|A very classy Bee’s Knees, courtesy of the Vinoy Hotel|
Sarah E. Glenn, a Jane-of-all-trades, has a B.S. in Journalism. She loves reading and writing mystery and horror stories, often with a sidecar of funny. Interesting tidbit: Sarah worked the Reports Desk for her local police department, and she can attest that criminals are dumb. Learn more about Sarah and her books at her website.
By Sarah Glenn and Gwen Mayo
I have an interesting conundrum: I don’t drink, but I’m writing a confirmed tippler. Teddy Lawless loves her drinks, especially cocktails. When I wrote my trunk novel, I researched gardening. When I wrote my vampire satire, I researched Irvine, California (the setting). Now, I’m exploring some of the older drinking establishments in Saint Petersburg, including one featured in Murder at the Million Dollar Pier.
|The Jungle Prada Tavern|
The Gangplank, built in 1924, was Saint Petersburg’s first night club, located in the then exclusive Jungle Prada area. It overlooked Boca Ciega Bay and would later have a splendid view of the Don Cesar Hotel. During Prohibition, rumrunners’ boats docked at the small pier a short distance from the building. From there, the booze was taken through a tunnel that opened in the fireplace of the club, keeping the Gangplank well supplied with high quality alcohol from the Caribbean. Al Capone was rumored to be one of the investors.
It was a must for our book. We discovered there was still a bar on the old site, the Jungle Prada Tavern, and we made a pilgrimage to Boca Ciega to see what was left of the club. The original complex has been broken into multiple buildings, but we still found remnants of the bandstand and the dance floor, shaped like the prow of a ship. In the 1920s, bright striped canvas awnings covered the open-air dance floor.
Entering the bar was like stepping into a time machine. The bar where Babe Ruth was married and countless illegal bottles of rum were consumed, is much the same, though the fireplace is gone. The current drink menu features several cocktails inspired by 1920s recipes. We asked them to make watered-down versions for us, but they curled my hair anyway. I’m not ready to be a full-fledged flapper yet.
The Bee’s Knees
(featured cocktail in Murder at the Million Dollar Pier)
In the 1920s, “the bee’s knees” was slang that meant “the best.” The Prohibition-era cocktail was a gin sour blend of lemon juice and honey that was created to mask the harsh “bathtub gin” smell. The earliest book to publish the recipe was the 1930 edition of San Francisco bartender and author Bill Boothby’s cocktail compendium World Drinks and How to Mix Them. However, the blend is believed to have originated in post-World War I Paris, where sugar was in short supply. The true origin of the drink is the subject of much debate and so far, there is no definitive answer.
There are several existing versions of The Bee’s Knees, including one that is still served at the Vinoy Park Hotel. They differ in some ways, but all of them agree on three basic ingredients: honey syrup, gin, and lemon juice. I’m partial to the version they serve at the Vinoy: so sweet, you could have it as dessert.
1 cocktail shaker of crushed ice
2 oz. gin
1 oz. honey syrup
1 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
Shake the liquids with crushed ice and strain the drink into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon or orange twist and/or a sprig of fresh basil.
(Honey syrup is made by thinning honey with hot water. I recommend every 3 ounces of honey be thinned with one ounce of hot water. If you prefer a less sweet drink use honey and hot water in a 1 to 1 ratio.)
Murder at the Million Dollar Pier
Three Snowbirds, Book 2
Shortly after Teddy Lawless arrives at the newly opened Vinoy Hotel in Saint Petersburg, she comes face to face with her ex-fiancé, Ansel Stevens, in the dining room. Cue the slap that was thirty years in the making. Her ex-fiancé dies during a yacht race shortly thereafter. Conclusion of the authorities: poison. Teddy is arrested after her hair comb is found on the deck of the vessel. Can Cornelia Pettijohn and Uncle Percival save fun-loving Teddy before she goes from the grand hotel to the big house?