Happy February! As the winter weather continues to be bleaker than usual this year, we thought we’d feature a cocktail and Lucius Beebe’s love story to warm things up. The cocktail is a bourbon toddy which comes from Lucius Beebe’s Stork Club Bar Book.

Before we share the recipe, let’s talk about the history of the Stork Club. The Stork Club was a prestigious Manhattan nightclub that operated from 1929 through 1965 (first as a speakeasy). It was known as a glamorous place, where many celebrities gathered. It became known as the elite nightclub in New York whose patrons included Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemingway, and Lucius Beebe to list a few. There was a dress code which called for the men to wear evening suits and the women evening gowns. In 1946 Beebe came out with a bar book about the Stork Club, and in the introduction he remarked, “to millions and millions of people all over the world the Stork symbolizes and epitomizes the de luxe upholstery of quintessentially urban existence. It means fame; it means wealth; it means an elegant way of life among celebrated folk.” If anyone epitomized that glamorous, elegant lifestyle, it was Lucius Beebe.

Figure 1 The Stork Club in Manhattan, New York, circa 1940s

Lucius Beebe was a prolific writer and society man. Born to a wealthy family in Wakefield, Massachusetts in 1902, Beebe was known for his elegant taste in dress, food, and drink. Before achieving fame in the railroad world by making railroad photography and writing accessible to the general public, Beebe was a columnist for the New York Herald Tribune from 1934 through 1944, writing all about New York’s Café Society—a term he helped popularize, used to describe fashionable people who regularly went to trendy places such as the Stork Club. Beebe was a published author who wrote a wide variety of books, ranging from poetry to pictorial histories of the American West.

Figure 2 Lucius Beebe at The Palace Hotel in San Francisco, California.

In 1941, Beebe met his future partner Charles Clegg at a brunch hosted by Evalyn Walsh McLean. They fell in love and stayed together the rest of Beebe’s life. They lived their extravagant lifestyles together and openly in a time when gay relationships were not deemed socially acceptable. Together Clegg and Beebe published many pictorial histories about various railroads, even moving to Virginia City, Nevada, in 1950, to escape the café society they played such a pivotal role in. However, that did not stop the extravagance of their lifestyles. They owned two private railcars, the Gold Coast and the Virginia City, which they had lavishly furnished and hosted many dinners aboard. They continued to be fascinated with the history of the American West as well as the trains that ran through it, and were active in the preservation of Nevada’s boomtown history.

Figure 3 Clarence Watkins serves Clegg and Beebe dinner in their Virginia City private car, 1956

One of the books Beebe wrote was the Stork Club Bar Book, which is a book of cocktail recipes. It is divided into sections—morning, noon, and evening—and features cocktails appropriate for each time. It not only includes recipes for the cocktails, but also some history and best uses. For instance, Beebe spends some time highlighting the benefits of champagne as a breakfast drink. The cocktail featured in this month’s blog post comes from this book, and is similar to an old-fashioned, with some notable exceptions.

“If you object to the fruit salad, festoons of maraschino cherries, flotsam and jetsam of orange rind and canopies of Japanese parasols and American flags which are served with old-fashioned cocktails in many places, it is possible to obviate all this nuisance value by simply asking for a bourbon toddy,” notes Beebe in his introduction to the drink. Beebe states that the drink was “originally intended as a brief drink, a quick aperitif to stimulate appetite and stiffen the flagging gustatory senses,” but instead it became a worthwhile drink on its own.

Figure 4 Stork Club Bar Book by Lucius Beebe

This spring, the Museum, in conjunction with the Center for Railroad Photography & Art, will be opening an exhibit on Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg. It will feature not only the Center’s railroad photographs by the pair, but will also include some of their Colorado connections and facets of their extravagant lifestyle. If you’re interested, watch for more details coming soon from the Museum!

We hope you enjoyed our brief history on Lucius Beebe and his life with his partner Charles Clegg. If you try the recipe, please let us know on our social media accounts, or in the comments below.

Bourbon Toddy:
1 lump of sugar saturated with Angostura bitters
Twist of lemon
2 oz. bourbon whisky
1 oz. water
2 cubes ice
The sugar should be ground to syrup in the water with a muddler and the whisky and ice added after that.
Recipe adapted from The Stork Club Bar Book by Lucius Beebe.


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