Until Next Time: Downton Abbey


Presentation at the Palace.  "Presented, photographed, done." Says Lady Grantham with relief. Photo credit:  ITV for MASTERPIECE

Presentation at the Palace. “Presented, photographed, done.” Says Lady Grantham with relief.
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

It’s hard to believe that Season 4 is over.  PBS decided to start and end the season with 120-minute episodes which in effect made the season only 8 episodes long.

The finale offered us plenty of the eye candy that we love about Downton Abbey:

  • Gorgeous 1920s costumes, replete with feathers, furs, beading, elaborate embroidery, fanciful hats, gloves, beaded bags, diamond tiaras, diamond headbands

Lady Dudley-Ward is absolutely gorgeous and naughty (by not-so-secretly dating the Prince of Wales.)
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

  • New interiors and London locations, including our first look at the Grantham’s London town home
Sumptious interiors at Grantham House in London (actually Blynford..) Photo credit:  Vanity Fair

Sumptuous interiors at Grantham House in London (actual location: Basildon Park.)
Photo credit: Vanity Fair


The interiors for Grantham House were actually shot one hour outside of London at Basildon Park, a Georgian mansion surrounded by acres of parkland in Berkshire. The house was built from 1776-83 and was rescued by Lord and Lady Iliffe in the mid 1950s. The house today is a re-creation and restoration of the 18th-century mansion.

Aunt Rosamund’s London town house interiors were shot at West Wycombe Park, a country house near the village of West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, England, built between 1740 and 1800. It was conceived as a pleasure palace for the 18th-century Sir Francis Dashwood, 2nd Baronet.

West Wycombe Park

Many conversations take place in Aunt Rosamund’s London drawing room (actual location: West Wycombe Park)


Exteriors were shot in London and much care was taken by the production company to choose locations that didn’t show any signs of modernity (paved streets, advertisements, modern lighting etc.)  Read this excellent article from behind the scenes at the London locations “Downton Abbey: London is the Star of the Show” for some more scoop.

  •  And let’s not forget the pomp and circumstance!  The debutante ball at the palace, Lord Grantham in court uniform, the processional, the King and Queen, and all of Rose’s parties, dances, balls, and club outings.
Rose, whatever you do, don't trip! Photo credit:  ITV for MASTERPIECE

Darling, this is costing us a fortune.  You should be kind to marry very well.
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE


Hello your Royal Highnesses.  Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE


Read more about the London debutante season in this great article by Dawn Aiello. Young aristocratic ladies were brought into London from their country estates and presented to society at court.  The season lasted for months and the girls were feted all about town with luncheons, dances, balls, parties, formal dinners, and approved cultural outings so they might meet marriageable young men.

Mrs. Patmore would have been tasked with keeping up a long stream of goodies for guest breakfasts, luncheons, teas, formal dinners, and the ‘at homes’ where the presiding lady of the house would entertain guests with late-night buffet suppers, music and dancing.


Here are some of our Downton-inspired Corks & Cakes posts for your review:



And some heartier fare:

When you talk like that, I'm tempted to ring for Nanny and put you to bed with no supper. Photo credit:  ITV for MASTERPIECE

“When you talk like that, I’m tempted to ring for Nanny and put you to bed with no supper.”
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE


I’ve enjoyed chronicling the season and the era for you.  In fact, I might just keep up these Sunday Downton posts because there’s so much more to write about.

Let me ask you:  which character will you miss the most until next season?  (The Dowager Countess is everyone’s favorite, my guess!)

You can follow her on Twitter @theLady Grantham

Here’s a fun You Tube video:  Sh!t the Dowager Countess Says

What other Downton Abbey-related posts would you be interested in reading on Corks & Cake?

Downton Abbey Goes Clubbing: Jazz & Cocktails

Lady Rose-Downton-Abbey-jazz-band-leader-dance

Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

It’s the Roaring Twenties and Lady Rose is determined to break away from aristocratic stuffiness and go dancing to the latest music and tipple some hip 1920s cocktails. (Teenagers!)

Prohibition in America inspired bartenders (were they called mixologists back then?) to come up with some interesting creations to mask the taste of hastily made, illegal hooch (or so the story goes.) 

