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The story of the classic Clover Club

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1911 | New York, USA

From 1882 to 1914, a gentlemen's club called the Clover Club held monthly lunches at Philadelphia's The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, where the cream of society would meet: writers, actors, bankers, and politicians. The club's code of conduct was written by Mark Twain, and the proceedings of the meetings were as ritualized as possible.

The participants were seated behind a large oak table in the shape of a clover leaf, whose curves could fit more than 60 people. Everyone present wore a four-leaf-clover pin in his buttonhole or tie, and the club's motto was "While we live, we live in clover." It doesn't appear possible to ascertain how the club's heavy-handed beverage, the Loving Cup, change its name and take on the proportions and name of the contemporary cocktail recipe. But in 1910, a cocktail called the CLOVER CLUB achieved fame in the legendary Waldorf Astoria bar in New York. According to the most likely version of the story, George Boldt brought it: he was one of the owners of The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, and in 1890 became the proprietor of the luxurious New York hotel.

In 1911, bartender Harry MacElhone tried his hand at the canonical recipe. He had already become famous thanks to Paris' legendary New York Bar, and since 1911 worked at New York's Plaza Hotel. He replaced the original lemon juice with lime and added vermouth. The Clover Leaf cocktail also existed, which only differed from the original in that the glass was garnished with a fresh mint leaf.

Alas, after this widespread acclaim, the CLOVER CLUB was long left off the menu – largely because of the presence of raw egg whites, seen as a salmonella threat. But today, the fog of prejudice has dissipated and the CLOVER CLUB has returned to custom. It lent its name to a stylish bar in Brooklyn, opened by Julie Reiner, one of the top five female bartenders in the world.

See the recipe


Historian: Vladimir Zhuravlev
Illustrations: Mine
Journalists: Sara Davis, Samantha Johnson

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