Nowadays, it’s easy to look at our celebrity-obsessed culture and wistfully pine for a simpler time when we didn’t live and die by Taylor Swift’s tweets or Kanye’s most recent temper tantrum. Truth is, that time probably never existed. Since the dawn of cinema, we’ve idolized those handsome leading men and beautiful starlets with the same zeal as we do today.
For evidence, look no further than Mary Pickford, the popular silent film actress and star of more than 50 films. With her husband, actor Douglas Fairbanks, she was Hollywood royalty — one of the first in a long line of personalities to stoke America’s fascination with celebrity.
A confident, feisty girl-next-door type, Pickford came to be known as “America’s Sweetheart,” with the press following her every move. Her decision to trade her iconic ringlets for a bob in 1928 made the front page of The New York Times.
But Pickford was more than just a pretty face. As a producer, co-founder of United Artists studios, and one of the founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, she was a powerful force in the fledgling film industry.
It seems appropriate, then, that such an influential figure should have a cocktail named in her honor. Bartender Fred Kaufman (or possibly Eddie Woelke) did just that in the early 1920s when he whipped up a sweet concoction for Pickford, Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin one evening during a visit to his Havana bar.
The cocktail first appeared in print in 1928’s When It’s Cocktail Time in Cuba by Basil Woon. Harry Craddock improved on the recipe in his 1930 edition of The Savoy Cocktail Book, giving it a boost of flavor with the addition of maraschino liqueur.
Unlike nonalcoholic drinks made to honor celebrities of the day like the Shirley Temple, the Mary Pickford actually packs a punch. While the original recipe called for equal parts rum and pineapple juice, most modern versions suggest cutting back on the juice to let the rum stand out. Sweet, and refreshing, this is an easy summer sipper that’s an exotic alternative to the plain old gin and tonic.
Mary Pickford Recipe
2 oz. light rum
1 1/2 oz. fresh pineapple juice
1 tsp grenadine
1 tsp maraschino liqueur
Directions: Combine ingredients with ice, shake for about 10-20 seconds, and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.
Enjoy while listening to this.
Jim Sabataso is a writer, part-time bartender, and full-time cocktail enthusiast living in Vermont. Follow him on Twitter @JimSabataso.