October 6: Moulin Rouge!

Lautrec_moulin_rouge,_la_goulue_(poster)_1891The Belle Époque at the end of the 19th century was a glorious age for France and its people. It was a time of peace, prosperity and industrial and cultural progress. During this time, there was no more exciting place on the face of the Earth than the city of Paris, with its stunning Eiffel Tower and a hot cabaret,  Moulin Rouge, which opened on this day in 1889.

Moulin Rouge was a place where people of all walks of life could mingle in style. Businessmen, tourists, the wealthy and civic workers all rubbed shoulders in a fantasy land of can-can dancers and exravogant design. The club was famous for its over the top look, with its iconic red windmill over the entrance and a gigantic elephant in the gardens. Its theatrical productions would typically feature elaborate costumes and sets. Really, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Baz Luhrmann would make a movie about the place.

Moulin Rouge quickly became a center for French culture. The painter Toulouse-Lautrec designed posters for the venue, and the writer Colette was a frequent visitor. Over the years, Moulin Rouge has remained a part of the French cultural scene. When the club burned down in 1915, a movement to rebuild Moulin Rouge was instantly started. The club reopened in 1921, and many popular chansons premiered at Moulin Rouge during the 1920s. When the Nazis invaded France during the early days of World War II, the cabaret shuttered its doors; but when Paris was liberated the Moulin quickly reopened with a celebratory concert starring the legendary Edith Piaf. Today, Moulin Rouge is a major Parisian tourist destination and still puts on can-can shows.

To toast Moulin Rouge, we’ve got a nice apéritif named after the club. The Moulin Rouge cocktail first appeared in Harry Craddock’s famous Savoy Cocktail Book. This drink utilizes a few ingredients that have fallen out of favor since Craddock’s day, so it might take a bit of work to acquire the Apricot Brandy and Orange Gin (Seagram’s makes an orange infused gin that’ll work in a pinch), but this tasty little cocktail is well worth the time it takes to track down the right ingredients.

Moulin Rouge

  • 1 ounce Apricot Brandy
  • 1/2 ounce Orange Gin
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 3 dashes grenadine

Shake together with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: We rate movies.



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