You’ll find the recipe for a Manhattan in Thos. Burdett & Co.’s “Hotel and Saloon Supplies” catalogue (Montreal, 1904) along with a variety of witty toasts, corkscrews and spittoons. For the very best cocktail recipes, however, you need Harry Craddock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book” (First edition, London, 1930). Harry was an Englishman living in New York, tending bar at the Knickerbocker, who headed back to England during Prohibition and developed his expertise for mixing drinks at the American Bar in the Savoy Hotel in London. (He later worked at the Dorchester, after the War, and at Browns). The creator of such classics as the Corpse Reviver II and the Hanky Panky, Harry also popularized the dry martini.
At a very lovely wedding this weekend the table bases were decorated with reproductions of Gilbert Rumbold’s marvelous illustrations for Harry Craddock’s famous recipe book. Beneath glass tops and surrounded by Philippe Stark’s Louis Ghost chairs, the illuminated bases cast a soft glow and the effect, on a summer evening on the penthouse terrace of a very chic hotel in West Hollywood with 360 degree views of the Hollywood Hills, Sunset Strip and Los Angeles twinkling all the way to the ocean, was enchanting. Combined with guests who were sophisticated and beautifully attired, the food fantastic, the drinks intxoicating, a pair of adorable grooms and a hotel staff who could not have been more congenial or helpful and genuinely happy to have us there, and you had an absolutely perfect recipe for magic.
Not all wedding venues are as welcoming, however. There are also some sanctimonious cake-makers out there – probably a few bitter bartenders and caterers and cooks too – who aren’t about to lift a finger to help celebrate a loving union between two men, or two women. Love wins, eventually, but not everyone’s going to be happy about it. My own opinion is, don’t force the haters to host, and don’t ask somebody who thinks you’re going to hell to bake for you. It won’t turn out nicely.
But make no mistake: this has nothing to do with their religious freedom, it’s about entitlement and it’s at your expense. They feel entitled to their beliefs and are bound and determined to make sure you aren’t entitled to yours. It’s sad, really, the way some people will go to such lengths to feel superior. Not to mention the hypocrisy; preach abstinence while you sleep around. Really. It reminds me of Prohibition. Oh look, they said; look how the working class drinks so much, it’s really not right, they can’t hold their liquor, they’re not like us, with our occasional glass of a fine Merlot, there really should be a law against it. And then there was, except it didn’t work. Harry Craddock moved back to England though, where at least you could enjoy his cocktails with impunity. He never came back.
Don’t get me wrong: few things can destroy a family, ruin lives and careers and marriages or just a fun night on the town like too much alcohol. You know what else does that kind of damage? Sex. Lying about it, cheating around it, keeping it a secret or pretending it doesn’t matter or doesn’t exist, or using it to hurt other people or using it for power or control. Too much of it or not enough. It’s a dangerous thing, sex. So is alcohol. So is money. They all lead to ruin if you aren’t careful or aren’t paying attention. Banning them or outlawing them isn’t the answer. Because they can also lead you somewhere else. They are all doorways, after all. They are ways to experience something beyond the immediate world, which is what makes them potentially so dangerous. Because in the right amount, in certain combinations, with the proper recipe, what they have to offer you is a glimpse of the divine.