Tonight’s drinks come from a slim bar book titled Cheerio! published in 1928 by one “Charles of Delmonicos.” For the most part the book is filled with fairly common, standard recipes, but there are a few unusual drinks and certainly plenty of historical interest. First off, Delmonicos was the very first restaurant in the US. Of course you could have a meal at a tavern, hotel, what-have-you, but these always offered set meals, often at set times, with no options for other fare or a smaller or larger portion. Delmonicos opened in 1830 or so, originally as a café, but by mid-century was the paradigm of the modern 5-star restaurant, with an emphasis on quality and service, and as many as 300 dishes on their menu. And that menu thing? The carte, or bill of fare, was brand new to these shores as well. All of this was nothing short of revolutionary and the concept caught on. Nonetheless, Delmonicos was king of the cuisine hill for the remainder of the century.
As to spirits, Delmonicos was famous for its vast wine cellars, but of course many cocktails were called for there as well, and Cheerio! gives us an interesting look at what some of their patrons were drinking. It being a rather exclusive place, many of those patrons were celebrities, which brings us to…
Baclanova Nectar $5
A fairly simple punch of dry red wine, champagne, with a bit lemon juice and peel, cucumber slices and sugar. Evidently this was a favorite of Olga Baclanova, Russian-born star of silent films. Her star dimmed with the advent of sound as her heavy Russian accent was felt to be a liability. Her best known role in latter days was as the two-timing trapeze artist after little Hans’ fortune in Freaks.
Lightner Special $8
A favorite of Winnie Lightner, star of musicals: “When I was playing in London I used to call for a drink that all my friends laughed at…absinthe and Canada Dry ginger ale…can you imagine it?” Tall and on the rocks.
Pousse l’Amour $8
A favorite of Charles Winninger (another musical star), and one that appears in many old books. This is a layered drink: half a glass of Luxardo maraschino, an egg yolk floating on top and surrounded by vanilla cordial, crowned with a bit of aged brandy. Winninger described it as “heavenly,” but will anyone dare drink it tonight?
Amber Dream $7
A 2:1 Martini with orange bitters and yellow Chartreuse, up.
Carlton Brandy Cocktail $8
Cognac with a little maraschino & bitters, up with a sugar rim.
Cholera Cocktail $7
Cognac, port wine, Cherry Heering, blackberry brandy, ginger syrup, freshly grated nutmeg, served neat.
Country Cocktail $8
Rye whiskey, orange and Angostura bitters, lemon peel, up.
Delmonico Cocktail $8
Oddly, the restaurant’s house cocktail does not appear in Cheerio! Like its namesake, it’s a classy affair with emphasis on taste over razzle-dazzle: gin, cognac, dry and sweet vermouths, bitters, up.
Minute Man Highball $6.50
Applejack, port wine, orange juice, club soda, tall and on the rocks.