Archive | February, 2012

52. Leap year cocktail

29 Feb

In a paper setting an examination in general knowledge, British schoolboys were asked to explain the origin or meaning of the word “bissextile”. One hasty youth in the Fourth Form, with a genius for improvisation, gave as his answer: “Leap-year is called a bisexual year because women are obliged to propose to men on the extra day in February.”

— “Topics of the Times”, New York Times, 14 March 1932.

2012 is a leap year. And so to celebrate the spuriously venerable tradition of “ladies’ privilege”, according to which women may during the intercalary year propose marriage without waiting for a man to make the first move for fear of being branded a harlot, a tradition supposedly enshrined in English common law, but not really, and now hopefully obsolete (except as the lazy premise of flop romantic comedies), let’s sip a cocktail designed by Harry Craddock.

The Leap Year Cocktail, which was created, Mr Craddock informs us, “for the Leap Year celebrations at the Savoy Hotel, London, on February 29th, 1928”, was allegedly responsible “for more proposals than any other cocktail that has ever been mixed”. Whether it was meant to stiffen feminine resolve or cause a chap to go weak at the knees is uncertain; probably both, as was claimed of a clutch of identically named cocktails a generation later:

Arthur Flynn, tap-room proprietor, is featuring two “Leap Year” cocktails which he says are unbeatable for getting the job done.

A gin-and-orange juice concoction is advertised as making a girl “irresistible”. A Scotch and vermouth on ice, says Flynn, will render a fellow “immovable”.

Thus far, no fellow and girl have come in at the same time to try their respectively recommended cocktails.

— “‘Leap Year’ Cocktails to Help Out Cupid”, Hartford Courant, 30 July 1956, p. 6.

Here’s how to prepare Craddock’s drink, which today celebrates its 21st birthday:

1 Dash Lemon Juice.

2/3 Gin.

1/6 Grand Marnier.

1/6 Italian Vermouth.

Shake well and serve in cocktail glass. Squeeze lemon peel on top.

Now, it’s clear from a new item printed in the New York Times in December 1928 that some men who entered into a bissextile marriage had an altogether erroneous idea of what such a union entailed:

The one redeeming feature of being a “leap year husband” has been dissipated for Herman Matten. Sued for non-support, Matten told Judge Edgar Jones in Domestic Relations Court that following his marriage last April he quit his job because he was a “leap year husband”. Judge Jonas [sic] was not impressed. He told Matten, who is 45 years old, to pay his wife, Ida, $10 a week.

— “Leap Year Husband Must Support Wife”, New York Times, 30 December 1928.

That fellow’s dickishness, it turns out, is far from unusual. The same paper’s earlier editorial assertion that leap year was a “humbug”, that all it had to boast about was 29 February, a day that usually came and went without anyone noticing, and that the “inferiority of the male sex on that day is not accounted more conspicuous than on the other days” (“Leap Year”, New York Times, 2 January 1912), is generally correct. Leap year seems with depressing regularity—quadrennially, in fact—to have been used as an excuse for ungentlemanly behaviour. How about a few more examples?

In 1884 a “charming young widow of 33”, Elizabeth Wittmer, received a visit from a John Coch, who “placed her wedding ring on his finger and took it away with him, under the pretense that he could not get it off.” His defence? “Mr Coch told Justice Murray that Mrs Wittmer took advantage of leap year and gave him the ring as a token of their engagement. He was held” (“Taking Advantage of Leap Year”, New York Times, 3 April, 1884). A similar story was rehearsed some years later by Walter Hettrick, the “candy kid” of West Brighton, Staten Island, after his arraignment on a charge of grand larceny: “The whole trouble was that she wanted me to marry her,” he explained. “Just because it is a leap year she thought she could make me do it, I guess. But I didn’t want to marry her, so I came home.” The supposed seductress was fifteen-year-old Bella Clark, whom Hettrick, older by two years, accused of having eloped with him. “Bella shook her pretty head in indignation when it was suggested that she had taken advantage of the prerogative of leap year,” but otherwise there was no dispute as to what had happened. After falling for “the dapper Walter” three weeks earlier, and her head full of romantic notions, Bella snatched $95 from her father’s pocket and bought tickets to Buffalo. But by the time they reached Albany, the pair got cold feet and turned back. Meanwhile, though, “Bella’s father, failing to see the romance in the affair, had sworn out a warrant for the arrest of the youngsters, and when they returned they were locked up. Walter is held in $1000 bail for examination, and Bella was left with the Children’s Society to mourn her shattered romance” (“Says Girl Made Him Elope”, Chicago Tribune, 2 March 1908, p. 5).

