In 2011 the member states of UNESCO declared February 13 to be World Radio Day, so here at The Drunkard’s Almanac we’re mixing up a Marconi cocktail to do it justice. Let’s face it, radio is important and without it you wouldn’t be able to waste hours on your smartphone doomscrolling Twitter or posting your Wordle score. The Marconi cocktail recipe is wonderfully simple, but before we get to it let’s look at how Marconi got so famous.
Astute readers will guess that Guglielmo Marconi was born in Italy and they would be right. In 1874 he was born in Bologna to booze nobility. His father may just have been a landowner, but his mother was Irish and the granddaughter of John Jameson. In other words the John Jameson that founded the whiskey distiller Jameson & Sons. For our purposes that’s quite an aristocratic lineage.
Marconi received his most advanced education at the Livorno Technical Institute. Around the same time Heinrich Hertz paid attention to Maxwell’s equations and demonstrated that he could produce and detect electromagnetic radiation. This was interesting to physicists but they were thinking only about the physical phenomenon. They didn’t think about ways to use it.
Marconi started to conduct his own experiments with radio waves at the age of 20. This started small but in 1895 he built an apparatus that could transmit signals up to two miles and over hills. Of course he figured this was good and wrote to the Ministry of Posts and Telegraph to ask for funding. The Minister ignored him and wrote “to the Longara” on the letter. That was a bad call, as the Longera was referring to an insane asylum in Rome.
He received a better reception (pun intended) in England. Within a year he was able to broadcast up to 12 miles and was applying for patents. By 1899 Marconi was able to send signals across the English Channel and he traveled to the U.S. where he offered wireless coverage of the America’s Cup yacht race.
Skeptics abounded despite his success, with many physicists still believing radio was limited to line-of-sight. But Marconi was tireless and built high powered transmitters on both sides of the Atlantic to communicate with ships. He achieved real fame when the Titanic sunk in 1912 with the ship’s radio operators employed by the Marconi International Marine Communications Company. The nearest ship, the RMS Carpathia was able to receive the SOS messages and rescue the survivors.
This was big. Britain’s Postmaster General said, “Those who have been saved, have been saved through one man, Mr. Marconi…and his marvelous invention”. It also turns out he’d been offered free passage on the Titanic but decided to take the Lusitania instead. That was a good call.
The Marconi Cocktail
The Marconi isn’t widely published. A New York Times article from 1992 claims it was invented at the Bull and Bear bar at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel not long after the Titanic disaster. This seems plausible as Marconi accompanied a reporter from the Times to talk with the surviving radio operator.
The Marconi recipe is dead simple regardless of its origin. It’s really just a Manhattan variation, substituting Calvados or apple brandy for the whiskey and adding a dose of orange bitters.
- Nick and Nora or coupe glass
- 2 oz Calvados or other apple brandy
- 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
- 2 dash Orange bitters
- Add all ingredients to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir to chill.
- Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass.