By Sir Seymour Hicks.
Shakespeare to Cocktails
WHEN Mr. William Shakespeare— who has had so many of his parts murdered that Scotland Yard has long ceased to arrest dull “Dogberrys” and funny “Hamlets”—welcomed hungry guests to one of his historic banquets, he did so, not only with a generous gesture of hospitality, but with something more delightful still—solicitude for their well-being on the morning after.
From the mouth of a gaily decked out page he, probably remembering the culinary efforts of Anne Hathaway, cried, “May good digestion wait on appetite and health, or both.” It may, however, be unfair to blame his lady’s pasties for this kindly wish, so let us be charitable for once to the wife of a man of genius (though the world is well aware that the majority of these unfortunate women have never been anything but profoundly stupid individuals) and suppose it likely that as. the Bard sat scribbling in an almost indecipherable hand immortal verse for mortal “Rogues and Vagabonds,” he dipped his goose quill into some local potent liquor, other than his usual “sack,” some palate-tickler known only to himself and a favoured few.
On reflection, I think it is sound to assume this to have been the case, for the words “digestion, appetite and health” occurring as they do in a single sentence, must surely have had much to do with help gained from an aperitif of Elza’s day.
Maybe it was a “Darnley” offered to a Rizzio, a “Charles’ Head” to Cromwell or a “Good Queen Bess” to a hoping Raleigh that set the poet’s blood a-tingle, and so, when writing of the twilight hour on the eve of “Bosworth’s Rose-trod field” as “Cockshut time,” may not he have meant “Cocktail time”?
This is quite feasible, for the corrupting hand of Caxton and his mates, always anxious to collaborate, quite easily may have clipped the “tail” off the village cock and supplied “shot” in preference. But if so sad a happening can have been that the gentle blending of delicious mixtures were unknown to the “Giants” of remembered periods, let not our sorrow for their loss of strange delights make us less thankful for the gold that’s poured from the “Tinted glasses of Georgian Times.”
Without the “Bread”—What of the Man?
Without the Milk—What of the Baby?
Without the “Cocktail”—What of the Dinner?
For never let it be supposed that food alone was ever the whole evening’s entertainment.
Garnish without talk the greyest caviare that once sought silver sanctuary in Crimean waters, or the rarest tongue that ever trembled in an ortalan’s throat. Garnish these greatest of Nature’s delicacies with dullness, and mental night will fall upon the “Entree” and sleep woo gently the partaker of sweeter things. It is King Cocktail who stands sentinel before the entrance to “Old Rip’s” “Sleepy Hollow” and it is he who many a time and oft decorates a quite indifferent “chef.”
It is this genial monarch, too, who transforms the timid lover into a persistent “Romeo,” the bashful virgin into a Victorian spinster eager for adventure, and places into the hands of veteran Casa-novas posies of memory bound with the faded triumphs of yester year.
With King Cocktail as pre-meal host, strangers become friends, platitudes—epigrams, and the disappointed borrowers, grateful enemies.
So here’s to the makers and the shakers, those gay designers of linings for either new or well-worn interiors—Let us be grateful to them for:—
The Ills they Combat, The pains they Allay, and The Stupidity they Conceal
All hail to them, these super magicians who manufacture generosity in the driest of Martinis and from the lips of a “White Lady” a never-to-be-forgotten kiss.
Within the pages of this little book of quality “and quantro” will be discovered antidotes for the dullest of luncheons and the most funereal of dinner parties.
Prescriptions for the Palace, and the humble dwelling alike. So make them up, and drink them up, happily, at home. Though if on journey bent to less domestic places, halt at the Sign of the Moulin d’Or, an Hostelry not far removed from a street called “Church” in London’s own Soho, and quaff a stirrup to its host—a charming lady whose heart is anything but “Stone.”
Selections from the book “The Buckstone Book of Cocktails by “Robert” Buckby (Late of Noah’s Club) and George Stone (Le Moulin D’Or Restaurant). Printed for the Publishers, Buckstone Co. by Union Press, London, 1910s”