Friday, April 1, 2011

The Town Crier Bell Cocktail Shaker

Well it has been a while since I have put up a new post.  After moving to Tucson and getting a new job my life has been rather hectic and I have been remiss in my updates.  So now I am going to try to get back on track.  So here we go...
Just the other day a friend of mine and fellow "Cocktailian" *Philip Greene asked me about the origin of the Bell Cocktail Shaker.  As I actually own several of these I realized that I had never really studied the origin.  Well it was a good excuse to do some research. Then after doing that, I thought it would also make a good blog post. 
Being one of the more fun styles of shaker it was advertised using the catch phrase "Ringing in Good Times".  I can not argue with that!  I feel that one of the most fun aspects of the shaker is, when empty, they do actually ring like a bell.  Unfortunately many of you may find that they have lost their clappers and are now a silent reminder of past fun times.  (The clapper can be replaced)
So on to the shakers history...
The patent, Above is for the most common form of the bell shaken. The "Town Crier Bell Shaker" was patented in 1937 by Bruce De Montmorency for the National Silver Deposit Ware Co.  There are at least six different Bell Shakers that I found in my research.  I know one was made by the Keystone Silver Co.  It is one of the few that has any markings and is the one with the pour spout on the body of the bell.  That shaker is pictured here on the left.  I am sure that the most common Town Crier was made by National Silver.  There is a silver plated version with a wooden handle from England and also a silver played version from Scotland with a silver plated handle made by Edwards & Sons Glasgow. There is also a version made by the Asprey Co. of England that also has silver plated handle and is very similar to the Scottish version.  The last that I am now trying to attribute to some one is the version that has a sort of valve mechanism at the end of the handle that is twisted to open an close for dispensing.  It is also the version that is most commonly seen with the bell shaped cups.  Cherub Antiques says that it is a mid 50's design but I do not know how they conclude that. All of the other bell shakers were originally made in the thirties.
So here I am after an exhausting hour and a half of research to be stumped by one little shaker.
So if anyone out there can shine some light on this shaker I will gladly give credit and toast you with a cocktail "Rang Up" in one of these vintage shakers.

Oh by the way...I will be at Tales of the Cocktail again this year on the panel moderated by Dale Degroff for the seminar Cool Bar Tools, Past, Present and Future.  This event will be held at the Museum of the American Cocktail July 20th from 3pm to 4:30pm. After the Seminar, Mark Bigler of Cocktail , a couple of other collectors and of coarse myself will be holding a sort of Vintage Bar Ware Roadshow where we will appraise your vintage shakers and bar tools. Hope to see you there and for more info check out the link above.
*Philip Greene is a freelance writer, historian and consultant, is a founding member of the Museum of the American Cocktail, for which he also serves as treasurer and legal counsel. Philip is a descendant of the Peychaud family of New Orleans, and among his ancestors was Antoine Peychaud, the 19th century pharmacist who created Peychaud's Bitters and New Orleans' classic cocktail, the Sazerac.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


This is rather a long post for a blog but it is for a very good cause. The accompanying article below was written by Stephen Visakay & Maddy Lederman. They wanted me to post this to help a friend in Florida. Below is her story. What we hope is to get the word out and maybe some one can help by taking her up on her offer.

My mother passed away eleven years ago and left me a most unusual 40-year collection of thousands and thousands of plastic swizzle sticks from all over the world. My daughter, the mother of three children (10, 6, and nine months), has fallen upon hard economic times and has no vehicle to transport her children, or search for a job. I am not asking for charity. However, in the interest of my grandchildren, I would like to trade my Mom's special collection for a safe, reliable vehicle for my daughter and grand kids. A recent article in the L.A. Times about the history of Swizzle Sticks prompted me to write this, and perhaps there will be some interest in my collection due to Mad Men on TV--they are the hot new retro collectible. I need help getting my daughter back on track, and I believe my mom would be pleased to know her treasured collection went to help the three great-grandchildren she has never met.
Please call or write me if you wish additional information, and thank you for your time.
Connie Mayer
North Fort Myers, Florida

Now own to Steve & Maddy's article...

