Archive | December, 2011

46. Hoots Mon cocktail

31 Dec

Scotch stuff has come to stay / Now the burr drives out the brogue; / Here in the USA / The “hoot mon” is in vogue.

— George Ade, “Scotch Stuff”, Verses and Jingles (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1911), pp. 29-30 (p. 29).

Comes from the lowlands, but hoots, mon (3).

— Crossword clue (19 down), New Scientist, vol. 5, no. 114 (22 January 1959), p. 199.¹

It’s Hogmanay, so what better way to ring in the New Year than with a Scottish-themed cocktail? Like most compounds with a Caledonian cognomen (others include the Highland Fling, the Bobby Burns, Rob Roy and Thistle), the chief ingredient of the Hoots Mon is Scotch whisky. Notoriously, Scotch does not mix particularly well with other spirits and for that reason only rarely receives a casting call. If rye or bourbon are classic leading men, then Scotch is a character actor. Just like Dundee-born Brian Cox. The trick is to use the right kind of Scotch: nothing too peaty or demanding. I used Glenfiddich 12 year old single malt (which is matured in sherry and bourbon casks), which worked pretty well.

From: Judge's Library, No. 170 (May 1903).

The recipe comes from the Savoy Cocktail Book (although it appears in other contemporary sources too):

¼ Kina Lillet.

¼ Italian Vermouth.

½ Scotch Whisky.

Stir well and strain into a cocktail glass.

From: Harvard Lampoon, vol. 42:1 (14 October 1901), p. 3.

Although little heard on the streets of twenty-first-century Glasgow, “hoot” or “hoot mon” is, as we all know, an ancient oath once uttered by Northern Britons with such frequency that it became, at least to those south of the Tweed and across the Atlantic, an emblem of Scottishness—like shortbread, tartan and heroin. The earliest attestation of the word is from 1698, and it crops up in great works of literature like Waverly, Kidnapped and Ulysses, but Scots liked to pretend they weren’t prone to such cartoonish and Brigadoonish outbursts. Writing to the New York Times in 1936, Scottish emigré John Murray, of Newark, NJ, seethed about the bowdlerization of his native culture; first on his list of complaints was “[t]hat ‘Hoot mon’ is not a Scottish ejaculation and has never been such” (“Scot’s Grievances”, New York Times, 12 January 1936).² Yet there it is in the Scottish National Dictionary, where the interjection is defined as follows: “An exclamation used to express annoyance, disgust, incredulity or remonstrance or in dismissal of an opinion expressed by someone else, tut! fie!”³ The modern-day equivalent, I suppose, would be “get tae fuck!” Which means Will Rogers probably shouldn’t have greeted the adoring crowds on his arrival in Scotland in 1934, a year before his death, with a hearty “hoot mon!” (“Will Rogers in Scotland, New York Times, 19 September 1934, p. 21).

On which note I wish all my readers a happy New Year!

*****

¹ The answer to the cruciverbalist conumdrum is, of course, “owl”—the identity of that which “hoots” is hidden in (“comes from”) the word “lowland”.

² No one at the newspaper was paying attention to Mr Murray: this is the beginning of a New York Times interview with the actor Ernest Torrence, who was appearing in “The Only Girl” at the Lyric Theatre:

From: "This Introduces Hoot-Mon Torrence", New York Times, 27 December 1914.

³One old wag, however, defined the phrase as the “Scottish National Hymn” (Gideon Wurdz, The Foolish Dictionary, 5th edn [Boston, Luce, 1904]).

From: Puck, vol. 75 (11 July 1914), p. 10.

Turkey cocktail

22 Dec

F. Scott Fitzgerald, full-time drunk and occasional writer, once came up with this ingenious solution to the eternal conundrum of what to do with all that leftover bird at Christmas:

Turkey Cocktail: To one large turkey add one gallon of vermouth and a demijohn of angostura bitters. Shake.

