Billions of people around the world are following—or, perhaps more accurately, being chased by—the news of the arrival of the future heir to the British throne. I can't be the only one among them eager to place media coverage of the delivery in a broader context. Persons curious about the curious history of public curiosity regarding such matters will be well served by books including Roger Wilkes’ Scandal!, Jeannette Walls’ Dish, and Neal Gabler’s Winchell: Gossip, Power, and the Culture of Celebrity. They are advised, when picking up that last volume, to lift with the legs, not the back.
Thick and thorough, Gabler’s biography of the pioneering gossipmonger begins with an introduction noting that when Walter Winchell started in tabloid journalism in the mid-1920s, “the editors of most newspapers were reluctant to publish even something as inoffensive as the notice of an impending birth for fear of crossing the boundaries of good taste.” Winchell’s insensitivity to such concerns enabled him to make certain innovations regarding content, and his slang-slinging prose—his way of writing “like a man honking in a traffic jam,” in screenwriter Ben Hecht’s phrase—was its own innovation of style. As Gabler writes, “Couples didn’t get married in Winchell’s column; they were ‘welded,’ ‘lohengrinned,’ ‘Adam-and-Eveing it.’ Couples didn’t have fun; they ‘made whoopee!’ They didn’t have babies; they had ‘blessed events.’ ” (This phrase was immortalized in a pre-Code Warner Brothers feature starring Lee Tracy as a Winchell-like gossip reporter.) Such coinages proved useful not only in their snap but also in their vagueness: To use such undefined language was to render a potential libel action a bit more complicated.
Which brings us to an obscure corner of the meta-media maternity ward. Billions have been following the arrival of the royal buttercup, and I can't possibly be the only one among them to wonder which arcane cocktail is most appropriate for toasting the babe. The Stork Club Bar Book has got you folks—all two or three dozen of you—set. This 1946 volume was published by Lucius Beebe in tribute to the mobbed-up saloon where Winchell held court when in the neighborhood. Beebe credits the recipe to headwaiter Eddie Whittmer. Let us quote directly:
juice of half lime
dash of curaçao
2 ounces Bénédictine
2 ounces applejack
Shake and strain. Serve in cocktail glass.
Given my interest in the topic discussed above, I felt it was the least I could do for the infanticipating duke and duchess—the least and, also, the most—to give this formula a whirl.
My bartender, looking upon the recipe, was first struck by the hugeness of the drink. Shaken well with ice and properly diluted, this recipe yields enough nectar to fill a normal 5.5 ounce Libbey coupe glass and leave another three ounces leftover. This fact, in turn, yields the impression that the Blessed Event was invented to anesthetize nervous fathers-to-be. If you do not want your baby-celebrating drink to be Baby Huey-sized, then use 1.5 ounces of each of the two base boozes and half an ounce of fresh lime juice.
I, meanwhile, had predicted that the Blessed Event would be overwhelmingly herbal and off-puttingly gooey. How very lovely it was to discover that the drink was sharply pleasant, with a slight sourapple sweetness, like a honeyed punch. Speaking as a consumer of adult beverages, the bartender said he could imagine putting away two or three of these. Speaking as a producer of adult beverages, the bartender said he could not imagine putting such a drink on his menu: The drinks on his list run $11 or $12; Bénédictine is so expensive that he’d need to charge $16.
Verdict: The Blessed Event, surprisingly tasty, is perhaps best reserved for special occasions. Though too dear for all but the most lunatic royal watchers observing this happy pseudo-event, it would be a good splurge for people commemorating the birth of their own child and joining, to abuse one last Winchellism,"the mom and population."