Tag Archives: drinks

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.

53. League of Nations cocktail (and Peace cocktail)

8 Mar

Following the squabble over the ratification of the Versailles treaty in the Senate, some Briton remarked that, “the Americans are a strange people. They invented the Treaty of Versailles and refused to sign it. They invented the League of Nations and refused to join it. They invented the cocktail and refused to drink it.” It now appears the Europe is hopeful that, having decided to drink cocktails again (lawfully) this country may recant on its refusal to recognize some of its other children.

— “Cocktails and International Cooperation”, St Petersburg Times, 12 December 1934, p. 4.

Cyril Ray, wine writer for The Observer newspaper in the 1960s, once noted how “all those mixed-up drinks for the mixed-up drinkers of the 1920s . . . ‘Monkey Gland‘ and ‘Mah Jongg‘ among them: ‘Between the Sheets‘ and ‘Bosom Caresser’; ‘Wembley’ and ‘White Cargo’ and even, heaven preserve us, the ‘League of Nations'” have gone the way of those named after the stars of the silent films of the time: Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Will Rogers and the Gish Sisters”. His point, of course, is that cocktail fashions, like the popular culture of which they are part, are ephemeral, changeable and quickly forgotten  (In a Glass Lightly [London: Methuen, 1967],  p. 23). Quite right.  But why precisely should the League of Nations cocktail elicit a request for divine assistance and not, say, the White Cargo (half vanilla ice cream and half gin), a mess described by Anderson Fredericks as “pretty silly but there are those who like it (100 Cocktails [Girard, KS: Haldeman-Julius, n.d.], p. 20)? What was so objectionable about a drink apparently honoring the other Noble Experiment of the 1920s, one that was just as likely to fail as Prohibition, an organisation founded in the aftermath of the Great War “to promote international co-operation and to secure international peace and security” (Preamble to the Constitution of the League of Nations)? (To secure security? Such clumsiness did not augur well.)

Let’s find out. One version of this cocktail is first mentioned in the gossip pages of the New Yorker:

MIXTURES REPORTED: The League of Nations cocktail—four parts gin, one part Italian Vermouth, one part French Vermouth and a dash of Dutch Curaçao.  Add the white of one egg and shake vigorously.
— “The Talk of the Town”, The New Yorker (24 September 1927), pp. 15-19 (p. 19).
Although the guiding principle of the drink is clearly in evidence here—a deliberately cosmopolitan blend of liquors, English, Italian, French, Dutch—this is not a particulary innovative (or offensive) concoction. Plenty of cocktails such as the Bronx, the RAC, or the Perfect combined gin with sweet and dry vermouths. But here’s another recipe, this one by famed Swiss gastronome Harry Schraemli:
1 dash Rigi cherry brandy, 1 dash grenadine, 1 dash Curaçao, 1/6 vodka, 1/6 gin, 1/6 Canadian Club whiskey, 1/6 Italian Vermouth, 1/6 Chartreuse de Tarragone. Serve in a Rhine wine glass.
— Universal Getränkebuch (Lucerne: Fachbuchverlag der Union Helvetia, 1935), p. 185.
I imagine this, or something very like it, was what caused Ray such discomfort: it does look as if Schraemli just threw together whatever he could lay his hands on. It’s gimmicky, sure, and unbalanced,  but to my surprise not completely awful, even if, as always happens when you mix too many colours, you end up with an unappetizing brown. But it has a hell of lot more teeth than the League itself did. (But since Germany had left the League of Nations in 1933, it ought really to be served in a different glass.)
The idea of marrying liquors native to, or associated with, different countries for symbolic effect crops up again and again in the history of cocktails (see also the Roosevelt). The World Disarmament Conference, an early attempt at multilateral arms limitation that took place under the aegis of the League of Nations and whose president, Arthur Henderson, would later win the Nobel Peace Prize, was launched in 1932 with a special toast:

In honor of the president of the Disarmament Conferences, Arthur Henderson, the British ex-Foreign Secretary, a new cocktail has been invented and revealed to the world with mock solemnity in Geneva.

The ingredients are vodka, sherry, gin and French vermouth in equal parts, with a dash of Angostura bitters.

— “New ‘Peace Cocktail’ Devised in Geneva”, Baltimore Sun, 27 March 1932, p. 13.

The failure of those talks, due entirely to the harsh realities of international politics (and specifically the remilitarization of Germany) rather than excessive devotion to an unworkable union of alcoholic ingredients, led, of course, to a second global conflict. And after the armistice that eventually followed, to another libation poured in celebration of Irene. At a state luncheon hosted by French President Félix Gouin in 1946 British foreign secretary Ernest Bevin “tried to link the nations with a ‘peace cocktail’: one-half English gin, one-quarter Russian vodka and one-quarter French vermouth”
(“The Path of Peace”, Time, 6 May 1946). Note the ratio: Britain was milking every last moment in the limelight, before it was demoted to a supporting role on the world stage.
And 15 years later, when the Cold War was really hotting up, so to speak, yet more similarly themed beverages are listed in The Diner’s Club Drink Book. The “Allies cocktail” is a kind of martini, consisting of 1 oz. dry vermouth, 1 oz. dry gin and 1/2 teaspoon kümmel brand (Matty Simmons, The Diners’ Club Drink Book [New York: Regents American Publishing Corp., 1961], p. 30). Less palatable, but much more lethal is the aptly named “Berlin Binge”:
Invented by Jean Gaste at Le Tangage in Paris, and dedicated to the harmonious association of the four great world powers; the Binge consists of Bourbon (American), Gin (English), Cognac (French), and Vodka (Russian), garnished with an olive (preferably a green olive), symbolizing the olive branch of peace. Mix equal parts of the four liquors, symbolizing equality of the four powers (Ibid., p. 42).
It’s not an impossible dream, is it? That a shared cocktail can lead to the concord of nations? Make drinks, not war!

51. Golden Dawn cocktail

19 Feb

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

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

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

¼ Orange Juice.

¼ Apricot Brandy.

¼ Calvados (Trou Normand).

¼ Gin (Booth’s Dry).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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".

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).

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