The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald, ed. by Matthew J. Buccoli (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1978), p. 183.

British barmaids in 1890s New York

22 Dec

William Nicolson, Barmaid, Any Bar (1898)

Do English barmaids come under the head of skilled labour? That is the question […] which is now absorbing the attention of the Immigration Commissioners in New York. The Bartenders’ Association claim that barmaids do come under that category, and that as such they are debarred from landing under the alien contract labour law. The saloon-keepers and bar-proprietors are of the contrary opinion. The anxiety of the bar-tenders is only natural, for they are threatened with the loss of their livelihood by English female competition. Three months ago the proprietor of one of the most frequented saloons in New York conceived the daring idea of importing a batch of London barmaids to assist his bartenders. The profession of the latter was at the time almost the only one remaining which had not been brought within the sphere of woman labour here. It had been believed until then that the ability to concoct even a portion of the hundreds of exclusively American mixed drinks was an accomplishment beyond the intelligence of the female mind, and fully equivalent to a university education, or to the acquisition of some dozen modern and ancient languages. The bar-tenders of the establishment in question accordingly resigned in a body rather than submit to the co-operation of the barmaids. The latter, who thereupon assumed the sole charge of the bar, found American drinks “no trouble”, “very easy to make”, and as for cocktails, they “learned to mix them in no time”. Indeed the young ladies proved such a success that the proprietor has during the last few weeks started three new saloons equipped with English barmaids, and that a number of other leading saloons and bars have followed suit in replacing their male bar-tenders by British barmaids. According to the saloon proprietor who first inaugurated this, to Americans, very startling innovation, the drinking public takes very kindly to the barmaid. Drinkers, he declares, seem to find an additional excellence in being served by fair hands, and the bar receipts have more than doubled since the barmaids assumed charge of the counter. As to the barmaids themselves, they profess that they are better pleased than they expected to be with service on this side of the Atlantic. They pronounced Americans more sociable, and, I regret to add, more courteous than Englishmen. “They like to chat with us while they drink,” the fair ones say.

— “British Barmaids in New York”, Birmingham Daily Post, 30 November 1891, p. 5.

45. Zaza cocktail

21 Dec

Miss Up-To-Date (throwing away her cigarette): Well, old girl, how did you like ‘Zaza’?

Miss Fan de Siècle: Oh, it’s not altogether bad, but it’s not a play that I’d recommend to my mother.

— “In a New York Finishing School”, Life, vol. 33, no. 863 (8 June 1899), p. 481.

“January 9, 1899 will remain a notable date in the history of the New York stage,” predicted an anonymous, but confident contributor to Munsey’s Magazine shortly after the world-altering event in question. “On that night, at the Garrick Theater, Mrs. Leslie Carter, in Zaza, set the house in a turmoil of enthusiasm and sent the critics away in a white heat” (“The Stage”, vol. 20:5 [February 1899], pp. 802-17 [p. 817]). Now long forgotten, Zaza was the most talked-about premiere of the dramatic season. Not every reviewer shared the opinion of the Washington Post that this was “a great play”—more often they preferred such descriptions as “boldly realistic”, “shocking”, “intensely modern” and “moving”; but everyone certainly agreed that its leading lady was “a genius of the highest order”. Mrs Leslie Carter, a middle-aged divorcée who had appeared in just a handful of productions since her debut 10 years before, was a revelation: here, suddenly, was an American Sara Bernhardt and the most accomplished actress of her generation.

