A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 21, 2008
Waldorf Cocktail

The Waldorf cocktail is one of several cocktails from the Waldorf Hotel (later the Waldorf-Astoria). The Waldorf cocktail is cited in print from at least 1914 and contains ingredients such as rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, absinthe, and Angostura bitters.

Interest in the Waldorf cocktail revived in 2007 when absinthe with re-introduced into the United States market after a ban of over eight decades.

Wikipedia: Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel is a famously luxurious hotel in New York. It has been housed in two historic landmark buildings in New York City. The first, designed by architect Henry J. Hardenbergh, was on the Fifth Avenue site of the Empire State Building. The present building at 301 Park Avenue in Manhattan is a 47 storey, 625 ft. (191 m) Art Deco landmark, designed by architects Schultze and Weaver and dating from 1931. The hotel is the flagship of the Waldorf-Astoria Collection, a chain of upscale hotels spun out of the Hilton Hotels and Conrad Hotels chains, as well as some new hotels.

The name, Waldorf=Astoria, now officially appears with a double hyphen, but originally the single hyphen was employed, as recalled by a popular expression and song, “Meet Me at the Hyphen.”

The modern hotel has three American and classic European restaurants, and a beauty parlor located off the main lobby. Several luxurious boutiques surround the distinctive lobby, which has won awards for its restoration to the original period character. An even more luxurious, virtual “hotel within a hotel” in its upper section is known as The Waldorf Towers operated by Conrad Hotels & Resorts.

The hotel has its own railway platform as part of Grand Central Terminal, used by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, and Douglas MacArthur, among others. An elevator large enough for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s car provides access to the platform.

An Astor family feud contributed to the events which led to the construction of the original Waldorf-Astoria on Fifth Avenue.

It started as two hotels: one owned by William Waldorf Astor, whose 13-story Waldorf Hotel was opened in 1893 and the other owned by his cousin, John Jacob Astor IV, called the Astoria Hotel and opened four years later and four stories higher.

William Astor, motivated in part by a dispute with his aunt, built the original Waldorf Hotel next door to her home, on the site of his father’s mansion and today’s Empire State Building. The hotel was built to the specifications of founding proprietor George Boldt; he and his wife Louise had become known as the owners and operators of the Bellevue, an elite boutique hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Broad Street, subsequently expanded and renamed the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. Boldt continued to own the Bellevue (and, later, the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel) even after his relationship with the Astors blossomed.

William Astor’s construction of a hotel next to his aunt’s home worsened his feud with her, but, with Boldt’s help, John Astor persuaded his aunt to move uptown. John Astor then built the Astor Hotel and leased it to Boldt. Initially foreseen as two separate entities, Boldt had planned the new structure so that it could be connected to the old by means that became known as Peacock Alley. The combined Waldorf-Astoria became the largest hotel in the world at the time, while maintaining the original Waldorf’s high standards.

About.com: Cocktails
The Waldorf Cocktail was one of the signature drinks of the Waldorf-Astoria Bar at the beginning of the 20th Century. In his The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book, A.S. Crockett calls for equal parts of whiskey, vermouth and absinthe but that is a little too much absinthe for most modern tastes, especially using the necessary substitutes during the liqueur’s ban, so the recipe has been adapted over the years. Crockett also does not distinguish a whiskey and either rye or bourbon are great choices.
2 oz rye whiskey
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz absinthe or substitute
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Pour the absinthe into a mixing glass and swirl it around to coat the sides. Toss out any excess.
Add the remaining ingredients and ice.
Stir well.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

21 November 1920, Idaho Statesman, pg. 9 ad:
Kelly’s Club Cafe
Waldorf Cocktail

23 October 1946, New York (NY) Times, “Club and Hotel Cocktail Recipes Show Americans’ Predilection for Mixed Drinks” by Jane Nickerson, pg. 31:
For example, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel not only has the Waldorf-Astoria cocktail, but also the Waldorf cocktail, the New Waldorf cocktail and the Astoria cocktail, in addition to six others!
1/3 part gin
2/3 part French vermouth
Two dashes orange bitters
Stir with ice, strain and serve.
For one.

Lunar Policy
The Waldorf Cocktail
28 Jan 2008, 8:55 PM
Jamie Boudreau, over at Spirits and Cocktails, recently posted his experiments with the Waldorf, specifically testing the new-to-market absinthe, Taboo. His review of Taboo was interesting, but I was more interested in a cocktail that uses a full ounce of absinthe!

For those who don’t know, absinthe is quickly regaining use amongst mixologists, and is even legally back on the market in many countries, including the US. The only absinthe legend that remains true is that it’s a quality and complex spirit. It’s a bulldog, though—easily the most strongly-flavored spirit on anyone’s shelf—and is usually only used in dashes. Even in dashes, it tends to dominate a cocktail over ounces of other spirits. To see an ounce listed in a cocktail is akin to seeing “pour yourself a shot of absinthe and cancel your appointments for the evening.”

Much to my surprise, this cocktail manages the absinthe better than expected. I’ve never tried Taboo, so perhaps, with it, Jamie’s proportions are balanced. To my taste, the absinthe is still too dominant. I decided to try different proportions, and was pleased with the result.

1½ oz Bourbon
½ oz Absinthe
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
Stir with ice, strain into cocktail glass.

Ardent Spirits e-letter
Volume 10, Issue 18, August 21, 2008
by Gary Regan and Mardee Haidin Regan
Waldorf Cocktail
There are two versions of the Waldorf.  One, found in the UKBG 1955 book and the 1939 Café Royale book, calls for gin, Swedish punsch, and lemon or lime juice (both books offer the reader the choice).  The other version, found as early as 1914 in the Jacques Straub book, Drinks, and later appearing in The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book by A. S. Crockett, 1935, is a horse of a different color, calling for equal portions of whiskey, sweet vermouth, and absinthe, with a dash or two of bitters.

The Straub book calls for rye whiskey, and orange bitters, which we imagine would get lost in the drink given the potency of the other ingredients.  The Waldorf version of the Waldorf, on the other hand, calls merely for “whiskey,” though it’s a safe bet that Crockett meant rye, we think, and he called for Manhattan Bitters, a product we know nothing about.

Whatever the case, even when you use as powerful a rye as you can get your hands on in this drink, and a big vermouth such as VYA or Carpano Antica Formula, the absinthe takes over the drink when it’s made in these proportions. 

The formula below works, though, and it’s not just because we cut back on the absinthe—the lemon twist adds another dimension to the drink, too.  Try it.

1 1/2 ounces straight rye whiskey
1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce absinthe
3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 lemon twist, for garnish

Stir over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Thursday, August 21, 2008 • Permalink