Tag Archives: cocktail history

2.2 Down-and-out cocktail

5 Jun

Cousin Lafe had him Down and Out. He fell back and took the Count. Cousin Lafe took him Home in a Hack and roasted him, and told him he was a Rhinestone Sport and a Mackerel.

— George Ade, Breaking into Society (New York: Harper, 1904), p. 53.

A “new form of liquid exhilaration” was reported on Park Row, New York in early 1902, and it involved a reworking of the Manhattan cocktail. The originator was still a mystery, according to the newspaper that brought the scoop, but it confidently predicted that “when he discloses his identity his fame promises to eclipse that of the inventor of the Mamie Taylor and the horse’s neck“. It continued:

The new concoction is referred to as the “Down-and-out” cocktail, the title being a delicate allusion to the forceful and persuasive qualities of the beverage. The Park Row bartender who mixed several last evening for a venturesome person was inclined to be somewhat secretive as to the ingredients, but it was learned after much difficulty and personal investigation that the component parts are the same as the Manhattan variety, with the significant exception that applejack takes the place of whisky.

One of the survivors of the mixture, upon regaining consciousness, asked:

“What wuz in that stuff you gimme?”

“Nothing but apple-jack,” was the soothing reply.

“I thought it was blackjack,” murmured the patient, as he again relapsed into insensibility.

— “‘Down-and-Out’ Cocktail, New York Telegraph, repr. in Washington Post, 26 January 1902, p. 36.

2 oz. applejack

1 oz. sweet vermouth

2 dashes of bitters

Fraud, lies and forgery: the John T. King cocktail

30 May

Scandal rocked the temperance movement in 1923 when William H. Anderson, superintendent of the Anti-Saloon League of New York, and the very man who had done so much for the dry cause by ensuring the State Legislature’s ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment, was indicted on charges of grand larceny, forgery and extortion.

Anderson claimed that the League owed him $24,700, a debt supposedly incurred when he had financed a “confidential publicity promotion” out of his own pocket ten years before. Prosecutors alleged that he had coerced O. Bertsall Phillips, a former fundraiser for the organization, to give him a 50% cut on all commissions Phillips earned in excess of $10,000 a year and then cooked the books to cover up the fraudulent transactions.

Despite Anderson’s loud protestations that he was the victim of a “wicked conspiracy of character assassination”, the case was brought to trial. In his defence Anderson maintained that by entering into the arrangement with Phillips he was merely trying to claw back what was rightfully his. But how could a professional scold afford to lend his employers $24,700 in the first place? The money, he explained with a straight face, was the gift of a kindhearted stranger named “John T. King”, about whom Anderson could remember nothing except for the fact that he was 45 years old and the owner of a black moustache. The cash was then apparently spent by three equally mysterious and untraceable individuals, “Henry Mann”, who directed the phantom publicity campaign, and his helpers “Green” and “Johnson” (“Anderson Reveals New Mystery Men and Admits Deceit”, New York Times, 26 January 1924). So implausible was Anderson’s testimony that Assistant District Attorney James Garrett Wallace was moved to poetry. “King, Mann, Johnson and Green,” he doggerelized,

They belong to the realm of the spirits, I ween. / Will some medium lend me a first-class control / To bring back that King and his generous roll? / And if none of the others materialize / I’ll be thankful for King and a wad of good size. / But alas! I’m afraid that no more will be seen— King, Mann, Johnson and Green.

— “Pecora to Grill Anderson on Stand”, New York Times, 27 January 1924.

(Anderson’s tall tale was obviously the last refuge of the scoundrel. One quick-thinking burglar, who was caught stealing bundles of clothes from a laundry, told the detective that he found the items in front of the premises after someone else had made off with several similar bundles. That person, the thief assured the cop, was “King, the fellow that gave Anderson $25,000”.)

Needless to say, the jury wasn’t buying Anderson’s story. He was convicted on charges of forgery in the third degree and received a prison sentence of one to two years. It was an ignominious end to the career of an activist whose “genius in detecting and thwarting the schemes of saloon-men to control officers of justice and corrupt legislatures”, one of his comrades subsequently wrote, conveniently overlooking his recent stay in Sing Sing, “caused his enemies to dread his appearance on any battlefield where trickery was relied upon to prolong the life of the saloon” (Standard Encyclopedia of the Alcohol Problem, vol. 1 [Westerville, OH: American Issue Publishing, 1925], p. 164).

