About three years ago I celebrated my birthday at Keens, a famous steakhouse close to Herald Square in New York City, known for its collection of church warden pipes. Due to the fragile nature of clay pipes, a tradition sprung up in 17th Century England of leaving one’s pipe in the capable hands of a favorite establishment until one returned. Keens was established in 1885, the same year General Patton was born, and has since then added over ninety thousand names to its Pipe Club, including President Theodore Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, Albert Einstein and General Douglas MacArthur. It was, however, another general who caught my attention, on the cocktail menu none the less.
A well thought out cocktail, which can be as intricately prepared as a food course, is an integral part of my dining experience. I believe in quality, not quantity, and prefer cocktails made with whiskey or bourbon. My attention is usually drawn to anything resembling an old-fashioned (the best one is at Joe’s Seafood in DC), or a whiskey sour (Le Bernardin in NYC is the absolute top), which is why that night I chose a cocktail containing rye, orange marmalade and bitters. The cherry on the cake was that it was called The Omar Bradley, which to many these days might not mean much, but to a history buff as myself was just another reason to give it a try.
The Omar Bradley is obviously named after General of the Army Omar Bradley, who, being that he was from Kentucky, enjoyed his bourbon and had a former bartender as his personal valet during WWII. His staff often held cocktail parties to blow off steam, and General Bradley was known to give bottles of liquor to his aides as gifts. Fresh fruit was often hard to come by during the war, so the story goes that in the process of making an old-fashioned, General Bradley used the next best thing: orange marmalade. Talk about pantry cooking!
Because fresh fruit is readily available these days, cocktails made with marmalade are not that common anymore. I think they add a specific flavor to one’s cocktail, and I have been making the above-mentioned cocktail at home for a while now. However, I call my version The Georgie Patton, basing the recipe on a letter I found in The George S. Patton Papers at the Library of Congress. I started my research for Lady of the Army there about a year and a half ago, the most obvious place because the Library’s Manuscript Reading Room contains over one hundred boxes of General Patton’s letters and diaries.
While many of the diaries are digitized, even more of the material is only available on location. Part of the fun of doing research is getting to see and touch the original material, so while I try my best to copy as much information as possible during my short research visits, once in a while my eye will catch something on the page which makes me stop and treasure the moment. This happened while photographing Box 12 – Folder 18, which contained a letter written by George on January 2, 1945, to his “Darling B:”
Tell Fred that we have devised a synthetic “Old Fashioned Cocktail”
Melt up a teaspoon of orange marmalade in a glass add whiskey and stir then add ice and drink it is swell.
You put a little water in first to melt the marmalade it don’t melt well in whiskey
In case you are wondering, Fred refers to Frederick Ayer, one of George’s best friends, and his brother-in-law. Also, the excerpt is copied exactly as it appears in the original letter. Whether General Patton suffered from dyslexia is up for debate, but what is certain is that he often forgot punctuation or misspelled words. That didn’t stop him from writing though, oftentimes sending his wife Beatrice up to five letters per week detailing every aspect of his life at the front lines of WWII.
Whether it was General Bradley or General Patton who came up with the idea first, they were in each other’s presence often enough that one might have influenced the other. I prefer to make mine with General Patton’s favorite bourbon: I.W. Harper. I don’t remember where I got that tidbit from (it might be from the diary of one of his aides), and whether it is even true, but if you can find a bottle of I.W. Harper’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, it makes a pretty darn good Georgie Patton.
The Georgie Patton
2 ounces of I.W. Harper (or your bourbon of choice)
1 teaspoon orange marmalade
5 drops of orange bitters
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon of warm water
Mix the marmalade and water in a lowball, add the rest of the ingredients, stir and serve with a big ice cube.
Add a strip of lemon peel and ginger ale to make a horse’s neck variation.
Brown, Derek. “Marmalade Mixology.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 10 Sept. 2010.
DeFelice, Jim. Omar Bradley: General at War. Regnery Publishing, 2014.
Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, George S. Patton Papers.