The famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood opened on May 18, 1927, and for that the Drink of the Day is the Mary Pickford cocktail. The Chinese Theater is the iconic place right on Hollywood Boulevard where the cement courtyard in front is covered in footprints and handprints of film stars from the 1920s onward. Mary Pickford was the first, so the cocktail named after her is Drink of the Day.
Grauman’s Chinese Theater
Grauman’s Chinese Theater is a historic movie palace in Hollywood. And when we say movie palace we’re not talking about a shopping mall multiplex with fourteen screens. We’re talking about something large, grand, and elaborately decorated. Not what’s getting built these days.
Sid Grauman was a real showman, commissioning the Chinese Theater after the success of his Egyptian Theater down the street. They’re both in the Exotic Revival style of architecture, which was popular at the time. The Samson Tire and Rubber Co. built their factory (now the Citadel Outlets) along Interstate 5 southeast of downtown Los Angeles to look like an Assyrian castle. There’s the Mayan Theater smack in downtown, and even Frank Lloyd Wright got into it with the Hollyhock House in East Hollywood.
The Chinese Theater’s exterior evokes images of a giant red Chinese pagoda. It features a Chinese dragon across the façade, with two Ming Dynasty guardian lions at the entrance. The copper roof carries silhouettes of tiny dragons. It tried to give people a sense of China when Americans didn’t know much about it, so it was at least a start. Even if people generally regarded anything west of Catalina Island as the “exotic orient.”
Signed footprints and handprints of movie stars in the concrete of its forecourt have been a famous feature of the theater since its opening. There are several stories about how this happened, but Sid Grauman put the speculation to rest. In a 1937 interview he said it was “pure accident. I walked right into it. While we were building the theatre, I accidentally happened to step in some soft concrete. And there it was. So, I went to Mary Pickford immediately. Mary put her foot into it.”
The Mary Pickford Cocktail
Mary Pickford didn’t get to be first just by being a major movie star. She and her husband Douglas, along with Charlie Chaplin, were also partners in the theater and the founding partners of United Artists Pictures. Fairbanks’ imprints were next in line. The Mary Pickford cocktail actually came earlier, invented in during Prohibition at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. That’s the same Hotel Nacional we mentioned when mixing the Hotel Nacional Cocktail for Meyer Lansky. The drink was memorialized in Harry Craddock’s work, The Savoy Cocktail Book.
Legend has it that Pickford was in Cuba filming a movie with Fairbanks and their friend Charlie Chaplain. Bartender Fred Kaufman was among the many bartenders that headed to Cuba when the Volstead Act became effective and Prohibition was in force. Americans were the bartenders of Cuba at the time, so Kaufman presumably named the drink after the visiting American movie star. Whether Pickford and Fairbanks were actually there filming a movie is disputed, but the drink is clearly named after her.
Mary Pickford Cocktail
- Nick and Nora or coupe glass
- Add all ingredients to your trusty shaker.
- Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
- Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass.
- Rinse and repeat.