Tag Archives: Drink

54. Silver jubilee cocktails

2 Jun

Sir Stafford Cripps, leader of the Socialist wing of the English Labor party and often mentioned as Britain’s next Prime Minister . . . classed the King’s Silver Jubilee as National Government propaganda.

— “Cripps Visits Cambridge, Scoffs at King’s Jubilee”, Boston Daily Globe, 28 April 1935, p. A8.

This weekend Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate her Diamond Jubilee, having selflessly clung to the throne for 60 years and spared the British nation the prospect of King Charles III. It seems an appropriate opportunity, then, to travel back to 1935, when her grandfather, George V, marked his own Silver Jubilee, batting 25 years not out on a far stickier wicket (his cousins Kaiser Wilhelm II and Tsar Nicolas II had long since been forcibly retired to the pavillion). For this was a prolific moment in cocktail history.

The Silver Jubilee celebrations were scheduled to last for three months, beginning on 6 May, the anniversary of the King-Emperor’s coronation in 1910, with a thanksgiving service in St Paul’s Cathedral, and culminating in the Cowes Week yachting regatta. In between there were balls, processions, musical festivals, military tattoos, and street parties across the country. The often-grimy capital was transformed, putting on its party-dress, its buildings draped in flowers and monuments floodlit. The photographer Cecil Beaton remembered that “London had the air of a Valentine in its gala-trimming . . . the public squares were festooned and garlanded almost beyond recognition; every house seemed to have been freshly painted, and hung with swags and flags; the window-boxes were stacked with marguerites; everywhere were crowns and emblems of festivity” (Cecil Beaton’s Scrapbook [New York: Scribner’s, 1937], p. 6).

Outside of London the ceremonies were inevitably a little more pagan:

In the country, the brass band blared, and all the villagers turned out to watch the goings-on: the infirm were wheeled into the porch or peeped from the windows. The pageant was headed by a group dressed in fancy costumes of miscellaneous origin, and in a remote village there were Italian peasants and hula-hula dancers . . . Lorries passed disguised as flowering arbours, smithies, Theocritean dairy farms. There followed a cavalcade of the early kings and queens of England (though to the anguish of the lady organiser James II was lost), while the later Royalty was compelled to tread delicately in their wake. The industries and produce of Britain figured in the pageant play, and the arrival of the village postmistress was greeted with the shout “Hail, Butter.” Hanging over the pleasure-garden railings, pointing and giggling hysterically, dressed in fantastic costumes of brilliantly-coloured paper, representing strange birds and flowers—one with a huge upturned daisy on its head, another in a sunburst halo of petals, and yet another in a top hat, to which was affixed the cryptic question “Who am I?”—were the lunatics from the local asylum, their faces twisted and knotted, but madly gay.

The procession halted in the market square in time to hear its own speech from the King through the radio. No other royal celebration had ever seemed so personal, and, when night had fallen on the jubilant village, strange ghosts of the past, some on white horses, carrying flares, mingled with the crowds and streamed onto the Downs to light the bonfire. One after another, for miles around, pin-points of light burst into being. All over the country these beacons, once lit only for war, were now offering to Their Majesties the most united symbol of loyalty that the country could give. [ibid., p. 8]

Like the royal wedding of 1922, the jubilee bash was meant to foster a sense of unity and solidarity in the people, regardless of social class, throughout Britain and her global empire. The event was largely successful in that respect: the New York Times noticed that the rubbernecks filling the capital’s streets, so many that traffic had to be stopped, were “different from the ordinary London crowd that flocks to see royal pageantry.” On this occasion it was “suburban families” who had “brought their children to town to gape at the gilded Britannia that towers ninety feet above the roof of Selfridge’s store or to admire the flowers massed in windows from one end of Regent Street to the other”, “elderly women from seaside boarding houses”, “retired officials”, “seamen from London docks who one seldom sees in the West End of London” (“Jubilee Throngs Stream to London”, New York Times, 5 May 1935, p. E4). And the thousands welcoming the king and queen to the vermin-ridden slums of the East End, some following the royal procession on roller skates and bicycles, were no less enthusiastic than the multitudes lining the Mall, even at the expense of political consistency. “Lousy, but loyal” declared one improvised banner; “Down with capitalism—God save the King!” urged another. But British communists were predictably less indulgent. The Daily Worker newspaper dubbed the extravagant £5000 Silver Jubilee banquet “Royal Squandermania”, and a manifesto by the leaders of the “London First of May Committee” described the years since George V’s coronation as “Twenty-five years of robbery of workers in which  millions of our brothers have been slain, mutilated, gassed and tortured” (“Reds in Britain See Jubilee as ‘Royal Squandermania’”, Gettysburg Times, 26 April 1935, p. 6).

Bolshevik killjoys notwithstanding, the monarch was taken aback by the warmth with which he was received by his subjects and concluded in his diary: “I am beginning to think they must really like me for myself.” Not exactly, George. The public’s high spirits were not just affection for the king as an individual and loyalty to the Crown, or even love of well-choreographed show, the New York Times observed:

It is not a man but a reign that is being commemorated throughout the empire Monday. This time there is little of the intensely personal feeling that dominated Queen Victoria’s jubilee when the old Queen had been on the throne sixty years and had become a living legend. When the crowds cheer for King George Monday morning they will also in a very real sense be cheering for themselves. They will be thinking of all they have endured and achieved in the twenty-five years since the King came to the throne. Not many of them imagine the King has had a decisive influence over the events of those troubled years. […] Yet the fact that King George is still on the throne is a symbol to the British people that they themselves have come through terrible trials and that when other countries have been broken and other monarchies gone up in smoke their country and its free institutions are still intact.

