8 February

MacElhone bought Europe's oldest cocktail bar this day

Monkey Gland

So we are drinking a...

Monkey Gland

On this day in 1923, Harry MacElhone finally achieved his dream and bought the New York Bar on 5 Rue Daunou, Paris, where he had worked more than a decade before, including on the opening night on Thanksgiving Day 1911.

Said to be "Europe's oldest cocktail bar", strictly speaking, Harry's is "mainland Europe's oldest, still operating cocktail bar." The oldest, still operating cocktail bar in Europe (continent rather than European Union) is The American Bar at London's Savoy Hotel which was established in 1893 and moved to its present position in the hotel in 1904.

The bar Harry took over and renamed in 1923 had a chequered past. A well-known jockey, Milton Henry, opened it in 1911, and then sold it to another racing star, Tod Sloan, before Henry's ex-wife took the place back and ran it for a while. One of the very few bars to have remained in the same family for three generations, Harry's New York Bar has played host to some of the world's best bartenders and guests from Hemingway to Sartre.

We will be toasting Harry, and his bar, with one of the few cocktails that all sources agree he created, the Monkey Gland. It is named for a pioneering rejuvenation treatment developed by one Sergei Voronoff - a transplant of monkey testicles into the relevant gentlemen's area.

It's also Opera Day

High notes and big drama. It can only be Opera Day, a day to celebrate a beloved art form and the incredible talent that goes into making each performance truly unforgettable.

Opera is a unique and captivating form of musical theatre that has entertained audiences for centuries. With its powerful vocal performances, elaborate costumes, and grand stage settings, it's no wonder that opera has become a staple in the world of classical music.

Let's be real, opera has a reputation for being stuffy and only appreciated by a select few. But in reality, opera is full of drama, excitement, and some of the most beautiful music you'll ever hear. It's like a play, but with music that can touch the soul.
From the powerful arias of Puccini's "La Bohème" to the haunting choruses of Verdi's "Aida," opera has the ability to transport you to another time and place. The music, the voices, and the emotion combine to create an experience unlike any other.
And let's not forget about the costumes! Opera is a visual feast for the eyes, with elaborate ensembles that would make even the most extravagant Hollywood star envious. From the intricate headdresses of "Turandot" to the shimmering ball gowns of "The Barber of Seville," the costumes are just as much a part of the performance as the music itself.

So, as we celebrate Opera Day, let's take a moment to appreciate this incredible art form. Whether you're a seasoned opera aficionado or a newcomer to the world of classical music, take some time to sit back, relax, and immerse yourself in the beauty of opera. We'll be doing so with an Opera cocktail in hand. Cheers.

Down to Earth

This day in 1974 astronauts Edward Gibson, a doctor, plus two Lieutenant-Colonels, Gerald Carr and William Pogue, returned to earth after 85 days in space - proving that it's possible for human beings to live in space, despite the muscle-wasting effects of low gravity.

Subsequent epic space missions would include Valeri Polyakov, who spent over 14 months on the Mir Station in the 1990s. His aim? To prove that humans would be capable of working on Mars after the long, low-gravity flight to get there. And today, finally, folk are trying to get humans onto Mars. Elon Musk, of private space flight company, SpaceX, dreams of creating a self-sustaining human civilisation there.

In honour of Doctor Gibson, an astronaut and physicist, a pilot and a biker, we're drinking a Gibson - a Dry Martini with the famous pickled onion garnish.

It's Prešeren Day

A marginalised Slovenian holiday, Pre'eren Day commemorates the death of their national poet, France Prešeren. Prešeren led a fairly tragic life, largely down to his unrequited love with a woman called Julija Primic. He realised that she'd never really love him, so he had three kids with a woman called Ana Jelovšek, but could never bring himself to marry her....and even on his deathbed, he confessed that he'd never forgotten about Julija. It must have been pretty tough for him, but on the plus side, it resulted in some damned good poetry!

So, while Slovenia is celebrating the man on their €2 coin, why not educate yourself with some of Prešeren's poetry while enjoying a Poet's Dream.

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