The Story Behind This Famous Cocktail Is a Total Hoax

The Story Behind This Famous Cocktail Is a Total Hoax

The cocktail is real. The colorful story behind it? Not so much.

By Drew DiSabatino

We’ve all told a lie or two (or a hundred) in our lives. Maybe you told a date that the undercooked chicken piccata they made you was soooo good and definitely did not give you food poisoning. Maybe you shaved a couple pounds off when the DMV asked for your height and weight. Maybe you claimed to make your pasta sauce from scratch when you were getting a little bit of help from the jars in aisle 3.

Whatever it was, it’s unlikely it ever altered the trajectory of your life, let alone got recorded in history books. The same cannot be said for Adam Seger, a bartender who, according to The New York Times, spent the last 20 years fabricating the extravagant historical background behind his now famous cocktail.

After becoming the manager of bar and restaurant operations at the historic Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1995, Seger claimed to have discovered a recipe for a drink on the back of one of the hotel’s hundred-year-old menus. He recreated the drink, known as the Seelbach cocktail, and as it grew in popularity so did the story behind its discovery. Seger claimed its creation came after a honeymooning couple stopped by the hotel in 1912: “The man ordered a Manhattan, the woman a Champagne cocktail. The clumsy bartender, spilling the bubbly into the Manhattan, set the mess aside and made the drinks anew.” The spill supposedly then inspired the bartender to go on and create the aforementioned Seelbach.

Recently, however, Seger has admitted that the entire story behind the drink, recorded in books like “New Classic Cocktails” and “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails,” and in countless articles, is a lie.

In Seger's mind it was simply a way to promote both himself and the historic hotel that F. Scott Fitzgerald was known to patronize. Claims Seger “I was a nobody…I wanted it to be this promotion for the hotel, and I felt the hotel needed a signature cocktail," Seger said, as quoted in the New York Times. Based on the popularity of the cocktail, it’s safe to say it worked.

While it’s not as bizarre a hoax as the “world’s most exclusive restaurant,” or as misleading as putting “natural” on food labels, a lie is still a lie.

Fortunately, it’s probably not the first one ever told in a bar. 

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