— “Jubilee Throngs Stream to London”, New York Times, 5 May 1935, p. E4.

Perhaps to counter the criticisms of the Left, that these imperial self-celebrations, and even the institution of monarchy itself, were a waste of money at a time when the nation could ill afford such profligacy, it was claimed that the jubilee would not help “restore good times throughout the country” but bring ‘profitable employment of thousands of people”—mainly through the mass production of royalist tat. Potteries worked round the clock churning out souvenir mugs and plates, foundries cast millions of medals, printers published millions of books and programs, the colonial office issued a special series of stamps, the manufacturers of flags and bunting were at full stretch. And that was just the beginning, according to the Washington Post:

New women’s fashions are being developed and considerable employment is promised in this line. […] Makers of artificial flowers cannot supply the demand. […] In this branch of industry new hands are being constantly broken in. Electricians are beginning to reap a harvest. Floods of light will be the rule at all places of assembly and along many main streets. More employment will be given in all parts of the empire by the planting of commemorative trees. One town in England has signified its intention of planting 10,000 trees along its local roadways.

— “Great Britain’s Silver Jubilee is Creating Jobs, Washington Post, 31 March 1935, p. S11.

While all this was going on London’s best bartenders were busy inventing their own tributes to the King-Emperor. The Café Royal Cocktail Book contains no fewer than 13 cocktails with a jubilee theme. This Stakhanovite effort led to some complications, as the Baltimore Sun reported:

London’s cocktail world is shaken by an unusual mix-up during the silver jubilee. The Bartenders’ Guild decided to copyright the use of the names “Jubilation” and “Silver Jubilee” given to two new cocktails invented by its president, Harry Craddock, of the Savoy. By coincidence Tony, of the Trocadero Restaurant, and Alex, of the Cumberland Hotel, two other cocktail experts, each made cocktails and christened them by the same names.

— “Jubilee Cocktails”, Baltimore Sun, 19 May 1935, p. TM3.

Legal action was threatened by both the Guild and the two rival mixologists, but the dispute appears to have been resolved amicably enough. Three of Craddock’s Jubilee-themed recipes were subsequently included in the Café Royal Cocktail Book, and none carry the names mentioned in the newspaper article. In fact, the only cocktail bearing the title “Silver Jubilee” is the rather unfortunate creation of the book’s author, W. J. Tarling, a glop as sickly-sweet as the outpourings of royalist fervour:

½ Booth’s dry gin

¼ fresh cream

¼ crème de Banane (banana liqueur)

I suspect Tarling may have been a closet republican. A little better, but not by much, is the Jubilee Rhapsody by Laurie Ross:

2/3 gin

1/6 Danzig silver water

1/12 lemon juice

1/12 blue Curaçao

Rim of glass crusted with  sugar.

(Danzig silver water, I’m assuming, was a brand of lightly sparkling silver water, so I found something suitable to stand in for it.)

The clear winners, both by Harry Craddock (an American, of course), stuck to tried-and-trusted combinations and were all the better for it:

Royal Jubilee King’s Jubilee
¼ lemon juice ¼ lemon juice
¼ Cointreau ¼ Luxardo’s Maraschino
½ Calvados ½ Daiquiri rum

Three cheers for the king! Well, two cheers. OK, let’s just leave it at “cheers”!

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.

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.

49. Scofflaw cocktail

11 Jan

“How can one make Welsh rarebit with ambient prohibition? Ale, old ale is absolutely necessary to make the perfect Welsh rarebit. Would you make a scofflaw of me?”

— G. F. Scotson-Clark, Half hours in the Kitchenette (New York: Appleton, 1925), p. 52.

16 January, 1924. It’s been four years to the day since the Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution went into effect, prohibiting “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors”. But the legislation hasn’t stopped Americans drinking. Speakeasies are flourishing. Bootleggers are smuggling whiskey over the border.  Rum rows stretch along the coast. And otherwise honest citizens of all classes, whether rednecks or bluebloods, beer-swillers, wine-bibbers or cocktail-guzzlers, have been turned into criminals.

Delcevare King

Delcevare King, businessman, busybody and veteran of the Massachusetts temperance movement, was predictably appalled at the extent to which the law was being deliberately and systematically ignored. Then the man from Quincy hit on an idea: he’d offer a $200 prize for the best new word that described, and stigmatized, these seditious swallowers of hooch. Perhaps, through a bit of old-fashioned name-calling, he might “stab awake the public conscience of law enforcement” (“Lawless Drinker Called ‘Scofflaw’”, Christian Science Monitor, 16 January 1924, p. 3). The competition caught the imagination of the nation’s teetotallers—and of the press. Entries flooded in from every state in the union, and on 16 January major newspapers from New York to Los Angeles excitedly published the results. The winning word, chosen from more than 25,000 suggestions, was submitted by two different contestants, both Massachusites, Kate L. Butler of Dorchester and Henry Irving Dale of Shawsheen Village, Andover, who would therefore share the money between them. From now on a tippler holding the Volstead Act in contempt would be known as a “scofflaw”.

Why “scofflaw”? The judges were guided by five criteria, King explained, which the winners duly met:

The word to be preferably of one or two syllables; to begin with “s”, such words having a sting, in the opinion of the judges, the word to be not an epithet for drinkers in general but for illegal drinkers of illegal liquor, the word to have “law” not “liquor” as a basis, and applying to violations of all laws, not merely the prohibition law, and finally, the word was to be such that it might be linked up with the statement of President Harding that “lawless drinking is a menace to the Republic itself.”

— “Are You a Scofflaw?”, Boston Globe, 16 January 1924, p. 1.

From: New York World; repr. in Boston Globe, 16 January 1924, p. 1A.

New York World; repr. in Boston Globe, 16 January 1924, p. 1.

King was so pleased with the outcome of the competition—and, no doubt, with the attendant publicity—that he immediately advertized a follow-up contest “for the best statement of not more than 100 words which points out why the drinker of illegally made or illegally obtained liquor should be called a ‘scofflaw’” (“Lawless Drinker Called ‘Scofflaw’, Christian Science Monitor, 16 January, 1924, p. 3). This time he promised prizes of $100, $50, $25, $15, $10, which, shrewdly, he announced on successive days for maximum effect. The winner on this occasion was Harold Bisbee of Milton, Mass. (it’s notable that, despite the nationwide participation that King always alleged, the honours always went to Bay Staters), who pontificated as follows:

We live in a democracy or a government by the people. By its very nature democratic government implies a huge sense of personal responsibility on the part of the people. The complement of enforcement of law is obedience to law, and the willingness with which obedience responds to enforcement is the acid test of a true democracy. The lawless drinker places his selfish pleasure above the law of the land, shows himself traitorous to the base principle of his Government, and is therefore in the fullest sense of the word, a scofflaw.

— “Scofflaw Logic Winner is Named”, Christian Science Monitor, 16 February 1924, p. 3.

Bisbee seems to have won because he more or less repeated King’s own statements to the press. Surely the torturous baseball analogy used by Bostonian Ellery H. Clark, who claimed the 4th prize of $15 with a passable imitation of a Victorian schoolmaster, ought to have been better rewarded:

One ideal we impress on American youth: in athletics and in life, “play the game”. “Obey the rules”, we say; “don’t kick at the umpire’s decision; be good sports; heads up, play the game”. The “scofflaw”, most emphatically, does not “play the game”. The umpire, the American Nation, has ruled that prohibition is “safe”, and that the drinker is “out”. But the “scofflaw” refuses to accept the umpire’s ruling. “To hell with America”, he snarls; “I’ve got to have my drink”. Behold him! A skulker; a non-American; a “poor sport”, lacking the manhood to “play the game”.

— “Wins Fourth Prize in ‘Scofflaw’ Contest”, Boston Globe, 13 February, 1924, p. 3.

Almost immediately King’s wheeze was roundly mocked by the men and women of sober reason common sense. One letter-writer to the New York Times pointed out that the new word “contains a flaw”— literally—and could therefore be read in a way unintended by King. To wit: “Scofflaw—one who scoffs at the idea of a flaw in the glorious Constitution of the United States as it existed in the year 1919”. The proper use of a hyphen might bring this meaning out more clearly, the correspondent continued, before signing himself “Scof-Flaw of Roselle” (New York Times, 18 January, 1924).

The soon-to-be-famous columnist Westbrook Pegler satirised King’s fatuous conviction that “those fiends in human form, those social buccaneers, who still drink more or less ardent liquids in defiance of the Volstead Act” would be humiliated by the “scathing sibilant” and moved to mend their ways. He pretended to have witnessed emotional scenes in a saloon after reports of King’s competition reached the ears of its inhabitants. The barkeeper was crushed. “I may be a bootlegger,” he sobbed, “but even a bootlegger has got feelings, and I won’t be called a scofflaw!” Another shady character was outraged: “To think of any dirty bum calling any fellow man a scofflaw for $200!” he exclaimed. “I’ve called many a dirty bum a ‘rotten gink’ for nothing whatever, you understand. […] But this ‘scofflaw’ business is something out of my line. If I should call a guy that around the place where I hang out at, somebody would likely shoot me and no jury would blame him” (“Scofflaw Causes Waves of Giggles Among Scoffers”, Atlanta Constitution, 27 January 1924, p. A6).

Another would-be King-deposer, Mrs Rose Scott of Saugatuck, Conn., decided to retaliate in kind and pitched a rival competition for the best word to describe a prohibitionist, a word that should be “the antithesis of scofflaw, but without its sneer” (“Antithesis for Scofflaw”, Atlanta Constitution, 22 January 1924, p. 1). A housewife and mother of two, Mrs Scott was an unlikely provocateur. By her own admission she never drank “anything stronger than wholesome beer”, had no political ambitions, was opposed to saloons and hard liquor, and favoured temperance (“Scofflaw Sets Experts Hurling Epithetic Muss”, Atlanta Constitution, 2 February 1924, p. 4). But she had been goaded into action by King and what she saw as his fundamentally “un-Christianlike” outlook, which was expressed clearly enough in the slanderous scofflaw. “We believe in the Bible and in respectable living,” she assured the press, explaining:

Centuries ago Puritan reformers, obstinate in their own views, crossed the seas to secure liberty of thought and action. They succeeded at the expense of removing the Indians . . . . Today there are millions of people like those old Indians in their desire for personal liberty and in their willingness to think and do what they consider right. There are those of us who feel we are being grossly imposed upon. It is difficult enough to exist in the multiplicity of existing laws, the worst of which at present being the crime of taking a glass of beer instead of a bottle of sarsaparilla, and now, to add insult to injury, the word scofflaw has been devised!

— “Antithesis for Scofflaw”, Atlanta Constitution, 22 January 1924, p. 1.

Mrs Scott certainly struck a nerve. She received some 4,300 responses to her challenge, among them such coinages as: anderson, bluebiddy, bluesop, buttinbully, contralib, curball, drynut, dryrotter, drywahoo,  freestricter, holygloomer, hypobitionist, killright, libchaser, libertycrab, libertychecker, liberticide, libertykiller, maltruist, meddlebug, messyfoot, muzzlerighter, pesterprig, pharisneer, pokenose, prohibigot, prohibitocritic, purinatic, purinut, pussyfaker, rabidist, reformaniac, rightsthief, shall-nut, slaveheart, sneerlip, snivelpest, snoopergoop, soulslave, superbigot, taboosier, verbotocrat.

Mrs Scott claimed to have accepted submissions from judges, politicians, clergymen, lawyers, college professors, businessmen and workers. One suggestion came from a Native American, “Sunshine-on-Face”, who contributed “newpuritan”. Her summary of his accompanying comments is suspiciously reminiscent of what she herself was quoted as having said a week before, when she announced the competition:

Sunshine-on-Face . . . writes . . . that the original puritan invaders came here with songs and banners about the joys of personal liberty. They were peacefully received by the trusting Indians on promise to make things pleasanter by showing them the reform methods and by introducing them to happier hunting grounds. “Our fathers were soon reformed from the face of their land,” he writes, “but the spirit of reform has again broken out in a new and malignant way, and these ‘newpuritans’ will be as intolerant to their fellow whites as they were to the Indians”.

— “Dry Haters Coin Many Biting Words, Hartford Courant, 31 January 1924, p. 2.

The winner was Joseph French of Chelmsford, Mass with the somewhat disappointing “banbug” (“‘Banbug’ Becomes ‘Scofflaw’ Antonym”, Hartford Courant, 17 March, 1924, p. 2).

The Harvard Advocate, a student newspaper, had the same idea as Mrs Scott, although it was motivated less by lofty principles than a sense of fun (“Seek Name for a ‘Dry’”, New York Times, 25 January 1924, p. 19). Its competition, open to scholars and outsiders alike, also produced a worthier winner. Some 2280 words were submitted, the most frequently recurring of which was, inevitably, “Delcevare”. The more imaginative neologisms to make the short list included: pure-tank, camel-louse, cocktail-flea, jug-buster, scoffprop, fear-beer, aquaduck, smugger, cookie-pusher, and dryad. But the laurels, and the $25 prize, went to Katherine Greene Welling of New York City for the truly brilliant “spigot bigot” (“‘Spigot-Bigot’” Wins in Harvard Advocate Contest”, Boston Globe, 29 February, 1294, p. 1A). Interviewed afterwards, Mrs Welling, 67, was adamant that citizens had a duty to obey the law, and disapproved of bootlegging and blind pigs, but added: “I think prohibition is outrageous”. Accordingly, she planned to donate her winnings to an organization dedicated to overturning the Eighteenth Amendment (“Aged Greenwich Villager Coined Spigot-Bigot Sneer”, Atlanta Constitution, 2 March 1924, p. 7).

King was untroubled by the push-back. As long as newspapers across the country continued to print and use the word “scofflaw”, he would be happy: “the more that certain wet journalists try to ridicule it and what it stands for,” he defiantly declared, “the more the terms will be pressed into the public consciousness” (“Scofflaw Proves Good Press Word”, Christian Science Monitor, 12 February 1924, p. 2).  He had a point. Even as the Boston Globe wondered whether the label would “stick” and become “a byword”, concluding that scofflaw “doesn’t appear likely to get far forward on its career” (“Scofflaw’s Problem, Boston Globe, 17 January 1924, p. 14), its own headline writers, as well those of other dailies, did their best to ensure that it entered the lexicon of journalese. Here are a few examples: “Story of a Detective Who is a ‘Scofflaw’” (Boston Globe, 9 February 1924, p 5); “Woman Scofflaw Aged 102 Years. Given Jail Term” (Atlanta Constitution, 20 February 1925, p. 10); “Jail Urged for every Scofflaw” (Los Angeles Times, 9 April 1926, p. 7); “Scofflawism is Sacred Duty in Driest Dixie” (Chicago Daily Tribune, 7 October 1928,  p. 10). And it worked: the term is still in use, long after Repeal, but interestingly its meaning has shifted: a scofflaw is nowadays usually a violator of parking or traffic laws (see e.g. “City Will Crack Down on Scofflaw Cyclists, New York Times, 22 October 2010).

King, then, won the war of words. But the best way to get back at him— of course!— was to invent a cocktail called “Scofflaw”. Which is precisely what a Paris-based mixologist did—a little more than a week after the results of King’s first competition were released: “Maxim’s bar has invented a ‘scofflaw’ cocktail, three parts rye, two parts French vermouth, a dash of lemon juice, and a dash of grenadine. The cocktail is most popular with American prohibition dodgers” (“‘Scofflaw’ Cocktail Gives Yanks Relief at Maxim’s”, Chicago Daily Tribune, 21 January 1924, p. 2). Just like the word that inspired it, the cocktail found its way into the canon. By the time it was immortalized in the Savoy Cocktail Book, however, the recipe, or at least the balance of the ingredients, had been tweaked. Harry Craddock’s formula is:

1 Dash Orange Bitters

1/3 Canadian Club Whisky. [Canadian Club was the most widely available rye in 1920s Europe]

1/3 French Vermouth.

1/6 Lemon Juice.

1/6 Grenadine.

Now, that it far too much grenadine, especially if you use shop-bought gloop, which will result in a luridly pink and cloyingly sweet drink in which the whiskey and vermouth have been completely overwhelmed. That’s fine if you’re struggling to swallow throat-scraping moonshine fetched from a Tennessee still, but otherwise you’re ruining perfectly good booze. After some experimentation, taking my cue from the original recipe and adjusting slightly for a more generous modern pour, this is what I ended up with, a satisfying sharp compound with an appropriately sub rosa hue:

1.5 oz rye whiskey

1 oz. dry vermouth

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp grenadine

A dash of orange bitters.

48. Eclipse cocktail

4 Jan

We look up, apprehending disaster, and see, suddenly, a blunt snout sniffing at the sun. Black with all the blackness of absolute negation of colour, it thrusts forward, eating away the gold.

— Richard Church, “The Heavens are Telling”, Spectator, vol. 138, no. 5165 (25 June 1927), pp. 1116-7 (p. 1116).

[W]e had been allowed our vision.

— “The Eclipse”, Times, 30 June 1927, p. 17.

It was the most exciting eclipse I have ever slept through.

— Gerald Gould, “The Late Eclipse”, Saturday Review, vol. 144, no. 3740 (2 July 1927), pp. 9-10 (p. 9).

On 29 June 1927 the first total solar eclipse in 203 years was seen over the British mainland. Starting at 6:23 am, just after the break of day, an area extending from North Wales to the North Sea, from Criccieth to Hartlepool, was plunged back into darkness for between 22 and 24 seconds.

The event caused nationwide excitement. For weeks beforehand the press had been ginning up interest, running articles, scientific and pseudo-scientific, on astronomy, sharing tips on how safely to observe the phenomenon, publishing train timetables and road maps, and giving directions for travel to the zone of totality.  It worked. An unprecedented number of people went on the move, pouring into a strip of land 39 miles wide, straining the transport infrastructure to the limit, and stood shivering on hillsides to watch the eclipse. According to advance estimates 260,000 made the journey by rail, 175,000 by bus and 160,000 in cars. The New York Times was not exaggerating when it declared that “eclipse fever had gripped England” (26 June 1927, p. 2). One of the most famous pilgrims in late June was Virginia Woolf, who travelled with friends and family to Richmond in Yorkshire on the London and North-East Railway. “Trains like ours were starting all over England at that very moment to see the dawn,” she later wrote. “All noses were pointing North. When for a moment we halted in the depths of the country, there were the pale yellow lights of motor cars also pointing North. There was no sleep, no fixity in England that night. All were travelling North. All were thinking of the dawn.” (“The Sun and the Fish” [1928], Selected Essays [Oxford University Press, 2008], pp. 188-92 [p. 189]). (A typically London-centric remark: some were actually travelling south.)

On the Sunday before the 29th, which was a Wednesday, clergymen gave opportunistic sermons on texts like “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork” (New York Times, 26 June 1927, p. 2), and some small religious sects fervently prayed in anticipation of the Second Coming. But most Britons, then as now, were intent on partying. All along the corridor of darkness arrangements were made by hoteliers, restaurateurs and publicans to entertain the hordes of visitors. Many towns and villages held all-night “eclipse dances”; picture palaces and cafés were open into the small hours; licensing and amusement restrictions were relaxed (“Night Before Eclipse to be Gay in Britain”, New York Times, 19 June 1927, p. E2); at Richmond, near the central line of totality, a week-long list of entertainments included a lecture, competitions, whist drives, fetes, a cricket match and culminated in an all-night dance on the castle green (“Corrected Path of Eclipse”, Times, 21 May 1927, p. 9). In Southport, which in a souvenir programme billed itself as the “Eclipse Town” and managed to attract crowds of 250,000, the elaborate festivities were capped with an open-air jazz concert before dawn (“From the Sands at Southport”, Times, 30 June 1927, p. 18). All this carousing seemed rather heathen, the writer Sylva Norman thought, as she walked through Wharfedale in the early morning: “In the Town Hall the local Eclipse Dance was in full swing, nearing its culmination. The credulous savage beats drums to scare off the devourer of the sun; here we use drums and saxophones to herald its approach and celebrate its swallowing” (“Eclipse Madness”, Nation and Athenaeum, vol. 41, 9 July 1927, pp. 477-8 [p. 477]). That impression was shared by Woolf. As she and hundreds of others stood with teeth chattering in the morning gloom on Bardon Fell, it struck her that “[w]e were very, very old; we were men and women of the primeval world come to salute the dawn. So the worshippers at Stonehenge must have looked among tussocks of grass and boulders of rock” (pp. 189-90).

