Today at The Drunkard’s Almanac we’re mixing the Tuxedo cocktail for Cary Grant’s birthday. Born in England on January 18, 1904 he became one of the wealthiest stars in Hollywood and was known for his charm, athletic grace and keenly refined sense of style. The Tuxedo recipe certainly fits that mold as Drink of the Day. The Tuxedo cocktail is a variation on the classic Martini. It adds maraschino liqueur to the dry vermouth and adds a hint of absinthe to the final mix.
Cary Grant and Films
Cary Grant was born with a somewhat less swank name: Archibald Alec Leach. His upbringing was more Dickensian tragedy than Jane Austen comedy. His father was an alcoholic who pressed clothes for tailors in a garment factory and his mother was institutionalized for depression when he turned nine. As a young boy he was told she had died.
He did, at least, learn to enjoy the theater and proved himself competent at school. He spent evenings working in local theaters and became friends with a group of acrobatic dancers known as The Penders. School was where he earned a reputation as a prankster, and at fourteen years old he was expelled for sneaking into the girls’ bathroom. Some believe that was deliberate, because a mere three days later he joined the Pender troupe. They soon set off across the Atlantic for a tour of the U.S.
Grant became part of the vaudeville circuit and then a leading man. In 1931 he played the lead in a New York musical, Nikki, and that got then-Broadway columnist Ed Sullivan, to note the “young lad from England” had “a big future in the movies.” In December he signed a five-year contract with Paramount Pictures and changed his name to the more credits-friendly Cary Grant.
He was in a lot of films. Some were successes, some were flops, but he became more and more popular and in great demand. Between 1932 and 1966 he was in a lot of films and equally adept at 1930s screwball comedies as 1950s thrillers. His early acrobatic and vaudeville training always came through, whether doing comic pratfalls in Bringing Up Baby or scaling rooftops as a cat burglar in Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. And he always looked elegant while doing so.
Cary Grant and Drinking
One thing is certain: Cary Grant drank a lot on screen. Cocktails were glamorous in the movies and had a place on screen. Whether a Stinger, Highball, Pink Lady, Champagne Cocktail or Gibson, Grant was there to drink them all.
Of course that says little about his personal preferences. Some claim he was very fond of Martinis, and that’s certainly plausible given the tastes of the day. Especially since Grant’s daughter Jennifer says he and Sinatra were the closest of friends. The author Ian Fleming also used Cary Grant as one of the role models for James Bond, so that may be a part of how the Vesper was conceived.
The Tuxedo Cocktail
Either way, we need a new drink and according to the biographer Graham McCann always Grant sought to establish himself as the “epitome of masculine glamour”. Grant was known for his dress savvy, so that’s why we’re mixing the Tuxedo cocktail today.
The Tuxedo cocktail dates back to the 1880s at the Tuxedo Club in an area of New York now known as Tuxedo Park. It’s a variation on the Martini, but one which has has morphed into several forms over the years. The Tuxedo recipe started as dry gin, with dry sherry substituting for the sweet vermouth used in the original Martini. Another variation on the Martini you might also like is the Alaska cocktail.
Soon we had the Tuxedo cocktail and the Tuxedo No. 2, and both are well known today. The problem is the modernized versions of the two are not much different. The Tuxedo Club recipe here fits the mold of the IBA specifications, but with modified proportions. The specifications are from Eric Alperin of The Varnish in Los Angeles. Call it a Tuxedo or Tuxedo No. 2 at your own discretion.
- Mixing glass
- Nick and Nora or coupe glass
- Add gin, vermouth, maraschino and orange bitters to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir to chill.
- Rinse inside of pre-chilled glass with a small amount of absinthe and pour out any pooled at the bottom.
- Strain drink into cocktail glass.
- Express twist and garnish drink with twist and cherry on a toothpick.