Things You Didn't Know About The Savoy's American Bar

By Helen Glaberson Last edited 20 months ago
Things You Didn't Know About The Savoy's American Bar

The Savoy’s American Bar is the longest standing cocktail bar in London. Around since 1904, it's survived two world wars and served countless well-known faces, from Winston Churchill to Ernest Hemingway. Out of the bar have come many legendary bartenders and a good deal of well-known cocktails too, made famous from the legendary Savoy Cocktail Book.

The team at the American Bar

1. Neil Armstrong's first drink after the moon landing was from The Savoy

In 1969, barman Joe Gilmore created the Moon Walk cocktail to celebrate the first moon landing. Made with grapefruit juice, Grand Marnier, champagne and rose water, the mix was sent off in a flask with some glasses to Houston for the heroic astronauts to slurp. Gilmore received a letter back from Neil Armstrong, saying it was the first drink the team had after they came out of quarantine.

2. Churchill kept his own whisky here

Churchill was a regular at the American Bar and would come in with his cabinet, tucking in to his own private whisky that the bartender kept locked behind the bar for him (we assume in a cabinet of a different kind). Churchill was also known to dispute his bills; once quarrelling over a half-drunk bottle of port.

Winston Churchill at The Savoy

3. The American Bar's famous American barman was actually English…

Probably the most famous Savoy barman is Harry Craddock, whose era was the 1920s and 30s. But although he was known as the 'authentic' American barman, Craddock was in fact English. He emigrated to America at 21 but came back to the UK during the Prohibition to work at the American Bar. Craddock also (allegedly) served the last legal drink in America in the 1920s. A cutting from the 1927 Marion Herald claims Craddock mixed the last legal drink at the old Holland House on Fifth Avenue: "Word drifts back from London that Craddock is now frosting the shakers at the Savoy. He took a boat the next morning pouting and has never returned," bemoans the article.

4. The Savoy’s world famous cocktail books now fetch over £2,000

While at The Savoy, Craddock published his legendary Savoy Cocktail Book, pulling together over 40 years of historic recipes from the bar. The book popularised many cocktails, such as the White Lady and Corpse Reviver #2 and is still in print today, with newly added recipes. It's worth rootling around in granny's attic; original copies can fetch over £2,000.

A copy of The Savoy Cocktail Book, in the hotel

5. The hotel sells one of Britain's most expensive cocktails

The most expensive cocktail on the current menu is £5,000; The Sazerac is super pricey due to the vintage bottles used in the recipe. These are; 1858 Sazerac de Forge, 1950s Pernod Absinthe and Peychaud's Bitters from the early 1900s. Current bartender Erik Lorincz says it's as close as you will get to the authentic Sazerac, which was invented in pre-Civil War New Orleans. Or you could order a standard Sazerac, which will cost you less than £20.

6. A famous hangover cure was invented here

During the second world war, then bartender Eddie Clark came up with the Prairie Oyster — a queasy concoction of raw egg plopped in a mix of Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce, along with tomato juice, vinegar and a sprinkle of salt and pepper — a renowned hair of the dog for over a century, and still often ordered at the very bar it was created... often after punters have hit it hard there the night before.

Thanks to Susan Scott, The Savoy's Archivist.

Last Updated 01 June 2017