How To Drink Like An Icon

Richard Godwin makes a case for history's 'girly' drinks

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<font color="#00a8f1">Richard Godwin is a freelance writer, columnist and author of The Spirits: A Guide to Modern Cocktailing. He tweets at @richardjgodwin.</font>

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I’ve always admired a woman who can handle her liquor. Take Myrna Loy’s character Nora in the screwball comedy The Thin Man (1934). In the first scene, she meets her husband in a bar, discovers that he’s already on his sixth Martini and amends her order accordingly: “In that case I’ll have five more Martinis, Leo” she sings to the barman. And who wouldn’t fall for Dorothy Parker, the gin-soaked poet who cut a dash through the same era? “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy,” she once said.

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For when it comes to drinking, women have a few more obstacles to overcome than men. There’s always been a strong streak of disapproval connected with the idea of women and spirits (much more dangerous than good manly beer), from the gin-corrupted wenches who gave rise to the term “Mother’s Ruin” in 18th century London, to tabloid figures such as “Magaluf Girl” (who was told she would win a “holiday” if she pleasured 24 men, only to find that Holiday was the name of a £4 cocktail…) You have to wonder: Is it women who aren’t to be trusted around drink - or men who aren’t to be trusted around women around drink?

And as I researched recipes and stories for my book, The Spirits: A Guide to Modern Cocktailing, I found that the moral disapproval towards female drinkers is often echoed in an aesthetic disapproval for the sorts of things women drink. Many men turn their nose up at Cosmopolitans and Aperol Spritzes today. However, back in the years of American Prohibition, the cocktail purists were bemoaning the sweet and colourful cocktails that were mixed in the speakeasies to mask the substandard liquor and proved wildly popular with women. Esquire magazine listed Zelda Fitzgerald’s favourites - Orange Blossoms and Pink Ladies - among the “Ten Worst Drinks of the Decade” in 1934, along with such “girly” classics as the Clover Club, the Bronx and the Brandy Alexander.

But I reckon these “girly drinks” deserve a reappraisal. And as for the dangerous women who popularised them, I think we should salute them – and follow their lead. 

 

Zelda Fitzgerald: The Pink Lady

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Photo credit: Rex

“The first American flapper”, according to her husband,  F.Scott Fitzgerald,  Zelda epitomised a new breed of modern woman who scandalised 1920s America with her short hair, fast morals and spirited defences of women’s right to drink, dance and flirt in the way that men did. While Scott was a bit of a lightweight - according to Ernest Hemingway, anyway - Zelda could knock her cocktails back with the best of them. 

25ml gin
25ml apple brandy
15ml lemon juice
10ml grenadine (one part pomegranate juice, two parts sugar)
10ml egg white
Introduce all the ingredients to a shaker with loads of ice and shake hard for about five seconds until your hands begin to numb. Strain the cocktail into a spare vessel, discard the ice, and return the cocktail to the shaker and shake hard – this time to froth up the egg white. Pour into an ice cold cocktail glass and shimmy. If you don’t have apple brandy, just use all gin.

 

Ada Coleman: The Hanky Panky

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When the Savoy Hotel opened in London in 1899, it caused a sensation with its working elevator, running water and - most scintillating of all: a proper American Bar. From 1903-1924, the Golden Age of the cocktail, it was presided over by a woman, Ada “Coley” Coleman, who was much-loved by patrons (Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, the Prince of Wales) for her exacting way with a shaker and her witty repartee. Alas, Coleman was forced out of the role as many American tourists objected to seeing women in a saloon – but not before she taught her successor Harry Craddock (author of the celebrated Savoy Cocktail Book) most of what he needed to know. And she also gave us the Hanky-Panky.

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35ml gin
35ml Italian vermouth
5ml Fernet Branca
Stir all the ingredient with a large lump of ice and strain into a cold cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange zest twist, taking care to express the bitter oils.

 

Dorothy Parker: The Algonquin

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The American poet and bon-viveuse is most associated with the Martini, due to her excellent little poem: “I like to drink Martinis / Two at the very most / Three I’m under the table / Four I’m under the host.” However, she was also the presiding spirit of the ‘Round Table’ at the Algonquin hotel in Manhattan. A group of humorists including Parker, Edmund Wilson, Robert Brenchley and Harpo Marx had such fun together one lunchtime in 1919 they decided to exchange bons mots most weekdays for the next decade or so. (Can you imagine? Out to lunch every day?). The house cocktail is dry and hard with a fruity uplift – rather like Parker herself.

