Emerson – Recipe below from ‘Old Waldorf Bar Days’

There’s a long read ahead from the Waldorf, the longest I think in the book, but it’s a worthy story so please read on!

The Emerson Cocktail was not so called out of compliment to the Sage of Concord, who passed on ignorant that another of the name would one day arise to discover or invent a more potent remedy for the world’s ills—or at least one of them—than a lifetime’s philosophic utterances. Nay, it would not be mere guesswork to suggest that the profits of just one year’s sales of Isaac L. Emerson’s headache cure far exceeded the sum of the royalties received by Ralph Waldo Emerson during his lifetime, or his heirs afterward. And it was Isaac L. who was commemorated, as it were, by the Emerson Cocktail. 

Emerson was a Baltimore druggist. According to the story long ago current among old-timers who haunt the clubs in the Mt. Vernon Place district, the invention or discovery of the remedy, while one of a train of numerous, if sometimes expediential, experiments, was nevertheless accidental. 

Like more Baltimorean’s of the time the word “souse’ was not beyond his grasp.

But every time he sought to illustrate the definition of the term, the aftermath was a headache from which there was no refuge but sleep, and the next morning he would have what was euphuistically described as “a head.” Naturally, he would turn for relief to his own prescription counter, but none of the patent medicines or any formula he compounded had seemed to solve the difficulty. One night, it so happened that Mrs. Emerson was waiting up for him. She followed him into the drug store and watched as, from force of habit, he took a little something from a bottle here, and from another bottle there, until he had apparently satisfied himself that he had put together enough things to achieve definite results. Now his wife watched him go to the spigot and turn it on. To her amazement, the stuff in the glass began to foam until it “boiled” over. At that point, her husband lifted the glass and drank it down. A half hour later, his head was as clear as a bell. 

His wife was amazed. “Why, I have never seen you get over it so quickly, she said. 

“You are right,” her spouse replied. Then, as a thought struck him, he exclaimed: “Do you know, if I could only remember what I put in that tumbler, I believe I’d have something to make a fortune out of!” 

“I can tell you,” his wife assured him. “I watched you as you took up every bottle, and I know exactly what you used and how much of each thing.” 

Not long afterward, Emerson approached a member of a well known Baltimore banking firm. His story was received with skepticism. 

“But,” said the banker, according to the locally current version of the incident, “if it does what you say it does, there is a fortune in it. I’ll tell you what,” he added; “I’ll get on a jag and if your remedy does the same thing for me that it did for you, I’ll see that you get financed.” 

And so, the story goes on, the banker went out one evening and treated himself to one glorious toot. Emerson met him at an appointed hour, showed him the powder, put it in a glass, and added water. The stuff fizzed up. The banker took it and drank. A half hour later, he was cold sober, and enthusiastic over the new discovery. And that, according to the legend which has come down by word of mouth from that day, was the origin of a huge fortune a chance discovery of a means to cure the world’s headache. However, while Emerson was a frequent patron of the old Waldorf Bar, Johnnie Solon, who served him often, said he never was known to call for his own remedy on the premises. 

Juice one-half Lime 

Small teaspoon Maraschino 

One-third Italian Vermuth 

One-third Tom Gin 

Stir; strain

Now when I first read this I was sure it would’ve been Alka-Seltzer that the good druggist conjured up, it was not, it was Bromo-Seltzer, Alka’s precursor. Emerson launched his product in 1888, a time when the FDA was just starting out, and Coca-Cola still had coca leaves in its recipe, and his product wasn’t that much different laced with product not yet regulated. It took its name from sodium bromide a type of painkiller later banned, the opioid of the moment, so exceptionally good at getting you over a hangover swiftly, or killing you (an ‘unfortunate’ side effect) that his company made him wealthy, so wealthy that during the Spanish-American war he personally financed an entire naval squadron, and later bought a stadium for the university of North Carolina, he was Bill Gates in 1901, only with a slightly less philanthropic agenda. It wasn’t until after he passed away that Alka Seltzer took over the world.

Perfect for my Monday, I wasn’t feeling great and I needed some ‘pep’. The drink works very well, I was a little heavy handed on the maraschino which was a mistake, keep the amount down and it balances perfectly. There are so many drinks in this book which are a combination of Italian Vermouth and Gin that’s its quite refreshing to see one with fresh lime as well. Its delicious.