The first time the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel had a woman at its helm was in 1903, when Ada “Coley” Coleman – whose creations included the classic cocktail the Hanky Panky – took on the role. role. But since her reign of more than two decades, the internationally renowned London institution has never appointed a female head bartender since.
Now, nearly a century later, Britain’s oldest surviving cocktail bar will finally have a woman in charge again when it reopens in the fall for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Shannon Tebay, who begins the role on Monday, will become not only the first woman in 95 years to hold the revered post, but the first American as well.
Tebay, who was previously the head bartender of Death & Co, an influential cocktail bar in Manhattan’s East Village, said she was thrilled to become American Bar’s 13th. head bartender.
“It means the world, I’m delighted to take on the role,” said Tebay, 35, who before becoming a bartender was trained in classic French pastry. “It is definitely an incredible professional opportunity. I feel the weight and pressure of the role’s historic significance, but I also feel very supported by the community at large in the US and UK.
She said it had been “a long time” for a woman to fill the post, but hoped her appointment “would help kick-start this idea of progress and inclusiveness.”
“I’m very proud of the fact that I’m going to be the second woman since Ada Coleman and the first American in this role. I think this shows that the industry as a whole is ready to move forward… we are ready to move forward, ”Tebay said.
Harry Craddock, who became head bartender in 1926, was previously thought to be American, but it is now believed that he was born in England despite having lived and worked in the United States.
In addition to Coleman and Craddock, Tebay, who grew up in New Mexico and has lived in New York for 12 years, will join the ranks of Frank Wells, the bar’s first known head bartender, Joe Gilmore, who invented the Moonwalk cocktail. . to commemorate the moon landing of Neil Armstrong and, more recently, Erik Lorincz, who created the Pioneer.
Tebay said his favorite classic was Hanky Panky, but his favorite drink was a gin martini with a twist.
She’s rewriting the bar’s cocktail menu, which she says draws on her pastry background in terms of flavor, color and texture, but that she planned to honor the bar’s history, “while simultaneously incorporating contemporary techniques and innovation”.
She said she worked behind the bar the same way she would in a kitchen – paying special attention to organization and set-up.
Through this role, she hopes to “give a voice” to other women in the industry and other under-represented voices and demographics by diversifying their workforce. She also wants to make operations more sustainable.
Under his leadership, she also wants visitors to the American Bar to have fun. “It is possible to honor traditions and respect for the past while not being afraid to have a good time and modernize the culture. I want our menus to be innovative and creative, but ultimately accessible and enjoyable for our customers.
She hopes to act as a transatlantic “bridge” between the mixology worlds of New York and London. But she said she had “a lot to learn” about London and European bar culture.
Claudia Carrozzi, the first female president of the United Kingdom Bartenders Guild, said Tebay’s appointment marked “a big step forward” for the industry. “If we look at the past, the history of the bartender, the profession was mainly This is a very good step forward. In these jobs, women did not have the same opportunities as men, “said Carrozzi.
Franck Arnold, Managing Director of Savoy, said he was delighted to welcome Tebay, adding: “We admire his vision and his dedication to teamwork. We can’t wait to see her reopen the American Bar with a menu that will show her respect for the bar’s history and showcase the creativity and talent of the team as a whole.
Lorincz, who left the US bar in 2018 after eight years, said Tebay was the perfect person to bring the bar back to where the bar deserved to be after the pandemic. “Having an American female bartender is the perfect addition,” he said.
A London institution
The American Bar is believed to date back to 1889, when the Savoy first opened, or 1890. It got its name from the fact that it served drinks “American style”. In 1930 Harry Craddock, then head bartender, wrote The Savoy Cocktail Book. Famous clientele included Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin and Winston Churchill. It was originally part of a small suite of rooms that acted as a miniature gentlemen’s club. It then moved to its current location on the Strand side of the hotel in 1904. In 2017, it was named the best bar in the world.