The play, written by Pierre Berton and Charles Simon, with Gabrielle Réjeane originating the title role, had premiered in Paris at the Théâtre du Vaudeville in May of 1898. The English-language rights were snapped up by the writer, director and impresario David Belasco, who recognized that the drama, with a few tweaks to suit local tastes, could be the perfect vehicle for his protégée, Mrs Leslie Carter, whom he had trained since she had run away from her abusive banker husband. That’s because she, like the character she would impersonate with such great success, was, as one admirer observed, a “woman completely free of all traditions of the past”, “une femme du siècle” (Elizabeth Graham, “Mrs Leslie Carter”, Metropolitan Magazine, vol. 9:3 [March 1899], pp. 283-6 [p. 283]). Like Trilby, Zaza is something of a rags-to-riches tale. The eponymous heroine is a singer in a seedy Parisian concert hall who falls in love with one of the regulars, Bernard Dufrène, a man of breeding and cultivation. After living with Dufrène for six blissfully happy months in a country cottage, Zaza learns that her beau is in fact married and a father. She determines to betray their adulterous relationship to Dufrène’s wife, but, before she can do so, encounters his daughter, Toto, and, overcome by the child’s unspoilt innocence, is unable to vent her feelings. Instead she confronts her inamorato, hurling reproaches and crockery, and the doomed lovers go their separate ways. Two years later, when Zaza has become a star, Dufrène seeks a reconciliation, but she, having learned invaluable moral lessons, sends him back to his family. (In the original, French version, Zaza resumes her affair with him—that, as Belasco well knew, would never fly in America.)

Even those reviewers who heaped extravagant praise both on play and player knew what really attracted the punters: the sympathetic portrayal of an illicit affair and Mrs. Carter’s frequent dishabille:   “The pity is, however, that Zaza will owe so much of its enormous pecuniary success, not to its art, not to the possibly beneficent influence upon a well-constituted mind of the exhibition of the development of good and evil, and a power for good, in an outcast woman; not to the extraordinary skill of expression Mrs. Carter has acquired, but to the eagerness of the multitude to see something sensationally naughty” (“The Week at the Theatres”, New York Times, 15 January 1899). There were plenty of critics exercised by the “ethics and morality” of Zaza. “The play is based solely upon vice,” tut-tutted the New York Dramatic Mirror, “and it is strong only when it is most unwholesome. […] No good may come of a play that offers as its redeeming elements only jealousy and revenge, while painting in bright red the things that are pictured generally, and wisely, in pale tints” (14 January 1899, p. 16). William Winter, generally a champion of Belasco’s work, was appalled by the depravity he claimed to have witnessed at the Garrick. “Such dramas as Zaza,” spluttered the censorious prude, “defile the public mind and degrade the Stage, and it would be propitious for the community if they could be played on from a fire hose and washed into the sewer where they belong” (William Winter, The Life of David Belasco, vol. 1 (New York: Moffat, Yard and Co., 1918), p. 464). Even stronger judgements awaited the cast when, after 18 months in New York and other major cities, the production transferred to London. Despite winning popular acclaim, and warmly applauded by royalty including the Prince and Princess of Wales and the King of Sweden and Norway, the press was scathing: the Globe declared the Franco-American export “more crude, more sensual, and more objectionable” than any recent home-grown effort; the Westminster Gazette dismissed the work as “stupid and ill-written throughout, coarse and animal” (“London Theatrical News”, New York Times, 22 April 1900); the Athenaeum, while it allowed that at least the “pretence is abandoned that the old-fashioned virtues of chastity, modesty, and fidelity have now any existence”, yet felt obliged to “protest against a scene of seduction such as that which in the first act Mrs Carter exhibits” (“The Week”, Athenaeum, no. 3782 [21 April 1900], pp. 507-8 [p. 508 ]); and the Era, whose savage review was quoted at length in the House of Commons by Liberal MP Samuel Smith, fumed: “One of the most unpleasant plays that we have seen in London for some time past is Zaza.  […] It is a disgraceful libel on the dramatic profession, and the story is developed with so much base and sordid realism, the seamy side of an illicit connection is shown with such perverse and persistent grovelling in the mud, that the effect created is repellent and depressing” (“Zaza at the Garrick”, Era, no. 3213, 21 April 1900, p.12). Ouch. That’s gotta hurt.