All the rage in American clubs and speakeasies, the cocktail culture infused the social lives of Brits across the pond and Europeans on the continent.


Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

Lord Grantham:  “Can I tempt you to one of these new cocktails?”

Dowager Countess:  “I don’t think so. They look too exciting for so early in the evening.”

According to Jared Brown, in his article “The Surprising History of the Cocktail,” American Bar nights were popular and hotels and restaurants in London caught on to the trend.  None were as influential as the one at The Savoy where a female bartender (yay 1920s feminism!) developed this cocktail: 

Hanky Panky

This classic cocktail recipe is credited to Ada Coleman, head bartender at the American Bar in The Savoy in 1925.

  • 1 1/2 oz. gin
  • 1 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Fernet Branca
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: orange twist

Stir ingredients well in a mixing glass and strain into a chilled glass. Twist a small swath of orange peel over the surface of the drink.

Adapted from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh

Fernet Branca (which I had never heard of until researching vintage cocktails) is described as a bitter, astringent spirit from Italy – not one I’m keen on trying.

So in the spirit of Lady Rose, Lady Edith, Lady Mary, jazz, dancing, and breaking free of social norms, “Sex in the City-style,” I mixed up a very modern:

Blood Orange Cosmo

Cocktails 1920s

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich



  • 6 parts vodka
  • 6 parts cranberry juice
  • 2 parts Triple Sec
  • 1 part blood orange juice
  • 1 part lime juice, fresh-squeezed

Fill a shaker with ice cubes.  Add all ingredients.  Shake and strain into cocktail glasses.

A very good libation to precede some ‘hanky panky’ even if the cocktail is not named that.

(Credit for cocktail recipe: Absolut Vodka).

Photo credit:

Shall we have Hanky Panky cocktails or champagne?
Photo credit: Nick Briggs for MASTERPIECE


For an excellent resource on vintage cocktails I recommend:

“The 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book



Tune in January 19, 2014 to your local PBS station for Episode 3, Season 4.







Off to the Races! Preakness 2013


Black Eyed Susan Punch

Pitcher of Black-Eyed Susans, the official drink of the Preakness.
Photo credit: Allison Beuker

Unlike the title says, we’re actually staying home on Saturday. But we’re going to pretend we’re there when we drink the official drink of the Preakness, the Black-Eyed Susan.

I found at least three vastly different variations of the cocktail (or should we call it a punch since it’s mixed in a batch?) and it appears there are many more.  The current Official Black-Eyed Susan at the 2013 Preakness site calls for Finlandia vodka, St. Germain liqueur, lemon juice, lemongrass and blackberry simple syrup, Angostura bitters, and a sage leaf garnish.  Say what??  That would send us packing for the liquor store with another stop at the grocery store and no, we are not doing that.  Another so-called official recipe from racing yore called for whiskey, vodka, sweet and sour mix, and orange juice.

Photo credit:  Allison Beuker

Photo credit: Allison Beuker

We prefer the simple one below.  We have all the ingredients and it tastes really good.

From The Washington Post in 2006.


1 1/4 cup vodka
1 1/4 cup light rum
3/4 cup triple sec
Juice from one lime
4 cups orange juice
4 cups pineapple juice
Lime slices

Chill all ingredients. Combine in a punch bowl or pitcher. Serve over ice in tall glasses or punch glasses. Makes 10 large or 20 small servings. Garnish with a slice of lime.

Photo credit:  Allison Beuker

Photo credit: Allison Beuker


Maryland has a deep horse breeding and racing history.  The Maryland Jockey Club was founded in Annapolis in 1743.  That’s more than 30 years before the start of the Revolutionary War.

According to Wikipedia it is chartered as the oldest sporting organization in North America.  The Maryland Jockey Club is still the name of the company that runs the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore (opened in 1870), the Laurel Park Racecourse (opened in 1911) and the Bowie Race Track (opened in 1914; ceased operation as a track in 1985;  now a training center for thoroughbreds.)

George Washington was said to have frequented the race track meetings in 1762-1773 (when he wasn’t attending to the business of founding the country and dealing with the interference of the French and Indian War.)

