A couple of weeks ago I was invited to join the great and the good of the bar industry to help honour Joe Gilmore, the former head bartender of the American Bar at The Savoy, and celebrate his lifetime achievement award. Originally I had intended to post an update about the event immediately, but after attending I realised that there was more to this story than simply talking about Joe. You see The Savoy has a special place in the history of cocktails, and it seemed to me that Joe’s award was just one piece of a extensive and ongoing legacy that The Savoy has built over the years.
The Savoy is probably most ingrained in cocktail culture through its famous cocktail book, masterminded by Harry Craddock and first released in 1930. To this day it's one of the go-to books for bartenders to expand their knowledge of cocktails and learn how to balance drinks. But even with such a great legacy as The Savoy Cocktail Book, there is much more that makes this bar particularly special. Sitting in the American Bar, there’s a sense of history: the bar has played host to celebrities, royalty, the wealthy and the infamous; generation after generation. The cocktails created by The Savoy's bartenders live on as a list of classics, beloved by bartenders around the globe and is the largest of any other bar I can name. The characters who have worked there have become legends, be they long passed away or alive and still influencing the industry.
So while I do want to salute Joe Gilmore for a lifetime of contribution to our industry, I want to frame that within the extraordinary history of this remarkable cocktail bar. A history that dates back to the Victorian era, but that is still being written today.