Often referred to as the "Fairbank" cocktail (no "s"), the earliest reports I find of this drink (July 22, 1907) clearly refer to it as "Fairbanks".

According to the Savoy Cocktail book, this drink was named after Douglas Fairbanks, but in 1920 (10 years earlier) Robert Vermeire in “Cocktails: How To Mix Them” probably provides the truer tale with indication that it was named after Charles Warren Fairbanks, who was Theodore Roosevelt’s vice president.


Garnish: Cherry
Stir with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass.
Source: Henry Hoffman, bartender at McTague’s in St. Louis (July 20, 1907) according to the Chicago Tribune of July 22, 1907.

Origins of the Fairbanks Cocktail

The Fairbanks Cocktail is for the most part just a dry Martini with a dash of crème de noyeux, but instead of being served "up", it is served over crushed ice (aka. "frappe"). It isn't a very common cocktail at all, I first encountered it in Ted Haigh's "Vingtage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails". There, Ted refers to the drink as the "Fairbank" cocktail (no "s") citing that this is how it appeared in many of the earlier references. He also indicates that some references point to Douglas Fairbanks Sr. as the naming inspiration, but that others point to Charles Warren Fairbanks instead.

After a little digging, I found what appears to be the first reference and recipe for this drink in the Chicago Tribune of July 22, 1907, where on the bottom of the front page it contains this interesting little article:


Delicious Concoction Served as a Frappe, in Tall Thin Glasses, Appears in a St. Louis Cafe.


St. Louis, Mo., July 21. - [Special.] - St. Louis has the Fairbanks cocktail. It was invented last night at McTaque's. It is to be served as a frappe and is as cool as Fairbanks, and it has a cherry in it, too.

It was suggested not by the cold water dip the Vice President took in saving a waitress a watery grave, but by the one lone cocktail the Indiana man took at the dinner given to President Roosevelt.

Henry Hoffman, who wears a white apron, is the inventor. His formula is as follows:

One glassful of cracked ice, one third part of French vermouth, two thirds of dry gin, three dashes of creme de noyoux, a dash of orange bitters, a real cherry, and then some more ice - because it's a Fairbanks cocktail.

In honor of the vice president it is served in tall, thin glasses.

Which unloads a wonderful little story about this drink, and the political stresses of the vice president of the time. Charles Fairbanks was a teetotaling Methodist, but on Memorial day in 1907 he hosted a party, at which cocktails were being served. The Prohibitionist Party quickly condemned Fairbanks, and it was soon all over the papers, referred to as the “cocktail incident”. Just shortly thereafter in July, Mr. Fairbanks bravely jumped into Yellowstone lake to save a drowning waitress, unfortunately this act which could have revived his reputation was seen as just that, and act intended to revive his reputation.

The extra ice being referred to in the Chicago Tribune recipe is most likely to poke fun at the Yellowstone incident, and the mention of a “real cherry” is probably because of the news story that one of the other guests at the fateful party, Indiana Governor J. Frank Hanley insisted that he “did not even eat the cherry that lay in the bottom of the glass” (New York Times, 6 July 1907)

I also found this other interesting writeup which provides a few more details about this incident.