But this last tale, despite its ostensibly “happy” ending, is the pick of the bunch:

Declaring in an affidavit filed yesterday morning that he is a leap-year husband and was forced to marry at the point of a gun in the lady’s hands, Robert G. Arthur . . .  sued to have his marriage of Thursday afternoon to Miss Mary P. Reese of Hutchinson, Kas., annulled on the ground of duress.

Last night as he folded his pretty bride in his arms in the garage where he is employed . . . Mr McArthur [sic] declared the filing of the suit was all a mistake and stated the action had been taken at the behest of friends who wished to meddle in the affair. He says he will have the annulment suit stopped at once and will do all he can to make up for the suffering he has caused his bride. […]

In the suit which Mr Arthur filed yesterday, he alleged that Miss Reese called him up Wednesday night about 10 o’clock and demanded that he call at her apartments at No. 225 West Twenty-Fifth Street immediately.

He went, wondering. Immediately after he greeted Miss Reese, he said, she closed and locked the door and kept him imprisoned for fourteen hours. What occurred in that room is not stated, but briefly the complaint states that Miss Reese threatened Mr Arthur with a weapon. He says he was menaced that night, and in the morning, under the influence of the weapon, he accompanied her to the marriage license bureau and took out a license. Still under the fear of disaster if he backed out, they were married, he said.

The story that developed last night, however, at the time of the reconciliation varies considerably from this. […] The two had known each other more than a year and had frequently discussed matrimony. […] Prior to their wedding, at the Alhambra apartments, Mr Arthur went alone to purchase a ring and later left his bride-to-be at a picture show while he had the ring made smaller. According to witnesses Mr Arthur’s ardor did not cool until Friday morning when he left his bride without telling her of his change of heart. Mrs Arthur says she is willing to let bygones be bygones and has taken her husband, who towers right inches above her, and weighs almost 200 pounds, back to her heart.

Mr Arthur states he is 24. His bride is 29.

— “Leap Year is Over-Blamed”, Los Angeles Times, 9 January 1916, p. 12.

7.4 Electric current fizz

21 Feb

I sing the Body electric . . .

— Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1867).

The electric current fizz, the recipe for which can be found in George J. Kappeler’s Modern American Drinks, is basically a silver fizz with extra pizzazz. To wit:

Make a silver fizz; save the yoke of the egg and serve it in the half-shell, with a little pepper, salt, and vinegar, with the fizz.

— Kappeler, Modern American Drinks (Akron, OH: Saalfield Publishing, 1900), p. 58.

We’ve made a silver fizz before, but we may as well follow Kappeler’s own recipe this time around:

A mixing-glass half-full fine ice, the juice of half a lemon, half a tablespoonful fine sugar, the white of one egg, one jigger Tom gin; shake well, strain into a fizz-glass, fill with siphon seltzer (p. 60).

I guess the idea is to suck down the seasoned yolk like an oyster, then take a swig of the fizz. The condiments + lemon juice + efferverscent water produce a warm, tingly feeling, as if a weak electric current were passing through your body. It’s certainly shocking.

