Non-fiction Writer in Residence – Lucy Jane Santos
Lucy Jane is an expert in the history of twentieth-century leisure, health, and beauty with a particular interest in the cultural history of radioactivity and she has a BA in Egyptian Archaeology.
Think of cocktails and, more than likely, imagery of impossibly glamorous people, smoky rooms, and bootleggers will pop into your head. Or perhaps it’s something closer to unsavoury bars with lurid coloured abominations masquerading as cocktails.
But these mixed drinks are so much more than that: they can also be used to tell stories of the past. They can be a window into many different types of histories, not least because they are reflections of the intentions of various peoples: the establishment that commissions them, the person that makes them, and even the customer who is meant to drink them.
Sometimes, the name of the cocktail itself can give us an insight into the most unlikely parts of history. For many cultures, the naming of something gave it power, substance, and meaning and it is no different for cocktails.
1 dash of Absinthe
1 teaspoonful of Grenadine
Equal parts Orange Juice and Gin
How to make this cocktail
Fill the cocktail shaker half way up with gin, then orange juice to (almost) the brim. Add the Absinthe and Grenadine. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.
Strange, unappetising, name for a cocktail isn’t it – Monkey’s Gland?
Despite the name there are two claims for the creation of this cocktail. The first, and most likely, is from Harry MacElhone, owner of Harry’s New York Bar, Paris. And the second is from Frank Meier of the Ritz, also in Paris. Both claim they invented this cocktail in 1922.
Famous during Harry McElhones tenure at the new York Bar, 5 Rue Danou, Paris which he named Harry’s New York Bar when he took it over in 1923.
Less controversial is what influenced the naming of it.
The name – Monkey’s Gland – refers to a rejuvenation treatment that was in vogue in the image-conscious 1920s.
Serge Voronoff, a Russian Scientist who had been studying the effects of castration on eunuchs, devised the treatment. Voronoff observed that the eunuchs were sickly and tended to die young. He concluded that this was because of their lack of testicles. The treatment he devised took this to what he thought was the logical conclusion. Voronoff transplanted thin pieces of monkey’s testicles onto humans to improve their health and vitality.
This testicular transplant procedure was not unique to Voronoff -– others had tried interspecies transplantation with sheep, goats and bulls. But Voronoff was the first person to attempt primate to human transplant. His reasoning was that monkeys were the closest to humans and thus it would work best.
Despite some very suspect before and after shots in his book, Life: A Study of the Means of Restoring (1920s), Voronoff’s procedure was a hit. Through the 1920s, an estimated 4000 people had the procedure. This also included women when Voronoff extended the procedure to ovaries taken from monkeys. For men, Voronoff promised increased sex drive, better memory, and a longer life. While for women, he promised anti-ageing and the restoration of beauty.
The treatment’s downfall came when the subjects aged normally – despite Voronoff’s intervention. At first, he claimed that it was because the glands died after five years and it was just a matter of having the treatment again. But, eventually the treatment fell out of favour.
Voronoff died alone in his castle in Switzerland. Though he died a very rich man, he had lost his reputation. Nevertheless, the cocktail he inspired is still served across the world.
Taste Test (or should that be Taste Teste)
I am not going to lie, this does take some getting used to. The absinthe and grenadine, though, takes this to another level. If you have the time, I recommend making homemade grenadine (seriously, do it – it will change your cocktail making for the better). Also, absinthe is preferable to Pernod or Ricard, which are adaptations that have been around since the 1920s.
To an ice-filled cocktail shaker, add 45 ml coconut rum, 15 ml spiced rum, 4-5 dashes of bitters. Then, fill (almost) to the brim with the juice and shake for 30 seconds. Pour into your pre-iced glass. Next, add 1-2 teaspoons of maraschino cherry juice, and let it settle at the bottom of the glass forming a beautiful red layer. Finally, garnish with a lime slice, pineapple wedge, and a cherry.
Monkey Brain Shot:
45 ml Vodka, 1 tablespoon Lime or Lemon juice, Irish cream, dash of Grenadine. Fill a large shot glass with the vodka and juice. Using a syringe, slowly add the Irish cream into the liquid allowing it to form a shape that resembles a brain at the bottom of the glass. Add a dash of Grenadine Syrup for a blood effect. Consume whilst questioning your life choices.