From: Punch, vol. 172 (29 June, 1929), p. 687.

While Sir Frank Dyson, the Astronomer Royal, professed not to be too worried about poor weather ruining the spectacle, since the British Astronomical Association had taken the precaution of dividing its forces among eight different stations spread across the region, a party of bookmakers arrived at Giggleswick, where Dyson was based, and offered odds of 7 to 2 that clouds would obscure the eclipse. Those in the tourist industry, certainly, were concerned that the British summer, which was even wetter than usual, might conspire against them, and many took out insurance to protect them against potential losses if the night of the 28th proved to be a wash-out. In the event Sir Frank had chosen his spot wisely: Hartlepool was overcast and Southport misty, but at Giggleswick the clouds broke at just the right moment. The New York Times was on hand to describe the events:

The scene during the eclipse at Giggleswick was weird and inspiring. As a voice from the astronomical party called “Two minutes”, thousands on the hillside passed the word along that the vital moment was near. The strange yellowish twilight faded away as if an unseen hand was slowly turning down an ordinary gas light. Then shadow seemed to rush over the gathering. There was intense silence everywhere. Even the birds which had been twittering earlier now were still. Then the watchers saw the sun, a black ball in a sky of gunmetal gray, outlined by a glowing, iridescent, irregular circle of fiery light from which red and yellow flames seemed to shoot. While all eyes in the group about the astronomical party were riveted upon these strange pyrotechnics about the black disc the voice of one of Sir Frank Dyson’s assistants intoned the passing seconds solemnly, as in Druidic ritual. As the voice called “twenty-three”, a dazzling flash of reddish-white light, brilliant as molten metal in some blast furnace, burst from the left upper rim of the darkened sun. It bulged into a blazing oval. Darkness was passing. From somewhere behind the camp came the sounds of cheering. Dawn had arrived. The sun had returned. Birds sang and the crowd began to break up across the ne[a]rby hills.

— “Sun’s Eclipse Awes Crowds in England”, New York Times, 30 June 1927, p. 27.

Pupils at Oundle School view the eclipse.

While reporters flapped their waxen wings and soared ever higher on their poetical flights of fancy, it was, unsurprisingly, Virginia Woolf who best captured the emotional experience of the eclipse and the shattering realisation of the fragility and ephemerality of life it evoked:

The shadow growing darker and darker over the moor was like the heeling over of a boat, which, instead of righting itself at the critical moment, turns a little further and then a little further; and suddenly capsizes. So the light turned and heeled over and went out. This was the end. The flesh and blood of the world was dead and only the skeleton was left. It hung beneath us, frail; brown; dead; withered. Then, with some trifling movement, this profound obeisance of the light, this stooping down and abasement of all splendour was over. Lightly, on the other side of the world up it rose; it sprang up as if the one movement, after a second’s tremendous pause, competed the other and the light which had died here, rose again elsewhere. Never was there such a sense of rejuvenescence and recover. All the convalescences and respite of life seemed rolled into one. Yet at first, so pale and frail and strange the light was sprinkled rainbow-like in a hoop of colour, that it seemed as if the earth could never live decked out in such frail tints. It hung beneath us, like a cage, like a hoop, like a globe of glass. It might be blown out; it might be stove in. But steadily and surely our relief broadened and our confidence established itself as the great paint brush washed in woods, dark on the valley, and massed the hills blue above them. The world became more and more solid; it became populous; it became a place where an infinite number of farm-houses, of villages, of railway lines have lodgment; until the whole fabric of civilisation was modelled and moulded. But still the memory endured that the earth we stand on is made of colour; colour can be blown out; and then we stand on a dead leaf; and we who tread the earth securely now have seen it dead.

— Woolf, p. 191.

And what is the best way of preserving that memory? In a cocktail, of course. Enter Mr Harry Craddock:

This is an age of gastronomy as well as astronomy, and a dish or a cocktail has now become accepted as the best way of perpetuating a name of a memory says a correspondent of the New York Herald Tribune. When the next total eclipse occurs in this country a hundred years hence there will be few things to remind the public of the spectacle which most of their ancestors didn’t see; but unless England goes dry in the meantime—an improbable event if the British climate deteriorates at its present rate, for simply by looking at the number of persons in a bar here one may estimate with close accuracy what the weather is doing outside at any given moment—there will be one survival.

Many cocktails have done honor to a lunch, but the lunch staged at the Savoy Hotel here to honor a cocktail, which in turn was created to honor the eclipse, is something new. It was created, appropriately by Harry Craddock, who claims to have shaken the last legal cocktail in the United States on the eve of prohibition. The cocktail is of a glowing red color, like an angry sky, and is made of lemon juice, grenadine, sloe gin and gin, each ingredient being poured slowly into the glass. It is one of the few cocktails that does not need shaking.

