The Bank Saloon manager and mixologist Katie Pier-Camper enjoys seeing customer and Vietnam veteran Victor Biskup of Carson Valley positively react to Mark Twain’s preferred cocktail.
Like many successful and wealthy men of his era, Mark Twain loved his drink, cigars, good food, and had a passion for the game of pool.
Often the most powerful and famous were treated to his hospitality and stories as they sat around his dining room table or, if lucky, invited to his third floor office at his Hartford, Connecticut mansion to continue sipping good Scotch whiskey, smoking, and playing pool until the wee hours of the morning.
Legend has it that Twain began his love affair with drinking lager and bourbon when working as a gold miner and journalist in Nevada and California. According to Whiskypedia.com his love for scotch whiskey began aboard the steamship SS City of Chester while sailing across the Atlantic to England. It is said the ship’s surgeon introduced him to what was the early version of what later became the popular Old-Fashioned but without the added fresh lemon.
He so loved this new drink made with Scotch whiskey that in January 1874, Clemens wrote a letter to his wife Olivia, “‘Livy my darling, I want you to be sure & remember to have, in the bathroom, when I arrive, a bottle of Scotch whisky, a lemon, some crushed sugar, and a bottle of Angostura bitters. Ever since I have been in London I have taken in a wine glass what is called a cocktail (made with these ingredients) before breakfast, before dinner and before going to bed… To it I attribute the fact that up to this day my digestion has been wonderful – simply perfect. It remains day after day and week after week as regular as a clock.’”
Later, Twain preferred the less sweet and simpler drink called hot Scotch or hot toddy – straight Scotch whiskey with a little hot water while smoking his cigars – as many as 22 daily – and as he liked to say, “I smoke in moderation, only one cigar at a time!” He also vowed that he drank Scotch whiskey at night to prevent a toothache. He also is quoted as saying, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough!”
To honor Twain’s connection to Carson City and to provide more insight into the famous humorist and writer who came to Carson City as Samuel Langhorne Clemens and left as Mark Twain, The Bank Saloon owner Richard Bragiel is inviting all to stop by The Bank Saloon on Thursday, April 20 after 5 p.m. to find out why Twain so loved this cocktail and to toast to the 113th anniversary of Twain’s death which occurred on April 21, 1910. As Bragiel states, “I know The Bank Saloon would have been one of Twain’s favorite hangouts had the saloon been built in the early 1860s instead of 1899.”
The inaugural Mark Twain Days will be held in downtown Carson City, April 21-23. For information: https://visitcarsoncity.com/mark-twain-days/
The recipe: Scotch whiskey is the key. 1-1/2 oz Scotch whiskey mixed with fresh lemon juice (to your taste), 1 oz simple syrup and 2 dashes of Angostura bitters. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Better yet, try The Bank Saloon version. Mangia Tutto (also owned by Bragiel) is also serving this unique cocktail.
The Bank Saloon is located downtown at 418 S. Carson St.