But Anderson’s enemies got the last laugh. His hypocrisy gave the local “wets” an opportunity to prove their bone-dry sense of humour:

“John T. King”, mysterious benefactor of William H. Anderson, convicted head of the New York Anti-Saloon league, may stay forever marooned in the power of missing men, but his memory will go down to posterity.

This was assured when R. W. Merrick, divisional prohibition enforcement head, announced that “King” had gone into the hall of fame occupied by Tom Collins, Three Star Hennessey, Haig & Haig, and other similar supposedly dead but still living characters.

Merrick is investigating the invention and suddenly acquired popularity of the “John T. King cocktail”, which local bartenders are concocting from orange juice, gin, ginger ale, a few drops of “overnight” brandy and a dash and half of absinthe.

— “John King’s Name is Memorialized in Gin Cocktail”, Atlanta Constitution, 31 January 1924, p. 6.

The automated cocktail

29 May

The twentieth century brought us many technological marvels designed to spare us the exhausting manual labour involved in opening tin cans (the electric can opener, patented in 1931), slicing food (the electric knife, 1939),  brushing our teeth (the electric toothbrush, 1954) or pleasuring ourselves (the electric vibrator, first patented in 1902). To be honest, it’s surprising that it took as long as it did for the first automatic cocktail dispenser to hit the market.

In 1961 Auto-Bar Systems, a division of Ametek brought out the “Cocktailmatic”. The gizmo was designed, The LA Times reported, for large-scale commercial use, “where dispensing of drinks in a hurry is a problem” (Joe R. Nevarez, “New Dispenser Mixes Drinks Automatically”, Los Angeles Times, 12 June 1961, p. C8).

In an ad Ametek loudly and proudly trumpeted its achievement:

The martinets laughed when we sat down to our Cocktailmatic dispenser and demonstrated how a mere machine could produce scientifically-proportioned martinis, manhattans and other cocktails every time. But the hotel and tavern industry, to whom the problems of the hit-or-miss martini are no joke, is taking our Cocktailmatic to its bosom. Not only is it saving the industry millions a year, but the automatic martini mixers developed by the Auto-Bar Systems division of Ametek, Inc. have enabled any number of bars to step up the horsepower of their martinis without raising prices.

Business Week, issue 1740-1747, (1963), p. 107.

The folks at Industry Week were certainly impressed, particularly with the way the device “counts your drinks on a meter and can be preset to serve dry, very dry, or very, very dry martinis” (Industry Week, vol. 149 [1961], p. 5). Meanwhile, the Hartford Courant admitted that, while the Cocktailmatic might seem “sacrilege to the artist who insists on mixing his own after the fashion of the dedicated salad-tosser”, its inhuman precision made sense to the drinks industry:

Every martini quaffer has his own recipe for the perfect blend of gin and vermouth. But when he orders one away from home, he never knows quite what he’ll get. The new cocktail dispenser is aimed at curing such frustration. It can be dial-set for the flavor and zing the customer requires for lip-smacking. One may imagine the bartender asking: ‘Will that be 90 proof, Sir, with a four-to-one ratio?’ as he spins the knobs. Once the right setting has been discovered, the bibber has only to write the combination on his cuff in order to get the same satisfaction on the next round or the next day . . . It probably has an optional gadget for simply passing a vermouth cork over the rest of the liquor when the customer wants one real dry.

— “The Automated Martini”, Hartford Courant, 19 April 1963, p. 16.

Others sounded a note of caution. “Is this another case of machine taking over for man?” wondered H. R. Clauser in the pages of the always entertaining Materials Engineering. “If it is, the machine better watch out . . . Not only might they become inebriated and start being as obnoxious as many human drunks, but they could conceivably escape and go around getting other machines plastered. Considering some of the sensitive jobs being handled by computers today, a binge of this kind could give the whole world a hangover” (H. R. Clauser, “Last Word”, Materials Engineering, vol. 56: 1 [1962], p. 180).

