Stompin' at the Savoy


This was the scene last week at the Alembic, the best cocktail bar between Van Ness and Japan, where intrepid bartenders Thomas Waugh and Daniel Hyatt (in ties and vests) had suspended the use of their standard cocktail list and replaced it with the entire 293-page Savoy Cocktail Book. Originally published in 1930, this volume is both a valuable historical clue to the vibrancy of a distant age and a still-relevant compendium of drinking fun. A dozen copies of the book were available at the bar, and drinkers were invited to simply thumb through it and find something they wanted to drink.

For the bartenders, this was an immense challege. For one thing, they had to research and recreate (or find substitutes for) many of the book’s lost or forgotten mixers and liqueurs, such as Kummel, Hercules and Forbidden Fruit. They also had to make every cocktail while looking at a recipe, which, as anyone who has ever tended bar knows, will slow you down immensely.

I had the boys make me a Waterbury Cockatail (p. 178)—grenadine, sugar, lemon, egg white, and brandy—which recipe is followed in the book by the exhortation, "Yes, Sir! A stem-winder." It was delicious. This I followed with the Fairbanks No. 1 (p. 68): lemon, grenadine, apricot brandy, vermouth and gin. Excellent again. Altogether a fun night, and it was great to see bartenders taking risks like that all night long.

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