The Cocktail – a brief insight, into a firm favourite

Shaken or stirred, the cocktail has always had a glamorous ring to it. Cocktails epitomised the decadence of the 1920’s and 30’s, and we have the Prohibition era to thank for their existence. What better way to disguise the use of alcohol, than to use it in a “mixed drink”, of fruit juices!

With the emergence of passenger airliners, transatlantic travel became more accessible, and affordable, allowing Americans to skip across “the pond” to Europe, where there were no such restrictions on the sale of alcoholic beverages. One of the places they made a beeline for, was The American Bar, at The Savoy Hotel, London. The Head Bartender in charge at that time, was one Mr. Harry Craddock, a man who was, and always will be, linked with the Cocktail drink. His book, “The Savoy Cocktail Book”, was first published in 1925, and is still available today. Any barman worth his salt, will have a copy……somewhere.

Harry Craddock, was also famous for inventing two of the most widely recognised drinks, the “Dry Martini”, and the “White Lady”. There are other bartenders from this establishment, who were also well known for bringing us famous cocktails; Eddie Fisher brought us the “Prairie Oyster”, a hangover cure, although not really to my liking!

Early cocktails were grouped into a dozen or so different groups; “Smashes, Punches, Rickeys, Juleps, Fizzes, and Slings”. As the decades passed, so did tastes, and by the 1950’s and ‘60’s, “Manhattans” and “Sidecars”, were the drink of choice. Fast forward to the over indulgence of the 1980’s, and you will come across names such as the “Cosmopolitan”, or the “Harvey Wallbanger”. We are now seeing a revival in the original cocktail recipes, not only are they a lot stronger in alcoholic content, but in my opinion, the true essence of the cocktail, is coming through again, and they are not dressed up in coconut shells, with paper umbrella decorations – Harry Craddock would turn in his grave!

In future chapters, I will explore in more detail, the bar equipment required to make cocktails, take a look at individual spirits and recipes, and finally, give my review on some of the famous bars I have been fortunate enough not to have been removed from!

Cheers…. 

Danny O

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