James & Angela Clutton’s Holland House Cocktail
Updated: May 16
As an amateur mixologist and a lover of family and personally-connected history, I am always looking for links to the past and how to use these links in our lives today. As the Director of Opera at Opera Holland Park, I often host themed cocktail events at our theatre and each year, along with my wife, the food writer Angela Clutton, create bespoke cocktails for each opera in the OHP season. I do a lot of research on this and I initially came across this recipe for the Holland House cocktail in the Savoy Cocktail Book originally published in 1930. This book is one of the great cocktail books and was compiled by the great Harry Craddock - bartender at the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London through the 1920’s. I was very excited when I saw the cocktail’s name and wondered about connections to the Holland House that is home to OHP and provides the backdrop to our operas, so I set about investigating its history.
Like most cocktails there are various ideas and claims on its origins but the first source and the origin seems to be from George J. Kappeler who worked at the Holland House Hotel in New York. This was the house cocktail at Holland House and Harry Craddock worked there before he left to go to the Savoy in 1920, when prohibition had forced him to leave New York.
Whilst at first I was disappointed that it’s origin wasn’t our Holland House I continued to research it and delved a bit deeper. The Holland House Hotel was situated on the junction of Fifth avenue and 30th Street, New York. It was described as having, "Without exception, the finest piece of architectural door work in New York" - it was built of a limestone of peculiar beauty”.
I then found an illustrated souvenir brochure online from the Library of Congress - registered there on 23 December 1891. Guests at Holland House Hotel in the 1890’s were invited to take away a copy of this brochure.
The brochure includes the following;
“On entering this superb hotel one of the first things that attracts the visitor is the odd looking hall chairs but there is history attached to these - they are exact reproductions of those in old Holland House, London"
The restaurant is described as having the style "picturesque redolent of the antique. Exactly such furniture and decoration were common in Old Holland House of London."
Finally, "the olden style fire places in the Gilt Room are peculiarly beautiful specimens of the decorative art. Over the mantels are some exquisite designs, some of which are copies of the celebrated paintings which adorned old Holland House".
So it did have a fairly major connection with our Holland House after all.
2 parts Gin
1 part French Vermouth
Juice of quarter of lemon
1 slice of pineapple
4 dashes maraschino
Ice - essential in any cocktail
Ice the glasses before you mix the cocktail. Makes the drink even colder and frosts the glasses beautifully.
Put all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker. (Personally I go a little more generously on the gin! But that’s our secret). Shake as hard as you can - as Harry Craddock said - "Don't just rock it, you are trying to wake it up, not put it to sleep" and strain into the iced cocktail glass.
Then, the best way to drink a cocktail??? "Quickly - while it's laughing at you"
I am a food writer, food historian and professional cook. I have written on food and drink for publications including the Daily Telegraph, the Independent and Country Life; commercial clients include brands such as Doves Farm and Lurpak; and I regularly write for Borough Market for whom I am also a recipe developer, demonstration cook and host the hugely popular Borough Market Cookbook Club. Broadcast work includes the recent Channel 5 ‘Inside…’ series.
My debut book The Vinegar Cupboard (published in March 2019) won the Jane Grigson Trust Award, was shortlisted for the André Simon Food and Drink Awards and the Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Awards.
I am the Guest Director of the British Library’s ‘Food Season’ of talks and events in 2020.