And so we come to the cocktail named in tribute to either the play or the heroine. It’s first mentioned in a piece in the New York Times about fashionable drinks in 1904, some 5 years after Zaza’s opening night (so presumably it existed before then):

The Zaza cocktail is not so old but that it is new, and it finds favour with many of the Broadwayites. It is made up of dry gin, Dubonnet, and orange bitters, served in a cocktail glass. A modification of this, known as the Dubonnet cocktail, is made of Dubonnet, brandy and orange bitters, the only difference being the substitution of brandy for dry gin.

— “Spring Fashions in Drinks”, New York Times, 8 May 1904.

By at least 1910 the cocktail begins to appear in recipe books: the earliest that I know of is Jack’s Manual, where the formula is simply 50% dry gin and 50% Dubonnet (J.A. Grohusko, Jack’s Manual [New York, McClunn, 1910],  p. 84). The bitters have mysteriously gone, and they would stay gone. Which is a shame: they really enliven what is otherwise a rather uncomplicated drink. Another oddity: as the Times piece makes clear, the Dubonnet cocktail was originally made with brandy. Later it would be made with gin and, as such, displaced the Zaza from the standard repertoire (although the play would be periodically revived, and the story filmed, several times, most notably starring Gloria Swanson, I suppose the name “Zaza” eventually became too enigmatic). The Savoy Cocktail Book lists the Dubonnet and the Zaza separately, but the recipe is identical.

Christmas spirits

19 Dec

From: Recreation, vol. 13 (1900), p. xxxv.

Another new cocktail

12 Dec

From: Life, vol. 30, no.768 (9 Sept. 1897), p. 215.

44. Ping pong cocktail

10 Dec

“Is the manager up-to-date?”

“Sure; he’s introduced a game of ping-pong in the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet.”

— Yonkers Statesman, repr. in Life, vol. 39, no. 1019 (8 May 1902), p. 410.

To ping or not to pong, that is the question: / Whether it is more tranquil in the mind to suffer / The slings and slightings of not being in it, / Or to take arms against a slew of volleys / And by serving, smash things. To ping, to pong— / And by ping-pong to say we end the thousand other fadlets / That we are heir to, ‘Tis a consummation / Devoutly to be wished. And yet, / When he have shuffled off this ping-pong coil / What other craze my come—aye, there’s the rub!

— T.M. “A Soliloquy”, Life, vol. 39, no. 1020 (15 May 1902), p. 424.

Some countries are fadless. Therefore they sink into old fogeyism, and we rarely hear from them again. It is only by constantly creating new fads that any country can hope to hold its own. That is why, among the nations of the earth, we are so proud and happy and pre-eminent. […] If it were not for our fads we would not be the serious people that we are.

— “Fads”, Life, vol. 52, no. 1351 (17 September 1908), p. 298.

From: Publishers' Weekly, vol. 63, no. 1627 (4 April, 1903), p. 964.

Here’s yet another cocktail inspired by a contemporary craze. Ping pong or table tennis originated in Britain as an after-dinner parlour game around 1881. It was then, according to a rumour reported by Arnold Parker, the first ping pong champion of London, that “someone started to play the game . . .  with cigar-box lids for bats, champagne corks for balls, and a row of books for a net” (Ping-Pong [New York and London: Puttnam, 1902], p. 6). The first manufactured versions began to appear some ten years later: David Foster filed a patent in July 1890 for an “apparatus for imitating known games, such as lawn tennis, football, and cricket, on an ordinary table”. With its strung rackets and side-netting designed to catch wayward rubber balls, this prototype was something of a platypusian oddity. A year later, in July 1891, the venerable games-maker Jaques and Son, which a couple of years before had become the exclusive distributors of another Victorian indoor sporting sensation, viz. Tiddledy-Winks [sic], brought out the first mass-produced table tennis kit under the trademarked name “Gossima”; this featured long-handled battledores, a cork ball and high nets. Neither of these early iterations really caught on, chiefly because the balls used were, well, balls: the rubber variety was too wild and the cork one not lively enough.