Okay you culinary sleuths and history buffs out there, what was George drinking at the Pimlico Race Course in the mid 1700s?  We bet it wasn’t vodka and St. Germain liqueur.

Two more interesting facts I learned while writing this post:

  • Since rudbeckia (the black-eyed susan flower) doesn’t bloom in Maryland until June, the flower blanket that is woven and placed over the Preakness-winning horse in May is made with Viking daisies whose centers have been painted black.
  • Even though we think of Kentucky as being the center of thoroughbred horse racing, many, many thoroughbred breeders, trainers and owners who have run horses in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont are generations-old Marylanders.

Cheers all and place your bets,






Classic Mint Julep, 1937


Photo by Allison Beuker.


Vintage cookbooks and especially community, church, and Junior League recipe collections offer a lens into the food culture of the time–what was fashionable, what was available, and what was deemed good enough for “company” or for at least putting forth for a fundraiser for your church or social group.  One thing I love reading through are the recipes for punch and cocktails.  I love that the recipes usually have the name of the contributor as part of the title: “Sue Emory’s Eggnog” for example. It makes me think: Who was Sue? Was her eggnog really good? Did she throw the best Christmas party? Did Bob the tee-totaller get sauced on her eggnog and end up wearing the lampshade on his head in 1952?



Photo by Allison Beuker.

The best old recipes have excellent ‘head notes’ (you know, those descriptions preceding the ingredients that tell you the why, what for, provenance, special notes or anecdotes about the recipe to follow.) Read the head note and if makes you want to try the recipe right then and there, then it’s a good one.


Doesn’t this make you thirsty?
Photo by Allison Beuker.

A little late for Derby Day, I know, but this recipe for a Mint Julep from “Queen Anne Goes to the Kitchen, Third Edition” produced by The Episcopal Women of St. Paul’s Parish of Centreville, Maryland is a gem. Produced for the tricentennial of the founding of St. Paul’s Parish (that’s 300 years ya’ll), this church cookbook has some of the most pithy and interesting head notes I’ve ever read and some of the best Old-School recipes for classic Chesapeake cooking.

So with no further introduction, I give you “Mint Julep” reproduced in its entirety.

This recipe is extracted from a letter of Colonel S.B. Buckner, Jr., U.S. Infantry, Ft. George G. Meade, MD, to Major General William D. Conner, West Point, NY, dated March 30, 1937.

cool, clear spring water (bottled)

lots of fresh mint
a good Kentucky bourbon
sugar bowl
row of silver goblets and spoons

In a canvas bag pound twice as much ice as you think you will need. Make it fine as snow and keep it dry.

In each goblet put a heaping teaspoon of sugar, barely cover with spring water and slightly bruise one mint leaf into this mixture, leaving the spoon in the goblet. Pour bourbon to make about 1/4 full. Wipe goblet dry and embellish copiously with mint.

Then comes the important and delicate operation of frosting. By proper manipulation of the spoon, the ingredients are circulated and blended until the goblet is encrusted with frost.

Colonel Buckner ends: “Thus harmoniously blended by the deft touches of a skilled hand, you have a beverage eminently appropriate for honorable men and beautiful women.”

” When all is ready, assemble your guests on the porch or in the garden, where the drama of the juleps will rise heaven-ward and make the birds sing…Being overcome by thirst, I can write no further.”


–S.B. Buckner, Jr., Col., U.S. Infantry


Vintage sterling shot measures.
Photo by Allison Beuker.

Integral to the enjoyment of Mint Juleps, in addition to the fine technique instructions of Colonel Buckner (above), the fine company to drink them with, and the wrap-around porch, are the accoutrements that go with making them.  These vintage sterling shot measures are engraved with ‘Little Shot’ (1 oz. marked on the bottom), ‘Just A Shot’ (1 1/2 oz on bottom) and ‘Big Shot’ (marked 2 ounces on bottom.)

The Colonel’s cocktail instructions just say to fill your silver goblet up 1/4 way with bourbon after your shaved ice and muddled mint are in.  The amount of bourbon would depend on the size of your goblet (and here we photographed some genteel sterling punch cups). We can imagine the Southern porch parties gone awry as characters mix their own bourbon and ice ratios.  In fact, I’m sure great Southern novels came out of that phenomenon.