Prohibition was a hell of a time—though the tendency is to romanticize, focusing on the glamorous splendor of the bars in London and Paris, on the underground world of speakeasies, or of zipping off to Havana for an evening of cocktails, the hard fact of it is pretty depressing. I know my great-grandparents were certainly not in a financial situation that allowed them to enjoy the fruits of Cuban rum production in situ, though they definitely were in a position to be familiar with this cocktail’s namesake.
Mary Pickford was the star of silent films, one of the first female media celebrities and an early power player in the Hollywood machine. Though her place in cinema history is well documented, she’s one of the few early film stars whose legacy you can still see around town. She and her second husband, Douglas Fairbanks, were two of the primary investors in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which opened in 1927. It has been a Hollywood Boulevard landmark since it opened, which is also the year it hosted the first Academy Awards ceremony. Nearly a century’s worth of stars have stayed in the hotel, resulting in another of its claims to fame: the Roosevelt is consistently named one of the most haunted sites in Los Angeles. (Purportedly, Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift haunt different parts of the hotel.) The hotel was renovated in 2005 and is once again a happening spot—the interior of the Roosevelt is absolutely gorgeous—and it now holds a number of bars, among them the cocktailian favorite Library Bar.
The cocktail named for Mary Pickford is variously attributed to a few different people, but the most likely creator is Eddie Woelke, who moved to Cuba during Prohibition and helmed the famed Jockey Bar in Havana. Though the Mary Pickford is not unknown, Woelke is better known as the creator of the El Presidente, a similarly rum-based tipple that has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity. The Mary Pickford is particularly interesting, as its composition is sort of proto-tiki, foreshadowing the tropical concoctions that would become all the rage in Hollywood (and elsewhere) after Prohibition.
2 oz gold rum (Cuban-style, if you have it)
1 oz fresh pineapple juice
dash maraschino liqueur
Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake well, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and serve.
I’m all for making your own fresh juices for cocktails, but sometimes it’s just too much of a pain. Pineapples, being a tropical fruit not grown much domestically, can be a fairly pricey item to buy just for juice. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using good ol’ canned Dole pineapple juice, or any pineapple juice you can find in a store. The drink will still be delicious, though perhaps not as delicious as the fresh-juice version. The Mary Pickford is a tasty, fun, kicky little number, taking the rum-pineapple combination in an unexpected direction with the addition of maraschino. The grenadine adds just a touch of color and sweetness to the savory vanilla-almond notes of the drink, though using homemade grenadine (as I do) won’t give you the same intense red as a store-bought version—but it also won’t fill your drink with corn syrup and artificial coloring. Overall this is a really lovely Prohibition-era drink that evokes those long-ago nights on the coast of Cuba; you can almost feel the ocean breeze and see lights twinkling on the water while you’re sipping it.