Highball (St. Louis, 1888?)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Sun Jan 7 07:42:59 UTC 2001

   This may be of interest to etymologists from Missouri (who need to be
TO MISSOURI (1941), which attributes the "highball" to The Planter's Hotel in
St. Louis.
   From THE STEWARD, September 1948, pg. 11, col. 1:

_"Highball" Christened In St. Louis_
Originated at University Club Back in 1888 According to R. C. Magill Who Went
to Work at St. Louis Club as Boy But Now Manages Raquet Club in Missouri
City--Naming of Popular Drink Erroneously Ascribed to Others

   THE Highball, avers R. C. Magill, manager of the Raquet Club in St. Louis,
and himself a venerable institution in that city, originated at the St. Louis
University Club back in 1888 (My earliest cites are 1895.  See
archives--ed.), which was situated three blocks from the St. Louis Club,
where he started his career as a boy.
   In that year, he says, the younger members favored a drink concocted in an
8-oz. glass, consisting of 1-oz. of bourbon and club soda as desired.  In
each glass was also placed an "ice ball".  The drink was usually called a
"Ball".  Many members, however, wanted a bigger drink and they would tell the
bartender, "Make it a High Ball."
   Later, the St. Louis Club, which has stone spheres on either side of its
entrance, occupied new quarters which had a private lane connecting with a
thoroughfare where street cars ran.  For a long time streetcar conductors at
the stop called "St. Louis Club", but some long forgotten wit among them
started calling it "Highball Alley."
   Incidentally, the original Highball was a tall drink worthy of its name
and not the niggardly shorty that nowdays passes in some places as a Highball.
   Magill's explanation of the christening of the Highball is the most
convincing that has been advanced, although the naming of this drink has
heretofore been ascribed to others.  For instance, H. L. Mencken in "The
American Language" says that the Highball was variously credited to an
unidentified bartender in the Parker House in Boston, and to Patrick Gavin
Duffy who, in his "Official Mixer's Manual", asserts that the New York Times
officially certified his claim.
(Col. 2--ed.)
   "Table Topics", snappy and informative bimonthly house organ ofBellows &
Co., importers and purveyors of fine wines, whiskies, brandies, etc., of 67
East 52nd street, New York City, which originally raised the question as to
the "father" of the Highball, mentions the legend that this drink was named
by Lilburn McNair, a social luminary of St. Louis, who is said to have
borrowed the term from the lingo of railroaders.  However, McNair's role in
Highball history, says Table Topics in a subsequent issue, seems to have been
that of a lusterlender and popularizer in best circles.  Small-mustached,
dapper, sartorially magnificent, he entered upon the Club scene at the turn
of the century, took this hitherto local drink under his wing, and was
presently asking for it at Chicago's old Palmer House and New York's old
Waldorf--scoring a first in each instance.  Hence the legend that it was his
baby instead of just a hobby.
   The claim of Magill that the actual naming of the drink occurred at the
St. Louis University Club, has attracted the attention of writers in the
newspaper and trade press from Coast to Coast, including, to mention only a
few, Ralph T. Jones, brilliant columnist in the Atlanta Constitution, the
editorial writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Mid-West Hotel Reporter
of Omaha, and Club Management of Chicago.

(Previous posting should have read "Genghis Khan Mongolian Feast...Serving
Mongolian Barbeque."  I want to be right on Genghis Khan, although I'm always
to the left of him--ed.)

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