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Bartending Icon: Harry Craddock

  • Kevin Gray

Harry Craddock

Bartenders. The good ones are impossibly dexterous, effortlessly cool, elegantly nonchalant. And we appreciate that. So we’re honoring the best of the bunch. Next up: Harry Craddock.

Name: Harry Lawson Craddock DOB: 1875 Place of birth: Stroud, England Trade: Bartender Years active: 1897–1947 Locations of employ: Chicago, New York, London Notable employers: The Hoffman House (NYC), The Knickerbocker Hotel (NYC), The Holland House (NYC), The Savoy Hotel (London), The Dorchester Hotel (London) Cocktails invented: 250, give or take Books written: 1 Wax statues at Madame Tussauds: 1

Harry Craddock

Harry Craddock led quite a life. During his heyday, he was a legendary barman. He wrote a legendary book that’s still in print today. And his legacy has impacted how we drink for nearly a century. Now, let’s go to the highlight reel:

1. He presided over some of New York’s finest bars. Craddock crossed the Atlantic for New York in 1897. Over the next 23 years, he tended bar at fine establishments like the Hoffman House, the Knickerbocker Hotel and the Holland House.

2. He mixed the last legal cocktail in America. It’s believed that Craddock served America’s last legal drink (at the Holland House in New York City) before the darkness of Prohibition settled over the country. That’s when he packed his bags and jumped ship back to England.

3. Craddock became head bartender at the Savoy in 1925. Just two years after landing in London, ol’ Harry secured the most coveted bar position in the whole city.

4. He wrote one hell of a book. The Savoy Cocktail Book was published in 1930. It’s gone on to become one of the most read, most reprinted and most influential books in cocktail history. Inside: a whopping 750 recipes. Some good. Some not so good. But all preserved for posterity and serving as inspiration for many of the drinks we consume today. 5. He helped to popularize the dry martini. Maybe you’ve heard of it. But this isn’t the dry martini most are familiar with. You know, the one with loads of gin and a whisper of vermouth. No, the preferred martini of Harry Craddock included equal parts of gin and dry vermouth, plus a dash of orange bitters. It’s ginny and floral and delicious.

6. Same goes for the Corpse Reviver #2. First published in The Savoy Cocktail Book, the popular Corpse Reviver #2 combines equal parts gin, lemon juice, Cointreau and Lillet, plus a little dash of absinthe. A “corpse reviver” is actually a category of drinks meant to be consumed in the morning (according to early-19th-century sensibilities, at least, when a stiff cocktail was just the pick-me-up you needed before heading off to the factory).

7. He invented the White Lady. This is one of those Prohibition-era drinks that’s stood the test of time. Probably because it’s an easy-drinking blend of gin, Cointreau and lemon juice. But also because it’s fun to say, “Hey barkeep, gimme a White Lady.”

8. He served some notable clientele. During his time at the Dorchester, it’s said that Craddock poured drinks for the likes of Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

9. The man could turn a phrase. When asked about the proper way to consume a cocktail, Craddock once said, “Quickly. While it’s still laughing at you.”

10. He had a strange habit of burying cocktails. Not much to say about this one... except that he had a strange habit of burying cocktails. In 1927, when the Savoy was undergoing a few renovations, Craddock took the opportunity to bury a White Lady within the walls of the bar. Well, we assume these anecdotes refer to the cocktail, and not an actual lady.