The night in Madrid has a place where it sits on the table. There, the glamor has created nights of freedom and excess. At this locale, people have left their mark like Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn, John Wayne, Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dali and Alexander Fleming. For decades it was the official bar of the Golden Hollywood stars and celebrities. Showmoon explores the moon that illuminated all of them in crazy nights at Museo Chicote.
Baudelaire believed that living drunk was life. A philosophy elevated to the category of art at the Chicote Museum nights, where bottles are revered above all else. The bar was born in 1931. Pedro Chicote, barman of the Madrid Hotel Ritz, opened its doors to put into practice the cocktail shaker that was acquired at the prestigious hotel.
Chicote was a born worker. He started working in a bar when he was eight years old. He had the mixology in his blood. He had the great idea of founding the first cocktails bar in the city as well as creating the first catering service in Madrid.
Ernest Hemingway’s Bar
The Spanish Civil War could be a major obstacle for any establishment, but not for Chicote. In the heat of the battle he cemented his legend through an immortal reporter. Dodging missiles of the Francoist side, Ernest Hemingway traveled the Gran Vía of Madrid from his lodging at the Hotel Florida, in Callao Square. There he found love with Martha Gellhorn.
Hemingway sat at the bar, wondering with the art-deco decor. There he spent hours enjoying the conversation of Pedro Chicote and especially his creations. Not a fan of sugar, he asked Chicote for a new sugar-free cocktail. The bartender presented him with one of his most legendary recipes: The Papa Doble. In it, he substituted sugar for maraschino liquor in a special Daiquiri. In Chicote he said one of his most mythical phrases: Food has something of poetry. Whenever digestion allows me, I dedicate myself to writing it.
His favorite cocktails traveled with him in one-liter thermos that he would take to the front of the battle or to the bedroom with his beloved Martha. Between adventures, he could spend hours drinking the wonders of Chicote. Once, after drinking 10 cocktails between 10 o’clock in the morning and 7 o’clock in the afternoon, somebody asked him, what was his secret to remain sober, he said: The secret is to drink standing up.
Being the only place open in the middle of the siege in the city, a legend was forged in its walls, which also involved adventurers like Errol Flynn.
The stories of Hem fostered an aura of legends in the 40s and 50s when the main celebrities of the world disembarked. Once they crossed through the doors, they could forget the harshness of the Spanish postwar period. Already turned into a museum of bottles, that came to hold more than 11,000, the price of its combined and cocktails were exorbitant at this time.
The Furtive Kisses of Ava Gardner
The movie stars, nobels, artists and writers were added to the usual clientele. In Chicote, you could share the night with the faces that were changing the world. One of the symbols of the bar was the diva Ava Gardner, “the most beautiful creaturel in the world” and the wildest. Between 1954 and 1968 she lived happily in Madrid. Her nights belonged to her lovers and the Museo Chicote.
Once she got off the plane at Barajas airport, an alcoholic marathon began and ended at Chicote. There, she lived nights of madness, surrounded by handsome gallants and many drinks. Among them was the bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín, father of singer Miguel Bosé, to whom she dedicated caresses and long nights of passion. In a place so frequented by stars, it was not strange that the fact came to the diva’s husband notice. Frank Sinatra got on a plane with an address marked in his notebook: Gran Vía, 31.
Frank wasn´t going to leave this situation alone just because he was on another continent. He entered the bar looking desperate for his wife. He found her in good company. The discussion became legendary in Madrid and ended with a shattered room in the Intercontinental Hotel, where Ava was staying and where the room is still intact.
However, both Frank and Ava shared a table many nights in Chicote. Nights of a lot of alcohol. In one of them, the actress told Chicote: This is a whores bar and I’m a whore. Glamor is sometimes not different from the language of the street. Other nights, she was more inspired and whispered: Chaining me here and I will make each of those bottles into dreams.
Say No to Sophia Loren
The great collection of Perico Chicote bottles were desired by the world’s fortunes. Jackie Kennedy’s second husband, the Greek shipowner Aristotle Onassis, placed a hefty offer that was rejected in the presence of Maria Callas.
There are two things I have always wanted in this world: my mother, who no longer has her, and my museum, which is not for sell. That was his response. The collection started in 1927, when Chicote were working at the Ritz. There, the ambassador of Brazil gave away him two bottles of Caçapa.
The museum and its wonders continuously circled the world. On a dream night Sophia Loren drank the delights of the bar with Cary Grant. The look of both rested on a porcelain bottle whose shape was an exact replica of the Italian´s body.
Sophia Loren insisted to her friend Chicote to sell her the bottle but there was an old rule in the bar: The bottles are neither given nor sold. The Italian star left very angry and her anger was immortalized in the Italian newspaper Il Matino with the unforgettable headline: Chicote Said No to Loren.
From her special seat in the bar, perhaps the Italian muse saw the only night that the rule was broken. The visit of Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, revolutionized Chicote. In gratitude to his discrovery, Perico gave him a Scotch Whiskey, that the researcher drank during his days as an Oxford student. Chicote had still fresh in his mind his memories of the civil war where he smuggled with this antibiotic into his club.
Nights with Bubbles
On other nights, the bubbles exhaled glamor and the fun inspired by hedonism and anonymity overflowed the old corsets. Actor Cary Grant enjoyed a unique evening among friends when he knocked down a piece of the bottle collection. Cary was deeply sorry for what happened but Chicote did not flinch. He accepted his apology and did not ask for a penny for the loss.
The actor, astonished by the gesture, looked for a while for the bottle. It was an indigenous liquor from the Fortunate Islands. It was very hard to find but he found it just in time to deliver it to an excited Chicote who reserved a place of honor among his bottles.
The discretion and charisma of the Madrid innkeeper were key to attract the celebrities of that time, always elusive with the press and privates. He knew how to impose himself with tact when the closing time was coming, just when it was more complicated to bring his illustrious parishioners back down to Earth. On occasion, he also knew how to forgive pending accounts. Few fights are remembered, which contributed to his image and his nickname: The Velázquez of the Cocktails.
Life in a cocktail
Not only great artists populated the night of this club, but great world leaders took a drink at Chicote. In 1959, Ike Eisenhower visited it, in an approach of the American government and Franco during the Cold War. Chicote offered him a tasty Valdepeñas that the old general savored with passion. Apart from the politics, the bar shone with the splendor of the stars.
Many artists were inspired by the place. One of them was Salvador Dalí, who spent hours scouring the shelves where the bottles of Chicote were crowded. The surrealism of its form and its origin made an impression on the painter from Cadaqués, Catalonia. Dali’s personality fit in the delights of Chicote’s nights even he was overshadowed by a cyclone named Lola Flores.
The visits of La Faraona, a famous singer in Spain, were habitual and had the power to transform a quiet evening into the revelry of the century. Only she was able to teach Spanish to Gary Cooper with a drink in hand. Besides him, she also tranformed Orson Wells into flamenco dancer. Lola was incredible on her crazy nights and she used to share secrets with Ava Gadner.
Nights of glamor were accompany by Audrey Hepburn at Chicote. The icon of elegance enjoyed Chicote’s cocktails with Mel Ferrer. At other tables of the premises, another illustrious couple, Grace Kelly and Rainier de Monaco, sipped their drinks.
Rita Hayworth, during the shooting of The Circus World, enjoyed the Madrid nightlife at Chicote with John Wayne and Claudia Cardinale. Although, who inspired Chicote was Bette Davis. The power of her eyes inspired a cocktail that she used to enjoy copiously.
Few people have dared to ask for a non-alcoholic drink at this locale. The legends of Real Madrid, Alfredo Di Stéfano, Molowny and Olsen, appeared before Perico Chicote and asked him a Coca-Cola. Chicote smiled at them and asked: Did you bring the recipe?
Another famous abstainer in the history of Chicote was the playwright Alejandro Mack-Kinley, who challenged the bartender to create a volcanic cocktail without alcohol. The result was the Mack-Kinley Cocktail, a true legend. It was so intense that it must to be accompanied by a sip of beer after drinking it.
The Endless Legend
After the death of Chicote in 1977, the magical club from Gran Vía changed. The businessman José María Ruiz Mateos took over the Museo Chicote and began to dismember the wonderful collection of Pedro Chicote bottles, something that ended up happening in the 80s when the government expropriated his RUMASA business group. The bottles were sold although there are rumors of a possible recovery of part of the collection.
After changing managers, it continued to welcome the faces of the Movida in the 80s and new world celebrities such as Antonio Banderas, Madonna, Penélope Cruz, Madonna, Pedro Almodóvar, Natalie Portman and Robert De Niro in the 90s and 2000s. Its magnetism continues intact and over the years has become an icon. One of the last crazy nights of this place was lived by Robert De Niro in Madrid when he met Pilar Bardem, mother of Javier, and Carmen Machi. From Chicote, a good party and a deep friendship between the actors emerged.
Sitting in those seats, so full of history of yesterday and tomorrow, dress in tails to serve us a cocktail. The nights dreamed by Chicote continue lighting the Gran Vía making sense the phrase of the great writer Miguel Mihura: I was born in Madrid because it is closest place to the Chicote Museum.
The place where sharing the night with history and the stars is routine.