Savoy Hotel Special

National Winston Churchill Day

Your cocktail calendar entry for: April
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Today we’re mixing the Savoy Hotel Special in honor of National Winston Churchill Day commemorating the day he was made an honorary citizen of the United States.  He was the first person to be given this honor and without doubt the best boozer amongst those to receive it.  So today it’ll be all about the Savoy Hotel Special and Winston Churchill.

That’s not to say this is the only important thing that ever happened on April 9.  In 1413 Henry V was crowned King of England, in 1784 the Treaty of Paris ending the American Revolutionary War was signed.  In 1865 the American Civil War pretty much ended and in 1926 Zip the Pinhead passed away.  All notable events, to be sure, but Sir Winston was truly a drinker of substance so today’s Drunkard’s Almanac entry is in his honor.

Churchill’s Drinking

Churchill’s drinking is legendary.  Being a bit corpulent, as they say, our boy could really pack it away and drink provides fodder for many quotes that while perhaps not confirmed are certainly attributed to him.  For example:  “When I was younger I made it a rule never to take strong drink before lunch.  It is now my rule never to do so before breakfast.”  Witty gent, he.

While significant controversy exists around the exact amount of his drinking, the daily baseline appears to be along the lines of:

Wake up around 11 AM:  3 scotch and sodas, always Johnnie Walker.
Lunch:  Champagne (Pol Roger), an imperial pint bottle (20 oz), followed by a post-lunch glass or two of cognac.
Post-nap afternoon:  One scotch and soda each hour from around 4-7.
Before dinner:  Glass of Amontillado Sherry.
Dinner:  Another imperial pint bottle of Pol Roger.
Post dinner:  Back to the cognac up to 2AM bedtime

So how do we get to today’s Drink of the Day?  Let’s for the moment consider how Churchill fit in to the political milieu of Britain during the earlier part of his career.  You see, in 1764 an institution known as The Club was founded.  It was a dinner club of the big cheeses, influential men, politicians and the sort.  Membership was granted only upon unanimous approval of the members extant.

Savoy Hotel Special

As you might expect our boy Winston was friends with several members and sought to join around 1911.  He was Liberal Home Secretary at the time and together with F. E. Smith (a Conservative Member of Parliament) the two were refused membership for being too controversial.  So what did they do?  They simply formed The Other Club.  Election to the club depended upon Smith and Churchill believing members to be “men with whom it was agreeable to dine” and they initiated the club with membership of 12 Liberals, 12 Conservatives and 12 “distinguished outsiders” who were not in politics.  Debates they held were apparently quite vigorous, with Churchill insisting in the written ground rules that “nothing in the rules or intercourse of the club shall interfere with the rancour or asperity of party politics.”  That must have been entertaining.

Dinners were held fortnightly in the Pinafore Room at the Savoy Hotel when Parliament was in session, and this is how we’re going to get to an appropriate cocktail.  You’ll recall we spoke of the American Bar in the Savoy Hotel when we covered Harry Craddock’s recipe for a Corpse Reviver No. 2 and with respect to the Satan’s Whiskers cocktail.  Today we again reach back to The Savoy Cocktail Book for something both era and site appropriate, and in doing so declare the Savoy Hotel Special as Drink of the Day.

Savoy Hotel Special

Savoy Hotel Special

From the Savoy Cocktail Book, we like the Savoy Hotel Special to celebrate National Winston Churchill Day. It's really a minor variation on the Martini, adding just a dash each of grenadine and absinthe.
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  • 2 oz Gin Your basic London Dry
  • 1 oz Dry vermouth
  • 1 dash Dash Absinthe but feel free to use Pernod or any other anisette within reach if the absinthe has gone missing
  • 1 Dash Grenadine By now you know the opinion of our Editorial Board on Rose’s Grenadine the vile, fluorescent red stuff on the supermarket shelf. You’ve heard the proper drill: simple syrup made with pomegranate juice, but we’ll soon revisit grenadine from the standpoint of the most original apothecary formulas.
  • Garnish: lemon twist


  • While it is not in line with our usual practice to shake drinks that don’t include significant juice content, the Savoy book specifies shaking this one.
  • Add ingredients to your trusty shaking tin.
  • Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
  • Strain into chilled glass.
  • Express lemon twist over drink and discard, the mighty peel has given its all.
  • Drink.
  • Rinse and repeat.
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