“The difficulty of securing a cherry resting at the bottom of a cocktail glass without resorting to boorish antics obnoxious to people accustomed to polite social usages is so well known as to have become a matter of public comment and jest.”
--Jay Sindler
In his three-page patent copy, Jay Sindler used the cherry to describe how necessary his new invention, the Swizzle Stick, was, but legend has it the idea was sparked by an olive.
It was February 1934, a few months after Prohibition had ended. Sindler, an employee of the Converse Rubber Company and an avid inventor, sat contemplating his martini at the Boston Ritz Carlton’s bar one night, faced with the challenge of removing his olive without dipping his fingers into his gin. I like to think Sindler was on his second or third martini when it all came together. He envisioned a small spear with a paddle-like handle, imprinted with an establishment's name like a miniature billboard. It would be something the patrons could take home, cheaper than a book of printed matches and cheaper still than the cost of vanishing ashtrays and cocktail glasses. Sindler’s patent, number 1,991,871, was granted on February 19, 1935. Polite society caught on to Sindler’s invention and his new company Spir-it was off to a promising start.
There was some competition, however. With Repeal, all the great glass companies began to manufacture bar ware. Stirring rods once used by 1920’s Flappers were now mass-produced. Unlike the swizzle stick, glass swizzles didn’t have a pointed spear for fruit garnishes and were costly to silk-screen with a hotel logo. Some glass companies had the novel idea of inserting a tube of paper with advertising copy into a glass rod and sealing the end like a message in a bottle, but costly and impractical, this didn't last. Today this type of hollow (and easily broken) stirrer is one of the most sought after by collectors. Other attractive materials include Bakelite and Catalin.
Major developments in plastic manufacturing came along with World War II. By the 1950’s swizzle sticks came in an incredible array of shapes and colors and served as inexpensive advertisements for clubs, casinos, restaurants and airlines. All establishments had a custom swizzle stick even if they made do with the cheaper, stock version; a straight, tapered rod with a paddle signboard imprinted with a tavern’s logo.
Into the 1960's and the Space Age, there was a boom in the electronics industries calling for precision plastic parts which led to new technologies in thermosetting plastic injection molding. The period from the late 1950’s throughout the 1960’s was a Golden Age for signature swizzle sticks.
Drinks served on TWA flights sported a red propeller swizzle. At Trader Vic’s, a Hawaiian outrigger canoe paddle with a Tiki God handle graced the drinks at the venerable bar. The Thunderbird Hotel and Swim Club in Miami Beach featured a Flying Thunderbird on top of it's swizzle with the name in large script over the shaft. Playboy’s signature bunny-head sat atop their swizzles which, for some reason, were extra long. Many people saved the Playboy swizzle if they ever came across it. In fact, most of us have a few swizzle sticks saved somewhere. Taking a swizzle as a memento was encouraged. They were a promotional calling card or a remembrance of a wonderful trip or night on the town and they disappeared from nightclubs and hotel bars as fast as they were set out.
The swizzle sticks' popularity didn't last forever or even very far into the 1970's. For example, during the Carter years, the White House was dry. It was beer and wine only at State functions, no doubt the reason why Jimmy was a one term President. When he derided the “fifty dollar martini lunch” for businessmen, former House Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX), replied, “If the Good Lord hadn’t intended us to have a three martini lunch, then why do you suppose He put all those olive trees in the Holy Land?”
Inventor Jay Sindler would have agreed. ©

Check out clubs such as the International Swizzle Stick Collectors Association (ISSCA),
ISSCA President Ray Hoare and thousands of collectors world-wide, sociologists and anthropologists agree that these miniature, pop-culture icons give us an inside look at the past and are a valued collectible worth saving for future generations. And besides, they can still be used to stir your favorite drink.
If you’re looking for swizzles for your next party ask your parents, they probably have a box full somewhere. Or you can purchase swizzle sticks from the company started by Jay Sindler, they’re still in business. Spirit Foodservice, Inc has a fantastic web site with eco-friendly and biodegradable options. Marketing Manager Rachel Pantely tells us that swizzles are hotter than ever with the increased interest in retro cocktails.

