Blogger to Bartender

Camper English, and some of us other writers, have been trying to get some sort of conference together for those of us that blog about cocktails and spirits.

Apparently, the food bloggers, wine bloggers, beer bloggers, and mommy bloggers have fancy conferences all the time.

Last year, during Portland Cocktail Week, Camper organized an event he called Drink.Write.2012.

The topics ranged from making money from your blog, (good luck with that,) to publishing a book, (good luck with that).

I was pleased to be in town one of the days and able to attend as well as participate on one of the panels.

I was on a panel with Matt Robold, of Rumdood fame, and Blair Reynolds, of Hale Pele and BG Reynolds Syrups. Our topic was “From Writer to Bartender”.

Tuesday October 23
1:30 – 2:30 PM
The Kennedy School Gymnasium
From Writer to Bartender
Have you ever thought about trying your hand at bartending? This sure-to-be lively panel will be hosted by three bloggers who made the switch either full- or part-time: Blair Reynolds of B.G Reynold’s syrups and the just-opened Hale Pele in Portland; Erik Ellestad of the Savoy Stomp blog and bartender at Heaven’s Dog in San Francisco; and Matt Robold, mild-mannered programmer by day, blogger at RumDood.com, and bartender at 320 Main in Orange County and host of the Rum Society at Cana Rum Bar in Los Angeles at night. We’ll hear stories of their greatest successes and failures and get advice on convincing bar managers to give you a chance on the other side of the bar.
Speakers: Blair Reynolds, Erik Ellestad, Matt Robold
Sponsor: Four Roses Bourbon

Figured, since not all of you were able to attend, I’d write up my answers to the questions here. Camper’s questions are the ones in bold quotes.

“Hi kids – Here is what I’m thinking of asking in the Writer to Bartender panel. It’s only 55 minutes long so everybody talk loud and fast.”

“Tell me about the first time you bartended – how did it come about?”

I started the Savoy Cocktail Book Project, “Stomping Through the Savoy” on eGullet.org in June of 2006.

While working on the Savoy Cocktail Book project, I had added a feature where I would take a selection of cocktails, send them to a bartender, and then go to a bar where they worked and have them make a few of the cocktails. Do a little question and answer, post a bio, and a cocktail they had created. For me, it was a way to give a little back to some of the bartenders who had inspired me attempt the Savoy Cocktail Book project in the first place.

Once I started meeting bartenders, I guess I started to wonder if I could do the job.

On the other hand, I’d worked in restaurants for quite a few years when I was younger. Why would I want to return to working that hard?

When I met Erik Adkins, I believe he had some curiosity about what would happen if he put an Internet cocktail geek behind the bar, so he gave me the chance to try out Bartending a couple nights at Flora in Oakland.

After trying the job out, Erik A. told me I had done as well as anyone else he knew on their first couple nights at the job, but asked me to think about why I would want to Bartend. I already had a good full time day job with benefits and Bartending would take away from the time I could spend with my wife.

He had some good points, I supposed, at the time, and slightly crest-fallen, put the idea of pursuing Bartending as a career away for a while.

But I couldn’t quite get the experience entirely out of my head. I had worked in restaurants when I was younger, and I was starting to feel like I missed it. I ended up doing some catering Bartending for Rye on the Road, restarted the Savoy Cocktail Book Nights at Alembic with the staff there, and eventually I convinced Erik A to give me a few shifts as a Bartender at Heaven’s Dog when it opened in 2009. When another of the bartenders left in 2010, I stepped up to 3 nights a week behind the bar at Heaven’s Dog and was able to cut my day job to half time.


“How did blogging prepare you for it?”

The best preparation from blogging is simply knowledge of spirits, cocktails, and other cocktail ingredients. To Bartend, you need to know what you’re working with, and all the research I did for the blog was great in preparing me for this aspect of bartending. Didn’t hurt that the project gave me a fairly encyclopedic knowledge of pre-prohibition and prohibition era cocktails. Also, I believe, especially, the job I did as a host on the forums of eGullet gained me some good karma and respect as a sensible, if somewhat prickly, expert in the arenas of spirits and cocktails.


“How did it not? What skills should one work on before even thinking about bartending at a real bar?”

First, when you blog, you usually do not have to talk to other people in person. The sort of flam-ey, virtual, you’re wrong and I am right, sorts of things you can do on the Internet, just don’t really work in person.

When Internet cocktail geeks think of bartending, they usually think of making different cocktails and mastering cocktail trivia.

For the most part, making cocktails is just a small part of the job.

You go to work in the afternoon, (or morning,) spend an hour or two getting the bar ready for service. Juicing citrus, preparing garnish, getting the stations set up, checking inventory, stocking, etc.

