Director of Opera, James Clutton, shares a favourite cocktail recipe from 1890s New York and traces its historic connection to Holland House.
I initially came across this cocktail in the Savoy Cocktail Book. Originally published in 1930, it is one of the great cocktail books and was compiled by the great Harry Craddock – bartender at the American Bar in the Savoy Hotel in London through the 1920’s. I was very excited when I saw the cocktail’s name and wondered about connections to our Holland House and set about investigating its history.
Like most cocktails there are various ideas and claims on its origins but the earliest source seems to be George J. Kappeler, who worked at the Holland House Hotel in New York. This was the house cocktail at Holland House and Harry Craddock worked there before he left to go to the Savoy in 1920, when prohibition had forced him to leave New York.
Though I was disappointed that its origin wasn’t our Holland House, I continued to research the cocktail and delved a bit deeper into the history. The Holland House Hotel was situated on the junction of Fifth Avenue and 30th Street, New York. It was described as having, “without exception, the finest piece of architectural door work in New York” – and was built of a limestone “of peculiar beauty”.
I then found an illustrated souvenir brochure online, registered at the Library of Congress on 23 December 1891. Guests at Holland House Hotel in the 1890s were invited to take away a copy of this brochure, which includes the following passage:
“On entering this superb hotel one of the first things that attracts the visitor is the odd looking hall chairs but there is history attached to these – they are exact reproductions of those in old Holland House, London.
The restaurant is described as having the style “picturesque redolent of the antique. Exactly such furniture and decoration were common in Old Holland House of London.” Finally, “the olden style fire places in the Gilt Room are peculiarly beautiful specimens of the decorative art. Over the mantels are some exquisite designs, some of which are copies of the celebrated paintings which adorned old Holland House.”
So the Holland House Cocktail had a connection with our Holland House after all.
2 parts Gin
1 part French Vermouth
Juice of quarter of lemon
1 slice of pineapple
4 dashes maraschino
Ice – essential in any cocktail
Ice the glasses before you mix the cocktail. This makes the drink even colder and frosts the glasses beautifully.
Put all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Shake as hard as you can – as Harry Craddock said – “Don’t just rock it, you are trying to wake it up, not put it to sleep” and strain into the iced cocktail glass.
Then, the best way to drink a cocktail? “Quickly – while it’s laughing at you.”