Clover Club (1911), Pegu, Sam Ward (1889) cocktails

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Mon Jun 7 04:48:51 UTC 2004

  Not the three most famous cocktails, perhaps, but famous in their days.   I'll check each of my drink books later for earlier cites.


CLOVER CLUB + COCKTAIL--4,800 Google hits, 15 Google Groups hits

   Several hits (Washington Post and NY Times) are 1911 and nothing is before that, although the "Clover Club" did exist in Philadelphia in the 1800s.

1925 E. WALLACE King by Night xlii. 186 *Clover Club cocktails, John. 1931 A. POWELL Afternoon Men xiv. 147 He..went to the bar and ordered two clover-clubs and a sidecar.

Clover Club

This drink's luck ran out about 50 years ago. Like a has-been whose name is only vaguely remembered, the Clover Club - still included in all the revered records of classic cocktails - now garners respect only for its venerable age. Name-dropping bartenders often cite the refreshing gin potion, but they'd be hard pressed to mix it. Of course, few imbibers would bother to actually refer to these as mixers, based on their bluster. After all, most shun anything dubbed Clover Club, associating the phrase with corner bars of the same name - most of which are only a slight stumble beyond the less endearing dives named after various states of drunkenness.

But we like the Clover Club and make no inferences about its name. When prompt and polite with its recipe, we've been served it at every bar where we've asked for it. With the prosy precepts of mixing 1 1/2 ounces gin, 1/4 ounce grenadine or raspberry syrup, 3/4 ounce lemon juice, and - as startling as it might sound - an egg white (which we do skip when goaded), this aperitif's as rousing as most made with gin. But the Clover Club's ambrosia of fruit syrups keeps the drink's edge from digging too deep, particularly on evenings when we've had no more than the day's usual vexation.

Almost certainly invented during the Old School of American Bartending, from 1897 until 1919, the Clover Club began to brave mild baiting during the early '30s, starting with the Old School itself: "A Philadelphia importation," wrote historian Albert Stevens Crockett in the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book of 1933, the drink "originated in the bar of the old Bellevue-Stratford, where the Clover Club, composed of literary, legal, financial, and business lights of the Quaker City, often dined and wined, and wined again."

In hopes of learning more about how this drink's fortune ran awry and its stature diminished, we tried to go to the supposed source - the Clover Club. Although we came across plenty of references to the club in obituaries of seemingly fine fellows from Boston and Philly, we never found a live specimen from the organization. In the 1995 Invisible Philadelphia: Communities through Volunteer Organizations, authors Jean Barth Toll and Mildred S. Gillam insist that the Clover Club, a dining club started in 1881, is still going strong. We have been able to piece together that the male-only club met just once a year to eat red meat while roasting local politicians.

Given the spottiness of the record, we're ready to make what we consider a logical leap: Perhaps the club had very little to do with the drink after all. When we consider the research of Jessy Randall, reference librarian at the Library Company of Philadelphia and an especially helpful teetotaler, we're particularly convinced. "At a certain point in every Clover Club dinner, 'after the soup, and with the fish,'" reported Jessy, "there would be several toasts drunk from the 'Loving Cup,' some kind of fancy silver cup belonging to the club." Jessy went on to quote from Mary R. Deacon's The Clover Club of Philadelphia of 1897: "The knowledge of the composition of the brew in the 'Loving Cup' is not common property. It is potent, it is strong. Those who have dipped more than once in its spring have mentioned its penetrating properties and its enervating powers. Double vision may follow two indulgences...." Jessy surmised that perhaps "the 'Clover Club' cocktail is related to this 'mysterious brew' (as they call it in a poem, later). But I have no proof.... We have a fair amount of information on the Clover Club itself, including menus for several of their fancy dinners held at the Bellevue Hotel here in Philadelphia, but I couldn't find a recipe for the Clover Club drink."

When we compound Jessy's own doubts with the fact that no one at the Bellevue Hotel seems to remember either the club or the cocktail, we begin to wonder why no members of the Clover Club have ever confirmed the story. We can only suspect that one evening, long ago, a few affiliates of the group offhandedly asked a bartender at the Bellevue to mix them up something new, and at the time, the Clover Club seemed a good enough name for a simple enough drink. Either that or the bartender decided that this perfectly prosaic drink - which rarely offends but is never noticed - didn't quite merit the flights of the picky or imaginative, and certainly not the mixer's name.

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The Washington Post (1877-1954). Washington, D.C.: Jan 9, 1911. p. 3 (1 page):
  Ingredients for
Clover Club Cocktail
  With these indredients at hand you can make a snappy Clover Club Cocktail at any time.
Gordon Dry Gin...$1 bottle
Grenadine...$1 bottle

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New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Jul 4, 1911. p. 1 (1 page):
   A Drink For Ladies--Clover Club Cocktail, but made with smooth, dry English _Picadilly Gin_--distinctively delicate.  At all clubs, hotels, cafes.--Adv.


PEGU + COCKTAIL--664 Google hits, 17 Google Groups hits
("Pegu" is not in OED.)

   I couldn't find anything on this in ProQuest Historical Newspapers, Newspaperarchive, or the American Periodical Series.  Time to hit the drink books.


George Orwell, a British colonial police officer in Burma during the '20s, observed that the past belongs to those who control the present. When it comes to the nearly forgotten Pegu cocktail, few words could ring truer.

Between the '20s and the '40s, no other exotic mix was as popular as this drink, which hails from the Pegu Club, located in a small town of nearly the same name. The bar was about 50 miles outside Rangoon, the capital of Burma - the country we refuse to call Myanmar, now better known for its infamous drug-producing region, the Golden Triangle.

According to Harry Craddock's Savoy Cocktail Club of 1930, people traveled the world round and asked everyone for this drink. But at about the time Orwell penned "Big Brother is watching you" and Burma gained its so-called independence, the Pegu vanished.

Fortunately for us, though, the Pegu is finally in resurgence, meaning that this inspiring gin cocktail has been sighted at bars that we frequent. With 1 1/2 ounces gin, 1/2 ounce Cointreau, 1/2 ounce lime juice, and a few dashes of Angostura bitters, all shaken with ice and strained into a chilled cocktail glass, the Pegu makes for a pungent drink that stimulates the senses and soothes the soul.

Food and Drink With a Merengue Beat
ALEXANDRA McGINLEY. New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Apr 18, 1999. p. CY4 (1 page):
   ...or a Pegu cocktail, named for a turn-of-the-century club in Burma (gin, Curacao, lime and bitters), with ginger crab cakes in roasted red pepper sauce.


SAM WARD + COCKTAIL--413 Google hits, 1 Google Groups hit

   Named after the popular politican of the period, this appears to have died with him.

TOPICAL TALK.; Interesting Items About Well-Known Men and Women.
The Washington Post (1877-1954). Washington, D.C.: Jan 18, 1889. p. 4 (1 page):
   Potempken soup does not appear to be more objectionable than "Sam Ward cocktail" or Sheridan punch.

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