At the time of Kappeler’s writing, electrification was changing the world forever (the world of the city dweller, at least—not until the 1930s, when the federal government finally intervened, did electricity come to the American countryside). But it was also changing the way scientists thought of the human body: the organism was a battery sustained by and charged with “nerve force”, a vital power identical to, and just as mysterious as, electrical current. Illnesses, both mental and physical,  were supposedly caused, or at any rate exacerbated, by our batteries running down, by a deficiency of nerve force in other words. The obvious remedy, then, was to recharge our inner voltaic piles—and so electrotherapy in one form or another became the faddish and frequently quackish medical innovation of the second half of the nineteenth century.  (A typical example of mountebankery: J.S. Paine’s “galvanic spectacles”, which carried an “uninterrupted flow of electricity” in the silver and zinc frame; by “touching the tongue on the nose-piece, an unmistakable sensation is produced” that was allegedly conducive to the reinvigoration of the eyes and, one presumes, to the death of the wearer [Western Lancet, vol. 8:3 (September 1848), p. 179].)

So the application of electricity worked just like the medicinal cocktail: it delivered pep, vim, vigor and zip to those whose stocks of those commodities were low. With his recipe Kappeler is wittily combining the two (and, what’s more, the fizz in all its various manifestations was generally held to be the most rejuvenating of all mixed drinks). Here’s a different take, one supplied by Sir Thomas Barlow, Bart., President of the Royal College of Physicians and Royal Physician to George V (as he had been to the previous two monarchs), in an address at a conference devoted to the subject of “Alcohol and the Young Man in Business”.  Under pressure? Feeling stressed? Don’t turn to the bottle, Sir Thomas cautioned: “When you meet a friend don’t offer him alcoholic stimulants; treat him to an electric cocktail . . . You do not get, after electric stimulation, the injurious reaction that always follows a dose of alcohol . . . A battery can be carried easily and comfortably, I believe, and there is no reason why they should not come into general use.” And what exactly did the good doctor have in mind? The New York Times picked up the story:

According to a scientific expert, the best “electric cocktail” is a battery fitted at one end with a sponge, to be passed across the face when the current is set going. It is the only certain cure for nervous headaches.

“You can buy for $2.50,” he said, “a battery 3 inches by 4 inches by 6 inches, which can be carried in the pocket. It will last you a month if you use it an hour per day. That is for ‘long drinks’. Your cocktail only lasts about three minutes, but as a renewer of energy there is no drink like it, as it is drier than champagne or even ginger ale.”

— “Praises Electric Cocktail”, New York Times, 25 February 1912.

From: Popular Science Monthly, vol. 96 (June 1920), p. 76.

51. Golden Dawn cocktail

19 Feb

Drink! Drink of the dawn through thy every pore! / Drink! Drink of the hour to thy being’s core! […] Thy invention, science and tale and rhyme / Shall come like the souls from a higher clime. / They shall promenade in the golden dawn / Or like children sport on the dewy lawn.

— David C. Nimmo, Nature Songs (Detroit: Times Printing Co., 1915), p. 123.

The recipe for this light, fruity number is drawn from Bill Tarling’s Café Royal Cocktail Book:

¼ Orange Juice.

¼ Apricot Brandy.

¼ Calvados (Trou Normand).

¼ Gin (Booth’s Dry).

A dash of Grenadine to be added after the cocktail is poured out.

What Mr. Tarling neglects to tell his readers, though, is that this is no ordinary cocktail. As the winner of the inaugural international competition devoted to the mixological arts, which took place in London in 1930, the Golden Dawn not only made history but was also recognized as the best new cocktail of that year. From across the Atlantic, where prohibition still gripped the parched throats of Americans, the New York Times looked on enviously:

The world’s finest cocktail, compounded at the first international cocktail competition, held here this week was voted by jury connoisseurs to be the “Golden Dawn”, concocted by Tom Buttery, who presides over the fashionable cocktail bar at the Berkley and who, like some other celebrated mixers, is himself teetotaler.

