Robert Burns, The Savoy Hotel, and the White Lady

Continuing the writeup of the day I spent in London. First post here: Gunnersbury Tube Station

One of the most fun aspects of the trip was chatting with European and UK Bartenders, on the way back from Harry’s grave I piled into a random cab with a couple Spanish Barmen and a Journalist from the national paper.

They quizzed me about what Gins and Cocktails were the most popular in the US, and I asked them about Bartending and Cocktails in Spain.

We pulled in under an overpass and were informed we would be going to the Savoy Hotel, entering through the River Entrance, but first there was a bit of business.

A litle Chivas for Burns Night

As it happened, our tour was taking place on Jan 25th, which while being the anniversary of Harry Craddock’s burial, is also the anniversary of Robert (Rabbie) Burns birth.

Near the hotel, is a statue of Robert Burns, and we stopped there, for a sip of Chivas and a toast to the great Scottish poet.

I include, by way of toast, a video of Camera Obscura, who have set “I Love My Jean” to music.

We arrive at the Savoy Hotel, make our way to the American Bar, Erik Lorincz speaks briefly, welcoming us to the Savoy,

Erik L Speaks

Anistatia Miller then stands up and gives us the low down about a few more details of Harry Craddock’s life.

I’ll quote Jared and Anistatia’s book, “The Deans of Drink” here regarding prohibition and Craddock.

“…for Harry Craddock, Prohibition meant the end of a career that he had built for himself…Harry found himself jobless, supporting a wife and a sixteen-year-old step-daughter who had come to live with them only four months earlier. It was time to head to the greener pastures of home.

“Craddock applied for an American passport, and on 27 April, 1920, he and his family arrived in Liverpool on board the White Star Line’s SS The Baltic. Describing himself as being in the hotel business, Craddock gave their destination address as Devonshire Roast, where his older brother Ernest resided.”

When they built the Savoy Hotel, they wanted the best of everything; August Escoffier, Cesar Ritz, but it also needed an American Bar to serve American drinks. When it opened Frank Wells was the head barman, but by around 1902, two women, Ruth Burgess and Ada Coleman had taken over the bar. They were both immensely popular with the English patrons, but less so with the Americans, who were unaccustomed to seeing women in bars. Harry Craddock joined the Savoy in its dispensary bar around 1921, and by 1925 had succeeded Ruth Burgess and Ada Coleman as the Head Barman of the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel.

(Photo by Jared Brown)

It is here that the other aspect of our tour is explained.

When they remodeled the bar at the Savoy Hotel, Harry Craddock placed a shaker in the wall of the building, with a sample of a drink.

As there are currently five living Head Barman, during the course of the day, they will each will be mixing a classic cocktail from the Savoy Cocktail Book and placing a sample into a beaker. These five drinks will be placed in a cocktail shaker and built into the bar at the Savoy Hotel, as a tribute to Harry, and to the recent renewal of the bar at the Hotel.

The first drink, mixed by Erik Loricz, is one Harry invented, The White Lady.

Erik Loricz and Shaker
(Photo of the dashing Erik Lorincz by Jared Brown)

Italian Bar Menus

It is worth noting that at the time of our trip 1 Euro was worth about $1.50. Thus, a 5 Euro drink is about $7.50 and that “Old Fashion (doppio)” at Harry’s Bar would set you back about $31.

From Spain Oct 2011

Universal Cocktails.

From Spain Oct 2011

Long Island Iced Tea and Sex on the Beach, always winners.

From Spain Oct 2011

Sangria and what looks like Mojito Punch. These girls were smart alecks, telling me it was 3 euros for a picture and 4 for a drink.

From Spain Oct 2011

No comment.

From Spain Oct 2011

Check out that receipt management system.

From Spain Oct 2011

The Singapore Sling seems a little out of place on this menu.

From Spain Oct 2011

A nice old Espresso machine.

From Spain Oct 2011

The menu at Harry’s Bar. Ouch.

From Spain Oct 2011

Afternoon snacks, unfortunately the white balance was off. Cream of Salt Cod, Shrimp in Saor, pickled artichoke, Mortadella, and Cream of Pistachio.

From Spain Oct 2011

Was surprised to see the Mary Pickford on this one.

From Spain Oct 2011

Oh yes, yes that does say “Campari Mojito”.

What I Learned in Italy (Part 4)

I feel like there should be some sort of summing up, in the style of Anthony Bourdain. Some pithy summary of the lessons “learned” on our trip.

But, I’m not coming up with much.

It’s great to travel, get outside of your comfort zone. Find out what other people eat and drink and see where they live.

Venice IS a beautiful city and we had more fun than I expected from such a well known tourist destination.

It was very nice to get away from the hordes of Asian, American, and European tourists for a few days and travel to Bologna, much more of an actual working city than Venice.

Our last trip, we over planned and spent too much time travelling. This trip was nice, basically 8 days in Venice and 2 days in Bologna. It was nice not to have to pack up every couple days, rush to see the sights, and pack up again.

Venice, in particular, I think is a city that rewards wandering, even getting lost. There’s always something interesting around the next corner, whether its a museum, a musician, a shop, a restaurant, or the street salesmen stuffing their purses before taking them out to sell in St. Mark’s.

Another Canal View.

Wine retailing in Venice, Italy.

Arty shot.

This is NOT the Anselm Kiefer exhibit.

Another arty shot.

Graffiti in Venice.

Cool bookstore, carrying a lot of beat authors.

Gondola ride, you gotta do it.

A Good Time was had by all!

What I Learned in Italy (Part 3)


1 1/2 oz Campari

Add Campari to medium size glass with 2 lumps ice. Fill with Prosecco and garnish with Orange Slice. (Sometimes, this also gets an additional splash of soda water.)

Anyway, in Venice the most commonly drunk beverage is the Campari or Aperol Spritz.

We stayed one night on a nearby island called Burano. Much of the fish in Venice comes from boats which operate out of Burano, so there are fishermen. And as our friend correctly intuited, if there are fishermen, there is drinking.

But where, in England or America, tough old fishermen would drink whiskey or beer, in Venice they drink Spritz.

We were out before dinner and stopped at a bar, as we are wont, to get our Spritz quotient for the day. As we sat at a table and attempted to be somewhat inconspicuous, groups of 6 or 8 old men would drift into the bar, quickly drink Spritzes, and then drift out again. Eventually, we started to notice that some of the same men would drift back in. Finally when we got up to head to our dinner reservation, we went out to square to find it filled with loudly talking and gesticulating old fishermen, who were drifting from bar to bar, then heading back out to the square to talk with their friends about whatever retired Italian fishermen talk about.


1 1/2 oz Gran Classico
1 1/2 oz Italian Vermouth

Add Campari (or Gran Classico) and Italian Vermouth to medium size glass with 2 lumps ice. Fill with Soda Water and garnish with orange slice.

Another drink which you can almost always get, though some of the younger barmen may not know it, is the Americano. You may, on occasion, have to remind some of those less experienced waiters that you want the Aperitivo and not the coffee drink.

Multiply this by about 3 per diem.

Scenic Gondolas!

Beware the weeping angels. The little, creepy, orange headed ones are OK, I think.

Silhouette in Italy.

Yay! We get to take the Eurostar express train!

Bologna, the land of meat. The charcuterie at one of our favorite restaurants of the trip, Vicolo Colombina

Did I mention meat and cheese? At Tamburini, per many recommendations.

Lonely Corridor.

Sorrento Lemon Sorbetto at Sorbetteria Castiglione in Bologna.

Michele’s favorites, Nocciola and Pistachio gelati.

Background music in the video from the Mekons new recording “Ancient & Modern“.

What I Learned in Italy (Part 2)

As I mentioned, in Italy there is an Aperitivo time which stretches from approximately 6PM until Dinner around 8 or 9PM.

In Venice, what this means is going out to a bar, noshing on small plates of food, talking with friends, and drinking Wine, Campari Spritz or Aperol Spritz.

One thing I noticed, Venetians don’t really approve of drinking without eating at the same time, especially sitting down and drinking cocktails without eating.

Canal as the sun gets low on the horizon.

Moonlight on a canal in Venice.

Saint in a cage.

For all your incense needs, a shop in Treviso specializing in Church supplies.

Best porchetta sandwich evar, Porchetta Trevisana, at Snack Bar all’Antico Pallone in Treviso.

The Rialto Bridge, in Venice, at night.

Note the Slushy machines at Bar Americano.