50m bourbon 
25ml sweet white vermouth
15ml pineapple juice
Stir over plenty of ice (if you shake, the pineapple will become frothy) and serve in the same glass. Garnish with a cherry. 

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Marilyn Monroe: The Manhattan

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People often think of the Manhattan as a masculine, after-dark, aftershave-y sort of drink, one that goes well with smoke, steak and Miles Davis. However, you can make a good claim for it as the original “girly drink”. There’s a persistent rumour that it was actually invented by Winston Churchill’s mother in the 1870s. Then there's that wonderful scene in Some Like It Hot, where Marilyn Monroe fixes a round of Manhattans for an entire female orchestra on a train after lights out. Her resourcefulness when faced with a bottle of bourbon is impressive: “Who’s got some vermouth?”; “Run down to the pantry car and get some ice would ya?” I suppose that’s why everyone fell in love with her. 

50ml bourbon
20ml Italian vermouth
Dash Angostura bitters. 
Stir all the ingredients with plenty of ice and strain into a cold cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry or an orange zest twist (lemon will do at a push).

 

Joan Collins: The Vodka Martini

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In the first series of Dynasty, Joan Collins’s mega-rich-bitch and 1980s icon Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan always appeared with a glass of champagne. At Collins’s own request, this was switched for a Vodka Martini by the second series - champagne is far too fattening darling. Ideally, you should make this with Cinzano vermouth, which was popularised by Collins and Leonard Rossiter in a famous advert from the era. 

50ml vodka
10ml Cinzano dry vermouth
Stir all the ingredients with plenty of ice until Arctic cold and strain into a cold cocktail glass. Garnish with an olive or a lemon zest twist according to mood. For a Dirty Martini, add a spoonful of olive brine.

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Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda: The Cosmopolitan

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The Cosmo has fallen out of favour in recent years - and so too has the sort of luxe-aspiration associated with Sex and the City. However, back in the day, it was the quintessential markers of urban sass it also helped the modern cocktail on its way (these were the dark days of bad Australian chardonnay and Bacardi Breezers). There’s absolutely nothing wrong with classic recipe, a New York classic. 

45ml vodka (lemon-flavoured vodka to be accurate)
15ml orange liqueur 
30ml cranberry juice
7.5ml lime juice
Shake hard with plenty of ice and double-strain into a cold cocktail glass. Garnish with a flamed orange twist: cut a length of orange peel, taking care to avoid the white pith, and hold it over the glass with a lighter in your good hand. Bend the orange peel back on itself to release a fine spray of bitter oils - light the flame and they will catch alight in the air. Sip in a pair of Manolo Blahniks as your internal monologue goes into overdrive.

 

Beyoncé Knowles: The Femme Du Monde

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“I’ve been drinking, I’ve been drinking,” breathes Beyoncé on Drunk in Love. “I get filthy when that liquor get into me.” Shocking! And yet what follows isn’t some seedy come-on, but a celebration of marital devotion in the grand tradition of Cocktails for Two. Given her partiality to a certain brand of champagne, I feel Beyoncé deserves a champagne cocktail – and there’s none finer than the Femme du Monde, a lost classic from 1920s Paris.

15ml brandy
15ml cherry brandy
Dash almond essence
Champagne
Stir the first three ingredients with ice to chill and then pour into a cold champagne flute. Top with champagne and garnish with a lemon zest twist.

 

Lana del Rey: The Shirley Temple

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In a recent interview, Jessie Ware recalled a day spent in the in Chateau Marmont in L.A., drinking Shirley Temples with Lana del Rey. It’s almost too perfect a match of star, location and cocktail. Or rather mocktail – the Shirley Temple, named after the wholesome child star of the 1930s, is the quintessential midcentury guilt trip, the sort of thing that a bad father orders for his bored daughter in a bar as the bartender tells her what a cutie she is. It's just the sort of doomy Hollywood vibe that del Rey makes so intoxicating.

15ml grenadine
Ginger beer
Angostura bitters (optional)
Stir everything together in a tall glass with plenty of ice and garnish with a cocktail cherry – the more lurid the better.

 

Kate Moss: The Basic B*tch

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This one was a London Fashion Week special at the Riding House Café, but I reckon deserves its place on every cocktail menu in the land. It’s named in honour of Croydon’s immortal one and the ignoble airplane fracas she occasioned earlier this year. Of course, one’s heart goes out to the air hostess involved. But she would find ample consolation with one of these.

50ml spiced dark rum
25ml Punt e Mes (or use Italian vermouth plus a dash of bitters)
Stir in a glass with a large lump of ice and garnish with a lipstick kiss.

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