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Cheers! America's first black celebrity mixologist

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Alexander Cato established Cato's House just outside of New York City in 1810.

It’s Black History Month and the Cheers! team of Tammy Coxen and Lester Graham have a cocktail recipe used by America’s first celebrity bartender, Cato Alexander.

“I wanted to make sure that we gave a shout out to some of the amazing black bartenders who have worked in the past and in the present,” Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings said.

If Cato Alexander sounds like a familiar name, a bartender we featured last year, Amas Muhammad, spoke about how famous the New York bartender was in the early 19th century. 

The cocktail we’re sharing with you is the Gin Daisy.

“We don’t know if he (Cato Alexander) invented it or if it was just a drink of the time, but it was definitely the sort of thing that people would be drinking when they went to Cato’s House which was his bar that he opened in 1810 outside of New York City,” Coxen said.

Alexander was born into slavery but gained his freedom at age 19 when New York passed the Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, a phase out of slavery used by several Northern states.

Coxen said after he opened his establishment a few miles outside of the city he quickly became a hit.

“People would travel near and far especially seeking out the drinks and the food. His curried oysters were really famous,” Coxen said.

The Gin Daisy is an easy drinking, refreshing beverage. It might be perfect for porch sipping on a warm spring day.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Tammy Coxen shaking the Gin Daisy.

Gin Daisy

2 oz gin (we used Railroad Gin from Detroit City Distillery)

1 oz of grenadine (make your own with recipe below)

½ oz lime juice

2 oz club soda

Combine the gin, grenadine, and lime juice in a shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a collins glass or a highball glass. Top off with club soda. Add ice to fill up the glass.                                                                                                                                                                                       


1 c pomegranate juice

1 c sugar

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (optional)

Combine pomegranate juice and sugar in saucepan and heat until sugar is fully dissolved. Add pomegranate molasses if desired for deeper pomegranate flavor. Keep refrigerated.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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