Then you spend from 6-10 hours making small talk with random customers and mixing the same few cocktails over and over.

Afterwards, you spend an hour or two cleaning the bar, stocking it for the next day, counting money, and accounting for credit card charges.

While it is important to know some cocktails and be able to make them consistently, a lot of the other parts of the job are much more important.

Finally, as a blogger, you don’t have to pay too much attention to personal hygiene. As a bartender, you may need to learn to iron and almost always need to wear pants on the job.

“What is the hardest part about bartending, or what did you have to learn on the job? How did you screw up horribly and embarrass yourself?”

There are a few completely unrelated skills which are necessary as a bartender.

First, you need the ability to relate to and remember random people, and coworkers, in a sincere, personable, and positive way no matter how you are feeling on the day.

Second, you should be able to handle money in a confident and accurate way.

Third, you need to be able to perform a repetitive task, making drinks, accurately and consistently.

Fourth, and most important, you need to do all these things simultaneously, and with the appearance that you are comfortable and relaxed with all of them. As my friend Matt Robold said, “You need to own the bar.”

For me the worst days, are the ones where a miscommunication with a customer leads to a misunderstanding and then some sort of escalation. You made the wrong drink because you or the customer asked the wrong questions. You misheard a food order or forgot to send the order for something. Usually, there is some way to salvage an interaction, but sometimes there just is not. Accepting that and trying not to take it too personally is hard.

Also, reading negative yelp reviews you know are about yourself sucks.

“How should someone who wants to get a bar gig prepare for it in advance?”

Don’t work for free for more than a very limited set amount of time. In my opinion, the so called “Stage” is nothing more than a scam perpetrated by restaurants to take advantage of over eager Culinary school graduates and lower their restaurant’s bottom line with free labor.

Working as a Barback is good experience, but generally will not lead directly to a bartender job, except in very rare circumstances. Also, Barbacks who spend all their time trying to learn to be Bartenders, instead of actually doing their barbacking job, are annoying.

The best preparation might be working in a restaurant as a Food Server, Barista, or Cook.

Other than that, know your ingredients, and be willing to work hard and learn on the job.

Also, working as a bartender for a catering company is a great way to get started, though a somewhat different discipline from working in a actual bar.

“How do you ask for a bar job? Just walk into a place like you own it and ask?”

First, spend some time at the bar or restaurant figuring out if it is the sort of place you would feel comfortable working. Stop by and case out the joint, make some small talk with the bartenders, barbacks, and servers. Do your best to make a good impression, but don’t appear over eager. Pay attention to the demeanor and apparent morale of the staff, it goes a long way towards indicating if it would be a good place to work.

If it seems like somewhere you would want to work, dress appropriately for the venue, put on your most outgoing demeanor, and drop by the bar or restaurant during a not too busy time of the day. Ask to see the bar manager, and if the bar manager isn’t there when you stop by, leave your resume and ask when s/he will have time to talk to you. Be persistent, but not annoying, we are all busy people. When you meet the manager pay attention to how s/he relates to you, remember you will probably be working for them closely.

Also, when you get the job, remember it is a real job. Showing up on time, behaving in a professional manner, and expressing a willingness to work hard will go a long way towards gaining you credibility.

Bartending, at its most basic, is usually a minimum wage (if you’re lucky), no benefits, service industry job.

Along those lines, as the joke goes, bartenders work where (and when) everyone else plays. Nights, weekends, holidays.

If you want to work in Food and Bev, you need to be willing to work those hours.

“What have you learned as a bartender – and how has it impacted your writing?”

While Bartending does open up some different subjects to talk about on the blog, it also tends to negatively impact the ability to write.

At least at first, if you are holding down a full time job, Bartending part time, and blogging, one of those things is going to suffer. Most likely the one which doesn’t pay, is going to be the one to suffer the most, and you will have a hard time finding the time and willpower to write.

As it is, you need to be pretty careful, unless you want to go all in, to set boundaries for both bartending and your day job so neither one is too adversely affected by your choices. If you’re just checking out Bartending, don’t quit your day job, and don’t let Bartending kill your chances to advance at your job. While professional bartenders usually don’t drink to excess while they are working, they often drink copiously when they are not working. If you are out until 5 AM drinking with your new bartender friends, you aren’t going to be in any shape to do a good job at your day job the next morning. Likewise, be forthright with your day job employers, if possible, and inform them about things that might affect your availability to do whatever it is you do during the day.

Speaking of being careful, you also need to be even more careful to balance work/family. Adding another job means less time with your family. You’ll have to work extra hard to make the time you do spend valuable and refreshing to yourself and your family. Not to mention, the whole, “out until 5AM drinking,” thing tends to be viewed even less favorably by your family than by your employers.

