As you are no doubt aware, the latest film rendition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s timeless novel The Great Gatsby opens this weekend. And while I will restrain from critical commentary until I have seen the film, I am sure there will be a run on Prohibition-era cocktails for the next several months as trend-following and culture-seeking young adults seek to get a “taste” of a glamorous bygone era. And what better way to initiate them, than with this simple yet wholly “authentic” 1920’s classic. The name instantly evokes the flapper, that new breed of young carefree woman who emerged after the First World War. The flapper was the twentieth-century’s first teenage rebel, challenging the standards of acceptable behavior in what would become time-honored fashion: by wearing daring new clothes, smoking cigarettes, adopting a more casual attitude to sex, and of course, drinking.
Like every youth movement, the flappers evolved their own slang. The “bee’s knees”, like the similar expressions “the cat’s pajamas” or the “cat’s meow”, were expressions which had actually been around for a while and meant “something good” and quickly became closely associated with the flappers. This cocktail lives up to its moniker… sweet, certainly, but the honey and lemon juice helping take the edge off what was undoubtedly pretty rough-tasting bathtub gin. Since you will most likely be using a spirit that has never been within an arm’s throw of your bathroom, I like to add a dash of bitters to help round out this very enjoyable “tipple”.
- 2 oz. Gin
- Juice of 1/2 Lemon
- 1 Tsp Honey
- Dash of Bitters (optional)
Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Lemon twist garnish.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s own handwriting.
Mario Corbett designed home - Sausalito, California - 1955
Cocktail for a Friday… the classic Manhattan! Mix, stir, drink and repeat as necessary.
South Florida Mid-century Modern
Pier 66 Hotel, Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Still there today
Bénédictine is an herbal liqueur beverage developed by Alexandre Le Grand in the 19th century and produced in France. It is claimed that at the Benedictine Abbey of Fécamp in Normandy, monks had developed a medicinal aromatic herbal beverage which was produced until the abbey’s devastation during the French Revolution, but in fact Alexandre Le Grand invented the recipe himself, helped by a local chemist, and he told this story to connect the liqueur with the city history to increase sales. He began production under the trade name “Bénédictine”, using a bottle with an easily recognizable shape and label. The family eventually sold the company to Martini and Rossi, which was in turn bought by Bacardi.
The recipe is a closely guarded trade secret, ostensibly known to only three people at any given time. So many people have tried to reproduce it that the company maintains on its grounds in Fécamp a “Hall of Counterfeits” (Salle des Contrefaçons) and has prosecuted many of those it felt to be infringing on its intellectual property.
This is a perfect after-dinner sipping liqueur, one that benefits greatly from a warmed snifter. Resist the urge to buy the company’s other offering “B & B” which is simply benedictine mixed with brandy, for you can achieve the same results yourself.
Picasso - 1946
Golden Florida Glow - 1955