Today’s Hedy Lamarr’s birthday, so it seems appropriate to declare the Blazing Saddles cocktail as Drink of the Day. Even though Ms. Lamarr did not drink she had other redeeming qualities that in our view make her worthy of raising a glass. A famous actress considered the most beautiful woman in the world during her heyday, and a brilliant inventor, she had it all. Except for the drinking, but we can excuse her there.
Just how we get to the Blazing Saddles cocktail may seem odd. But it will soon become clear, as the film by that name did prompt one event in her life.
Hedy Lamarr was born as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler on November 9, 1914 in Vienna, Austria. She showed an interest in acting from childhood and won a beauty contest at the ripe age of 12. Along with all this her father would take her on long walks and explain how technology works.
She started taking acting classes in Vienna and was able to get some small parts on various local productions. But it was in 1933, at the age of 18, that she became famous. Lamarr was given the lead in Gustav Machaty’s film Ecstasy, where she played the neglected young wife of an indifferent older man.
Scandal ensued. The film, you see, showed Lamarr’s face in the throes of orgasm as well as brief nude scenes. She was disillusioned about taking other roles, but the film gained world recognition. It was regarded as high art in Europe, but in the U.S. received negative publicity at the hands of women’s groups and was banned.
In 1937 she met Louis Mayer, the head of MGM. Much like Greta Garbo, for whom we mixed the Greta Garbo cocktail, this helped launch a major movie career. Coming to Hollywood in 1938 and changing her surname to distance herself from the Ecstasy role, Mayer began promoting her as the “world’s most beautiful woman.” Apparently that worked, because in her first film, Algiers, a reviewer wrote that when she first appeared on screen “everyone gasped….Lamarr’s beauty literally took one’s breath away.”
Her film career continued until the late 1950s, with her invariably typecast as the archetypical glamorous seductress. But her off screen persona was far less glamorous; she spent a lot of time feeling lonely and homesick.
Lamarr the Inventor
One thing Lamarr did do when she wasn’t acting was tinker with various ideas. These included a traffic stoplight as well as a tablet that would dissolve in water to carbonate a drink. The latter didn’t work too well and she said herself that it just tasted like Alka Seltzer.
But what she’s most famous for occurred during World War II. Lamarr learned that radio-controlled torpedoes had been proposed but that an enemy could jam the signals. She discussed this with the composer and pianist George Anthell and they came to the idea that frequency-hopping could prevent tracking or jamming the guidance signal. Lamarr was eventually introduced to Samuel Mackeown, a professor of radio-electrical engineering at Caltech and she hired him for a year to develop functionality for the idea. She filed and was issued US Patent 2,292,387 in 1942.
As a beautiful actress she didn’t get a lot of respect from the U.S. Navy at the time, so they didn’t adopt the technology until the 1960s.
Nonetheless, the principles of this work were incorporated into Bluetooth and GPS technology as well as the Code Division Multiplex Access cell phone systems that ushered in 3G. Lamarr and Anthell were eventually recognized, receiving the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award in 1997 and being induced into he National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
The Blazing Saddles Cocktail
By now you may be wondering how we get to the Blazing Saddles cocktail as Drink of the Day, but stay with us – there’s a reason.
By the 1970s Hedy Lamarr was becoming increasingly reclusive. Then in 1974 Mel Brooks released his comedy film, Blazing Saddles. Ms. Lamarr promptly filed a $10 million lawsuit lawsuit against Warner Bros. Her claim was that the parody of her name (Hedley Lamarr) infringed her right to privacy.
Harvey Korman’s most famous line in the film is simply saying “It’s not Hedy, it’s Hedley!” to the cross-eyed Governor played by Mel Brooks. Warner Bros. eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed amount and an apology for “almost using her name.” Brooks was interviewed for a documentary on Hedy Lamarr and explained the story.
The Blazing Saddles cocktail itself was developed by Trever Fehrenbach at Modern Rogue. Strangely for us that’s not a bar – it’s a cable TV show that started in 2016. Either way, he sees it as something of a variation on the Last Word cocktail.
The recipe calls for a habanero pepper tincture. You can make that easily if you’re so inclined, just chop up a pepper and soak it in some vodka. But we consider this largely optional.
Blazing Saddles Cocktail
- Nick and Nora or coupe glass
- 1½ oz Tequila Try to use a reposado, or briefly aged, tequila here.
- ½ oz Fresh lime juice
- ½ oz Elderflower liqueur ¼
- ¼ oz Simple syrup
- ¼ oz Green Chartreuse
- Garnish: 2 cocktail cherries
- Add ingredients to your trusty shaker.
- Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
- Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with two cocktail cherries on a pick.
- Play old Blazing Saddles movie clips.