This month was a sad month for us mixologists. On the 27 February, Dick Bradsell, father of the many modern classic cocktails and key player in revolutionising the scene in the 1980s, passed away. A great loss for the industry, he was a man that inspired, invigorated and shaped many careers. This tragic event made me reflect on the legends of the London cocktail scene.
London is considered one of the main hubs of the cocktail scene. With five venues being part of the top ten best bars in the world, its influence is far reaching and many bartenders and aspiring industry workers move to London to gain experience and be surrounded by the best, including myself. Even though the city that never sleeps has always had its part in the cocktail scene, especially over the past 80 years, it is often forgotten that London was not as prominent and influential as it is today.
In the early 1900s, despite having multiple 'American bars' which were serving fancy American drinks and used ice, the drinking scene was reputedly quite bad.
The declaration of Prohibition in the US changed everything. With most legal bars closing across the US, many bartenders found themselves out of work and had to make a choice and move to Europe or start a new line of work. Enter Harry Craddock, born in the UK in 1875, he moved to the US at the age of 22 and worked some of the most popular bars of the time such as Holland House and the Knickerbocker. He is reputed to having possibly served the last cocktail before Prohibition and having single handedly revolutionised the London bartending scene. He left the US during prohibition and came to London to start working at the Savoy Hotel in 1920. By 1925 he was named head bartender and by the 1930s he released The Savoy Cocktail Book
, one of, if not the most famous drinks manual to date containing over 1,000 drinks recipe, original and from other places.
The following drinks are found in Craddock's book, possibly originals or inspired drinks. The final drink is a cocktail I created at the beginning of my career as a bartender inspired by the legendary Dick Bradsell. Even back in the 1930s, bartenders used to take inspiration from each other's creations, while some would argue these drinks would not be 'originals', these are cocktails which have been passed down through history.
The Dandy Cocktail is one of those cocktails that has been used as an inspiration by many bartenders and for good reason, a simple yet elegant cocktail. To make the Dandy cocktail, we combine equal parts of a spicy high ABV rye whiskey such as Rittehouse 100 to a herbal aperitif such as Dubonnet. We then add a splash of Cointreau and a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters. The result is a light, spicy sweet cocktail perfect as an aperitif.
The second libation, The Rattlesnake, shows how even one of the most legendary bartenders of this century took inspiration from all time classics. This full bodied, silky, sweet and sour with a hint of herbal notes is as close to a whisky sour as it could be, simply replacing the bitters with absinthe to give it a fresher lighter finish. Here we combine Woodford Reserve Bourbon with lemon and a touch of sugar shaken with egg white to create a lovely texture, while adding a few drops of absinthe to season the cocktail.
Finally, this last drink was created and inspired by the late Dick Bradsell's modern classic 'The Treacle'. Here, I combined Green Spot Pot Still Irish Whiskey for its heather and honey notes with Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters for its strong clove and nutmeg notes and shaking the drink with freshly pressed and strained pineapple juice to create a lovely soft delectable libation reminiscent of a spiced upside down pineapple cake.
The Dandy CocktailINGREDIENTS
- 35ml Rittenhouse 100
- 35ml Dubonnet Red
- 10ml Cointreau
- 2d. Angostura Bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir over cubed ice. Strain in a chilled coupette and squeeze both lemon and orange peels, discard and serve.GARNISH
Lemon and orange peel (discarded).
The Piña FactoryGLASSWARE
- 50ml Green Spot Irish Pot Still Whiskey
- 5ml sugar syrup
- 40ml freshly squeezed pineapple juice
- 2d. Bitter Truth Whisky Barrel Aged Bitters
Combine all ingredients in a shaker, shake over cubed ice. Fine strain in a chilled rocks glass, press oils from grapefruit peel, discard and garnish with red grapefruit wedges.GARNISH
Grapefruit peel (discarded) and a few dehydrated grapefruit peels.
- 50ml Woodford Reserve
- 30ml lemon juice
- 15ml sugar syrup (2 parts sugar, 1 part water combined)
- 1 egg white
- 3d. Absinthe
Begin by combining the egg white and lemon juice in a shaker, followed by all other ingredients. Close the shaker and shake for 30 seconds without any ice to froth the cocktail. Add ice to shaker, shake hard and strain in a chilled rocks glass over cubed ice.GARNISH
Orange peel and a maraschino cherry.