— “Cocktail ‘Eclipse’”, Washington Post, 17 August 1927, p. 6

Interestingly, that description does not quite tally with the recipe included in the Savoy Cocktail Book:

1/3 Dry Gin.

2/3 Sloe Gin.

Put enough Grenadine in a cocktail glass to cover a ripe olive. Mix the spirits together and our gently on to the Grenadine so that it does not mix. Squeeze orange peel on top.

No mention of lemon juice. And that, surely, is a mistake. Adding  ½ oz. of lemon juice to the mixture really does give it some zing. The cocktail looks better, too, if, as the Washington Post article suggests, the drink is not shaken, but poured like a pousse café. The photograph above does not do justice to the results, partly because my homemade grenadine is a little more purplish than the shop-bought stuff. The olive lies suspended between the crimson-coloured layer of grenadine at the bottom of the glass and the darker sloe gin; floating on top is the clear lemon juice, which resembles, or at least could be taken to resemble, the corona of an eclipse.

"For those who dwell outside the area of teetotality, there is no drink to eclipse Barclay's Lager".

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.

35. Monkey Gland cocktail

8 Oct

“Naomi! Dr. Artz!” “Well, I know nothing about him.” “But he’s becoming almost as famous as Voronoff. I suppose you’ve heard of Voronoff?”  “Yes, of course. The monkey-gland man.” “Well, Dr Artz claims to have discovered a means of restoring youthful vigor to the old; especially—” she looked very feminine—“a certain kind of vigor.” “What kind?” asked Miss Vyvyan innocently. “Intellectual vigor?”

— Robert Hichens, Dr Artz (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, 1929), p. 23.

“Then Raoul turned to me as though with an afterthought. ‘By the way,’ he said, ‘what was that cocktail you were describing to me—the one the man makes in the American bar at the Ambassador?’ I told him; it is a particularly devilish concoction called, I believe, a monkey gland. “Well, then, do me a favour, will you?” he said. “See the bar steward here and show him how to make them. Get him to mix me a shaker of them. I’m expecting a man on something very important tonight . . .”

John Dickson Carr, It Walks By Night (New York, Harper, 1930), pp. 60-1.

Death comes too soon, ‘tis said. That’s why human beings have always dreamed of prolonging their brief stay on this earthly round. That’s why Alexander the Great and Ponce de Léon searched for the fountain of youth and why sages sought the elixir of life. And that’s why modern-day Dorian Grays spend billions of dollars on moisturizers, lotions and unguents, inject themselves with neurotoxins and have their faces “lifted” and turned into caricatures of their former selves.

In the early 1920s Dr Serge Voronoff, a director of the Laboratory of Physiology at the Collège de France, thought he’d finally solved “the agonizing problem of our precocious decline” (Serge Voronoff, Life: A Study of the Means of Restoring Vital Energy and Prolonging Life [New York: Dutton, 1920], p. xix). His theory was bollocks, both literally and figuratively. Observing the effects of castration on eunuchs, he concluded that the essence of life resides in the testicles: these “pour into our organs a liquid stimulating the vitality of our tissues” (p. xix), and, when they are removed, or their function is impaired, the body ages and degenerates. Since the testicle was “the distributor of energy” (p. 52), he reasoned, the human machine could be recharged by replacing its run-down batteries—by testicular transplant, in other words.

Voronoff first hit the headlines in 1914 when he reported to the Académie de Médicine that he had undertaken the “radical cure of a cretin”. He grafted on to the neck of a 14-year-old boy suffering from myxoedema (hypothyroidism) the “right lobe of the thyroid gland of a large baboon”. The patient improved immediately: where before he was “apathetic and stupid he became active and quick witted” (“Monkey Gland Cures Cretin”, Washington Post, 5 July 1914, p. ES4). Emboldened by that success, Vornoff began experimenting on goats and managed to turn frail, decrepit beasts into bright-eyed, shiny-coated, frisky critters. How? By removing the male “interstitial gland” from a younger adult, cutting up the testicle into segments like an orange, opening the scrotum of the older male and applying the testicular segments to the scarified surface of the tunica vaginalis membrane. Then the scrotum was sewn up and, as soon as the graft took, signed of renewed youth and vigour began to show.


Soon Voronoff began to work on human subjects, removing the shrivelled nuts of older men and inserting the fresh plums of sexually mature apes, convinced that he was thereby able to arrest and even reverse the ageing process. The monkey glands, by the way, were a necessary evil: ideally, he conceded, he would replace like for like, but few donors ever came forward, and those who did charged a king’s ransom for their crown jewels. Although chimpanzees were a scarce resource in Europe (they hardly grew on trees), Dr V. nevertheless proposed harvesting their organs:

Hard though it be to obtain apes, it will always be a task less arduous than that of inducing young men to give up one of their glands. We might undertake to raise apes as we raise our domestic animals, the more so since they are extremely prolific.

The ape as the guardian of vital energy transmissible to man will be looked upon as a most valuable animal, which will unfailingly be accorded the most attentive care.

Men who have reached the age when their intellectual and physical faculties begin to decline, when the memory becomes unreliable, thought is slow, effort more difficult, fatigue more prompt, when all the ardors of life are blunted and dulled and some are extinguished, may borrow from their young relatives of the virgin forests a new source of vital activity (Voronoff, pp. 112-3).

Despite scepticism in the medical establishment, an outcry from the clergy, and the public’s worries that human beings would start looking and acting like their simian cousins, Voronoff’s experiments appeared to work. He had a long waiting list of flagging seniors wanting to stiffen their resolve, and “only the scarcity of chimpanzees has prevented him from performing daily operations in his Paris laboratory . . . He is using chimpanzees faster than they can be caught in Africa.” (Raymond Fendrick, “Wizard Surgeon Plans Renewing All Vital Organs, Chicago Daily Tribune, 20 June 1922, p. 4)

Testimonials poured in from grateful patients. The New York Times interviewed the London actor and manager, Arthur Evelyn Liardet, who, a few days shy of his seventy-sixth birthday, possessed the “appearance and physique of a man of about 55 years”. Before the therapy he was bald, wrinkled, listless and senile. Eighteen months later a transformation had taken place: “Today, it is said, Liardet rises every morning at 6 o’clock and feels full of energy, more so every day. He is able to take physical exercises given up twenty years ago. His face is full and ruddy, and the wrinkles have almost disappeared. His head is covered with hair. ‘Feel this,’ he said, proudly, exhibiting biceps which any man of 30 might envy.” Promised by Voronoff that the operation could be repeated three times in all, Liardet confidently expected to reach the age of 150 (“Voronoff Patient Tells of New Life”, New York Times, 7 October 1922). Two and a half years later, though, this would-be Methuselah was dead (“Arthur E. Liardet Dead”, New York Times, 5 September, 1923).

It didn’t matter: Voronoff’s procedure was a sensation. Within months he and his monkey glands had entered the lexicon. The American Economist magazine called protective tariffs the “monkey gland” needed to stimulate the dye and tinplate industry (“Protecting the Dye Industry”, American Economist, vol. 67 [15 April, 1921], p. 115). The mayor of Gotham decried proposals to “rejuvenate” the state transit commission as a scheme “to make New York City the fianacial [sic] monkey or goat to furnish the glands for the operation” (“Hylan Sees a Transit ‘Monkey Gland’ Plan”, New York Times, 24 June 1922). And a writer in Forward magazine wrote of the Conservative Party: “It is suffering from senile decay; it needs a new monkey gland and Churchill is the man to do it” (quoted in Emrys Hughes, Winston Churchill: British Bulldog [New York: Exposition Press, 1955], p. 194).

Surely there could be no better name for a cocktail, a class of drinks already known for their bracing and aphrodisiacal qualities? Credit for the alcoholic monkey gland usually goes to Harry MacElhone, whose ABC of Mixing Cocktails (1922) is the first bar manual to include a recipe for the potation (where it appears in the possessive as “monkey’s gland”). This 1923 report by the Washington Post, however, belatedly claims another Paris-based mixologist as the originator:

Preparing for a busy tourist season, Frank, the noted concocter behind the bar of the Ritz, has devised a new series of powerful cocktails, favourite of which is known as the “monkey gland”.

Like Frank’s “soixante quinze” gloom raiser, the “monkey gland” requires absinthe to be perfect, but its amateurs have found anise a substitute with a sufficient kick.

For the benefit of friends over in America, who have not exhausted their cellars, here is the recipe: Half and half gin and orange juice, a dash of absinthe, and a dash of raspberry or other sweet juice. Mix well with ice, and serve only with a doctor handy. Inside half an hour the other day Frank purveyed 40 of these, to the exclusion of manhattans and martinis.

— “New Cocktail in Paris is the Monkey Gland”, Washington Post, 29 April 1923, p. 43.

Whether or not the report is accurate (and it also ascribes authorship of the “75” to “Frank”, when Harry, again, supposedly created it in 1915), it’s worth noting that an identically-named cocktail was already being drunk in 1919: an Associated Press cable dated 10 December of that year mentions a “Monkey Gland” as an example of the choices on offer at the Forum, a women’s club in Grosvenor Place, which boasted “one of the best lists of cocktails in the west end of London” (Mixer and Server, vol. 29:1 [15 January 1920], p. 32). The monkey gland—not just for men! (After conducting tests on she-goats, Voronoff determined that he could “not advise women to undergo the graft of the male sex gland”; he did, however, recommend plastic surgery, which “has made such progress that it is easy for us to repair the outrages which the years have committed upon the faces of our friends”, and hold out the possibility of ovarian transplants to restore the maiden’s blush to postmenopausal women [Voronoff, pp. 113-4].)

The half-and-half measure of gin and juice mentioned by the Post follows the recipe in Harry’s ABC. Later publications, such as the Savoy Cocktail Book and Café Royal Cocktail Book, call for a ratio of 2:1 in favour of gin, which I can’t help but think is a more rejuvenating combination:

3 Dashes [i.e. 1/4 tsp] Absinthe.

3 Dashes Grenadine.

1/3 Orange Juice.

2/3 Dry Gin.

Savoy Cocktail Book (London: Constable 1937 [1930]), p. 107.

From: Judge, vol. 81 (17 December 1921), p. 30.

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