A Bellini at Harry’s Bar, in Venice. Well, you kind of have to. Harry’s Negroni in the background.

Harry’s Aperitivo, best bang for the buck on the menu, which our waiter described as, “A Martini with Campari”.

What I learned in Italy (part 1)

One of the first things we noticed in Italy was that people eat on a slightly different schedule than we do in America.

Breakfast, I’m not sure about. We ate the free breakfast in the hotels for the most part and tried to sleep in a tad. I think almost every time, we annoyed the staff by showing up a half an hour before they ended breakfast. Cold Cuts, pastries, cheese, fruit, and espresso for the win. We were especially lucky, by my eyes, to be in Venice during Persimmon season!

Lunch, early to mid afternoon, is usually a couple small open face sandwiches and maybe a small glass of wine at a Snack Bar or Taverna.

Then, dinner. Well, we were kind of lucky with dinner. Most of the restaurants in Venice are very small, and if they are popular, they are booked. However, most do not open until 7PM, no one except tourists eats before 8PM. If you call ahead and don’t mind vacating your table before 9PM, you can eat almost anywhere you want.

Look it’s an actual Berliner!

Arriving at Venice Airport, as the sun sets.

Blurry, happy.

The wake behind our water taxi as we arrive in Venice.

One of the many churches.

This one is for Audrey Saunders. The elusive vermouth mini, right in our honor bar at Ca’Pisani Hotel!

The Grand Canal from the top of the Rialto bridge.

St. Mark’s Square Crush.

Feedin’ ’em.

Italian Utility Repair.

BOTW–Late Harvest 2010 v.2

First, just a reminder that Sunday, September 25, 2011, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails, (they also have a great beer selection,) on this blog have captured your fancy, stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders, (and me,) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

With both of us working more than full time jobs, some weekends it is nice to get away. Leave everything behind and stay somewhere with “No Service”. Fortunately, there are still places as close as Western Marin County which have resisted the siren song of comprehensive cell coverage.

Upright Brewing Late Harvest 2010 v.2

Just last week we released a second blend of Late Harvest, a brew we like to call a provision beer because while it’s quaffable now, is bottled with the intention of cellaring for up to 3 years. This batch uses the Six as a base. It’s a blend of 4 former pinot noir barrels: one with chocolate syrup from Alma here in Portland, two with different forms of black pepper and one straight up, each filled at different times ranging from as little as several weeks to nearly a year ago. The peppercorns, long pepper and Tasmanian peppercorn, are very aromatic, the first being remarkably fruity and bright while the latter are earthy and intense while also lending a numbing sensation to the mouthfeel. The finished beer is very tart and dry with lots of bite from the pepper as well as some from the rye and hops. That bite will mellow with age and the beer will round out with more chocolate and oak flavors coming through down the road.

When visiting Portland in early December 2010, we were had the good sense to visit the Upright Brewing Tasting Room. While there, we tasted a number of fantastic beers, but one of the standouts was this Late Harvest v.2. We knew we had to get a bottle to take home. Chocolate and Peppercorns at first seems like an unusual taste combination, though when you think about it, Chocolate and Chiles is a classic combo, so maybe Chocolate and Peppercorns, not so odd.

Even last December, I remembered the Peppercorns being more dominant in this. 10 months down the line, it is the mild sour character and chocolate which stand out. Not sweet enough to be a dessert beer, this is still a very rich tasting brew. Delicious and a treat to enjoy it in Northern California.

It wouldn’t be a trip to West Marin, without a nice hike. This time we hiked with a friend along the Bolinas Ridge. We spotted this mystery herb at the beginning of our hike and saw it throughout the trip. Smelled delicious, minty with a hint of camphor. I suspect it is Pennyroyal. If so, it’s fortunate we only smelled it, as it appears Pennyroyal is fairly poisonous.

These are the flowers of the mystery herb, probably Pennyroyal.

I didn’t take a picture, but it was nice to also notice for the first time Yerba Buena growing along the trail. One of my favorite native mint-ish plants.

Hm, wait, if we are walking in a quadrangle, and this juncture is the second corner, that means it’s half way?! Wait, if I add that up, it comes to about 8 miles… About half my friends will think I am a wimp for finding 8 miles is on the edge of my hiking tolerance, and the other half will think I was crazy for walking it.

