fact feature a cameo from the “Professor”, as I suspect it does, then Mr Thomas’ mixture involved milk at the very least. Perhaps it was a kind of flip or milk punch. The French writer Prosper Mérimée, who visited the London Exposition, mentions mint juleps and corpse revivers among the beverages “more or less diabolical” to be had there: “All these drinks are made of gin, more or less disguised” (including the julep?) (Letters to an Unknown, Letter CCLI [6 June 1862], in Writings of Prosper Mérimée, vol. 8 [New York: Croscup & Holby, 1905], p. 167). A former teacher recalled a “corpse-reviver” among the “amazing concoctions that passed for American drinks” at a Paris café . He never knew its ingredients “but in a small tall cylindrical glass one saw disposed in due order a lovely set of bands  of cherry red, yellow and green”  (Pierce Butler, Laurel Hill and Later (New Orleans: Crager, 1954), p. 40). So a pousse café, in other words. The earliest recipe I’ve found is from The Gentleman’s Table Guide, and this medley bears no resemblance to later versions: “Half wineglass of brandy, half glass of Maraschino, and two dashes of Boker’s bitters” (E. Ricket and C. Thomas, The Gentleman’s Table Guide [London: Warne, 1873], p. 45).

Some 60 years later, the Savoy Cocktail Book includes two recipes for the Corpse Reviver, which I followed here. No. 2 is undeniably a more refreshing and interesting drink than No. 1:

Corpse Reviver No. 1:  ¼ Italian Vermouth, ¼ Apple Brandy or Calvados, ½ Brandy.

Corpse Reviver No. 2: ¼ Wine Glass Lemon Juice, ¼ Wine Glass Kina Lillet, ¼ Wine Glass Cointreau, ¼ Wine Glass Dry Gin, 1 Dash Absinthe.

A slightly later recipe in the Café Royal Cocktail Book appears to be combination of the two Savoy versions topped off with bubbly: 1/3 Brandy, 1/3 Orange Juice, 1/3 Lemon Juice, 2 dashes Grenadine. Shake, pour into a claret glass and fill with champagne.

I’m struck by the fact that brandy is an ingredient in three separate iterations of the drink. I wonder if this has anything to do with the putative “medicinal” virtues of the spirit?

* * * * *

¹  Discussing the effect of spirits on fish out of water, H. Cholmondeley-Pennell writes (jocularly): “Should brandy and water, however, fail in any case to produce the desired revival, there will still be a chance left, viz. try the well-known alcoholic concoction beloved by the frequenters of American bars, called a ‘corpse-reviver'” (Fishing: Pike and other Coarse Fish [London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1885], p. 179).

² At least one Englishman was unimpressed by these “sensation drinks” from across the sea. George Edwin Roberts, originally writing in 1863, declared that he would “pass the American bar, with its bad brandies and fiery wine” and (rather prematurely) pronounced himself satisfied with the “poor success which ‘Pick-me-ups’, ‘Corpse-revivers’, ‘Chain-lightning’, and the like have had in this country” (Cups and their Customs, 2nd edn [London: J. Van Voorst, 1869], p. 35). Surely that was wishful thinking.

A new cocktail

10 Nov

From: Life, vol. 25, no. 645 (9 May 1895), p. 305.

1.5 Gloom Raiser

9 Nov

“Let me mix a Gloom Raiser!” Marian fluttered around the makings on the sideboard. She looked like a gorgeous flower in her cloth-of-gold pajamas. “I feel low”. Miss Blymm, who had already been secretly to the bar, demurred. “Aw, come on, Blymm, wipe your eyes and don’t act virginal. Surely you’ve learned to drink after all these years in the Leistner household.”

Fudi, Oriental, impassive, uncorked the absinthe, the grenadine, the gin, the French vermouth. While Marian measured, he disappeared into the kitchen and returned with the lemon peel.

— Jane Burr, Marble and Mud (Westport, CT, 1935), pp. 159-60.

“And thy God and his Church can alone raise the gloom / That covers the future, and curtains the tomb.” Thus spake the Reverend J. Bandinel,¹ but Robert Vermeire begged to differ. And so, in the dark days of 1915, when the man known simply as “Robert” was working at the RAC in London, he invented the Gloom Raiser, yet another variation on the martini. Now that the clocks have gone back and the sun is struggling to get out of bed in the morning, here’s something guaranteed to chase the shadows away.

Voilà, Robert’s recipe. He expressly says the ingredients should be “stirred up” rather than shaken.

2/6 gill of Dry Gin.

1/6 gill of Vermouth Noilly Prat.

2 dashes of Grenadine.

2 dashes of Absinthe.

Squeeze lemon peel on top.

— Robert, Cocktails: How to Mix them (London: Herbert Jenkins, n.d.), p. 31.

That works out, roughly, as: 1.5 oz of gin, 3/4 oz of vermouth and 1/2 teaspoon each of grenadine and absinthe.

The drink evidently caught on: within 5 years it was already being mentioned on the West End stage:

Eric : Let it be a Gloom-Raiser.

Nadine: There’s no more absinthe, I fear.

Eric: Then a Champagne-Cobbler.

— Ronald Firbank, The Princess Zoubaroff : A Comedy (London: Richards, 1920), p. 36.

Not to be confused with the Gloom Chaser, an entirely different kettle of ball games involving Grand Marnier, Curacao, lemon juice and grenadine).

¹ “Remember Thy Creator in the Days of Thy Youth”, The Churchman, vol. 5 (1841), pp. 762-3 (p. 763).

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