That would give new meaning to the phrase “a well-oiled machine”.

47. Green Room cocktail

2 Jan

Ah, I forgot! You are fresh from Eden; the Green Room, my dear madam, is the bower where fairies put off their wings and goddesses become dowdies—where Lady Macbeth weeps over her lap-dog’s indigestion, and a Belgravia groans over the amount of her last milliner’s bill. In a word, the Green Room is the place where actors and actresses become mere men and women . . .

— Tom Taylor, Masks and Faces (New York: French, 1860), p. 32.

This pick-me-up, notes Harry Craddock in the Savoy Cocktail Book, is a “great favourite among mummers”. Well, naturally. It’s named after a centuries-old theatrical institution that, while it had vanished by the early 1900s, was fondly remembered by veteran treaders of the boards.

The green room, which evolved from the Elizabethan “tiring-house”, where actors would put on their costumes or “attire”, was a chamber adjoining the stage in which actors assembled before being called to make their entrance. (These days, of course, the term, whose origins are disputed, more often designates the reception lounge in a television studio for crew and guests.)

Originally, though, the green room was more than just a waiting area. It was the very “heart of the theatre”, according to one memoirist: “There beat its crimson life” (Alfred Lambourne, A Trio of Sketches: Being Reminiscences of the Theater Green Room and the Scene-Painter’s Gallery From Suggestions in “A Play-House” [Salt Lake City: Lambourne, 1917], p. 25). In this communal space actors would meet and socialise before, during and after a performance; but the green room was also, from the Restoration onwards, a “fashionable resort” that was “crowded nightly” by amusement-seeking princes, idlers and other denizens of the demimonde so that “plays began at any time, the waits between the acts were of any length, and general disorder reigned” (Mrs Alec-Tweedie, Behind the Footlights [New York: Dodd Mead, 1904], p. 61). Faced with such displays of laxity and impudence, the management of the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane decided to clean house:

their Green-Rooms were free from Indecencies of every Kind, and might justly be compared to the most elegant Drawing-Rooms of the Prime Quality: No Fops or Coxcombs ever shew’d their Monkey Tricks there; but if they chanc’d to thrust in, were aw’d into Respect; even Persons of the First Rank and Taste, of both Sexes, would often mix with the Performers, without any Stain to their Honour or Understanding . . .

— William R. Chetwood, A General History of the Stage (London: Owen, 1749), pp. 235-6.

Even if the tone had been raised, in Drury Lane at least, there could not have been many who agreed with William Cooke’s naïve conviction that to admit a select number of gentlemen behind the scenes would have a “good effect” on the players and “contribute, if not to the morals, at least to the polish and refinement of the theatre”. Performers, he pointed out, “had few other opportunities of mingling with men of fashion” and, by studying the manners and deportment of the visitors, they might acquire “that habitual ease and breeding which theory can never alone inculcate” (Elements of Dramatic Criticism [London: Kearsly, 1775], pp. 212-3). Cooke failed to appreciate either that the cast, who were, after all, at work, might, as one notable exponent of the dramatic arts put it, be “discomposed by the rude mirth and noisy talk” that characterise a “Green-Room conversation” (William Dunlap, The Life of George Frederick Cooke, 2nd edn [London: Colburn, 1815], vol. 1, p. 129), or that the gallants who had obtained for themselves a backstage pass were more interested in flattering half-dressed Ophelias than in instructing Hamlet in the social graces. Samuel Johnson, for one, was well aware of the fleshly temptations that lay behind the curtain: his biographer, James Boswell, relates how he “for a considerable time used to frequent the Green-Room” in David Garrick’s Drury Lane, “and seemed to take delight in dissipating his gloom, by mixing in the sprightly chit-chat of the motley circle then to be found there”. Ultimately, though, Johnson “denied himself this amusement, from considerations of rigid virtue, saying: ‘I’ll come no more behind your scenes, David; for the silk stockings and white bosoms of your actresses excite my amorous propensities’” (James Boswell, Life of Johnson (New York: Crowell, 1894 [1791]), vol. 1, p. 111).