Well, it was very beautiful. A great weekend (not too far) away.

Regrets, I’ve had a few…

Well, that’s pretty much it for New York.

Another breakfast at Kitchenette, a little loitering, and a cab ride back to the airport.

We hardly made a dent in the long list of places we had wanted to get to or, especially, people to visit.

Thanks to anyone who helped Mrs. Underhill and I out with advice, bought us a drink, or was just nice.

Next time I hope we get to stay for a bit longer, but hopefully we’ll see some of you out here in San Francisco or New Orleans this July for Tales of the Cocktail. We’ll be pleased, and honored, to repay the many kindnesses we received on this trip.

“But then again, too few to mention…”

NYC, February 16, 2008

Saturday we didn’t have much planned, beyond dinner and attending a performance by the Upright Citizen’s Brigade.

One of Mrs. Underhill’s goals for the trip was to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

After a most delicious brunch at Upstairs at Bouley, we headed uptown to the Met.

We spent much of the day looking at cultural artifacts, old and new, got a quick snack at La Petite Abeile, then headed back to change for dinner and a show.

The Upright Citizen’s Brigade was a typical improv show. Occasionally funny, sometimes not really. Some amusing moments resulted when one of the cast members forgot that there were children in the audience and launched into a rant composed almost entirely of the “F” word. Ah, improv.

After the show, we caught a cab over to WD~50, where we had dinner reservations.

We got there a bit early, so had time to savor a drink or two and jockey for position at the bar. Mrs. Underhill had a Coney Island Lager, whose great label alone might qualify it as Beer of the Week. I had a couple cocktails, probably left over from Eben Freeman’s tenure here. Carbonated Rye and other unusual items. My first cocktail had Plymouth Gin in it. I noticed that they still had the old style Plymouth Gin bottles behind the bar and asked the bartender if he was refilling his Plymouth bottles. He replied, somewhat defensively, “How do you know I am refilling them? I could have the largest stash in the world of old Plymouth bottles in the basement?” I said, uh, well, it’s been over a year now, that would be some stash. He replied, “The chef’s Father hates the new Plymouth bottles,” and insists that they only have the old ones behind the bar.

Dinner was about what I had expected. Some really cool things, some OK things, and some things where you wonder if they were stoned when they thought of them. The “Pizza Pebbles” were one of the more amusing items. Little blobs of flavored stuff that seemed to nearly exactly replicate the flavor of a pizza hot pocket.

Maybe it’s my Midwestern Lutheran upbringing, but I always have a hard time enjoying myself on the last night in town. There’s always a sense of impending overness. Where you know, the fun here is coming near the end.

After our very late dinner, we headed back out of the restaurant, where we found Mr. Dufresne sitting at the bar. Mrs. Underhill, being the outgoing person that she is, didn’t hesitate to tell him how much we had enjoyed out dinners. I hung back.

We caught a cab, and headed back to our hotel and fell into bed.

New York Minute

Mrs. Underhill was called away to work in New York last week.

After going over our options, we decided it would be more fun for me to travel there and meet her, than for her to quick fly back for Valentine’s day.

Before I get to the details of the trip, I just have to say how happy I am that Jet Blue now flies out of San Francisco, direct to New York.

I am just so fed up with the major airlines’ decision to squish as many people as possible into coach class, so they can pamper the wealthy in business and first class, that it makes me furious. Just about every aspect of our last several flights on major carriers have sucked. Cranky and uninspired flight attendants on understaffed planes, uncleaned airplanes, malfunctioning equipment, canceled flights due to “heavy rain”. My “favorite” aspect are the meals you can now buy on some of the carriers. Every ingredient seems to be an advertising or sponsorship deal with some major food corporation, yet the airline still charges you $10 for a couple crackers and some not-cheese.

Anyway, rant over, I had a great flight on Jet Blue. Whew, legroom!

I’m still working on writeups of the New York trip, so you’ll be seeing those over the next couple days.

Oh, and speaking of Jet Blue, and the trip, I will just note that there may be some name dropping in the next few posts. Sorry about that. I try to avoid that sort of thing, generally, but I had such a great time, and folks were so generous, that I’m going to have to mention a few names.

Name drop No. 1: On my Jet Blue flight to New York, I sat in the same row with an Amy Sedaris trying very hard to be inconspicuous.