Stephen Visakay is author of Vintage Bar Ware (Collector Books 1997) and has written for antique, collectible, and trade magazines. His cocktail shaker exhibition, “Shaken, Not Stirred, Cocktail Shakers and Design” has been featured in museums nationwide, including The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, The Louisiana State Museum, and The Milwaukee Art Museum.

Maddy Lederman is a writer and a filmmaker with offices in Palm Desert, CA and Park Slope, NYC. Email,
Also here is a link to Steve's article in the LA Times-Swizzle Sticks Make a New Stir

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Black Peppercorn Martini

OK...OK... before you even start on me... I know a Martini is only Gin, Vermouth, & an Olive or Lemon Twist. I got that, but this little twist adds a new depth of flavor that might just surprise you and still let me get away with calling it a Martini.
Now with that out of the way, let me get on to the recipe...

2 1/2 ounces Hendrick's Gin
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 to 1/2 ounce Black Peppercorn Syrup (See Recipe Below)

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir well to chill. Strain and Serve!

I found this recipe on the web and being a huge fan of black pepper for cooking I had to give it a try. I tried this cocktail with very dry, less perfumed gin, but Hendrick’s worked so well because of its moderate juniper and floral flavors. You might also see that I said 1/4 to 1/2 ounce of the Black Peppercorn Syrup. That is simply because for some people 1/2 ounce just kills the dryness of the Martini. So experiment and you can make these to your & your guest preferences.
The Black Pepper syrup is made by combing...

1 1/2 cups water,
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon whole Tellicherry black peppercorns
1 tablespoon cracked Malabar black peppercorns

Simmer all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to bring mixture to a simmer; cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
Strain the cooled syrup and refrigerate it in a container with a tight fitting lid.

Now you might ask..."Were in the world would I find Tellicherry & Malabar peppercorns?" Well I can highly recomend Some times you might be able to find these at your local "Mega-Mart" or specialty food stores but, they will never match the quality of the Flavorbank spices in any way. You can also learn about their origins and what makes different in flavors and aroma.
Jennifer English (Owner of Flavorbank) has put together a collection of the finest Peppercorns, Sea Salts, & Spices from around the world. So you can not go wrong there.

I hope you will give this recipe a try. I might even being making some of these for "The History of Bar Tools & Bare Ware from the 1800's to Today" at Tales of the Cocktail in July.

Cheers everyone and Happy Shaking...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Going Back to Tales of the Cocktail

Well I just wanted to invite everyone to the 8th annual Tales of the Cocktail in July. At this years Tales I will be moderatoring The History of Bar Tools & Bar Ware from the 1800s to Today.
Everyone knows that mixologists and cocktail historians are passionate about their tools and collectibles. Come view some of the most interesting specimens at this symposium on Shakers & Barware. You'll learn about their rich history while enjoying some delicious cocktails. We will demonstrate some of the more eccentric makers and their products including spoons, strainers, shakers, corkscrews, bottle openers, soda siphons, and glassware. The talks will be accompanied by various pieces of bar ware from numerous collections, patents from the 1880's, the prohibition era, and even some modern ones. Learn about the mixologists who used these items and how they improved upon many of them. You'll come away with a new appreciation for the role that bar ware has played and continues to play in the evolution of the cocktail.
I Can't tell you how excited I am about this because this year it is going to be huge! The event is being held at The Museum of the American Cocktail on Wednesday July 21st from 3:00 to 4:30. We have assembled a great panel consisting Mark Bigler (aka Mr Big) of, Michael Silvers Owner and Founder of Uber Bar Tools, and last but by no means least...Dale DeGroff. Of coarse many of you already know Dale as one the most preeminent mixologist in the world, cocktail book author, cocktail trainer, ect...ect. Just check out his website for more info.
We are also very excited to have Henrick's Gin as a sponsor. Dale will be Shaking & Stirring up some wonderful Hendrick's cocktails. That is worth the price of admission alone!
Also Dale's charming & beautiful wife Jill DeGroff will be there to sign copies of her new book Lush Life; Portrairts from the Bar . There will be copies copies available at the museum or or you can go online and get a copy to bring with you.
We will also be raffling off hundreds of dollars worth of vintage bare ware & tools.
So mark your calenders and plan on attending Tales of the Cocktail. For more information just go to Tales of the Cocktail.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

