So simple to create, even easier to drink, but don’t let the Orange Blossom fool you. Delicious but deadly….
During Prohibition era, Virginia Rappe, famed for being on the cover of the sheet music for You Can Call Me Sweetheart, met her demise on the night she downed way too many Orange Blossom Gin Cocktails. Bootleg gin was used in making the cocktail at Hotel St. Francis in San Francisco at that time. But that’s not what killed the poor girl. The wild and infamous Labour Day party of 1921 ended on a sour note. Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, perhaps having had too many drinks himself, allegedly crushed Virginia beneath him.
What was she doing underneath him, you ask? Must I explain?
According to another party-goer, Maude Delmont, “They were in the room a quarter of an hour when we heard a terrific scream.” Miss Delmont found her on the bed. She claims Virginia cried out, “I’m dying. He did it, Maude.”
Five days later, she passed away due to an infection in her ruptured bladder.
However, the story doesn’t end there. After Fatty Arbuckle’s trial, a letter, written by Miss Delmont, came into being. It read, “We have Roscoe Arbuckle in a hole here. Chance to make some money out of him.”
In the end, he was acquitted but ruined as an actor.
Wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald and fellow drinker, Helen Buck, wandered, lost and singing, through a golf course in New York. They had polished off a full pitcher of Orange Blossom at lunchtime then proceeded to the golf course with a full thermos of more before being found by Ring Lardner who drove them home.
Right around the time of Fatty Arbuckle’s trials, Silent Film Director, William Desmond Taylor and his friend, Mabel Normand, enjoyed an evening of Orange Blossoms together. Hours later, he was found dead. His murder remains unsolved.
One loose theory puts Mabel, herself, in the spotlight. Miss Normand, allegedly went to his home to retrieve love letters that she had written to him. Ones, she thought, might be misinterpreted. A little on the wild side, Mabel would spend about $2,000 per month (in the 1920’s!) on drugs. Mr. Taylor had arranged for her to stay at a rehab facility. Would she have arranged to eliminate him so she wouldn’t have to go? Her chauffeur is witness to her getting into her car after the party, leaving Taylor behind. But hitmen existed then too.
Another possibility could be from a drug ring directly. Mr. Taylor fought against drug use at the studios and was Chairman of the Board of an organization to eliminate them. Could the drug dealers off the man that threatened their lucrative business?
The crime scene at Mr. Taylor’s home itself was heavily compromised. The studio executives had stepped in before the police and cleaned up the scene. With botched evidence, the only answer might be in those letters from Mabel Normand.
Mary Miles Minter, another writer of love letters to Mr. Taylor, was in the spotlight for a short time. Mary’s letters were the only ones made public since they were the only ones found. Passed off as schoolgirl crush jargon, they were proven invalid. She was, after all, only 20 years old, 29 years his junior.
Read the full, fascinating story here.
Charlie Chaplin and Louise Brooks, plastered on Orange Blossoms, spent a wild night in their hotel suite, chasing each other, and no doubt disturbing the peace and damaging property. Thankfully, though, on this occasion, no one died.
Esquire magazine names the Orange Blossom one of the worst drinks of the decade. Personally, I enjoyed it. The juice does a good job of masking the harsh taste of gin which is what it was intended to do.
“The reason there were so many hasty marriages during Prohibition.” – Authentic and Hilarious Bar Guide by Ted Shane
1 oz gin
4 oz of freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 oz grenadine. But any flavour of simple syrup will do.
“This was invented at the old Waldorf to honor a visiting Irish poet. He never got to his dinner.” – An excerpt from Irvin S. Cobb’s Own Recipe Book.
See The Bartender Guides on the side menu for his full vintage book for page turning fun.
The Waldorf-Astoria’s version:
3/4 oz gin
3/4 oz vermouth
3/4 oz fresh orange juice
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
I much prefer this version. The vermouth cuts the bitterness of the gin and the sweetness of the orange juice.
If you’re planning a visit to New York in the near future, scratch The Waldorf off your list. It is currently closed due to major renovations. They are restoring historical parts and creating condos and luxurious guest rooms. It is set to re-open in a couple of years.
I remember going to Radio City Music Hall as a child with my parents. Back in those days, there were more live shows and they presented movies on a huge screen. The biggest I’d ever seen! It was Cybil Shepherd and Burt Reynolds. Now I have to google the darn thing. Ah, that’s it, At Long Last Love. Burt Reynolds fans, if you like the idea of him singing, check out the musical number, Well, Did You Evah.
During Prohibition, the Orange Blossom became popular due to the lower quality of bootleg gin being produced. Orange juice was a good choice to mix with gin to cover up the poor taste.
For now, let’s stick with New York as the locale for this cocktail since Prohibition was such a big deal here.
Who invented the drink remains to be determined. If you have any knowledge of where or who originally made this cocktail, please leave me a comment.
But make sure to have an Orange Blossom or share a pitcher of it today in honour of those who suffered at the hands of this cocktail.
Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on June 27, 2017.