While many of us associate the Martini with James Bond, in reality 007 didn't have anything to do with the creation of this beloved elixir.
Whilst the Original was first noted by Harry Johnson in 1888, it is another Harry, Harry Craddock -one of the best-known bartenders of the early 20th century and a legend in the cocktail making world – who helped make the Martini what it is today.
Harry Craddock was born in England around 1875. As a young man, he left the UK for America, where he soon began work at some of the country’s best bars – The Hoffman House and The Knickerbocker Hotel in New York, amongst others. Back around the turn of the century, the American bar scene was on the up, helped along by newly created ‘cocktails’: these beguiling drinks blended strong spirits and were served with ice, a revolutionary idea at the time.
Craddock soon came to be regarded as one of New York’s finest barkeeps. Unfortunately for the Americans – and luckily for us – he felt compelled to leave the country in 1920, at the start of Prohibition (but not before shaking the last legal drink in the country). After sailing back to London, Craddock was soon promoted to Head Bartender at the Savoy‘s American Bar.
In London, Craddock’s new, American style of bartending drew huge crowds to the Savoy, and it was here that his star fully ascended. He became famous enough to be immortalised in wax at Madame Tussaud’s, and oversaw a bar that quickly became the centre of London’s social scene.
Today, Craddock is best remembered for his masterwork: The Savoy Cocktail Book, first published in 1930 and still regarded as one of the essential cocktail bibles. No bartender worth his or her salt hasn’t studied up on Craddock’s classic recipes – there are staggeringly more than 700 in the book, around a third of which are his own creations – and a well-worn copy can be found haunting the shelves of bars around the world.
In addition to a number of his other pioneering drinks – the Corpse Reviver No. 2 and the White Lady among the best known – Craddock is also considered the godfather of the Martini. While he wasn’t the man who invented the drink (those origins are as dubious as ever), he was the one who helped codify and popularise the ‘Dry Martini.’
The recipe for the Dry Martini in The Savoy Cocktail Book – included below – might not count as ‘dry’ for drinkers today (certainly that 50:50 ratio of gin to vermouth falls on the ‘wet’ end of the spectrum by contemporary standards), but at the time it helped to formalise the recipe and served as a precursor to the cocktail that we now know and love. As for the addition of orange bitters, while less common today, we actually appreciate the floral note that it provides.
So hats off to Harry Craddock: without him, the modern Martini’s wouldn’t be half as sippable.
Feature images © The Savoy Hotel