By Dave Nelson I love hotel bars. They are stylish and over-priced, but who cares? You can drink there without staying in the over-priced rooms. Cool!

Back when the world was young, I took my wife to dinner at the Savoy Grill for her birthday. I was still in theater production back then so the Savoy seemed a natural destination. The Savoy hotel is attached to the Savoy theater, founded in 1881 by impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte with the fortune he made producing the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan.

The Savoy was the world’s first theater (indeed, the world’s first public building) powered and lighted completely by electricity. D’Oyly Carte opened the Savoy Hotel next door in 1889. The hotel was the first to feature electric lighting, elevators, continuously flowing hot-and-cold water, and private bathrooms in the most expensive suites. Cesar Ritz (of the Ritz hotels fame) was the first hotel manager. Auguste Escoffier was the hotel’s first chef.

Every major political and entertainment figure of the 20th century stayed at the Savoy. Churchill had cabinet meetings at the Savoy. (British tax dollars at work!) The Beatles stayed there, as did Babe Ruth, Frank Sinatra, George Gershwin, Enrico Caruso, Judy Garland, and Harry Truman. (American tax dollars at work!)

The celebrity list of former guests is endless and yet the Savoy Hotel still let me in the front door.

We were a bit early for the reservation so we wandered down the main corridor and found a bar. It turns out this was the American Bar, world famous, though I didn’t know it at the time. Its most celebrated bar manager had been Harry Craddock, an England-born naturalized American who deserted the States during Prohibition. (Prohibition was generally not a good time for hotel bars.)

Harry Craddock American Bar

Harry Craddock buries a cocktail shaker in the American Bar’s wall, 1927.

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