For me Bartending is an ongoing learning experience. It helps me to not just stay interested and informed in cocktails, spirits, wine, beer, and food, but also helps me to be more confident and loosen up my natural reticence to be outgoing and talk to strangers. I feel like I am a more well rounded person for having made the choice to pursue a career as a bartender.

Once in a Lifetime

Back in the US, as I started to contemplate writing this fantastic and amazing day up, I really found I had a hard time dealing with the enormity of the experience.

Frankly, I’m from the Midwest. We just don’t deal with emotion particularly well. Garrison Keilor is not lying.

As I was writing up some of the posts, the statue and portrait of Winston Churchill in the Savoy Meeting room still bothered me.

Dry Martini Setup

Googled “Winston Churchill Savoy Hotel”.

Oh shit, that room was the Pinafore Room, where Winston Churchill used to meet with The Other Club.

“Churchill, who in 1910 was Liberal Home Secretary, and barrister and Conservative MP F. E. Smith had not been invited to join the venerable political dining club known just as The Club. Although both had friends in it, the members thought Churchill and Smith too controversial. So they established their own club, to be called by contrast “The Other Club”.

The initial membership was 12 Liberals, 12 Conservatives, and 12 “distinguished outsiders” who were not in politics. With the help of David Lloyd George (then Chancellor of the Exchequer) another non-member of The Club, they put together such a list and the first dinner was on 18 May 1911. The Chief Whips of the two parties were co-secretaries of the club, so that pairs could be arranged, meaning members dinner would not be interrupted by divisions in the parliament.”

Churchill, famous for his love of a Martini, especially the version that is simply a Big, Cold, Glass of Plymouth Gin.

Friday Afternoon Cocktail: Churchill’s Martini

“Churchill loved his martinis, and he was particular about how he made them. He demanded gin, not vodka or any mix of the two, and Plymouth gin to be exact. You’ll know Plymouth because of its notable Mayflower motif, apparently because “Like the pilgrims, gin traveled from Leyden to Plymouth before coming to the New World.” He was very light on the vermouth – the legend is that in place of it, Churchill would simply nod in the direction of France.”

OK, so we made a Plymouth Martini for the time capsule shaker in the Pinafore Room at the Savoy Hotel, where Winston Churchill used to meet with The Other Club.

Head Explodes. That is some serious voodoo.

The whole day, honestly, was like that.

Harry Craddock’s grave. Meeting the Savoy Head Barmen. Burns’ statue on Burns Night. Simpson’s-in-the-Strand. Cafe Royal. The Dorchester. The grand old Savoy Hotel herself.

So much history, so evocative.

“Once in a Lifetime,” hardly sums it up.

I started this whole Savoy Trip on eGullet in June of 2006. Not intending to start a blog. Not intending to be a bartender. Not intending to do anything other than to learn a little more about how classic cocktails were made.

7 years later, after finishing making the Savoy Cocktails, (don’t talk to me about punches and cups,) this trip was the culmination of a lot of work, a lot of fun, and the capper to a whole chapter of my life.

I really am still trying to figure out what it means.

Thank you Plymouth Gin, Jared and Anistatia, Erik Lorincz, everyone who reads this blog, and especially, my wife Michele, who has encouraged me at every turn, to follow my interests and my dreams.

Savoy Head Bartender Signatures

Previous Posts:

Gunnersbury Tube Station

Robert Burns, The Savoy Hotel, and the White Lady

Simpson’s-in-the-Strand and the Sidecar

Cafe Royal and The Bronx Cocktail

The Dorchester and the Manhattan

The Savoy Hotel and the Dry Martini.

The Savoy Hotel and the Dry Martini Cocktail

Continuing the writeup of the day I spent in London celebrating the life and legacy of Harry Craddock.

Previous Posts:

Gunnersbury Tube Station

Robert Burns, The Savoy Hotel, and the White Lady

Simpson’s-in-the-Strand and the Sidecar

Cafe Royal and The Bronx Cocktail

The Dorchester and the Manhattan

Count Peter

Our cars returned us to the Savoy Hotel, where under the watchful gaze of Count Peter of Savoy, we are escorted to a room near the back of the hotel.

Dry Martini Setup

Huh, seems to be a portrait of Sir Winston Churchill, behind all that Gin. And a statue of him in the corner giving the famous V for Victory hand sign. Wonder what that is about? Lots of famous people and politicians at the Savoy, I suppose.

Maximilian Warner from Plymouth starts, thanking us for coming, what a momentous and meaningful experience it has been for him, highlight of his career. He also explains that this long time in coming party to celebrate the legacy of Plymouth Gin and Harry Craddock, was a going away party for him of sorts, he will be leaving the Plymouth company for parts unknown. He then hands the “Mic” over to Erik Lorincz, to say some words, and make the final cocktail of the day, The Dry Martini. Erik says something cute like, “My hands are shaking too much in this esteemed company, I’d like to invite someone up to help me make this cocktail. Someone whose work has done a lot to popularize both the Savoy Cocktail Book and Harry Craddock’s legacy, Erik Ellestad.” Gulp.

Two Eriks at Savoy

(Photo by Jared Brown

OK, now my hands are shaking far more than Erik Lorincz’! A few questions as we make the cocktail, about the Savoy Cocktail Book Project. I manage to stammer out a couple semi coherent answers, didn’t know I’d be doing any public speaking, and somehow we both, shaking hands and all, manage to get the final cocktail, The Dry Martini, into the cocktail shaker time capsule for posterity.

Pouring Plymouth for Martinis

(Photo by Jared Brown)

Public speaking over, and lo, there was much rejoicing, Martinis, and Gin and Tonics.

How Many Savoy Head Bartenders to Pour a Martini

(Photo by Jared Brown)

Just how many Savoy Head Bartenders does it take to make a Martini?

Speaking of Head Bartenders, last year Angus Winchester blew through town promoting Tanqueray Gin, and brought with him a copy of the Savoy Cocktail Book he’d had Erik Lorincz and Peter Dorelli sign. I’d brought it along this day, and surreptitiously had the other Savoy Bartenders sign my copy.

Angus Savoy Cocktail Book

Unfortunately, Joe Gilmore’s illness made it impossible for me to get his signature.

Savoy Head Bartender Signatures

Or did it…

Savoy Cocktail Book

As part of the gift pack, they gave us a new edition of the Savoy Cocktail Book, with an introduction from Erik Lorincz and modern cocktails from the Savoy Bar, but they also had all of the living Savoy Head Bartenders Sign the copies, including Joe Gilmore.

Yes, I suppose I am a Savoy Nerd to get excited about this. Is that a bad thing?

Gift Bags

(Photo by Jared Brown)

I suppose I should mention, at this point, that one of the features of the tour, was the launch of the new Plymouth bottle in England. I can say without reservations that the people at Plymouth, Beefeater, and apparently, Chivas, along with their parent company Pernod Ricard, have been great supporters of the Savoy Project. I’ve met a lot of good people who work for them, and especially thank Trevor Easter for helping out get me across the pond for this day of celebration.

Gift Box

And the mysterious blue box which accompanied our gift bag, was also very cool.

5 Cocktails

Included a card with the 5 cocktails we had enjoyed during the course of the day and some wrapped items.

Contents

A goblet style glass, a small decorative cocktail shaker, and a bottle of Plymouth Gin in the new bottle.

Glass, Shaker, Gin

“Here’s to Harry Craddock ‘Bartender Legend’, Friday 25 January, 2013.”

To Harry

Finally, I will add a sixth cocktail to the 5, the Corpse Reviver (No 4)…

Corpse Reviver No 2

Corpse Reviver (No 4)

3/4 oz Plymouth Gin
3/4 oz Kina l’Avion d’Or (I’ve been curious how the Kina from Tempus Fugit would work in a Corpse Reviver variation, and I had some in the house. Pretty tasty. I was afraid it would totally dominate, but it behaves itself here and works kind of nicely with the Cointreau.)
3/4 oz Cointreau
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
dash Absinthe

Shake and strain into a celebratory goblet.

…and raise a glass to Harry Craddock, the Savoy Hotel, and Plymouth Gin.

Cheers!

Dorchester and the Manhattan

Continuing the writeup of the day I spent in London celebrating the life and legacy of Harry Craddock.

Previous Posts:

Gunnersbury Tube Station

Robert Burns, The Savoy Hotel, and the White Lady

Simpson’s-in-the-Strand and the Sidecar

Cafe Royal and The Bronx Cocktail

We arrived at the Dorchester Hotel, where we were escorted, of course, to The Bar.

“The delights of cocktail hour have returned to London with The Bar at The Dorchester. Established as one of the places in the capital to see and be seen, The Bar at The Dorchester is renowned as much for its rich, opulent interior as for its menu of new and classic cocktails, devised by world-renowned expert alchemist Giuliano Morandin and his team, whose awards are too many to list.

“A rich palette of black, browns and aubergine combine with luxurious lacquered mahogany, mirrored glass, velvet and dramatic red glass-spears, to create the perfect night-time atmosphere. The long, sexy, curved bar offers one of the finest selections of spirits, champagnes and wines in London with a menu to match.”

Gotta love press releases and advertising copy.

Dorchester Bar

Glassware was already chilling, waiting to be filled with Manhattans.

I just like the sequence of expressions on Anistatia, the barman, and Peter Dorelli’s faces in these next three photos.

