Thursday, 2 June 2016

Beverages - The Cocktail Generation

In the 1950's, my father Freddie Robinson, having served for 5 years in India during WWII, became one of an elite group of service workers in this country. They were so celebrated that they formed their own trade union, The UKBG (United Kingdom Bar Tenders' Guild). Members of the Guild were proud to be the best and they graced the cocktail bars of every major hotel in the country. During his career, Dad was Head Cocktail Bartender at The Majestic in Southport and spent many happy years at The Imperial Hotel here in Blackpool.

The mixed drink or cocktail was a creative process then.  The Daiquiri, Gin Sling, Dry Martini and Rye Highball had been travelling transatlantic since the Jazz age. Mint Juleps feature in the classic F.Scott Fitzgerald novel 'The Great Gatsby' and by the fifties, new cocktail recipes were being shared back and forth across 'the pond' as the post WWII generation celebrated the end of food and clothing rationing, embracing the economic boom. Suddenly full skirts with kick nets lit up the fashion world, women had enough sugar to bake cup-cakes and the world went polka-dotty.

In the evening, the new found prosperity teetered into cocktail bars and the rush was on to invent new, exciting drinks. It all gave rise to a new style competitive event: The Cocktail Competition. Over his career, my father loved to invent new cocktails.  There is a photo of him, framed with a newspaper clipping, hanging on the wall of The No10 Bar at The Imperial, shaking a Blue Primrose, a cocktail that he invented for Lady Harold Macmillan, during her stay at the hotel.

He created The Everest, (a long turquoise drink with a white foaming summit) as part of a collection to celebrate the first ascent of Everest by Hilary, Hunt and Tensing, while running a public house of the same name during the 1960's. One of the cocktails was a Union Jack, a striped red, white and blue stack, created by pouring liquors with varying specific gravities one a top the other. This always brought an 'oooh' from customers.  There was also a 'Rainbow' using the same technique with seven different colours.

The pinnacle of his cocktail shaking exploits came in 1956, when he entered a UK wide contest, staged by Plymouth Gin.  Over 200 bartenders competed in regional heats. The final was held at The Piccadilly Hotel in London. The cocktail, which had to be Plymouth Gin based, was to celebrate the sailing of a replica of the original Mayflower to America by the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620. The Mayflower II was following the same route from Plymouth to Boston, MA.  Dad's cocktail was chosen as winner because the judges believed it would appeal to the American taste. The panel was made up of executives from B.O.A.C and other companies with transatlantic interests.

My father's winning cocktail, named 'Mayflower Spirit', sailed to Boston and was put with other artefacts, into a sealed time capsule, not to be opened for 100 years. Now I am unlikely to be around in 2056 but who knows? My Mum was born in 1920 and is looking forward to her 96th birthday party.  My brother, who regularly visits Plymouth, took the trophy and an article to Plymouth Gin, earlier this year.  They were delighted to see the memorabilia because a fire had destroyed most of their archives. The Blackfriars Distillery now have the trophy and photos of the event on semi permanent loan,  The 400th Anniversary of the original Mayflower crossing will be in 2020, so at least I won't have to wait until the 100 years have passed to celebrate and neither will you...

Mayflower Spirit
 
Into a well polished, cocktail shaker,
pour lovingly 40% Plymouth Gin
add to this 30% Apricot Brandy
top with 30% Creme de Banane.
add the juice of half a lemon
shake the mixture vigorously
in the time honoured style.
Open the shaker to strain
into a martini glass,
raise this to toast
the Mayflower
and all those 
who sailed
in her.
Lift
 the glass
 to your lips
and sip elegantly
while raising your little finger.
Remember to tip your spirit bartender.

Freddie Robinson
1914-1998



 
 
Thank you for reading. Adele
 
 
 
 
 
Reactions:

1 comments:

Steve Rowland said...

Very interesting, Adele. Loved the shaped recipe.