Tag Archives: history of cocktails

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”!

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".

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