RAISE YOUR GLASSES
Raise Your Glasses - Luxury Travel Magazine
Raise Your Glasses
|By: Kate De Brito, Issue 29- Summer 2007 |
|SIGNATURE COCKTAILS ARE LIKE WELL-LOVED PASSPORTS. WITH FABULOUS STORIES TO TELL, THEY CAN TAKE YOU ALL OVER THE WORLD.|
|Legend has it that one of the world’s most famous cocktails was born when a female customer named Mary walked into a New York bar and spilled a bright red combination of tomato juice and vodka on her white evening dress. The result was the ‘Bloody Mary’, a brutally named but tasty drink that went down in history as the greatest ever hangover cure. Like all good legends, the story of Bloody Mary is hotly contested. Some say the drink – made from vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco – was really created by bartender Ferdinand Petiot at the famous Harry’s Bar in Paris in the 1920s.|
Petiot is said to have named the cocktail after a forlorn female customer who sat at the bar each day without fail, pining for a lover who never showed at the appointed hour. She reminded him of that other ‘Bloody Mary’, Mary Queen of Scots waiting in the tower of London to be beheaded.
Whatever the case, it’s clear a healthy dose of intrigue goes a long way to creating a legendary cocktail. From there it’s simply a matter of adding equal parts skill, knowledge and creativity and a splash of good luck. Muddle it all together in a world class location and you may just have the ingredients for a classic cocktail. Take the Margarita – said to have been created by Texas socialite Margareth Sames in the mid 1930s to serve during cocktail parties at her Acapulco home. Traditionally made with Tequila, lime juice and Cointreau and served with salt on the rim of the glass, the Margarita became one of the world’s great Summer cocktails when Nicky Hilton, then heir to the Hilton hotel chains, tasted it at Sames’ house and snaffled up the recipe to serve in his bars worldwide.
Predictably some of the world’s greatest cocktails have come out of the world’s greatest hotels and bars in the world’s greatest cities. Paris and New York feature prominently although Venice gets a look in with the Bellini champagne cocktail, created at Harry’s Bar in the waterlogged city. The delicate pink shades of the drink were said to have been inspired by a painting by Venetian Giovanni Bellini.
Back in the US, the Manhattan – made from whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters – was named after the legendary Manhattan Club in New York. Socialite Jennie Jerome (the mother of Winston Churchill) had a bartender whip up this new drink for the Governor of New York, Samuel J Tilden in the late 1870s. It went on to become a world famous cocktail – in part because the name conjured an immediate connection with the city that never sleeps. New York cocktail ‘king’ Dale DeGroff, who made cocktails hip again during his time as bartender at New York’s Rainbow Bar, said many of the world’s great cocktails were invented in the US when the country was bursting with new migrants, new energy and an industrial boom. The Martini – a combination of gin, vermouth and
orange bitters – was born at the Occidental Hotel in San Fransisco during the American gold rush. “Creativity thrives on the edge and the cocktail is truly the child of modernism and the industrial revolution,” says DeGroff, in Australia last September for the Sydney BarShow 2006. A sure sign that cocktails continue to play an important part in the international arena, is the decision of Grey Goose Vodka to install a standalone cocktail bar at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, tempting the high volume of American travellers with cocktails like ‘The Dirty Frog’, a variation on the classic martini.
But further back, many great cocktails were created in their rudimentary forms by the first international travellers – seamen who toured ports across the globe and sampled many exotic liquors. The original Gimlet (gin, lime and sugar) was mixed by a British sailor who combined his ration of gin with his ration of preserved sweet lime (provided to prevent scurvy) to make both more palatable.
Many great drinks came out of the world’s great hotels. The Singapore Sling had its origins around 1915 in the Long Bar of Raffles Hotel. These days the most common versions include gin, pineapple juice, limejuice, Benedictine, Cointreau and bitters, although these may all not have been part of the original version. Taking an old favourite and updating it is part of the never-ending cycle of cocktail making. According to award winning Australian bartender Matthew Bax from Melbourne’s Der Raum, new cocktails all have an old favourite at their core. “The longer you’re in the business the more you realise that a lot of the time it’s been done before. You start looking at old drinks from the late 1800s and early 1900s and you realise that much of the time you’re taking an old drink and giving it a new edge,” says Bax.
That’s not to say that Bax believes modern classics don’t happen (see box, over). Der Raum’s cocktail menu is such hot property they’ve had to chain it to the bar after 300 were stolen each year. It didn’t stop one enterprising thief from bringing in a pair of bolt cutters to steal a copy anyway. DeGroff says luck plays a large part in creating a great ‘name’ cocktail. He advises young bartenders not to spend too much time trying to create the next Cosmopolitan. “If and when it happens it will be a gift from the gods; the planets and their moons will line up the right way and someone like Madonna will sip your drink, or perhaps the assistant producer of Sex and the City…just make all your drinks taste good and the rest will take care of itself,” he says.
Incidentally the Cosmo – lime juice, cranberry juice, triple sec and vodka – was invented in San Franscisco but popularized by bartender Toby Cecchini in the late 1980s at New York’s fabled bar and restaurant The Odeon. And then of course it had a rebirth when it became the drink of choice on Sex and the City. Alexx Swainston, bar manager at Sydney’s Lotus and last years winner of the Cocktail List of the Year, says creating a classic cocktail takes a sound knowledge of the rules in order to break them. “These days, cocktails are the price of an entrée at a one hat restaurant. Your customer is looking for more than just a drink. They want an experience.
All good cocktails are responding to a state of mind.” Thus, the Pina Colada creates the ultimate poolside experience and the Martini that little touch of James Bond.
|The classic Old Fashioned – sugar, bitters, ice and whiskey – was concocted by a bartender at the Pendenis club in Louisville, Kentucky, for a retired Civil War general who didn’t like the taste of whiskey.|
The Mimosa (champagne and orange) was invented at the Ritz Hotel in Paris in the 1920s and remains the elegant feature of first class lounges and brunch tables to this day.
The origin of the Long Island Iced Tea was first made in the US during prohibition, from any spirit available. These days it’s the combination of five spirits – Rum, vodka, gin, tequila, Cointreau and fresh lime juice and cola.
The Caipirinha means ‘peasant drink’ in Brazil. A glug of cachaca or rum, fresh lime and sugar and it became an enduring classic. The Mai Tai was invented by Victor Bergron at Trader Vics bar in Oakland, US, in the mid 40s.
The Sidecar – brandy, Cointreau and lemon juice – was created at Harry’s Bar in Paris during WW1 and was named for an army captain who always arrived in the sidecar of a motorcycle.