The History of the Mary Pickford Cocktail

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A very fancy cocktail with an extremely glamourous namesake, the Mary Pickford cocktail was created during prohibition and is saved for only the classiest of establishments.

Who was Mary Pickford?

Born in Canada in 1893 with the name Gladys Mary Smith, Mary Pickford was one of the very first Hollywood superstars. The highest paid woman in America at one point, she was a star of silent movies, acting in a total of 194 films altogether. She was also a producer and co-founded the United Artists studio, as well as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It is easy to see how she inspired a cocktail in her honour!

Who created the classic cocktail?

We know that the tasty combination of pineapple juice, white rum and grenadine was created at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, when Pickford visited Havana with her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, and their friend, Charlie Chaplin. They were filming a movie together locally and stopped at the bar for some down time, enjoying the freedom to drink alcohol in public, since Cuba was not under the same prohibition laws as America. It was thought to have been around the early 1920s when she was first presented the drink. However, two bartenders have attempted to take credit for the creation of the cocktail. Was it Fred Kaufman or Eddie Wolke?

The drink didn’t make it into print until 1928, when it first appeared in When It’s Cocktail Time in Cuba by Basil Woon. It was accepted into the Savoy Cocktail book in 1930, when it was given an extra depth of flavor with maraschino cherry liqueur.

A drink that really packs a punch, the original recipe listed equal amounts of rum and pineapple juice, but modern-day takes usually focus more on the rum in the drink, making for a potent finish. The sweetness of the juice easily overpowers the smooth, bitter rum notes, so that this is a drink to sip slowly, since you may not realise how drunk you are until it is too late!

Variations on the Mary Pickford Cocktail

Since the original drink was actually slightly different to the one offered by most bartenders today, there is room to adjust the recipe without being unfaithful to the drink. If you are not a fan of cherry liqueur, for example, you can just leave it out, although this will give the pineapple juice a more overpowering flavor. You can play with your ratio of rum to juice, too, creating the perfect balance for your palate.

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Bartender's top tip

Bitters can add depth and complexity to your cocktails, acting like the "spices" of the drink world. A few dashes can transform a simple drink into something far more sophisticated. Experiment with different brands and flavors of bitters, ranging from the classic Angostura to more exotic options like orange, chocolate, or celery bitters.

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