Peter and Anistatia One

Peter and Anistatia Two

Peter and Anistatia Three

Ahem, moving along…

Pouring Manhattans at Dorchester

(Photo by Jared Brown)

The interesting thing about Harry’s tenure at the Dorchester, is that for a long time neither the hotel nor Jared and Anistatia could find any actual evidence, in print or otherwise, of Harry’s time there.

From Wikipedia:

“The Dorchester Hotel was created by Malcolm McAlpine, a partner in the building company Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons and the managing director of Gordon Hotels Ltd, Sir Frances Towle, who shared a vision of creating the ‘perfect hotel’: ultramodern and ultra-efficient, with all the conveniences modern technology could supply. So, in 1929 their two companies jointly bought the Dorchester House, a large 19th-century building, and quickly had it demolished. Sir Owen Williams & William Curtis Green were commissioned to design the new hotel, using reinforced concrete to allow the creation of large internal spaces without support pillars.. The construction was carried out by Sir Robert McAlpine, with the upper eight floors erected in just 10 weeks, supported on a massive three feet thick reinforced concrete deck that forms the roof of the first floor.

“During the Second World War, the strength of its construction gave the hotel the reputation of being one of London’s safest buildings. Cabinet Ministers, such as Lord Halifax and Duff Cooper, stayed there during this time, as did Winston Churchill, who had a wall built to add privacy to his balcony, which still exists. General Dwight D. Eisenhower took a suite on the first floor (now the Eisenhower Suite) in 1942 after previously having stayed at Claridge’s. Diners at the Dorchester from cultural circles during this period included Cyril Connolly, T. S. Eliot, Harold Nicolson, and Edith Sitwell.”

If Harry was at the Dorchester, he was serving quite the clientele!

Dorchester Letter Explained

(Photo by Jared Brown)

However, a letter recently came to light. Giuliano Morandin, manager of the Dorchester bar, explained he had a guest come in who said he had a letter from Harry Craddock which had been addressed to his father. Apparently, the guest’s father was something of a regular, and Harry felt it necessary to send him a letter, reassuring the father that he was not retiring, and he would be able to find him behind the bar at the Dorchester, “every day”. Ah, regulars.

Harry retired from the Dorchester in April of 1947, at age 74. He would help open one more bar, the bar at Brown’s Hotel, in 1951, before completely retiring from bartending.

Magic Shaker and Manhattan

(Photo by Jared Brown)

Salim Khoury and Giuliano Morandin placed the sample of the Manhattan Cocktail into the shaker time capsule.

Dorchester Group Shot

(Photo by Jared Brown)

Our group gathers for one last shot, in front of the Dorchester.

Once more, to the cabs, and back, I believe, to the Savoy Hotel, for the final cocktail.

Into the cars once more!

Cafe Royal and the Bronx

Continuing the writeup of the day I spent in London celebrating the life and legacy of Harry Craddock.

Previous Posts:

Gunnersbury Tube Station

Robert Burns, The Savoy Hotel, and the White Lady

Simpson’s-in-the-Strand and the Sidecar

Cars

Our cars deposited us outside the
Cafe Royal Hotel and we were escorted through the very modern new bar and restaurant, where I believe I spotted Rowan Atkinson, to the recently remodeled, and at that time not yet quite open, The Grill Room at the Cafe Royal.

“The iconic Grill Room (originally established in 1865) has been exquisitely restored to its original Louis XVI detailing and is now the place to enjoy Champagne, cocktails and a light menu.

“Nestled between the elegance of Mayfair and the creativity of Soho, the Grill Room is where great minds came together to change the world. It is in this very room that Oscar Wilde fell in love with Lord Alfred Douglas, Aubrey Beardsley debated with Whistler, David Bowie retired Ziggy Stardust and Mick Jagger, the Beatles and Elizabeth Taylor danced the night away.

“The Grill Room is open from 6pm Monday to Saturday and has a regular programme of entertainment throughout the week.

“Reservations are required after 9.00pm. Please send details of your request to grillroom@hotelcaferoyal.com

“We will do our best to accommodate your request and will respond within 24 hours.

“Please note, admittance will always be at the discretion of the host.
“Dress code: celebrative and sophisticated.”

Well, so far this day had proved itself both “Celebrative” and “Sophisticated”, hopefully they will let a bunch of slightly tipsy bartenders, booze industry insiders, and journalists into this rather posh establishment! I mean, if Mr Bean can get in…

Dorelli Pours Bronx

(Photo by Jared Brown)

It was Peter Dorelli’s turn to make a drink for the cocktail shaker time capsule, in this case, the Bronx Cocktail. Some banter was exchanged regarding Italian Bartenders and their prominence in the English Bar Trade, not to mention how odd it was that they managed to maintain the strength of their Italian accent, even after years, nay decades, of living in England. I’m sure it has nothing to do with tips and charming the ladies.

Anistatia Speaks

(Photo by Jared Brown)

One thing that was most interesting about this trip, was to catch some glimpse of Harry Craddock, the man. There is so little of Craddock’s personality in the Savoy Cocktail Book, just a couple quotes and a picture, that he has always been something of a cipher to me. I’ve also not spent much time researching him, much more time on tracking down the origins of the recipes he compiled in the Savoy Cocktail Book.

This, I suppose, is the wrong way to go about it, something Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown have gone a long way to rectify in their book, “The Deans of Drink: The Amazing Lives & Turbulent Times of Harry Johnson & Harry Craddock as Seen in a New Light.” If you can’t tell, I am leaning heavily on the text of their book for some of these articles, but there is much, much more detail in the book itself.

“Being a narration of the Golden Eras of American & British cocktails as told through the careers & persona lives, with sundry historical notes & observations as well as cameos of other who made their mark, most notably Willy Schmidt, Ada Coleman, Paul Henkel Jr, James B Regan, Ruth Burgess, & William J Tarling; with rare photos & drawings; plus relevant walking tours of New York & London. Recipes herein are not only of historic import, the reader will find formulas created by leading bartenders of today who are influenced by these masters.”

Whew!

So, yes, Mr Tarling was the head honcho here at the Cafe Royal and the president of the United Kingdom Bartender’s Guild. Tarling’s book, “The Cafe Royal Cocktail Book” is one of the gems of that gilded age of cocktails. The Cafe Royal was the place where American spirits, even native American spirits like Tequila, came together with European liqueurs and aperitifs in astounding ways that reflected the glamor and decadence of pre-war England.

Sidecar Cocktails

(Photo by Jared Brown)

We enjoy our Bronx Cocktails, snap some more photos, and off we go, back into the cars to head to another unknown destination.

Taxis at Cafe Royal

(Photo by Jared Brown)

Simpson’s-in-the-Strand and the Sidecar

Continuing the writeup of the day I spent in London celebrating the life and legacy of Harry Craddock.

Previous Posts:

Gunnersbury Tube Station

Robert Burns, The Savoy Hotel, and the White Lady

After enjoying our White Ladies and conversation, we were led back out through the front door of the Savoy Hotel and to the left along the Strand. I was told that the place we would be eating, actually pre-dated the Savoy Hotel.

Simpson’s-in-the-Strand

Simpson’s-in-the-Strand is one of London’s most historic landmark restaurants and has been offering classic British dishes to its delighted patrons for over 170 years.

Originally opened in 1828 as a chess club and coffee house – The Grand Cigar Divan – Simpson’s soon became known as the “home of chess”, attracting such chess luminaries as Howard Staunton the first English world chess champion through its doors. It was to avoid disturbing the chess games in progress that the idea of placing large joints of meat on silver-domed trolleys and wheeling them to guests’ tables first came into being, a practice Simpson’s still continues today. One of the earliest Master Cooks insisted that everything in the restaurant be British and the Simpson’s of today remains a proud exponent of the best of British food. Famous guests include Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Dickens, Sherlock Holmes, George Bernard Shaw, Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone.

“Sherlock Holmes”? I know Arthur Conan Doyle was published in The Strand Magazine, but I’m pretty sure Sherlock, Mycroft, Moriarty, and the Hound of the Baskervilles were, uh, fictional. Or is that the Half-Asperger’s talking? Speaking of, Steven Moffat and the BBC are on a real tear with their Sherlock and Dr Who “reboots”. I can’t wait to come home from work Saturday night and watch the Dr Who season premiere, too bad we only get like 4 episodes of Sherlock a year, but at least Benedict Cumberbatch is in “Parade’s End”… Er, I digress.

Lunch at Simpson's on Strand

Right, so they took us to the downstairs private dining room, where we were seated for a fine menu of British delights.

Christian and Guests

This is another picture of Christian from the Savoy, along with a few other bartenders I met on the tour.

Complicated Cutlery

There was a lot of cutlery, what is this Downton Abbey? Some confusion regarding bread plates and Wine glasses. Hey, we’re bartenders, not waiters or butlers.

Victor Gower Mixes

After Erik Lorincz’ White Lady in the American Bar, we were joined by the senior representative of the Savoy Head Barmen, Victor Gower, who made the Sidecar Cocktail for the cocktail shaker time capsule.

The Savoy Head Barmen have so far been:

Frank Wells, 1893 to 1902.
Ada “Coley” Coleman, 1903 to 1924.
Harry Craddock, 1925 to 1939.
Eddie Clark, 1939 to 1942.
Reginald “Johnnie” Johnson, 1942 to 1954.
Joe Gilmore, 1954 to 1975.
Harry “Vic” Viccars, 1975 to 1981
Victor Gower, 1981 to 1985.
Peter Dorelli, 1985 to 2003.
Salim Khoury, 2003 to 2010.
Erik Lorincz, 2010 to present

Some amusing stories about Harry Craddock, the man, were relayed by Anistatia. He generally declined to drink with customers, but would sometimes have a drink with Journalist friends before he started work, or after. One particular bar assistant was said to be quoted, “He was a bear to deal with if I didn’t get three GnTs into him before the night started.”

Anyway, if you think the Savoy Cocktail Book has a lot of recipes, it is claimed Harry had an index box filled with recipes, and added the 2000th recipe card to the box in 1928. At the time, as a marketing promotion, the Hotel asked him to compile his recipes into a single book, and the Savoy Cocktail Book was published in 1930. It is also rumored that the recipe card index box still exists, perhaps in the hands of one of the head bartenders.

After the publication of the book, Harry Craddock became something of a household name, “The Dean of Cocktail Shakers,” or, “Mr Manhattan”, appearing in liquor advertisements, and frequently quoted in Newspaper and magazine articles. He used this celebrity to organize, with the head bartender of the Cafe Royal WJ Tarling, the UK Bartender’s Guild.

However, after 19 years, he left the Savoy Hotel in February of 1939, and took the head barman job at the Dorchester Hotel.

After coffee and dessert, we head out to the front courtyard of the Savoy Hotel, to be picked up by our little fleet of vintage cabs and swept off to another undisclosed destination.

Cars

Robert Burns, The Savoy Hotel, and the White Lady

Continuing the writeup of the day I spent in London. First post here: Gunnersbury Tube Station

One of the most fun aspects of the trip was chatting with European and UK Bartenders, on the way back from Harry’s grave I piled into a random cab with a couple Spanish Barmen and a Journalist from the national paper.

They quizzed me about what Gins and Cocktails were the most popular in the US, and I asked them about Bartending and Cocktails in Spain.

We pulled in under an overpass and were informed we would be going to the Savoy Hotel, entering through the River Entrance, but first there was a bit of business.

A litle Chivas for Burns Night

As it happened, our tour was taking place on Jan 25th, which while being the anniversary of Harry Craddock’s burial, is also the anniversary of Robert (Rabbie) Burns birth.

Near the hotel, is a statue of Robert Burns, and we stopped there, for a sip of Chivas and a toast to the great Scottish poet.

I include, by way of toast, a video of Camera Obscura, who have set “I Love My Jean” to music.

We arrive at the Savoy Hotel, make our way to the American Bar, Erik Lorincz speaks briefly, welcoming us to the Savoy,

Erik L Speaks

Anistatia Miller then stands up and gives us the low down about a few more details of Harry Craddock’s life.

I’ll quote Jared and Anistatia’s book, “The Deans of Drink” here regarding prohibition and Craddock.

“…for Harry Craddock, Prohibition meant the end of a career that he had built for himself…Harry found himself jobless, supporting a wife and a sixteen-year-old step-daughter who had come to live with them only four months earlier. It was time to head to the greener pastures of home.

“Craddock applied for an American passport, and on 27 April, 1920, he and his family arrived in Liverpool on board the White Star Line’s SS The Baltic. Describing himself as being in the hotel business, Craddock gave their destination address as Devonshire Roast, where his older brother Ernest resided.”

When they built the Savoy Hotel, they wanted the best of everything; August Escoffier, Cesar Ritz, but it also needed an American Bar to serve American drinks. When it opened Frank Wells was the head barman, but by around 1902, two women, Ruth Burgess and Ada Coleman had taken over the bar. They were both immensely popular with the English patrons, but less so with the Americans, who were unaccustomed to seeing women in bars. Harry Craddock joined the Savoy in its dispensary bar around 1921, and by 1925 had succeeded Ruth Burgess and Ada Coleman as the Head Barman of the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel.

ladyinwhiteservingwhiteladies
(Photo by Jared Brown)

It is here that the other aspect of our tour is explained.

When they remodeled the bar at the Savoy Hotel, Harry Craddock placed a shaker in the wall of the building, with a sample of a drink.

As there are currently five living Head Barman, during the course of the day, they will each will be mixing a classic cocktail from the Savoy Cocktail Book and placing a sample into a beaker. These five drinks will be placed in a cocktail shaker and built into the bar at the Savoy Hotel, as a tribute to Harry, and to the recent renewal of the bar at the Hotel.

The first drink, mixed by Erik Loricz, is one Harry invented, The White Lady.

