Add all ingredients to a mixing glass
Shake with ice and strain into a coupe
* * *
If there’s one thing our cousins across the Atlantic love, it’s a good royal wedding. With Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton upon us, we thought it only appropriate that we succumb to the pressures of our Anglo amigos and offer up a proper royal cocktail (and, since we have enlisted Britannia to crown our drinks selection these days, we also felt it high time that we gave something back). Unlike most of the “Kate’s Old New Borrowed Blue Cocktail” affairs out there, we knew we had to provide something with a real royal pedigree. So, without further ado, we give you the Royal Romance, which claimed the top prize at the 1934 British Empire Cocktail Competition.
To provide a little more provenance for this one – and convince you that it’s the most British thing under the never-setting sun – we’ll first tell you that the competition in question was held by the United Kingdom Bartenders Guild (UKBG), founded in 1933 with the Savoy Hotel’s Harry Craddock (an American, sure) as its president. To mark its first year, the guild held the inaugural “British Empire” competition, at which a drink called the Red Lion took top honors. Obviously, John Perosino of the May Fair Bar in London took the Red Lion as a sign of what the judges liked, for his Royal Romance, the 1934 winner, shares many of the same attributes as its predecessor. Hey, if it ain’t broke, right?
The romance which lent its name to the drink was, apparently, that of young English Prince George to Princess Marina of Greece. As the betrothal had occurred just two months prior to the 1934 cocktail competition and the wedding was just one month away (talk about your whirlwind romance), the world – Britain, especially – was abuzz with the news. Of the royal family, the Duke of York (later George VI) and his sister the Princess Mary had each been married for over a decade, while Edward, the Prince of Wales, and the younger Prince Henry remained single. The announcement of Prince George’s engagement gave the kingdom the kind of celebration it needed. “London in Merry Mood for the Royal Wedding Today” and “All England is Agog Over the Royal Wedding” the papers claimed “with the capital in its most festive mood and dress since Londoners danced in the streets at the signing of the armistice”.
But, of course, in 1934, other royal romances – one which would change history – were also afoot. The playboy prince, Edward, had taken a fancy to the married American socialite Mrs. Wallis Simpson, a relationship very much not approved by the royal family. Although Edward took the throne following the death of his father George V, his insistence on marrying Simpson would lead to his abdication after a short reign of less than a year. He and Simpson would spend the rest of their lives together removed from the responsibilities of the monarchy.
Having no heir of his own, King Edward VIII was followed by his brother, the once Duke of York, now King George VI. It’s upon George’s assent to the throne in 1937 that William Tarling, then president of the UKBG, would publish the Café Royal Cocktail Book, named after the famous restaurant where Tarling tended bar. Unlike the popular Savoy Cocktail Book of his predecessor, Harry Craddock, Tarling’s book set out to accomplish two things: rather than cobble together recipes from other sources without attributions (as the Savoy had done), Tarling sought to create a reference guide of master recipes that could be unified across guild members (much of the book comes from the UKBG’s internal Approved Cocktails). In addition, with the Café Royal book, Tarling included contemporary inventions by many of the guild’s members — with full credit — including John Perosino’s Royal Romance. To top it off, a portion of all sales would go to the United Kingdom Bartenders Guild Sickness Fund. What really gives the Café Royal book royal credibility (other than the word “royal” in its title), however, is that it was published as the “Coronation Edition” in celebration of George VI’s ascension to the throne.
If you’ve seen the film “The King’s Speech,” you’re familiar with the story of George VI, paterfamilias of the contemporary line of Windsors from Elizabeth II to Prince William. Of course, had it not been for Edward’s abdication over Wallis Simpson, George and his descendants would have had a slim chance of being in line for the throne. What touched me in the film, and in doing the research for this piece, was the relationship between George and Elizabeth, his wife (the one we knew as the Queen Mum). Despite having noble ancestry, Elizabeth was legally considered a commoner – the first to become a royal consort in three centuries. I also like the fact that both George and Elizabeth refused to leave London – and each other – during the Blitz in World War II. Despite never wanting to rule, the King and Queen consort performed their jobs admirably and nobly during some of Britain’s darkest days.
Since royal weddings tend to mid-morning affairs beginning at around 11:00 am, as William and Kate’s ceremony does, we think that the Royal Romance, with its very Mimosa or Bellini-like profile, makes a perfect way to ring in the day and celebrate the festivities all at once. So here, we raise our glasses to our friends in the United Kingdom – may they, along with William and Kate, make the most of today and all the days that follow and may their romances follow in the best traditions of those — royal or otherwise — which have come before.
Tip: I couldn’t find passion fruit juice at my local market, so I talked the nice folks at Jamba Juice out of a cup. Just in case you come up short at Vons or Tesco.