Great Homage Cocktails, Part 2

As we've written before, we really enjoy finding connections between famous people and cocktails. Whether it's exploring the favorite drinks of historical figures or discovering the origins of cocktails named in honor of someone special, the stories behind these drinks tend to elevate our enjoyment while drinking them.

Our research has uncovered a number of fascinating facts, but this week we focus on the idea that many (most?) famous wits and creative geniuses seem to have had a special affection for cocktails. Here are three cocktails inspired by three notable and very colorful men of the past.

Oscar Wilde

  • "Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes."
  • "To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance."
  • "There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."

There are few figures from the 20th century who are quoted more often than Oscar Wilde. Well-known in British literary circles as a socialite, a dandy, and a provocateur, Wilde had an outsized personality that came with a serious love of Champagne. He would reportedly drink anything bubbly, but his preferred labels were Perrier Jouët or Dom Perginon; rosés if you had 'em.  Evidently, Wilde would go to almost any lengths to get his bubbly and would often host elaborate champagne dinners where the stuff flowed like water. Even when there was no party at hand, Wilde ordered his staff to serve champagne “at intervals” throughout the day. And it seemed nothing could stop him from getting his fix: After being imprisoned for charges of indecency and sodomy, Wilde ordered cases of his favorite vintage (1874 Perrier-Jouët) to be delivered straight to his cell. (How he got the champagne into his cell is not evident in the historical record.) Wilde lore has it that, at the very end, he ordered champagne to his deathbed and sighed, “Alas, I am dying beyond my means.”

Oscar Wilde Strawberry Champagne Cocktail

  • Ingredients
    • ​4 Strawberries, in 1/2-inch dice (plus more for garnishing the glass)
    • 1 teaspoon Sugar
    • 1 oz. Cognac
    • 10 oz. Champagne
  • Directions
      • In a small bowl, combine diced strawberries and sugar. Let sit 1/2 hour, then muddle with a muddler, a wooden spoon, or the back of a fork.
      • Add cognac to the muddled strawberries, then pour the mixture into two chilled Champagne flutes. Top with champagne and garnish the glass with an extra strawberry, if desired.

    George Gershwin

    He was born nearly 130 years ago, but his brilliant and innovative melodies remain the crown jewels in what is commonly referred to as the "American Songbook." 

    "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Fascinating Rhythm," "Summertime," "The Man I Love," "Embraceable You" and "I Got Rhythm," are some of our most beloved standards, and his musicals and orchestral pieces—Rhapsody in Blue, Of Thee I Sing, An American in Paris, and his opera Porgy and Bess—are considered among the greatest in American music.

    Gershwin, who grew up in tenements on Manhattan's Lower East Side,  grew into a man who liked things from both ends of the spectrum—that is to say, he enjoyed the high life of "sophisticated society," but also took great pleasure in the simple treats that defined his boyhood. He smoked fine Parisian cigarettes, but also loved a good old stogie.  He had a fondness for ice cream sodas, but also adored Scotch highballs. This cocktail, created by a team of bartenders at the French Embassy, is inspired by Rhapsody in Blue and includes ingredients both simple and sophisticated. 

    The Gershwin


    • In a shaker with ice combine:
      • 2 oz. London dry gin
      • 1/2 oz.  Ginger liqueur
      • 1/2 oz.  Simple Syrup
      • 3/4 oz. Lemon juice
      • 2 Drops Rose water
    • Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon peel.

      Mark Twain

      Generally considered to be one of America's greatest all-time writers, Mark Twain (born Samuel Langhorne Clemens) defined the voice of American literature for generations of readers around the world. His best-known classics, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," and "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," remain beloved classics to this day. The great William Faulkner called Twain "the father of American literature."

      Twain was also a noted humorist, entrepreneur, and book publisher. Among his most famous sayings: "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt"; "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog"; "If you tell the truth then you don't have to remember anything."

      Unlike the origins of many cocktails from the past, The Mark Twain cocktail is an actual drink that Mark Twain himself referenced in letters and was known to order frequently. He evidently discovered the wonders of this Whiskey Sour variation while traveling in London and wrote home to his wife Olivia about it in 1874:

      "Livy my darling, I want you to be sure and remember to have, in the bathroom when I arrive, a bottle of Scotch Whiskey, a lemon, some crushed sugar, and a bottle of Angostura Bitters. Ever since I have been in London I have taken in a wine glass what is called a cock-tail (made with those ingredients) before breakfast, before dinner, and just before going to bed." 

      The Mark Twain
      • In a shaker with ice combine:
        • 2 oz. Scotch whisky
        • .75 oz. Lemon juice
        • .75 oz Simple syrup
        • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
      • Shake until well chilled and strain into a coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.