Meet Me at the Savoy

Savoy Hotel, London - American Bar - Cocktail History

If I were stranded on a desert island—a desert island with a bar, that is—and I could have only one book to use when my memory failed me, then Harry Craddock’s 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book would keep me company. It’s probably the 20th century’s most important tome of its kind.

Craddock, an American who fled the country when Prohibition hit in 1920, documented hundreds of drinks that he served (and, in some cases, invented) at the American Bar in London’s swank Savoy Hotel. More than a few of them—the Pegu Club, for instance—are still served today in cocktail bars.

Up until last weekend, ironically, you couldn’t get one of Craddock’s—or anybody else’s—drinks at the American Bar. The Savoy was closed for a nearly three-year renovation and reopened on October 10. The establishment has been updated and modernized, but cocktail fans will still recognize the historic bar.

Craddock wasn’t the only head bartender at the Savoy who stood out from the crowd. He followed Ada Coleman, after all. “Coley,” as she was known to her regulars, graced the American Bar from 1903 until 1925 and served drinks to just about everybody, including Mark Twain, Diamond Jim Brady and the Prince of Wales. Toast her today by fixing her signature Hanky Panky, a fabulous mixture of equal parts gin and sweet vermouth, with a couple dashes of Fernet-Branca thrown in for good measure.

Then there’s Peter Dorelli, a good friend of mine and a man known as “The Italian Playboy.” He ran the American Bar from 1984 until 2003. Today, at 70 years old, he’s still as spry as a spring chicken, practices yoga daily, and holds workshops and judges bartender competitions all over the world.  Peter is my hero.

The American Bar’s new head barman is Erik Lorincz, another friend of mine and winner of this year’s Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year competition. Erik has big shoes to fill, but fortunately he has the feet for the job. Trust me on this.

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Comments

  1. Hippip52 says

    I have a copy of the Savoy Cocktali Book (1930) and agree that it is the most excellent and comprehensive cocktail book ever. It belonged to my mother and I learnt all I know of cocktails by reading and experimenting during my ‘formative years’. Thanks to Harry Craddock.

  2. I’ve also got a 1930′s edition which I’d quite like to sell if there’s any interest. I’d rather hand it on to a cocktail nut rather than a shop who will likely mark it up.

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