As you probably know it is award season here in Los Angeles, so I thought what better way to celebrate the 84th Academy Awards this Sunday 26th February 2012 than learning about a couple of ‘Hollywood Classics’ (Cocktails that is).
In the 1930s when the likes of Ginger Rogers and Clark Gable walked the red carpet, there were a couple of drinks created here in this starry eyed city that deserve a mention.
- 3/4 oz Brandy
- 3/4 oz Jamaican rum
- 3/4 oz Cointreau
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- dash Angostura bitters
Garnish: Lime wedge
Shake in ice and strain in to a chilled cocktail glass.
This cocktail from the 1930’s was featured at the late ‘Embassy Club’ in Hollywood. Adolph “Eddie” Brandstatter owned a number of Hollywood hotspots in this era, including the Café Montmartre which was hugely popular with the movie stars of the day. When the stars complained about the hoards of fans bothering them (people would swarm around the entrance and stare at the patrons eating!) Eddie had the idea to knock a passageway from his place in to a newly constructed building next door and this new space became the exclusive Embassy Club.
It was a speakeasy styled private venue that ‘Old Hollywood’ movie stars could go to escape from the crowds. Membership was restricted to Brandstatter’s closest friends which included many stars of the time including Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, Jean Harlow and Howard Hughes.
Sadly, the move turned out to be a disaster for Brandstatter because the Café Montmartre lost it’s appeal. The public didn’t want to go there if they couldn’t see Hollywoods royalty. In order to try and save his businesses he opened Embassy Club to the public but this in turn meant the movie stars stopped going and Brandstatter ended up losing both businesses and filing for bankruptcy. While it was around it is said to have been a beautiful location with a rooftop promenade and glass enclosed lounge with views of the Hollywood hills.
This drink has a great balance of sweet, sour and bitter. I tried it for the first time this week-end and found it to be really quite delicious. The Embassy Cocktail is currently a special on the board at Sadie, in Hollywood and will be available to order throughout this award season.
Classic Martini (Also known as the Bradford, Brighton or Gold Cocktail)
- 1 oz Gin
- 1/2 oz Dry Vermouth
Garnish: Olive or a lemon twist
Stir in ice and serve in a chilled cocktail glass
When I think of “Old Hollywood”, one of the actors that springs to mind is Cary Grant. It is said that Cary Grant’s favorite cocktail was the Classic Martini (made with Gin of course). Author Ian Fleming always said he based his most famous character James Bond on Cary Grant. James Bond had a reputation for living dangerously and making the wrong seem right, he also had to be different from the average Joe, so Fleming had his character always order this classic incorrectly…”Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred”.
A so-called ‘Classic Martini’ is actually really complicated so I won’t go in to it all now, however the original recipe does call for Gin, which is a much better option than vodka in my opinion. Many cocktail connoisseurs also believe that shaking gin is bad because the shaking action “bruises” the gin (a bitter taste can sometimes occur). In Fleming’s novel Casino Royale, it says “Bond watched as the deep glass became frosted with the pale golden drink, slightly aerated by the bruising of the shaker,” I advise you to order yours stirred, not shaken and always with Gin, not Vodka. Sorry James!
- 2 oz Gin
- 1 oz White port
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- Ginger Ale
- Dash of Grenadine (Original is made from Pomegranate based syrup)
This is a non-alcoholic cocktail named after one of the biggest child stars in history. I felt the need to put this one on the list (despite its lack of liquor) for two reasons.
Firstly, Shirley Temple was definitely part of the old Hollywood scene. She was actually awarded a miniature Oscar for charming America with her singing and dancing in the midst of the Great Depression. She was given the award when she was just 6 years old “in grateful recognition of her outstanding contribution to screen entertainment during the year 1934.”and this ‘mocktail’ is said to have been created so that she would have something to drink when out with the adult Hollywood stars.
Secondly, many places today make this drink incorrectly using ‘Sprite’ instead of the original recipe that calls for Ginger Ale, be sure to ask for the latter when ordering, you won’t be disappointed.
My research for this piece comes from many sources, but in particular I want to mention three great books I referenced;
1. ‘The Story of Hollywood’ by Gregory Paul Williams
2. ‘Elemental Mixology’ by Andrew “The Alchemist” Willet
and a fun read novelty book;
3. ‘Hollywood’s Favorite Cocktail Book – including the favorite cocktail served at each of the smartest stars’ rendezvous. Food and Wine Combinations.’ by Buzza-Cardozo published 1928.