Only when celluloid balls were introduced in 1900 did the game really take off. Now skill and finesse, not unpredictable bounce, determined the outcome of a match. In September of that same year Hamley Brothers trademarked the onomatopoeic name “Ping-Pong”, derived from the sound the new ball made when struck by the old-style rackets, and produced sets together with Jaques and Son, initially as “Gossima or Ping-Pong” and then just “Ping-Pong”. (A few months later rival firm Slazenger registered the less-promising name “Whiff-Waff”.) By Christmas of 1900, and for the next few months, Arnold Parker recalled, “every one, more or less, played Ping-Pong”. The game was put away during the summer, when the lukewarm British sun summoned the middle-classes to the tennis court and croquet lawn; but then, around September 1901, the “boom started” (Parker, p. 7). One American newspaper reported from London: “Bridge cards have been laid aside, motoring is neglected, the theatres are abandoned, and even the [Boer] war is forgotten in the delights of this new fad” (“The Ping-Pong Craze”, Baltimore Sun, 3 January 1902, p. 6). In fact, the only topic of conversation to rival ping pong was Elizabeth Wells Gallup’s intervention in the Bacon-Shakespeare controversy (she claimed to have discovered a cipher in Shakespeare’s plays that proved Francis Bacon was their true author). Ping-pong clubs were formed, tournaments were held and, almost immediately, rival associations sprang into existence: the Table Tennis Association and the Ping Pong Association, each with its own championship and slightly different rules.  (The schism was caused by the fact that “Ping Pong” was a trademark and strictly policed by Jaques and Hamley Bros., who insisted that their ping pong equipment be exclusively used in tournaments and clubs.)

Newspapers and magazines were flooded with articles initiating readers into the ping pong’s rules and techniques, explaining the subtle differences between available bats and balls, and offering guidance on what to wear when playing. There was one indisputable index of its high favour. “Ping-pong has completed its title to be considered a popular game,” observed the Daily Telegraph. “It has produced a disease which is at least as much its own as the tennis-elbow is the product of that delightful pastime.” Constance Bantock, the “Lady Champion of England”, might well have believed that all that pinging and ponging was “such a health-giving exercise that the game itself brings its own reward” (“The Game of Ping Pong”, Pearson’s Magazine, vol. 7: 6 [June 1902], pp. 596-600 [p. 599]);  but in the British Medical Journal Dr F. Graham Crookshank, who had diagnosed a stricken ping-pongist with tenosynovitis, warned darkly that the strain placed on the tibialis anticus muscle by excessive devotion to the “national sport” would, until appropriate “costume and footgear” were developed, result in further cases (“Ping-Pong Teno-Synovitus”, British Medical Journal, vol. 1, no. 2157 [3 May 1902], p. 1083).  The newspapers called it “ping-pong ankle”.

From: Life, vol. 39, no. 1024 (12 June 1902), p. 503.

The Ping Pong brand was licensed to Parker Brothers in the US, a company already responsible for a best-selling precursor to table tennis: “Pillow Dex” (1896), in which players swatted a balloon over a net stretched across a table. Ping pong proved just as popular in America as it had in Britain; in fact, as Henry Essex put it in the National Magazine, in both countries it was about to “reach the highest point of success a game has ever known” (“Ping Pong: The Greatest of In-Door Games”, National Magazine, vol. 17 [October 1902 – March 1903], pp. 127-30 [p. 128]). The Chinese ambassador to the US, Wu Ting-Fang, denied reports that, like everyone else in America, he had been seized by the “ping-pong-pang”, and called it a “childish game” (“Mr Wu on Ping-Pong”, New York Times, 9 May 1902, p. 5), but a fictional émigré of the Middle Kingdom had this to say on the subject:

So extraordinary was the early demand for it that it appeared as though everybody in America was determined to own and play ping pong. The dealers could not produce it fast enough. Factories were established all over the country, and the tools were ground out by the ten thousands. Books were written on the ethics of the game; experts came to the front; ping pong weeklies and monthlies were founded, to dumbfound the masses, and the very air vibrated with the “ping” and the “pong”.