WOW is Great

As a Bar Ware & Cocktail Shaker collector I'm always looking for new sources to find the stuff I'm looking for. The owner of this site actually found me through this blog & as I have said before..."It was all over". If you are a collector of anything this is what you are looking for! I have already spent Way Too Much Time there...LOL. There are literally thousands of links to every kind of antique or collectible you ever thought of. Like I said it's great.
So just click on link to go straight to Bar Ware. There are links to the Main page from there.
Have fun hunting & Cheers...

Friday, August 7, 2009

New Video from the Vintage Bar Ware Collectors Symposium

I just received this video from Lindsey Johnson of The Lush Life. It's Steve Visakay, Mark Bigler, and myself talking about cocktail shakers and The Museum of the American Cocktail.
The video also features Dale DeGroff & Chris McMillian.
What a great time we had that day. Drinking Cointreau Cocktails and talking about Cocktail Shakers...

Vintage Shakers Symposium at MOTAC from Lush Life on Vimeo.

Lindsey and her staff did a wonderful job with this and I would like to say Thank You.
Well, I Hope everyone enjoys...Cheers!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Two Weeks after Tales of the Cocktail

Well it has been almost two weeks since Tales and I believe I have fully recovered.

The Vintage Bar Collectors Symposium went off without a hitch. We gave away bunches of cocktail shakers and bar ware. Well over the advertised $1000 worth.

There were collectors from all over the United States as well as a couple of foreign guest. It was a truly amazing time.

Stephen Visakay, Mark Bigler & myself gave our talks from behind a bar that was made in the mid 1800s. It was rescued from Lake Pontchartrain and is currently being restored for perminate display at The Museum of the American Cocktail.

Also, who knew that Cointreau and Peach Snapple would make a very tasty and refreshing cocktail.
They call it the Cointreau Kiss. There Slogan is Kiss & Tell.

It is very simple cocktail to make...1 1/2 oz Cointreau, 3 oz Peach Snapple.
Pour the Peach Snapple in a tall glass with ice and pour the Cointreau on top. How simple is that?

In days following our Symposium I attended several seminars like the History of Saloons in America with H. Joseph Ehrmann, David Wondrich, and John Burton. What many people don't understand about Tales is that it is not just a 5 day drinking fest. Oh don't get me wrong, plenty of cocktails are consumed but there is so much knowledge to gained at the same time from some of best and brightest mixologist and authors from around the world. Another example would be the seminar Cognac, from Vines to Shaker which gave a history of Cognac and explained some of the French laws that dictate how it is produced. That is one of the reasons Cognac is more expensive is because of government regulation.

Between seminars and all of the good food in the French Quarter, I tried to get some more Frequent Rider Miles at the Carousel Bar. Hey, if they served Vieux Carre cocktails on the Merry Go Round at the State Fair, I would ride it for days!
Well I guess I'm going to wrap this up for now, before I totally bore everyone to death. I just want everyone to think about attending Tales of the Cocktail next Year. It is an unbelivable time and you will not regret it....