This delectable drink consists of one part of orange juice, two of Calvados gin and one of apricot brandy, with a dash of grenadine, which provides the ruddy glow from which its name is derived. The competition was judged by a series of juries, each sampling only five drinks in order that their taste might not become jaded. Each jury consisted of six members—two representing the public, one trade representative, one maître d’hotel, one wine paiter [sic] and one representative of the press.

— “‘Golden Dawn’ Winner in Cocktail Contest”, New York Times, 21 September 1930, p. E3.

Clearly, the name of the drink is a nod to a poetic cliché, one that has adorned countless lines of uninspired verse since Homer (and generally rhymed with “morn”). Perhaps, too, it’s meant to convey a sense of grenadine-coloured optimism at the beginning of a new decade and at the bottom of the Great Depression (although that hopefulness would prove to be misplaced: the 1930s were not humanity’s finest hour). But there are several other instances in which the name “Golden Dawn” made the news around the time of the cocktail’s creation, and it’s possible that these too might have influenced Buttery’s decision, even if subconsciously.

In 1926 the Aga Khan bought the 61 ½ carat Golden Dawn diamond at an auction in London for £4950. A few hours later his wife died in a Parisian nursing home. Immediately, stories began circulating that the jewel was cursed: not only had its former owner, Captain Lucas, failed to find a buyer willing to pay a price close to the estimated value of the diamond (£75,000), and this after declining an offer of £40,000 some time before, but, ominously, 13 years had passed since the gem’s discovery in 1913 (“Golden Dawn Diamond is Seen as Unlucky, New York Times, 3 December 1926, p. 7).

One year later, in 1927, Oscar Hammerstein II and Otto Harbach wrote a little-remembered operetta entitled Golden Dawn, which in 1930 was made into an entirely forgotten Warner Brothers movie starring Vivienne Segal and Noah Beery. The story is set during British East Africa during the Great War: German and British colonists must unite against a common foe: the indigenous population, who are threatening to rise up against imperial rule. A young Englishman falls in love with an African girl, Dawn, who later turns out to be white (or at least of “golden” complexion): despite the machinations of the villain of the piece, “a cross between an ape and a nightmare”, according to the New York Times review, said Englishman not only conquers her heart but also reconquers her people’s territory. The film was shot in Technicolor—appropriately, I suppose, since skin pigmentation plays such a big role in the plot—but its attempted chromatic realism was undermined by “fickle color lenses” and a lack of attention to detail. That was most clearly visible in the performance of Beery, the bad guy, for whom the Times reserves most of its ire and “who chants in a deep bass voice and frightens the children into rapid retirement by simply putting in an appearance, speaks his lines with a Southern darkey accent, probably utterly foreign to East Africa. The direction of his part is crude and slipshod and in a close-up . . . the spectator is allowed to see where the brown paint, that otherwise makes him a native, has rubbed off and left his white skin exposed” (“Golden Dawn in Colors: Musical Talkie at Strand Features Vivienne Segal and East Africa”, New York Times, 26 July, 1930).

But who(m) am I kidding?  The cocktail is named for the sun-washed, rose-flecked auroral sky—and, like the break of the new day, it fills you with unalloyed good cheer and the quiet conviction that the best is yet to come.

Postscript. Ted Saucier’s Bottom’s Up lists two other cocktails called “Golden Dawn”. The first is by Walter A Madigan, the Beverage Editor of The Hotel Gazette, and which was runner-up in the International Cocktail Contest in London, 1939: 2 parts gin, 1 part orange juice, 1 part apricot brandy, dash of grenadine. In other words, it’s very, very similar to Buttery’s. The second comes courtesy of the New Hotel Jefferson in St Louis: 1/2 jigger lime juice, 1 jigger orange juice, 1/2 jigger Jamaica rum, 1 jigger bourbon, 1 teaspoon sugar; place in electric mixer and then strain into a glass with grenadine at the bottom (Bottoms Up [New York: Greystone Press, 1951], p. 113).