Erik Loricz and Shaker
(Photo of the dashing Erik Lorincz by Jared Brown)

Gunnersbury Tube Station

“We hope you have a pleasant trip across the pond and are looking forward to a unique and fun-filled day touring London landmarks in the life of Harry Craddock.”

“Your Journey officially kicks off on Friday, January 25th, when you will meet the team at Gunnersbury Station at 9:00 a.m., at which time you will depart for the first stop of the tour. Please note that the specific destinations of the day will be kept a surprise to all participants so we will only be allowed to unveil the start and finish points at this time.”

“Throughout the tour, we encourage you to engage the various hosts from Pernod Ricard USA and Chivas Brothers, as well as our special guest hosts, for insights into the story of Harry Craddock and the Savoy Cocktail Book, as well as the unparalleled history of Plymouth Gin.”

“‘From Slings to Smashes, Fizzes to Flips,’ we hope you enjoy your gin-inspired tour in memory of Harry Craddock.”

“Cheers!”

…and that was all I knew as I arrived at Gunnersbury Tube Station, January 25, 2013.

Myself and a couple bartenders, along with Camper English, arrived at about the same time and we were shepherded down the street and into a vintage London Black Cab, in this case Geoffrey Canilao and Stuart McCluskey.

Getting into the Cars

They even included Plymouth Gin fleece blankets, a good thing on this chilly winter day.

Plymouth Blankets

We grabbed some coffee and pastries, and as we waited for everyone to show up, it became apparent this would be a rather large group.

Gathering the Troops

Ah, Pook is HERE. I’ve always wondered…

Ah, Pook is Here

But, that isn’t the grave we are looking for…

Dorelli and Miller

Maximilian Warner gets the game going, with a welcome from Plymouth Gin and a summary of the day. Also on the podium are Nigel Barden and Anistatia Miller.

After Max’s introduction, Anistatia gets to the good stuff. In the first place, this IS Harry Craddock’s grave. Everyone had thought, up until very recently, that Harry had been cremated. However, calls to various cemeteries turned up this grave and date of death which matched Harry’s.

21 January 1963 and 24 January 2013; those are awfully close… Yes, this is the 50th anniversary of Harry’s Burial here at the Gunnersbury Cemetery.

It is, however, a shared grave. In his later years, Harry was not well, and did not seek the public light. Embarrassed a bit to end up on national assistance, this is his final resting place.

Harry's Grave

Our second revelation came regarding Harry’s national origin. He claimed to have been the last “American” Bartender to make a drink before prohibition took effect, but it turned out he was as American as John Lennon or Craig Ferguson.

He was born in Burleigh, Minchinghampton in England’s Cotswold’s on August 29th, 1875. The son of a Tailor and a Knitter, his first career was as a clerk. As with many people of that time, the US had its draw, and he took the trip the USA in spring of 1897. He bounced around the country a bit until he ended up in the Hotel trade in Cleveland, Ohio. First a waiter, he soon moved to bartender. With the portability of that trade, he relocated to Chicago, Illinois and landed a job at the Palmer House.

Erik L Pours Cocktail

Above, Erik Lorincz, the current head bartender at the Savoy Hotel, pours a drink for Harry.

Savoy Bartender Toast

Four of the living head Savoy Hotel Barmen, Victor Gower, Peter Dorelli, Salim Khoury, Erik Lorincz, and Anistatia Miller, raise a Lillet Cocktail, one of his favorites, to Harry’s memory.

At HarrysGrave

I’ve stolen this image from Max/Plymouth, as our whole group raises a glasses of Lillet Cocktails, to Harry.

Back in the cars

And with that, we pile back into the cabs and head to our next mystery destination!

Dukes Martin[i,ez]

“You gotta have the Dukes Martini! It’s a thing. They have a cart.”

Martini Cart

When famed journalist and international traveler Camper English tells you, you have to try a thing, you probably should, at least once!

Well, if it is drink related, anyway.

So, yes, the Dukes Hotel Bar has a Martini Cart. This system, I believe originated when Salvatore Calabrese was the head barman at the Dukes Bar.

When you order a Martini, (or Martinez,) the bartender, in this case the wonderful Alessandro Palazzi, rolls the cart out to your table with what he will need to make your cocktail, including frozen glassware, Vermouth, and very, very chilled Gin.

Alesandro Mixes

His first step is to dash into your glass a little custom vermouth, “made with English wine”. If you desire your Martini or Martinez “Wet” he will leave the dashes of vermouth in the glass. Otherwise, it is just a rinse. Next he raises a frosted bottle of Gin and pours a health measure into the glass. Finally, he finishes the Martini by cutting a wide swath of peel from a lemon and squeezing it over the glass.

Dukes Martinez

Just don’t have more than one, if you have plans for the rest of your evening!