Hell’s Kitchen Birthplace of The New Yorker, and Bathtub Gin Recipe

This is a book trailer for my new one, The Algonquin Round Table New York: A Historical Guide. And since I made it about Jane Grant, Harold Ross, and Alexander Woollcott, I thought I’d post this recipe. It’s from my earlier work, Under the Table: A Dorothy Parker Cocktail Guide. It’s the recipe Jane Grant used to make her own bathtub gin. The video was made outside their former duplex, the landmark 412 West Forty-seventh Street.

One of the forgotten stars of the Jazz Age, Round Table member Jane Grant cofounded The New Yorker with her husband, Harold Ross, at their kitchen table at 412 West Forty-seventh Street in 1925. The Hell’s Kitchen townhouse still stands, once the scene of raucous parties attended by the Vicious Circle, Ethel Barrymore, Irving Berlin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and others.

But those parties put Grant in a fix, because her guests required more alcohol than her bootleggers could provide. She started distilling her own gin from a recipe that she claimed came from the maître d’hôtel at the old Waldorf Astoria Hotel. (“If the Waldorf could fool the customers, I could impress my friends, and I would not be exposing them to a fate worse than death.”) But first she needed pure alcohol. “I finally found a reliable bootlegger who would deliver it in ten-gallon cans—nothing less. At first that was a little staggering. My recipe called for equal parts water—and twenty gallons of gin seemed like a lot of gin to me… My supply was consumed with true speakeasy gusto—I soon found that twenty gallons of gin was not an extravagant amount for 412.”

1 quart pure grain alcohol
8 drops oil of juniper
1 to 1 1/3 quart distilled water

Mix alcohol and oil well several times for 30 to 36 hours, then add the distilled water. Mix well for 20 to 24 hours.

Note: Grant recommended shaking the bottles every day for a week, much to the chagrin of her friends. “Not one of the wretches would give me a hand, preferring, as they said, sudden blindness, or even death, to such labor… Everyone else, they pointed out, just mixed the ingredients and served—I was much too fussy.”