For May 21 we’re mixing the Spirit of St. Louis cocktail in honor of Charles Lindbergh making it to Paris in one piece. You see, that’s the anniversary of the day in 1927 he completed the first solo, nonstop transatlantic flight from New York to Paris. It was a pretty big deal, especially when you consider that he did it without booze onboard and the flight took over 33 hours.
Lindbergh and the Transatlantic Challenge
Lindbergh was born in 1902 and took up flying at the age of 20. In 1923 he bought a surplus World War I biplane and toured as a stunt flyer. He followed that by enrolling in the Army Air Service flying school and became an airmail pilot in 1926. But the challenge he met preceded all that.
The first flight across the Atlantic was made in May, 1919, but that journey was from New York to Plymouth, England and stopped in Newfoundland, the Azores, and Lisbon along the way. Raymond Ortieg, a French hotelier in New York, immediately put up a purse of $25,000 to the first aviator to fly nonstop between Paris and New York. The offer was good for five years.
British fliers flew nonstop across the Atlantic from Newfoundland to Ireland within a month. No small feat, but the flight from New York to Paris was nearly twice the distance. Nobody made it, so Ortieg repeated the offer in 1926. Lindbergh was one of several aviators to take on the challenge. It was daunting: six men had already died trying.
Lindbergh got the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce to sponsor the effort and the Ryan Airlines Corporation in San Diego built an aircraft, The Spirit of St. Louis, to his specifications. He took off early May 20 despite being kept up all night by a noisy poker game.
Amazingly, with only rudimentary navigation he stayed largely on course. Worried at one point, he circled some fishing boats near Ireland to yell for directions but no fishermen appeared on deck. but he made it to Paris and when he finally landed he’d been awake for 55 hours. He surely needed a drink, but there are no reports to that effect.
The Spirit of St. Louis Cocktail
Here at The Drunkard’s Almanac we debated the best choice of drinks to celebrate Lindbergh’s accomplishment. There were two obvious choices: the Charlie Lindbergh cocktail from The Savoy Cocktail Book and the Spirit of St. Louis cocktail from Barflies and Cocktails.
The Charlie Lindbergh is really a Martini variation and requires a wash of the glass with apricot brandy, which unless you have some Rothman & Winters handy is usually an oversweet apricot-flavored mess. So after much debate by our Editorial Board we decided to go with the Spirit of St. Louis.
The Spirit of St. Louis is in the family of Flips that we visited with the Rum Flip for the anniversary of the Great Emu War. Flips are a category of drink made using a spirit, a sweetener and an egg. Sometimes a whole egg, but in this case only the white. So they’re unusually nutritious drinks.
Importantly, the Spirit of St. Louis cocktail comes from Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, and since that’s the city Lindbergh landed in it gets our nod. McElhone says it directly in his book: “Inspired at the New York Bar by trans-Atlantic flight of Captain Charles A. Lindbergh.”
Our one caution in mixing this drink is to use a quality grenadine. As we’ve advised on numerous occasions, you really don’t want to use the fluorescent stuff you find with Rose’s Grenadine. Get yourself a bottle of the real stuff or make it yourself from some pomegranate juice. It’s easy, and useful in many applications.
Spirit of St. Louis Cocktail
- 2 oz Gin
- 1 tsp Grenadine
- 1 Egg white
- 2 dash Orange bitters
- Add all ingredients to your trusty shaker.
- Shake vigorously without ice (a "dry shake") to emulsify the contents.
- Add ice to shaker and shake until frosty cold.
- Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass.