By Craig Wexler
I have worked as a bartender on and off for over twenty years. During that time I never once thought to myself,
who’s the most famous bartender? I never even wondered who my favorite bartender is; it’s just not something I ever thought about.
That being said, many people do, in fact, have a favorite bartender. Whether it be the one at the bar down the street that has your drink ready for you by the time you’ve sat down and taken off your coat or just someone whose face you’ve become used to seeing.
Whatever the reason is, you may be surprised to know that there have been some bartenders that are so good at their craft, that they’ve become famous for it.
Harry Craddock is one of those few that have achieved stardom for his skills behind the bar. Born on August 26, 1876, Harry is known for writing The Savoy Cocktail Book.
Published in 1930 and still used by bartenders around the world today.
However, Harry isn’t the only famous bartender. In fact, over the last century, more and more people have become at least quasi-famous for slinging drinks and creating cocktails.
Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book has been republished four times and expanded twice, most recently in 2014
In the last century dozens of bartenders have become renowned for their ability to create delicious drinks
Craddock’s book is named for The Savoy Hotel in London where he was head bartender for almost two decades
According to The Savoy Cocktail Book, cocktails with only three ingredients are the hardest to get right
The Man, The Myth, The Legend
Harry Craddock was born in Stroud, a small market town in Gloucestershire, England. At the age of twenty-one, he moved to the United States.
He proceeded to tend bar at some of the most prestigious hotel bars in the country. He worked at the Hollenden Hotel in Cleveland, as well as the Knickerbocker Hotel, and the famous Hoffman House in New York.
Although already an American citizen, Craddock moved back to England in 1920 to escape the shadow of prohibition.
He was a dedicated barman, and with bars being closed down around the country, he still needed to support his family. With his wife and daughter in tow, he left for Liverpool where he became employed at The Savoy Hotel’s American Bar.
Ten years later Harry Craddock published his Savoy Cocktail Book. The first printing of this book contained 750 cocktail recipes.
Among them were the famous White Lady and the eerie Corpse Reviver #2, which Craddock is credited with inventing.
Harry was so well known for the White Lady that in 1927, during some renovations at the American Bar, he buried a shaker containing the concoction in the walls.
By all accounts, it’s still in there today.
In 1934, while working at the Savoy Hotel, Harry co-founded the United Kingdom Bartender’s Guild. In 1938 he left the Savoy and moved to the Dorchester Hotel.
There, he stashed another White Lady in the walls. Sorry, phrasing - I’m making it sound like this guy was a serial killer or something.
But the Dorchester couldn't contain Harry for long. He left for the Browns Hotel in 1941 where he stayed until he retired in 1947.
Harry Craddock died on January 25, 1963, he was buried in a pauper’s grave, also known as a potter’s field, this is the burial place for unknown, unclaimed, or indigent people.
I’m not sure if he was buried in that manner by choice or if he was just one of those guys who spends his last quarter at the gumball machine outside the pearly gates.
Either way, Mr. Craddock never got the sendoff he truly deserved. Raise your glass and help us at Revelry right that wrong.
Following in His Footsteps
Perhaps the most famous modern bartender is a guy named Dale DeGroff. Also known as the King of Cocktails, DeGroff was born in Rhode Island and has been a bartender and an author.
His two books The Craft of the Cocktail (2003) and The Essential Cocktail (2009) have both won awards. In 2015, The New York Times called DeGroff
one of the world’s foremost cocktail experts.
They also wrote that The Craft of the Cocktail is considered an essential bartending reference.
In 2005, Dale founded The Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans - an eclectic collection of cocktail artifacts, books, and memorabilia.
Monica Berg is potentially the most famous woman in history to tend bar. Originally from Oslo, Norway, Monica started working in the service industry at the age of 15.
She attended the H. Butlers Bartending School. After graduating, she bought the school and operated it until 2012. At that point, she relocated to London, serving as head bartender at Pollen Street Social in London.
Even the best bartenders get homesick now and then. Before long, Monica was back in Oslo, plying her trade at Himkok.
That same year Monica represented Norway in the World Class Bartender of the Year final. Berg was awarded the Linie Honorary Award for her contributions to Norwegian food and drink culture in 2015.
It’s safe to say Monica is one of the most well-respected bartenders of the 21st century. Today, along with slinging drinks, Monica is a liquor company owner and digital innovator in London.
Finally we have Sasha Petraske, born in Manhattan on March 16, 1973. Sasha founded the Milk & Honey cocktail Bar in Manhattan and was a partner and creative force behind many of the world’s most highly regarded bars.
The Greenwich Village native often referred to as a bartending savant dropped out of high school at seventeen and never finished formal education.
After traveling cross-country, he joined the US Army but engineered his exit after three years by falsely claiming that he was gay (Can’t use that one anymore).
After his military career, Sasha went into bartending and eventually opened up Milk & Honey.
His bar was known for its focus on attention-to-detail on classic cocktail recipes and a strict set of
Rules of Etiquette to ensure a polite and enjoyable drinking experience, while carefully minimizing unnecessary costs and ensuring consistent recipe ratios through adopting the use of a jigger to ensure precise pours.
Petraske partnered with dozens of people throughout his career helping to open some of the most notable clubs and bars in the world. His untimely death in 2015 has left the world of cocktailing with one more reason to drink.
Harry’s Classic White Lady
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce orange liqueur or triple sec
1/2 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 egg white
Add the gin, orange liqueur, lemon juice, and egg white into a shaker and dry-shake (without ice) vigorously
Add ice and shake again until well-chilled
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
This Cocktail appears in the original publishing of the Savoy Cocktail Book and is believed to be invented by Harry Craddock.