Joseph "Joe" Patrick Gilmore
Born(1922-05-19)May 19, 1922
Belfast, Northern Ireland
DiedDecember 18, 2015(2015-12-18) (aged 93)
Occupation(s)Bartender and mixologist
Known forHead bartender of the Savoy Hotel American Bar
SpouseMarie Zambelli
AwardsLifetime Achievement Award - Mixology Bar Awards

Joseph "Joe" Gilmore (19 May 1922 – 18 December 2015)[1] was a renowned bartender and famous mixologist during the 20th century. He was Head Barman at The Savoy Hotel's American Bar from 1954 to 1976 and is recognised as the creator of numerous cocktails to mark special events and important guests, a longstanding tradition at the American Bar. Gilmore's most famous creations include Moonwalk, Link-Up, The Corpse Reviver, Lorraine, and Missouri Mule.

Early life

Joseph Patrick Gilmore was born on 19 May 1922 in Belfast, Northern Ireland to John Gilmore, a tobacconist, and Margaret O'Connor, a teaching assistant, originally from Wicklow, Ireland.

He was the third of nine children.

In 1938, at age 16, Gilmore moved to London looking for work and "adventure".[2] He began working as a wallpaper packer at the Arthur Sanderson & Son's factory in Perivale, London, later moving to a Lyons Corner House as a kitchen hand.[3]

Gilmore began his early bartender training at La Coquille, a French restaurant on St Martin's Lane, Covent Garden and The Olde Bell at Hurley.[3] While working at The Olde Bell he met and served Welsh millionaire steel-baron Kenneth Davies and the aviator Amy Johnston. The couple reportedly asked Gilmore for a dry martini, which he attempted unsuccessfully. Despite his attempt being enjoyed by the couple, Davies and Johnston politely demonstrated the correct way to make a dry martini. Gilmore cited this interaction as the spark that fuelled his passion of cocktail mixology.[3] After this first encounter, Davies and Gilmore became life long friends.[3]


Gilmore first began working at The Savoy as a commis waiter at The American Bar.[4] By 1940, at age 18, he was promoted to trainee barman and began his apprenticeship with Harry Craddock, earning £3.10s a week.[5][6]

Craddock spent many years living and working in the United States.[7] While working in a variety of establishments such as Cleveland's Hollenden Hotel, New York's Knickerbocker Hotel and Hoffman House, Craddock learnt cocktail making, known then as 'American' drinks in Europe.[8] Craddock left the United States during the Prohibition in 1920, and moved to London and The Savoy Hotel.[9]

In 1954, Gilmore took over as head bartender at The Savoy's, American Bar. Over the following two decades Gilmore created new cocktails, especially to honour special occasions and important guests, including Princess Diana, Prince William, Anne, The Princess Royal, The Queen Mother, Sir Winston Churchill, and American Presidents Harry S. Truman and Richard Nixon.

For much of the 20th century, The Savoy's American Bar was an exclusive meeting place for the rich and powerful of Britain and the world. In addition to serving five generations of royals at private receptions and parties, Gilmore frequently served Winston Churchill, Errol Flynn, Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Grace Kelly, George Bernard Shaw, Ernest Hemingway, Noël Coward, Agatha Christie, Alice Faye, Ingrid Bergman, Julie Andrews, Laurence Olivier, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.

During World War II, Winston Churchill frequented the American Bar regularly. He had his own entrance and kept his own large bottle of Black & White whisky behind the bar. When Gilmore created a cocktail in his honour, Churchill gave him one of his cigars.[10]

Gilmore was a goodwill ambassador for The Savoy at the time, which lead him on numerous trips throughout Europe, the United States and Canada, and regularly appeared on radio and TV chat shows.[11]

In 1969, he created one of his most famous cocktails, the "Moonwalk", to commemorate the Apollo 11 moon landing. The cocktail is a combination of grapefruit juice, orange liqueur and rose water, topped with champagne. This was the first drink astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had upon returning to earth.[12]

In 1975 he created the "Link-Up" to celebrate the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project, the first crewed international space mission carried out jointly by the United States and the Soviet Union. The cocktail is a shaken combination of Southern Comfort, Russian vodka, and a teaspoon of lime juice.[13] When the astronauts were told the cocktail was being flown out from London to be enjoyed upon their return, they said, "Tell Joe we want it up here".[14]

When the breathalyser was introduced in Britain, Gilmore was interviewed on NBC in New York. He was asked if the new technology had affected business, in which he responded “Not here, all our customers are chauffeur-driven”.

Frank Sinatra was a frequent guest to the American Bar whenever he was in London and insisted only Gilmore was to serve him. It is widely believed the line from Sinatra’s One For My Baby "set’em up Joe" is in reference to Gilmore.[15]

Gilmore retired from the Savoy in 1976.[2]

Personal life

Joe Gilmore married Marie Jeanne Zambelli in 1943. They had three sons, Joseph, Brian and Anthony.

During The Blitz, Gilmore took on the role as a fire warden on the roof of The Savoy.

Gilmore never returned to in Ireland, but "Gilmore never forgot his Irish roots or family background and never lost his soft Belfast accent."[16] Gilmore grew up and remained a Roman Catholic throughout his whole life.

See also


  1. ^ Nincevich, Stefano (23 December 2015). "Peter Dorelli e il "suo" Joe Gilmore". Retrieved 28 January 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Joe Gilmore, barman - obituary". The Telegraph. January 15, 2016. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d "Cocktail king Joe Gilmore, Belfast's barman to the stars". The Irish News. 2016-01-16. Retrieved 2023-02-09.
  4. ^ "Joe Gilmore". Retrieved 2023-02-10.
  5. ^ "Cocktail king Joe Gilmore, Belfast's barman to the stars". The Irish News. 2016-01-16. Retrieved 2023-02-10.
  6. ^ "Bartender to royals, politicians, world leaders and celebrities". Belfast News Letter. Retrieved 2023-02-10.
  7. ^ Williams, Olivia (2014). Gin Glorious Gin:How Mother's Ruin Became the Spirit of London. London: London: Headline Publishing Group. p. 199. ISBN 978-1-4722-1534-5.
  8. ^ "Harry Craddock", Wikipedia, 2023-01-02, retrieved 2023-02-10
  9. ^ "Harry Craddock", Wikipedia, 2023-01-02, retrieved 2023-02-10
  10. ^ "Cocktail king Joe Gilmore, Belfast's barman to the stars". The Irish News. 2016-01-16. Retrieved 2023-02-10.
  11. ^ "Cocktail king Joe Gilmore, Belfast's barman to the stars". The Irish News. 2016-01-16. Retrieved 2023-02-10.
  12. ^ "Moonwalk". Saveur. 2019-03-18. Retrieved 2023-02-13.
  13. ^ "Link Up | Local Cocktail From London". Retrieved 2023-02-13.
  14. ^ "Cocktail king Joe Gilmore, Belfast's barman to the stars". The Irish News. 2016-01-16. Retrieved 2023-02-10.
  15. ^ "A final toast to Ireland's cocktail king". Irish Echo Newspaper. Retrieved 2023-02-13.
  16. ^ The Newsroom (2016-01-20). "Bartender to royals, politicians, world leaders and celebrities". Retrieved 2023-02-09.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)

Further reading