Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Cocktail List at the Copacabana 1943

For my Fall and Winter 2013 reading/research project I'm going to try and read up on some of the classic New York City cafĂ© society bars, saloon, night clubs and lounges that helped make New York City a center of entertainment during the early part of the 20th century. I'm also planning to do some cross-promoting post with this blog and my two other blogs BaseballSisco and NYCHistory. This is hopefully the first of the many posts that I am able to bring you concerning some classic and mostly long gone places of the nightlife of New York City's past.

I recently finished reading The Copa: Jules Podell and the Hottest Little Club North of Havana by Mickey Podell-Raber with Charles Pignone. The author is the daughter of longtime Copacabana proprietor Jules Podell and the book is part family biography and part history of the nightclub. The book is a quick and easy read, full of both family pictures and pictures at the club with various celebrities and dignitaries. I recommend it.

I also recently came across the New York Public Library's NYPL Labs' What's on the menu? database. What kind of database is this you might ask yourselves? Here is how it is described on their webpage:
With approximately 45,000 menus dating from the 1840s to the present, The New York Public Library’s restaurant menu collection is one of the largest in the world, used by historians, chefs, novelists and everyday food enthusiasts. 
The collection does not only focus on New York City restaurants but from restaurants from all over the world. It is an amazing database to lose a few hours on if you find that you have the time to spare (which we all know we don't have but lose it anyway). Back to the Copa.

On the database I found a menu for what was described as Monte Proser's Copacabana dated 1943. On the last page of the menu, there was the information that I was looking for: THE BOOZE. Here is what the last page looked like:

Courtesy of the NYPL Labs What's on the Menu Database
What I find the most interesting about this menu is how drinking tastes differed in the 1940's as opposed to today. First thing that catches my eye is that there is no mention of Vodka on the menu. Vodka popularity in the States didn't start until the 1950's and 1960's. I also see that Gins aren't mentioned on the menu though I would assume since the Tom Collins cocktail is listed at the top of the "Tall Drinks" category, that gin was used in not only a Collins but also in a variety of other cocktails.

What stands out to me are the wide selection of Cognacs, Scotches, Rye and Bourbons and especially the Liqueurs. Many of those liqueurs are used today for colors or flavors and in many cases just sit on the shelves gathering dust (depending on the bar). I'm guessing that something like the flavored Brandies on the list (Apricot, Blackberry, Cherry and Peach) were served to someone who wanted something strong but didn't want to drink something that tasted strong. I guess that this is not anything different that the new flavored Bourbons and Whiskies that seem to be popping up everywhere these days.

Give the menu a look both here and on the menu page on the NYPL page. Also check out my cross post on the Copa from my Baseball Blog Baseball Sisco Kid Style. In The New York Yankees Brawl at the Copa 1957, I focus on the brawl that occurred at Copa on May 15, 1957 between some patrons and members of the World Champion New York Yankees. Enjoy.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla