Inside The Savoy's Shrine To Cocktail Making

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 25 months ago
Inside The Savoy's Shrine To Cocktail Making

To the great unwashed, the Savoy's glittering frontage may seem a discouraging sight. But, provided you're not wearing Crocs or official merchandise from the Dorchester, stroll right in through the revolving doors, veer off to the left up a staircase lined with signed photos of Humphrey Bogart and Judy Garland, and turn off just before you reach the American Bar. Suddenly you're in a pint-sized museum documenting the history of what is one of London's most celebrated hotels, in particular its American Bar. And incredibly, many of the exhibits here can be bought and imbibed.

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The Savoy Cocktail Book was first published in 1930, and remains in print today. It's always had a snazzy jacket cover. The man pictured to the right is the book's author, Harry Craddock. Head bartender at the Savoy's American Bar from 1926 to 1939, Craddock is credited with inventing the White Lady and the Corpse Reviver #2.
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In the photo on the left, Harry Viccars, head bartender at the Savoy from 1975-81 attempts to cheer up a customer. Viccars's signature drink was the Speedbird, inspired by Concorde's inaugural flight.
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Drinking: an international language.
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A screen in the museum shows various celebrities of the golden era enjoying the hotel's hospitality. Here, Bob Hope makes wisecracks at a party in 1947.
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Created in 1930, this drink made by Gordon's is one of the world's first bottled cocktails. A concoction of gin, grenadine, absinthe and dry vermouth, it must pack a punch. And if you can afford to buy it, you can still drink it. Otherwise, we've just told you the ingredients anyway.
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This Sazerac de Forge cognac dates back to 1858, making it older than the Savoy. Like all the drinks on display in the museum, it's for sale. We didn't ask for a quote.
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The Campari here is from the 1960s, when the drink still got its orange colouring from cochineal beetles.
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A little known liqueur by the name of Jourde Cordial-Medoc, this bottle was produced in 1933, especially for the Savoy. It may well have been used to mix up a special cocktail to commemorate the meeting of Vivian Leigh and Laurence Olivier at the Savoy Grill in 1937.
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A magnum of fine cognac from the 1950s.
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What have this bottle of Cinzano and the Savoy got in common? Cinzano was the first alcoholic product to be advertised with a neon sign; the Savoy was the first hotel to be advertised with a neon sign. Also, this bottle of Cinzano is in the Savoy.
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Bogey and Bacall: two of countless film stars who have pulled up a stall at the American Bar. Last time we were here we saw Arnie out the front puffing on on cigar. You're right, he's no Bogart.
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The bust in the middle is of Noel Coward, a regular at the Savoy and its theatre. A previous display at the museum here had one of Coward's industrial-sized cigarette lighters.
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How it all began.
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Another sexy edition of The Savoy Cocktail Book, along with a photo of Harry Viccars's replacement, Victor Gower. Following instructions from Orson Welles, Gower learned to make the Bloody Mary his trademark cocktail. He was also once tipped two weeks' salary by Winston Churchill.
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The bottle of scotch on the left has a tenuous link to the Savoy. It was 'produced around the same time' that The Muppets Show filmed in the hotel's Thames Foyer in 1978. The scene involved Miss Piggy taking afternoon tea. The 1927 Canadian Club Bot on the right may have once belonged to Al Capone.
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Unusual thought it was to see a female bartender anywhere in early 19th century London, Ada Coleman or 'Coley' was a popular figure in the Savoy from 1903-26.

Last Updated 08 October 2015

Glenshane Pass

@ Unusual thought it was to see a female bartender anywhere in early 19th century London, Ada Coleman or 'Coley' was a popular figure in the Savoy from 1903-26.

A couple of edits needed here:
* 'Unusual thought ...' should be 'Unusual though ...'.
* It would have been very unusual to see a female bartender in the early 19th century. Rather less so in the early 20th century which was when Coley worked there.