spirit possession

Christmas Spirits VI: Spur, Stirrup, Bridle, Sword.


(This is part of a drink-by-drink Christmas eve exploration of Charles H. Baker’s 1939 cocktail compendium book, The Gentleman’s Companion)


THE BROKEN SPUR, a Classic Found in the Pergola of Leon Ellis, 2d Secretary of the American Legation in Peking, in the Year 1932, and before a Buffet Dinner of Utter Charm.

Imagine Peking then, just before Japan had screwed up brass enough to defy Britain, and the rest of Europe’s Legations, and ours too by the way! – and had quietly occupied most of Imperial North China while everyone sat back like a lot of spineless ostriches with head in sand . . . Imagine getting there our third trip, and knowing people, and with a fiancée who had already agreed to the banns, and the plum blossoms frosting the Summer Palace gardens where Old Buddha once strolled, before we re-entered our motor cars and went to the foot of the Western Hills where Ellis had sedan chairs and coolies waiting for the madcap, swaying, almost perpendicular climb to the very topmost ridge, past the American Minister’s temple, and the other Buddhist temples the Europeans rent, through this connivance and that with the willing priests – to Ellis’ Grotto of the Propitious Pearl. And there in the back of his living quarters was a cave in the hills, where he has to let the pilgrims go day or night, and where the mummy of a famous saint sits lifelike, covered with some sort of plaster tinted like real flesh. Imagine the view at sunset of the distant Tartar walls of Peking, just barely visible through the golden light, with everything powdered with dust which is older than time itself . . . There between the 500 year old red lacquer columns of that Buddhist pavilion we sat and though things about Jenghiz Khan, and fiancées, and sipped big 3 oz Broken Spurs served in hand engraved crystal champagne glasses. 

To 1/2 jigger of dry gin add the same of Italian vermouth; then 1 jigger of port wine, 1 tsp anis del mono or anisette, the yolk of 1 fresh egg. Shake briskly with big lumps of ice and serve cold in a champagne saucer glass, dusting the top with a pinch of powdered ginger at the last.

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I’d like to say more about the startling pointedness of the name of this cocktail, in historical context, but I’ve got a bird to which to attend. But holy colonial nostalgia.