Cocktails of the Lost Generation – Paris in the 1920s

On Tuesday, February 21, the historic Tabard Inn hosted a “Cocktails of the Lost Generation” cocktail seminar, presented by the Museum of the American Cocktail.  Chantal Tseng and Philip Greene presented a slate of great drinks that were popular in 1920s Paris.  They also read excerpts from Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and other writers of the time, and told stories of that golden era. 

Chantal Tseng and Philip Greene

Phil started things off with an overview of the Lost Generation, some of the great writers, artists, poets, and other bohemians who populated Montparnasse, and told of the origin of the term.  He then described some of the favorite watering holes of the day, including the Dome, the Rotonde, the Closerie des Lilas, the Select, and the Dingo.  It was at that fine establishment where Jimmie “The Barman” Charters ran the bar, and where he invented the Jimmie Special:

The Jimmie Special

For two people, combine in a cocktail shaker:

1 jigger Pierre Ferrand Cognac

1/2 jigger Pernod Anisette

1/2 jigger Amer-Picon

1/2 jigger Mandarin liqueur

1/2 jigger sweet cherry brandy (kirsch).

Shake thoroughly.  Drink straight or mix with soda to taste.

Comment:  A jigger is 1 ½ ounces.  Note that Amer Picon, a French aperitif bitter, is virtually unavailable in the U.S., but you can use Torani Amer as a substitute.

According to Jimmie’s autobiography, This Must Be The Place, “two stiff drinks of it will have some surprising effects!  On women this drink had the effect of causing them to undress in public, and it often kept me busy wrapping overcoats around nude ladies!  But even knowing this did not prevent some of the feminine contingent from asking for the Jimmie Special.  I wish I had 100 francs for every nude or semi-nude lady I’ve wrapped up during the best Montparnasse days!  In the end, Mrs. Wilson, the wife of the owner of the Dingo, forbade me to make any more Jimmie Specials.”

It should be noted that neither the drink nor the fact that it was Mardi Gras had any effect on the female population of the seminar.  Then again, they were served half-sized samples, only.

The next drink was a variation on the Jack Rose.  In his soon-to-be-published book To Have and Have Another – A Hemingway Cocktail Companion, Phil postulates that perhaps this is the Jack Rose that Jake Barnes drank in Chapter VI of The Sun Also Rises while awaiting Brett Ashley.  And why not?  After all, the drink is found in a well-known 1920s bartender’s guide, Cocktails and Barflies, written by Harry MacElhone, the owner of Harry’s New York Bar.  Hemingway was a patron of that bar.  Further, the novel takes place in Paris around the same time, so why not, indeed?  Here’s that drink:

Jack Rose – Harry MacElhone’s 1920s Paris recipe:

1 ½ oz Applejack

¾ oz Hendrick’s Gin

¾ oz orange juice

¾ oz fresh lemon or lime juice

1/3 oz Martini Dry vermouth

1/3 oz Martini Sweet vermouth

Grenadine to colour (about 1/3 oz)

Shake well with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with twist of lime or lemon peel.

            Phil’s third drink was the house cocktail of Gerald and Sara Murphy, the Villa America, also the name of their villa in the south of France, where they played host to many of the bright lights of the day, including Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Dos Passos, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and many others.

Villa America Special

1 ½ oz Pierre Ferrand Cognac

1 oz liqueur (such as Cointreau, or another liqueur of your choosing)

¾ oz fresh lemon juice

Chill a cocktail glass.  Rub rim of glass with lemon, then dip it in coarse sugar.  Shake brandy, Cointreau and lemon juice well with ice, then strain into chilled glass.

Phil noted that this is nothing more than a Sidecar, assuming the liqueur is Cointreau.  Phil talked about the history of the Sidecar, and its likely origins in the 19th century New Orleans classic the Brandy Crusta. 

Phil then talked about some other popular drinks of the day, notably the Fine a L’eau, the Chambery Cassis, Whiskey Sour, and the Hot Rum Punch.  Here’s one version of that classic cold-weather drink, from Charles Baker’s classic The Gentleman’s Companion:

Hot Rum Punch

1 ½ 750 ml bottles Barbados or lighter Jamaican Rum (or use Rhum Saint James if keeping with the theme of A Moveable Feast)

1 750 ml bottle Cognac

3 quarts boiling water

2 cups lemon juice

Brown sugar, to taste

Handful of cloves

Add all ingredients to a sturdy stockpot or crockpot, stir occasionally.  Garnish each cup with a spiral of yellow lemon peel, careful to remove the white pith, as it contains unwanted bitterness.

Chantal Tseng, head mixologist at the Tabard Inn, then took the stage to talk about liqueurs and their role in Paris’ café society.  She also discussed the popularity of absinthe, specifically dripped absinthe.  Using a beautiful crystal water dripping fountain, she made dripped absinthe for the crowd, using Pernod’s delightful Absinthe Superieure.

Chantal reads a bit of Fitzgerald

Chantal’s final offering was a delicious Boulevardier Cocktail.  This great drink shows off the simple but classic formula of equal parts Campari, Sweet Vermouth, and a spirit (in this case Wild Turkey Bourbon, but if you use gin you have a Negroni).

Chantal mixes a Boulevardier

The Boulevardier

1 oz Wild Turkey 81 Bourbon

1 oz Martini Sweet Vermouth

1 oz Campari

Garnish with lemon or orange peel, serve on rocks.

The Museum of the American Cocktail wishes to thank its generous sponsors for this event, notably Pierre Ferrand Cognac, Laird’s Applejack, Pernod-Ricard USA, Remy-Cointreau USA, Hendrick’s Gin, Wild Turkey, Campari, as well as the generous donations from Martini. 

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