Every holiday has its traditional recipes. Leap Year, however, is not typically associated with food traditions in modern Western culture. Many people are given to party themes with cookies and other confections based on the Leap Frog idea, but I find this to be somewhat lacking. The most interesting modern recipe I found for today is the Leap Year Cocktail, a modern sour cocktail with a well-documented history mixed with “sundry notes of amusement and interest concerning them”.
The Prohibition years in the United States may have tried to stop one industry, but it resulted in a boon for others, like cruise lines to countries without bans on the sale of alcohol. Cruise ship routes to Britain and the Continent were popular during this era, quite resplendent with fine dining rooms as well as fine wines and drinks. At this time, a number of Americans sought brighter shores elsewhere, including a bartender named Harry Craddock. He went to London to continue in his noble profession, landing at the American Bar in the famous Savoy Hotel. Mr. Craddock went on to make The Savoy even more famous for its drinks among those in the know during this golden age of elegance and Art Deco. He invented a number of new recipes, including the Leap Year Cocktail, which was released on February 29, 1928. In 1930, Harry Craddock compiled The Savoy Cocktail Book, a cookbook of his recipes and other drinks that he helped to popularize at this historic establishment. I recommend adding The Savoy Cocktail Book to your collection for the historic value as a recipe book as well as a reference book for the culture of this period. To understand why, read the full title description from the original 1930 version, listed below:
“THE SAVOY COCKTAIL BOOK : BEING IN THE MAIN A COMPLETE COMPENDIUM OF THE COCKTAILS, RICKEYS, DAISIES, SLINGS, SHRUBS, SMASHES, FIZZES, JULEPS, COBBLERS, FIXES, AND OTHER DRINKS, KNOWN AND VASTLY APPRECIATED IN THIS YEAR OF GRACE 1930, WITH SUNDRY Notes of Amusement and Interest Concerning Them, Together with Subtle Observations Upon Wines and Their Special Occasions Being in the Particular an Elucidation of the Manners and Customs of People of Quality in a Period of Some Equality.” (Retrieved from Amazon, 2/29/2012)
I don’t have a copy of the original recipe for the Leap Year Cocktail yet (I did only just learn about this drink today), but here are two adaptations I was able to find in a hurry. Each is placed in a cocktail shaker with ice and poured into a proper cocktail glass with the lemon twist as garnish:
Leap Year Cocktail, from The joy of mixology, By Gary Regan
2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. Grand Marnier
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
1/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 lemon twist
1-1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. Grand Marnier
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
1 T. lemon juice
1 lemon twist
Obviously, some people like more gin in their sours than others. If someone has the original proportions, drop a comment. If you make one at home tonight, come back and let me know how it turns out!
Here is a history of The Savoy Hotel, London, and a recipe for The Savoy Cocktail, from LeNell It All on SlashFood.
“The Savoy” was a popular name for hotel and entertainment establishments in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Savoy Hotel of London fame should not be confused with another famous establishment from this era, The Savoy Ballroom in Chicago. This American namesake is memorialized in the Benny Goodman song Stompin’ At The Savoy.
The name Savoy comes from Savoie, a department in southeast France. This was an important duchy on the border of Switzerland and Italy. The etymology of the name is unknown, but it has lent itself to the Savoy cabbage (Brassica oleracea capitata), notable for the bountiful curly ridges in its leaves. From this, we use the term savoy to describe any deeply ridged culinary green, e.g. savoyed-leaf spinach.
In the spirit of Leap Year (the original thought where this post began), the beloved composer Gioachino Antonio Rossini was born on February 29, 1792. He composed many operas, including The Barber of Seville and William Tell (Guillaume Tell), which features the famous William Tell Overture. How about a Leap Year toast to the maestro? Here are two of the famous pieces we all recognize:
The Overture ‘William Tell’ Part 2, performed here by the Halle Orchestra
The Barber of Seville – Figaro’s Aria [a modern performance with English subtitles]
And another version of Figaro’s famous aria sung by Luciano Pavarotti (he gets drawn at the same time)
As we all know, a leap year happens every 4 years on February 29th in the current calendar system. For millennia, people have tried to resolve the subtle shift in astronomical time that occurs roughly every 365 days to keep in step with our perception of lunar and seasonal cycles. Our current calendar system is a compilation of calendar tradition and modern science. Leap seconds figure regularly into adjustments of modern time standards, governed in the US by Time and Frequency Division of The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
But what is there to celebrate? Well, the first day of the lunar month was known throughout the ancient Near East and Mediterranean regions as Kalends, which was the day that priests called out the first sighting of the waxing lunar crescent in the new moon phase. From the earliest of recorded times, this was already established as an important and solemn ceremony. In fact, the Lascaux Cave paintings contain a representation of the lunar cycle. The word ‘calendar’ is derived from Kalends, which comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *kele-, to shout, claim.
– A Dash of Culture
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