The name Mamie Taylor…once common and famous, rings quant in an era of Brittanys, Heathers, and Lindsays.
The Mamie is a highball, a drink in a tall glass (highball) served with ice, spirit and sparkling mixer. It is mainly remembered from The Bartenders Book by Jack Townsend (1952), highlighting the growing / declining popularity of drinks that were then considered ubiquitous. The Mamie Taylor had suited a trend away from classical cocktails and toward the simplification of the popular American mode of drinking. i.e. Gin & Tonics.
“It was while Miss Taylor was the prima donna of an opera company playing at Ontario Beach, near Rochester, in 1899,” he said, “that she was asked with a number of other members of the company to go out sailing on the lake. As the day was hot and the breeze rather strong, the party returned after a few hours longing for some cooling refreshments. When Miss Taylor was asked what she would have she expressed the wish for a long but not strong drink–in fact, a claret lemonade. When the drink was served it was very evident that it wasn’t a claret lemonade, for it looked like a delicious long drink of sparkling champagne. On tasting it Miss Taylor found it much to her liking, but asked to have the flavour softened with a piece of lemon peel. When this was done the new combination drink was declared a complete success. Bystanders had been watching the proceedings and noticing the evident enjoyment with which Miss Taylor and a few of her friends relished in new drink they finally asked the hotel keeper what drink it was that was being served to them and without hesitation the hotel man replied “a Mamie Taylor” and the name seemed to meet with instantaneous favour and has become famous all over the country.”
The Original Mamie Taylor highball commemorated a Broadway singer and actress who, like the drink, is all but forgotten. Her time centre stage straddled the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and light opera was her forte. The drink reflected the fame of its namesake and was considered a fancy drink, commanding both respect and price.
I’ve served all the fancy drinks you can name over the brass railing…Nowadays, when a fellow gets smart and asks for a Mamie Taylor, I charge him a Mamie Taylor price” Amusingly, it was neither that the drink was especially complex nor that the ingredients that rarefied, simply trendy, and a fine example of consumer psychology ~ Mary Roberts Rinehart, Where There’s a Will, 1912
By the time Mary Roberts Rinehard novel debuted, ironically, the Mamie Taylor cocktail was already passé as a pet of the privileged, thirsty elite. It debuted circa 1899 and passed from vogue around 1902, as if a summertime fad. Yet at the dawn of the twentieth century, the Mamie Taylor stood as proud as the statue of liberty. The Daily News extolled during the arid July of 1900, “The latest bit on these hot days is a nice cool “Mamie Taylor.”’
Thousands were consumed that year. They were advertised by name in newspaper ads. Poems were written about the drink, jokes were told and articles written using Mamie to illustrate au courant sophistication.
Although it remained a posh drink of the privileged class for a few mere years, to the common man, the Mamie Taylor was synonymous with “swank refreshment” until 1920 and Prohibition. The desire to streamline drinking and the trend toward lighter spirits, leading eventually to vodka and the Moscow Mule (Vodka, Lime, Ginger Beer)evidently was directly based on the Mamie Taylor - brought about this drinks popular revival in the 1940’s, and the search for interesting, discernible, balanced flavours lead us back to it today.
60 ml Scotch Whisky
20 ml freshly squeezed lime juice
Spicy ginger ale / ginger beer
Pour the Scotch and lime juice into an ice filled highball glass and fill with ginger ale / ginger beer
Stir and garnish with a lime wedge.
Adapted from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh
…the alchemist says