We’re talking about cash today, so the Drink of the Day is the Million Dollar Cocktail. It was November 4, 1879, that James Jacob Ritty patented the first cash register. It presumably solved a problem he was having in his saloon and was called “Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier.” So today we’ll cover the story and the Million Dollar Cocktail recipe.
James Ritty was born in 1836 in Dayton, Ohio. As a young man he attended college for a while with the intent of becoming a doctor. Then the Civil War broke out and he left school to enlist. He served honorably, rising to the rank of Captain, and left the Union Army in 1864.
His dreams of becoming a doctor were dashed, but he was still a man of noble intent. So he went about treating ailments in other ways and became a saloon owner in Dayton. He billed his Empire Saloon as a “dealer in Pure Whiskies, Fine Wines, and Cigars.” Good start.
One problem, though. Some of his bartenders were pocketing cash. In 1878 he was on a ship heading to Europe and a mechanism to record the number of propeller revolutions caught his attention. He wondered if something like this could be made to record the transactions made at his saloon.
When he returned to the U.S. he enlisted the help of his brother John, a skilled mechanic. Their first designs failed, but three times was a charm.
Ritty produced the machines in a small second floor apartment above the saloon. Success was modest, and he was overwhelmed by trying to run two businesses. Soon local coal dealer John Patterson and other investors took interest and bought the cash register business. What was once “James Ritty’s New Cash Register and Indicator” became National Cash Register Company. You know it as NCR. The rest is history.
James Ritty bowed out of running a business that became far more lucrative than any bar, but he expanded and opened another saloon, the Pony House. There he had a 32-foot-long bar carved out of an enormous piece of Honduras mahogany that is still in use at a place called Jay’s Seafood.
The Million Dollar Cocktail
Like many things involving drinkers, the history of the Million Dollar Cocktail is a bit hazy. We are not aware of it being published before Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930, but the drink itself was invented earlier. Two theories exist. It may have been Ngiam Tong Boon (who we have to thank for the Singapore Sling) at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore 1910. Or it was the German-born Louis Eppinger at the Grand Hotel in Yokohama in 1884.
Most cocktail historians seem to believe Eppinger was likely the true inventor, and it’s still considered a classic among bartenders in Tokyo.
Regardless of who invented it, a variety of recipes are out in the wild. Some use Cherry Heering rather than sweet vermouth. Others use as much as 2 ounces of pineapple juice, which would render a rather large cocktail served up. We settled on what we consider the best balanced of the lot which is actually quite close to what Craddock published. All the recipes employ an egg white, similar to what’s often done with cocktails from the sours family, like the Rattlesnake cocktail.
Million Dollar Cocktail
- Nick and Nora or coupe glass
- Add all ingredients to your trusty shaker.
- Dry shake, without ice, to froth contents.
- Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
- Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish if you feel like it.