Olympic spirits

17 Feb

I don’t think this noble dream was ever realised; but it’s something the London Games ought seriously to consider:

What is planned to be the world’s biggest bar is to be erected in Berlin, and a congress of cocktail mixers from all parts of the world will be held simultaneously with the 1935 Olympiad [sic], if the German authorities approve. A competition for the best cocktail, with a gold cup for the winner, will be the principal event of the congress.

— “Cocktails at Olympiad”, New York Times, 13 January, 1935.

Faster, higher, stronger: that motto applies to drinks as well as to athletic endeavour.

When firewater splashes a paleface

15 Feb

Professor Jerry Thomas’ signature drink was the Blue Blazer, a fiery blend of whiskey, water and sugar, not unlike the concoction to which Vyacheslav Molotov unwittingly gave his name, and which the pioneering mixologist flamboyantly flung from one mug to another before his rapt patrons. Now, the danger inherent in combining alcohol, sucrose and a naked flame ought to be fairly clear. I think we can all agree that the  subject of this nineteenth-century news item learned a valuable lesson:

A number of congenial spirits were recently discussing the merit of fancy drinks in a Canton restaurant when a lively Frenchman offered to mix some French punch, a drink which he declared to be “fit for the gods”.

He put a quart of old rye in a saucepan and added several spoonfuls of sugar and the juice of a lemon. The saucepan was then put over a fire and allowed to simmer.

The potation did not simmer quick enough for the Frenchman, and with a view of hastening the operation he threw a number of lighted matches into the pan. These ignited the mixture and in an instant a sheet of blue flame burst from the pan and set fire to the Frenchman’s whiskers and hair. The moustache and imperial, of which he was so proud, were burned off, as were also his eyebrows.

While all present sympathized with the Frenchman, everybody voted his punch excellent.

— “Lost His Imperial”, Baltimore Sun, 2 February, 1895, p. 10.

Andrew Sexton, Self-Portrait (2006).


For Valentine’s Day: the bracelet cocktail

14 Feb

Clearly a hoax, but someone ought to make these for real. The perfect Valentine’s gift!

The cocktail bracelet is the latest for women. There are fashionable women of this city who wear circlets on their wrists which sometimes contain a Martini dry or a Manhattan. The bracelets have one drawback, it is said, and that is they will not accommodate the cherry that goes with the fairy cocktail. The other night a Pittsburg [sic] attorney observed a woman of fashion place her lips to her bracelet. He thought that she was paying tribute to her own loveliness, but learned later she was merely refreshing her inner self with a mixture of cordials. The nip contained in a bracelet cocktail is so small that it cannot be called a drink, but a cocktail it is, nevertheless. Of course the bracelet is hollow. If large enough it holds three thimblefuls of ready-made cocktail, and pressure on an almost invisible spring permits the fluid to trickle through a tiny hole in the gold shell, which is almost too small to be seen. With one of those graceful movements which appear to be natural with a woman the drink may be imbibed without fear of detection. A Broadway goldsmith sells numbers of the bracelets every week, and as most of the purchasers prefer secrecy in connection with the transaction they pay a pretty penny for the dubiously useful trinkets.

— “The Bracelet Cocktail”, New York Times, 22 January 1907.

50. Strike’s Off cocktail

14 Feb

“The strike’s off, isn’t it? Th’fool thought because I couldn’t see ’em I couldn’t hear ’em dragging along past th’window on their way to th’yards. You’ve done us again. Eh, damn ’em, I knew they’d give in when I dropped out. They’ve none of them the spirit I had when I was their age.”

— Storm Jameson, The Voyage Home (New York: Knopf, 1930), p. 215.

Next day the General Strike was called off and the country everywhere, except in the coal-fields, returned to normal. It was as though a beast long fabled for its ferocity had emerged for an hour, scented danger, and slunk back to its lair.

— Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (London: Methuen, 1978 [1945]), p. 230.

“The general strike is over”, announced Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin in a BBC radio address to the nation on 12 May 1926. For nine days an estimated 1.5 million workers had downed tools in the first and only such showdown between organised labour and the government in British history. Those Nine Days had brought unprecedented disruption, divided the country, stoked fears of revolution, but ended in a humiliating defeat for the strikers. Baldwin, who had successfully managed Britain’s gravest domestic political crisis of the interwar years, could afford to sound gracious. “I am certain,” he assured the public, “that our whole duty at the moment is to forget all recrimination. Let employers act with generosity and workers put their whole hearts loyally into their work. Waste no time in determining the share of blame for anything. Let us set England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland going again.”

The scene for the General Strike had been set a year before. The economy was depressed, there was high unemployment, and the Government’s misguided decision to return to the gold standard had led to a decline in exports. The mining industry in particular was in trouble, threatened by the influx of cheap coal from the Ruhr, part of Germany’s post-war reparations payments under the Dawes Plan, and mine owners’ reluctance to modernize. Their short-sighted solution, as so often, was to demand a cut in wages and an increase in working hours. In response, the Miners’ Federation (whose leader, A.J. Cook, issued the famous campaign slogan “Not a penny off the pay, not a minute on the day”), backed up by the National Union of Railwaymen and the National Transport Workers’ Federation, threatened to embargo the movement of coal.

From: Punch, 12 May 1926, p. 505.

Alarmed, the government stepped in and offered to subsidise miners’ pay for nine months while a report on the industry—the Samuel Commission—was conducted. The unions declared a victory for working-class solidarity, but the government was actually using the truce to buy time. While workers were whistling The Red Flag, it was taking measures to prepare for a future emergency, consolidating coal stocks and laying the groundwork for a volunteer force of strikebreakers who would maintain essential services. When the Samuel Commission finally published its findings, recommending that the subsidy be withdrawn and wages reduced, the proposed compromise found favour with neither miners nor mine owners. Nervous of a confrontation with the government, and terrified of the more radical elements within its own ranks, the General Council of the Trade Union Congress, in conjunction with a Labour Party keen to hold on to its newly acquired respectability, spent frantic weeks negotiating and trying to find common ground between the irreconcilable parties. With miners facing a lock-out on 1 May, when the subsidy was due to expire, the members of the TUC voted almost unanimously (by 3.5 million to 50,000) in favour of a general strike. Despite having committed itself to a general strike from midnight on 3 May, the General Council treacherously resumed negotiations with the government, putting wage cuts back on the table, but talks again broke down on 2 May, when the government walked away after members of a small print union at the Daily Mail refused to typeset an editorial denouncing the imminent strike as revolutionary and subversive. With just two hours to go before the strike began, Labour Party leaders, who were more desperate to avert industrial action than the members of the Tory Cabinet, pushed for yet more discussion. Their attempt failed. Midnight struck, and millions of workers followed suit.

Although the reaction to the strike call was immediate and overwhelming, catching the TUC off-guard, this was never meant to be a true “general strike”: it was hoped that limiting the action to unions in the “first line”—to workers in transport, printing, the dockyards and construction—would be enough to force concessions without endangering lives or alienating public opinion. That was a forlorn hope. Even as Britain ground to a halt, the government, which immediately put its contingency plans into effect and painted the strike as a seditious attack on the “British Constitution” (whatever that might be), was never going to capitulate; in fact, it saw the events as an opportunity to curb union power once and for all.

From: Punch, 19 May 1926, p. 523.

What’s more, the middle classes rallied to the government’s side, just as enthusiastically as the workers took to the picketing line, with thousands queuing at the Downing Street headquarters of the Emergency Recruiting Committee to sign up for “national service” (and the chance to fulfil childhood dreams) as special constables, bus conductors and train drivers. The scenes, according to the New York Times, “were similar to those in war time”, although on this occasion many of the volunteers were women (“both young shop girls and women of fashion”) and some arrived in limousines (“Rush to Aid Government”, New York Times, 4 May 1926, pp. 1-2). In this topsy-turvy world retired army officers, socialites and undergraduates gladly performed the most menial of tasks. The mood that these Saturnalian incongruities had aroused in the well-to-do was ably described by a budding actress at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in a letter to her mother:

It’s really fine to see how nice and good-tempered everybody is about the strike. When I arrived at Paddington there were no ordinary porters, but I had a very good-looking man, medical student he looked like, who seized my suitcases. I wanted to get to Baker Street so he and I explored passages with locked gates to try to find Praed Street; he knew nothing about it apparently. Eventually he went outside and stood in the middle of the road and shouted “Baker Street” to the first car that came along. And it stopped, and I got in and luggage, and went to Baker Street. There everybody carries your luggage for you, and is awfully nice. It is perfectly mad to hear, instead of “‘Arrer ‘n’ Uxbridge”, a beautiful Oxford voice crying “Harrow and Uxbridge train”. Ticket collectors say thanks you very much; one guard of a train due to depart, an immaculate youth in plus fours, waved a green flag. Nothing happened. He waved again and blew a whistle, then said to the driver in injured tones, “I say, you might go.” It’s all very jolly, and such an improvement on the ordinary humdrum state of things.

— Julian Symons, The General Strike (London, Cresset Press, 1957), pp. 78-9.

From: Punch, 26 May 1926 p. 563.

Foreign observers who were expecting chaos, violence and revolution seemed disappointed by the “spirit of cheerful courage” and “strange nonchalance” with which Britons continued to go about their business and pleasure. Theatres and cinemas remained open (though largely empty), and, most famously, while the racing calendar was interrupted, the Cabinet agreed on 5 May “that cricket should not be stopped” (CAB/23/52). After all, the Australians were on tour (and England would later that summer regain the Ashes). Most social engagements were cancelled, but even this was not universally the case: “One hostess . . . had arranged a party for tonight. She spent most of the day telephoning her prospective guests that the party would take place but that evening garb was not essential. ‘Come in tweeds,’ was her slogan, ‘but do come.’” (Ernest Marshall, “Lively Scenes in London”, New York Times, 5 May 1926, pp. 1-2). What explained this phlegmatic response? The New York Times surmised that it “may possibly be due to the unprecedented character of the pending general strike and lack of imagination as to what such a strike may mean, or it may equally be that the public generally retains its faith that the Government and those closely concerned with the dispute will not permit such a calamity to afflict the nation. (“Public in Calm Mood”, New York Times, 3 May 1926). Congressman Emanuel Celler of New York, a “wet Democrat”, had another theory: he attributed the “order that prevailed in England during the strike” to the “absence of prohibitory laws”, which had “bred disrespect for all laws in this country” (“Explains Calm of Britain”, New York Times, 14 May 1926, p. 6).

Throughout the nine days the strike held firm, but it was the leadership of the TUC, reluctant from the outset, who blinked first. Without securing the agreement of the Miners’ Federation or an undertaking from the employers that sacked miners would be reinstated, the General Council called off the strike on 12 May. “Peace with Honour” proclaimed the headline of the British Worker newspaper, but there was nothing honourable about the way in which the strikers, and especially the miners, had been sold out. Disheartened, workers began to drift back to work. The miners fought on for another seven months, but by November they had been compelled to return to the pits on the worst possible terms. Union membership slumped. In 1927 the government passed the Trades Disputes Act, which made both general and sympathetic strikes illegal.

Meanwhile, in the bar of the Savoy Hotel, Harry Craddock and his well-heeled patrons were celebrating the end of the General Strike. “Let us set England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland going again,” Baldwin had said in his radio address. The Strike’s Off cocktail, created on May 12, 1926, was Craddock’s own response to the Prime Minister’s appeal. Appropriately enough, it leaves a sour taste in the mouth:

¼ Lemon or Lime Juice.

¼ Swedish Punch.

½ Gin.

%d bloggers like this: