Saturday, August 13, 2011

Exhibit #72: When Giants Walked the Earth

Our focus this week is the old Waldorf-Astoria. Arguably the first luxury hotel, the original buildings were on Fifth Avenue but were demolished to make way for the Empire State Building. While the hotel brought us such innovations as room service among other things, we are chiefly concerned with its world famous bar. Between the years 1897 and 1915, had you walked in during rush hour you’d find tycoons, newspapermen, students, tourists, and racing moguls rubbing elbows, ten deep at its rectangular bar, waiting to get the attention of one the many barmen staffing it – as many as a dozen during busiest hours. And what did they drink? Cocktails. Which ones? All of them. Hundreds. If nothing else, even a swift perusal of the Waldorf-Astoria bar book quickly informs the reader just how staggering a blow prohibition was – not just to the profession of bartending, but upon the general public’s knowledge and appreciation of the vast number of drinks that were commonly served. That, and that those folks had Olympic livers – different times indeed.

1915 Cocktail $7
Equal parts dry gin, orange curacao and cream, up. Purportedly the last drink invented at the old Waldorf bar.

Charlie Chaplin $8
Sloe gin, apricot liqueur and lime juice, up. Most likely not something that Mr. Chaplin himself drank, rather a commemoration of his rise to fame.

Fanciulli Cocktail $7
Rye whiskey, red vermouth and Fernet Branca, served neat. Essentially a Manhattan variation with a good dose of Fernet stepping in for Angostura, the Fanciulli commemorates Francesco Fanciulli, well-known in the late 19th century as a writer of light opera and marches and successor to Sousa in the US Marine Band. In 1897 he was court-martialed for refusing to play a Sousa march but later pardoned by Teddy Roosevelt.

Honolulu Cocktail $7
Old Tom gin with a little lime and orange juice, Angostura bitters, up.

Hop Toad $7
This one makes a nice contrast to the Charlie Chaplin, with identical proportions and secondary ingredients: Jamaican rum, apricot liqueur and lime juice, up.

Narragansett $7
Here too is a nice Manhattan variation: rye whiskey and red vermouth with a dash of Anisette instead of Angostura, up.

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