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‘In the Soup’ IV

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A post script on some of the alcoholic vicissitudes of life by Swaffield Pike

Poking around vintage fairs is one of my little joys in life. Whilst the hope of finding some wonderful item of vintage clothing is nearly almost forefront on my mind, I take great relish in looking at the myriad of household wares that often pop up for sale.

Often discarded as technology has superseded them by a country mile, all sorts of splendid goodies can often be gleaned and once home, the purchaser can often make sound practical use of them despite us all being consumed by a technological world of white goods.

Recent hauls have included mini pickle/aperitif forks (useful for cornichons and small cubes of continental cheese), a retro pineapple ice bucket (better than my modern equivalent) and a splendid little book from the 1920s of which I shall now elaborate on.

Harry MacElhone (right) of the New York Bar, Paris

In 1928, Dundee waiter Harry MacElhone bought a small Parisian bar that he had been working in from an American jockey called Ted Sloane (who had lived too much of the high life and spent all his money). The bar had been shipped over from Manhattan, piece by piece in 1911 and had become a focal point for artistic and literary Americans loafing around the city. Whilst popular, it was very much seen as a ‘place away from home’ and whilst it did well, its application was fairly narrow. Some years later when MacElhone took over the place it soon developed in to an iconic Parisian landmark largely thanks to his skill in preparing nearly every cocktail known to man.

Whilst an interesting little tale in its own right, I was unaware of this heritage until I picked up a very scruffy, stained red book for £2 at a vintage fair (the lady wanted £3 for it but I haggled).

It appealed to me as not only was it from the 1920s and has the words ‘ABC of Cocktails’ on the front but it looked as if in the intervening 90 years it had seen much action in the homes of numerous private owners where one can only imagine the parties it had played host. ‘Stained?’, no that was most definitely provenance!

The book is an absolute joy to scan through despite the pages falling out, as not only is it exceptionally comprehensive on the alcohol front but the adverts really are quite marvellous (apparently ‘Findlaters’ are an absolute must if you are organising a ‘sherry party’ as they can do everything for you from their offices in Wigmore Street). The index system helps you quickly reference thanks to a stepped alphabet cut in to the pages and dear old Harry himself features just inside the cover doing what he did best. With well over 400 drinks to make (with instructions) there are some wonderful ingredients which even I have never experienced, ergo: Noyeau de Poissy, Crème de Noyaux Pink, Cederlunds Caloric Punsch and Oxygenée Cusenier to name a few. It is also said that the ‘Bloody Mary’ was invented by Harry.

So, worth every penny I say. Should you feel a little brow beaten and under the weather one morning why not try the ‘Cecil Pick Me-Up’ to start the day:

“One yolk of egg, 1 glass of brandy, 1 teaspoonful of caster sugar. Shake well and strain in to medium sized wineglass and fill the balance with Champagne”

Harry died in 1958 with his reputation firmly established as a premier cocktail mixer. His son Andrew ran the bar until 1989 and his son Duncan ran it until his death in 1998. I understand that the place is still doing a roaring trade to this day with Duncan’s widow, Isabelle MacElhone and her son Franz-Arthur, running the ship. The address remains the same and in the words of the book, simply tell the driver “Sank Roo Doo Noo” (5 Rue Daunou, Paris). It might also interest you to know that the bar was a haunt of such luminaries as Coco Chanel, Ernest Hemmingway, Brendan Behen and James Bond who Fleming remarked “….it had started one of the memorable evenings of his life, culminating in the loss, almost simultaneously, of his virginity and his notecase”.

Harry’s New York Bar’, if you go there, do please let me know.

Illustration by Kate Costigan

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Swaffield Pike has spent the last 20 years wandering around the world sniffing out fine foods and alcoholic preparations, in a completely unprofessional capacity. Generally considered to be harmless if fed and watered appropriately, he has strong ties with Brazil, Canada, France and Belgium and is often lead astray by his moustache.