Get to Know Mary Pickford

A drink and a celebrity worth knowing

Will Shenton, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Recipe

If you want to know more, read on. If you’re just here for a recipe, here it is. Mix away, and Cheers.

  • 1 1/2 oz. White Rum
  • 2 oz. Pineapple Juice
  • 1/4 oz. Maraschino Liqueur
  • 1/8 oz. Grenadine
  • Maraschino cherries for garnish

Shake all ingredients with ice until frothy, pour into a chilled glass, and put some Maraschino cherries on a toothpick that stretches over the rim of the glass.

The Experience

This drink gives you a feel for old Hollywood. It’s like you stepped into the silent-movie era with all of its glamour, awards, and walk-of-fame stars. It was a time and place when every visible detail mattered, from the shades of shadow under a wide-brimmed hat to the amount of sag in Charlie Chaplin’s signature baggy pants.

Among the Hollywood elite in this time of silent entertainment, you’ll find Mary Pickford. She was the first to put her hands in the cement on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, became the second person to receive an Academy Award for best actress (after helping found the organization that gives them out), appeared in 51 films, and started her own production company.

Your drink takes the “show don’t tell” challenge of the silent-film era with easy confidence, presenting a frothy, beautiful exterior, while hiding a no-nonsense backstory that will leave you more than a little impressed.

You’re not traveling, so get that experience at home.

Treat yourself to some silence while you appreciate this drink. Turn off everything and give yourself a clean palette to view and taste. Films of that time were all black and white, so use that contrast for your colorful drink. Drape your bar in the spectrum between dark and light, and let anything that isn’t foreground fade to grey. Center your bright red drink so that it holds your focus, and if you have peripheral colors they should complement what’s in front of you and know their place as supporting actors.

When you taste, feel the history. Understand that the world wasn’t what it is today and appreciate that this drink is beautiful, independent, and strong like its namesake. Mary Pickford’s smile will glow at you from behind the Maraschino cherries, but if you get out of line she will demurely slap you across the cheek with her glove. A privilege you will then graciously thank her for by ordering another drink.

The History

Mary Pickford was a force to be reckoned with. In a time where women, especially in Hollywood, were looked at as little more than mindless pretty faces, she was one of the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (yes, that one), co-owned United Artists Studio, negotiated the first million-dollar contract in Hollywood (for herself), and generally proved to be one hell of a businesswoman. All while becoming one of the best known, most highly paid, on-screen personalities, and managing to smile and maintain that “pretty face” persona for the outside-of-Hollywood world. Impressive by any standards, even more so by the double-standard world that she walked around in.

Her namesake drink was first poured in the 1920s when Mary was working closely with Charlie Chaplin (who had his own drink named after him around the same time) and frequenting drinking establishments in Cuba. The drink is credited to Fred Kaufman at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba and is described on page 40 of Basil Woon’s When it’s Cocktail Time in Cuba (1928).

The Drink

There are several versions to be found online and in books from that time period. The first written instances of the recipe I can find comes from the 1929 Cibrio de Cocktail by Juan Lasa(p.44) and 1931 Cuban Cookery by Blanche DeBaralt (p.122). Lasa suggests equal parts Rum and Pineapple with only a few drops of Maraschino and Grenadine, while DeBaralt goes with 2:1 Rum to Pineapple, a dash of Grenadine and no mention of Maraschino Liqueur.

As is often the case with cocktails from that era, modern recipes have adjusted for the modern palette. Difford’s guide says to use 2 oz. Rum, 1 1/2 oz. Pineapple and 1/6 oz. each Luxardo and Grenadine, liquor.com goes with equal parts Rum and Pineapple (1 1/2 oz. each), 1 tsp. Grenadine and only 6 drops Maraschino. The IBA is a little more liberal with the Maraschino, suggesting 7.5ml and 5ml Grenadine with 45ml of the other two ingredients.

With a respectful tip of my hat to the memory of Mary Pickford, I took up the challenge of experimentation. Using more than few drops of Grenadine gives you a nice, bright red color and the Luxardo adds both a slight bite and beautiful aroma to the drink so I recommend using each of them. Shake well with ice so that the Pineapple and Grenadine combine into a pink, sugary froth near the top of your glass. My recipe above most closely matches the IBA recipe with added Pineapple. Adding the cherries on a long toothpick gives you that literal “cherry on top” and perpares you for an experience worthy of not only an award winning, but an award inventing actress.

Home Bartender Tip: If you put the cherries in place and pour the drink over them, they will get a pretty, foamy coating. Probably not standard practice, but your home audience may appreciate the detail.

Of course, these are one man’s opinions and sanctioned only by me and those who drink at my home bar. But, if you want to spend a few minutes with a powerful, beautiful drink from the era of silent-films, then you should introduce yourself to Mary Pickford.

DeBaralt, Blanche Z, Cuban Cookery, Havana 1931

Lasa, Juan A, Cibrio de Cocktail, The Cocktail Book, 1929

Woon, Basil, When It’s Cocktail Time in Cuba, New York, Horace Liveright, 1928

Loves writing, loves teaching, and loves his 7-year-old daughter. All of which are potential topics of hopefully entertaining posts.

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