The old and young, rich and poor, feeble and herculean, all played it. Doctors advised it, children cried for it, and a fashionable journal devised the correct ping-pong costume for players. Great matches were played between the experts of various sections, and this sport, a game really for small children, after the fashion of battledore and shuttlecock, ran its course among young and old. Pictures of adult ping-pong champions were blazoned in the public print; even churchmen took it up. Public gardens had special ping-pong tables to relieve the stress. At last the people seized upon ping pong, and it became common. Then it was dropped like a dead fish.

— Henry Pearson Gratton, As a Chinaman Saw Us (New York: Appleton, 1916), pp. 269-70.

Yep, by 1904 the fad had more or less burnt itself out. The game wouldn’t be resurrected for a generation, but while the craze raged ping pong insinuated itself into every corner of British and American life. Smart folks scented an opportunity. As the extravagantly named La Touche Hancock poetically counselled in Printer’s Ink, a journal for advertisers:

If up-to-date you’ll advertise / Ping-pong shoes and ping-pong ties, / Ping-pong cakes, and ping-pong clothes, / Ping-pong pills and ping-pong hose, / Ping-pong crackers and ping-pong soap, / Ping-pong cocktails, ping-pong “dope” / Ping-pong cigarettes, cigars, / Ping-pong  motors, ping-pong cars, / Ping-pong tea of ping-pong brew, / Ping-pong  ice cream soda, too, / Ping-pong  couches, ping-pong beds, / Ping-pong  hats for ping-pong  heads, / Ping-pong  for ping-pong  girls, / Ping-pong irons for ping-pong  curls, / Ping-pong shirts, and ping-pong stocks, / Ping-pong watches, ping-pong clocks, / Ping-pong curtains, ping-pong rugs, / Ping-pong remedies for bugs, / Ping-pong  hairpins, ping-pong nails, / Ping-pong carpets, ping-pong veils, / Ping-pong plasters for your corns, / Ping-pong whistles, ping-pong horns, / Ping-pong goods and ping-pong trash, / Why, then you’ll ping-pong lots of cash!

— La Touche Hancock, “Ping Pong Posers”, Printer’s Ink, vol. 39:11 (June 11, 1902), p. 45.

Included in that bewildering list of ping pong cash-ins is our real subject: the ping pong cocktail. Our old friend Tom Daly included a drink by that title in his 1903 Bartender’s Encyclopedia. It consisted of 2 or 3 dashes of wormwood bitters, 1 dash of ginger cordial, 2/3 jigger of Tom gin, 1/3 jigger of Scotch whiskey, and was garnished with a cherry and an orange twist. In truth, though, it was more whiff-waff than ping-pong. Which is to say, it didn’t catch on. The (later?) version of the cocktail that would be passed between cocktail books in the 1920s and 1930s, and which Robert Vermeire attributed to Bill Boothby of San Francisco, is rather different. It is, as Vermeire also notes, basically a Manhattan made with sloe gin instead of rye or bourbon.

1/4 gill sloe gin [1 ½ oz.]

1/4 gill Italian vermouth

1 dash angostura bitters [I used 3]

1 cherry

— “Bernard”, 100 Cocktails and How to Mix Them (London: Foulsham, n.d.), p. 54.

The result is a sweet, fruity and not particularly potent compound: a mid-game refreshment that certainly won’t affect the average Ping-Pongist’s play. As with a conventional Manhattan, a drier drink can be achieved with French vermouth.

From: Life, vol. 39, no. 1015 (10 April 1902), p. 307.

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