The theme for our magical Gin of the Month box for September 2019 is myths and legends; so we got to thinking: what are some of the most legendary historic cocktail bars around the world you can still visit for a G&T today? And what are the incredible, legendary stories associated with them that made them famous?! Trust us, you don’t expect to see these kinds of shenanigans at your local on a Friday night!
Long Bar, Raffles Hotel, Singapore
Upon opening in 1887, Raffles immediately became the state’s most admired and luxurious hotel, a status that it has, amazingly, retained now for more than 130 years. Part of its enduring fame, of course, is due to its being the birthplace of the classic gin cocktail, the Singapore Sling!
Famous guests? Many a celebrity, royalty and dignitary have graced the sumptuous suites of this elegant hotel. It is perhaps most famous for its literary clientele, including Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham and Joseph Conrad - the hotel has even named one of its cocktail lounges ‘The Writers’ Bar’ in their honour.
Legend has it… In 1902, a tiger from a travelling circus in Singapore escaped, found its way inside the hotel and hid in the billiards room!
Local gentleman Charles Philips was called on to help, even though he was still a little worse for wear after a night of cocktails at the governor’s ball and was wearing his pyjamas. Tipsy, Phillips shot three times at the tiger but missed before pulling himself together and hitting his target, ensuring the safety of the hotel guests.
Gin cocktail we recommend: What else? The Singapore Sling!
Bar Hemingway, The Ritz, Paris
"When I dream of an afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place at the Ritz Paris." So said writer Ernest Hemingway, who plays such an iconic role in the history of this legendary hotel that he even has his very own cocktail bar named in his honour (more of that later).
Famous guests? Hemingway isn’t the only star to have loved this luxurious venue since its doors opened in 1911: during the Jazz Age, Cole Porter and F. Scott Fitzgerald were frequent visitors, and Marcel Proust even lived at the hotel for a period, as did legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel. The scandal-hit former King of England, Edward VIII, and the lover for whom he abdicated the throne, Wallis Simpson, were also regular guests.
Legend has it: In 1944, as the German forces retreated, the then-war correspondent Ernest Hemingway - who had spent so many happy hours in the ‘20s and ‘30s living it up in the hotel’s Ladies’ Bar - took a group of soldiers up to the Ritz and personally ‘liberated’ it of the Nazis (who were at that time occupying the hotel) by ordering a round of no less than 51 dry martinis! The Ladies’ Bar was promptly renamed the Hemingway Bar!
Gin cocktail we recommend: It’s got to be a Dry Martini, right?
American Bar at The Savoy, London
The grande dame of all cocktail bars, the Savoy’s American Bar is the longest surviving cocktail bar in London and has, incredibly, held its position as one of the world’s best venues for a beautiful tipple for more than 125 years.
Famous guests? With a jaw-dropping guest list of Hollywood stars that regularly enjoyed a drink at the bar including Frank Sinatra, Errol Flynn, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, Marlon Brando, Christian Dior, Laurence Olivier, John Wayne, the Beatles, and Edward VII to name a few, you can imagine that there’s a list of naughty stories from the bar as long as your arm that have passed into legend (most of which we probably couldn’t mention here)!
Legend has it that… After returning from the moon landing in 1969, the first alcoholic beverage Neil Armstrong drank was Savoy barman Joe Gilmore’s ‘Moonwalk’ cocktail, made with rosewater, orange liqueur, and (of course) champagne, which Gilmore sent to NASA in a flask! Apparently, Neil Armstrong’s subsequent thank-you letter is framed on the wall of the bar.
Gin cocktail we recommend: “Sun sun sun”; gin, white creme de menthe, orange blossom, yuzu wine, lime, egg white.