Mary Pickford’s namesake cocktail

Brian Rung

    In the golden age of cinema there were stars, there were superstars, and then there were those rare talents that were regarded as Hollywood royalty.
    One such talent was Mary Pickford, known in her prime as “America's Sweetheart” and “Queen of the Movies”.  Pickford's on-screen resume includes over 50 features, and one delicious namesake cocktail.
    Mary Pickford was the most versatile and recognizable performers of the early 20th century starring in some of the most enduring films of the silent era.
    Pickford found great success playing a variety of roles incluing the occasional child role in films such as The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917), Pollyanna (1920), and Daddy Long Legs (1919.)
    Several of her films during the early 1920s grossed over $1,000,000 which led to Pickford signing a contract that made her the first “million dollar woman” in film.
    Exactly 100 years ago in November of 1917 Mary Pickford was making $10,000 a week which comes to roughly $200,000 in 2017 dollars.
    In addition to her weekly salary Pickford was guaranteed 50 percent of the profits from her films, with a minimum guarantee of $1,040,000 (over $17,000,000 in 2017).
    Like many stars of the silent era, Pickford's acting career did not survive the introduction of sound to feature films.  Around the advent of cinematic sound Pickford updated her look for her role in Coquette (1929) by cutting her hair into a 1920s bob. The film was a success, but the public response to her new look and more sophisticated roles fell flat.
    Pickford retired from acting in 1933 but continued to produce films through United Artists, a company founded by Pickford along with husband Doug Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplain and D.W. Griffith.
    Speaking of Doug Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplain, they accompanied Pickford on a trip to Havana in the early 1920s where Mary Pickford the actress met Mary Pickford the cocktail.
    Bartender Fred Kaufmann whipped up the delightful rum cocktail for the three stars one evening at the Havana's Hotel Nacional de Cuba and named it in honor of the stunning Mary Pickford.
    Unlike the Shirley Temple, the Mary Pickford packs a punch fueled by Cuban rum. The Mary Pickford is unique among Cuban rum cocktails of the era in that it does not include lime juice. In fact, the balance in this cocktail comes 100 percent via sweetness.
    Cuban rum is hard to come by stateside, until trade relations are fully restored we will have to use “Cuban heritage” rums. The most popular Cuban heritage rum is Bacardi, which is technically a Puerto Rican rum. Remember, Bacardi was originally a Cuban distillery that relocated to Puerto Rico after the Cuban revolution.  
    The flavor profile of Bacardi rums is peppery on the front end with a tad more ethanol burn than its Caribbean counterparts. Bacardi is not as smooth as other tropical rums, and it is not supposed to be.
    Cuban rums of the early 20th century had plenty of bite but became quite palatable thanks to aging in American white oak barrels. If you can get ahold of some Havana Club light rum, go ahead and use it. If not, reach for Bacardi in this one.
    Grenadine was a staple of pre-prohibition mixology and thanks to a boost from the craft cocktail boom the pomegranate-based syrup is making a comeback. No longer is it Rose's or nothing, today there are several excellent brands of grenadine on the market from companies such as Fee Brothers, Sonoma Syrup Company and Monin.  
    Rose's grenadine has its place behind the bar, it gives the restaurant variety Strawberry Daiquiri its bright red color and makes the sunrise in the Tequila Sunrise.
    Rose's, however, does not carry any pomegranate notes. If you want real pomegranate flavor notes, and in this case we do, reach for one of the others.
    Maraschino liqueur is another ingredient that has benefited from the resurgence of classic mixology. Luxardo is the first and last word of Maraschino liqueur, it is without a doubt the most used Maraschino worldwide.
    The slightly sour cherry notes of Luxardo are anything but subtle and can overpower a cocktail if you're not careful. It doesn't take much to add a bit of cherry to your concoction, in the case of the Mary Pickford we are going to use literally a few drops, maybe one half of one teaspoon.
    Every aspiring mixologist should have a bottle of Luxardo in their cabinet. It's a joy to work with and is a key ingredient in classic cocktails The Aviation, The Beachcomber and the Hemingway Daiquiri.
    Fresh fruit juice is always best, but juicing a pineapple is labor intensive and the end result may lack the consistency needed to mix well in shaken or stirred drinks. I buy the six-pack of Dole 100 percent juice in six ounce cans and that is the pineapple juice that is used in most commercial bars.
    Give this one a try. It's an all-season rum drink with a remarkably complex flavor profile compared to other rum drinks of the era.
    The presentation of the Mary Pickford is also top notch, a nod to classic Hollywood regency. This drink hits the Martini glass a delicate shade of pink with a soft white top, an elegant throwback to 1930s Studio City.  
    Many of the classic silent films are available on various streaming platforms. Here's your chance to pour a classic and watch a classic at the same time.
    The Mary Pickford is built in a shaker, served in a cocktail (Martini) glass.
    Combine in shaker:
    1 1/2 oz white rum
    1 1/2 oz pineapple juice
    1 tsp grenadine
    1/2 tsp maraschino liqueur
    Add ice, shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
    Garnish with pineapple wedge or maraschino cherry.
    Until next week, enjoy responsibly.