From: George Augustus Sala, Twice Around the Clock (London: Marsh, 1862), p. 244. Illustration by William McConnell.

By the nineteenth century the behaviour even of thespians was generally more refined. John Coleman recalled that the green room was “dedicated to delightful social intercourse” and the “etiquette observed always impressed us youngsters with the idea that it was essential to be gentlemen first, and actors next” (Fifty Years of an Actor’s Life, vol. 1 [New York: Pott, 1904], p. 319). The rules, both written and unwritten, mimicked the class distinctions and rituals of the outside world. The cast was, well, caste-bound and hence did not associate freely: in Covent Garden and Drury Lane there were two green rooms, the first exclusively reserved for the corps dramatique and the second set aside for the corps de ballét, the pantomimists, and the “little people”. In Covent Garden, as in other major playhouses, the first green room was a magnificent affair, “carpeted and papered elegantly”, and

with a handsome chandelier in the centre, several globe lights at the sides, a comfortable divan, covered in figured damask, running round the whole room, large pier and mantel-glasses on the walls, and a full-length movable swing-glass; so that, on entering form his dressing-room, an actor could see himself from head to foot at one view, and get back, front, and side views by reflection, all round.

— George Vandenhoff, Leaves From an Actor’s Note-Book (New York: Appleton, 1860), pp. 51-2.

Only once an individual was satisfied that the costume was in order did he or she sit down and enter into conversation with colleagues. Most green rooms were of course rather plainer than those of the grand theatres; but they usually contained that all-important full-length mirror, which every self-respecting, and indeed self-regarding, performer urgently requires.

From: John J. Jennings, Theatrical and Circus Life; Or Secrets of the Stage, Green-Room and Sawdust Arena (St Louis: Sun, 1882), p. 107.

Perhaps the most vivid and detailed description of life in the green room was provided by the pioneering theatre critic Clement Scott:

Here authors read their plays, nervously sensitive and inordinately vain; they are commanders of the situation for a brief hour or so, and then are thrust out of the way by the legitimate exponents of all they have created or suggested. Here, a few weeks afterwards these same swelling authors come to be flattered and congratulated; to be cold-shouldered or cursed. From this room issues the young and untried actor, carrying his fate in his hands, and who returns to these worn cushions a hopeful or despondent man. Sitting here, the young actress receives the honest praise of her companions, or whispered words of timely warning. Here men and women hate one another with a violence and an unreason, a want of justice and an absence of humanity, known in no other section of civilized society. They fawn here, they “my dear” one another, they backbite, they tell tales behind one another’s backs, they cultivate the religion of falsehood and deceit to such an extent, that people unversed in their ways are staggered, shocked, and appalled: but here also are uttered the most beautiful thoughts, here are done the most charitable deeds, here friendliness becomes a jewel on men’s and women’s breasts; here will be found the finest impulses of generous nature; here the right hand scarcely ever sees what the left hand is doing, and these battered, broken walls have listened to better examples of the religion of humanity, than ever preacher preached, or saint practised.

— Clement Scott, “The Manager’s Story”, in Clement Scott (ed.), The Green Room: Stories by Those Who Frequent It (London: Routledge, 1880), pp. 3-12 (p. 4).

By the end of the nineteenth century, alas, the green room, and the camaraderie attached to it, had largely disappeared, as times and manners changed. In some cases it was converted into the star’s dressing room. In others, as in Drury Lane, it was reduced to a prop cupboard.

The Green Room cocktail, then, is a nostalgic tribute to a lost tradition (as well as perhaps a sly nod to the goings-on in those sacred precincts). Small wonder that it was popular among actors who habitually mourned its passing. Craddock’s recipe is as follows:

1/3 Brandy.

2/3 French Vermouth.

2 Dashes Curaçao.

Prescription cocktail glasses

29 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

37. Maiden’s Blush

22 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1/2 Dry Gin.

1/4 Lemon Juice.

1/8 Absinthe.

Teaspoonful powdered Sugar.

3 dashes Raspberry Syrup.

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

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

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

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

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

Stone-fence, a Rattlesnake, Renovator, Locomotive

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

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

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

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

Or how about this passage, published in 1872:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cherry, cherry

16 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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