Open Search

By: Jim Wrigley

Raising the bar: a famous Coley cocktail

cocktail on table

Within the march for equality, March the month brings us three interesting observances – International Women’s Day on 8 March, International Cocktail Day on 24 March and Women's History Month during the entire month.

Ladies have been stereotyped to drink sweet cocktails usually made with vodka and pink in colour out of "girly" glasses.

There are a few things to unpack with that stereotype.

Primarily, it’s worth pointing out that in the original Cocktail Golden Era from the 1890s to the 1920s, men drank from these so-called "girly" cocktail glasses, coupettes, pony glasses (small cocktail glasses) and Nick and Nora glasses, the latter named for Nick and Nora Charles, the famous detective couple and martini quaffers of the 1930s.

But this dodges the issue. Anyone should be able to drink whatever liquid they prefer (responsibly of course) from whichever shaped glass, cup or shoe they so desire, without fear of stigma.

Cocktails have been made by and for women for hundreds of years. Actual cocktails, by definition, were originally boozy, boozy things, designed for waking up a heavy drinking culture in the mornings – male and female alike.

One of the most famous bartenders of this golden age of cocktails was the legendary Ada “Coley” Coleman, the first female head bartender of the world-renowned American Bar at the Savoy. During her 23-year reign that started in 1903 in that vaunted position, she was celebrated by such luminaries as Mark Twain, Marlene Dietrich, Charlie Chaplin, Diamond Jim Brady and the Prince of Wales.

On her retirement in February 1926, several newspapers ran articles about her career, calling her “The Queen of Cocktail Mixers," and estimating that she had served 100,000 customers and poured one million drinks throughout her career as a bartender.

Currently, in addition to the billions of female drinkers with diverse and adventurous tastes — more so than their male counterparts who avoid drinks based on colour or glassware! — there are millions of women in the hospitality industry, serving some of the world’s best drinks in the world’s best cocktail bars. Most of them will know the Hanky-Panky cocktail, a libation created by Coley in the 1920s that is complex in flavour, but simple in construction.

So why not raise one of these delicious drinkables for International Women’s History Month or International Cocktail Day, or better yet, for both.


1.5 ounces/45 ml Beefeater London Dry Gin
1.5 ounces/45 ml Martini Rubino riserva sweet vermouth
.25 ounces/7.5 ml Fernet-Branca

Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into an ice-cold cocktail (martini) glass.
Garnish with an orange twist.

Jim Wrigley is the beverage manager at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa.

This article appears in the March 2022 print edition of Camana Bay Times.

In other news

You may also like