There's no shortage of classic cocktails connected to pop culture, and the Fluffy Ruffles is just one among many. It's a simple drink, just rum and vermouth, but there's so much more to it. Seemingly named for the ruffles and pleats around the bottom of a fancy dress, the Fluffy Ruffles was actually named for a 1907 comic strip character of the same name. Then again, maybe it was named for the Broadway play based on the comic.
Movie and show producers often name cocktails after the latest production, and it's no different with the Fluffy Ruffles. Probably. We don't really know. What we do know is that it appears in Harry Craddock's Savoy Cocktail Book, but it's certainly not Craddock's creation. It was a known cocktail at the time, having also shown up in a 1917 publication, Recipes for Mixed Drinks, about 10 years after the popularity of both comic and play. We'll go with the oral tradition here and accept that it was likely also known in 1917.
Cocktails, or anything named for popular stuff isn't so named 10 years after the fact. Fluffy Ruffles was a sensation for a brief time in 1907 and 1908, a flash in the pan maybe, but an important one. Created by poet and writer, Carolyn Wells, Fluffy's story was told in verse under the full page illustrations of Wallace Morgan in the New York Herald. The strip was a huge hit right from the start, and for all of 1907 her story played out week after week in full color.
Fluffy Ruffles was printed in color, in 1907. Not only that, Fluffy Ruffles was the first serial comic. There have been plenty since then, but Fluffy's life and antics was the first. The idea of a female protagonist in the media wasn't new, the Gibson Girl was, by Fluffy's time, well established, but, unlike the Gibson Girl, Fluffy had a job.
Fluffy had lots of jobs, actually. Her whole story was about finding work and paying rent and looking fabulous while doing it. She was the embodiment of Edwardian style, often drawn with enormous feathered hats and magnificent dresses. It was her working class appeal that sparked her popularity, and by the end of 1907 there were more than a few young women sporting the Fluffy look. The Herald even ran contests to find the perfect real life Fluffy. So nuts was everyone for Fluffy Ruffles that a musical based on the story appeared on Broadway in 1908.
In reality, Fluffy Ruffles was nothing like the Gibson Girl. The Gibson Girl was elegant, sophisticated, independent, and quite well healed. The Gibson Girl didn't work because she didn't have to, but Fluffy did. The only thing Fluffy has in common with the Gibson Girl is that they are surrounded by stupid men. In the world of the Gibson Girl, men are considered, in Charles Dana Gibson's words and under the title of one collection, the Weaker Sex, but in Fluffy's world, men are much less elegantly assigned a supporting role, making her more like Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie. Unlike Carrie, who has to deal with sweatshops, lechers and turn of the century urban life, Fluffy is safe on the pages of the Sunday paper where the graphic detail of social injustice is reserved for the editorial columns and sensational muckraking headlines. Where Carrie, a self centered seemingly unfeeling and amoral character when measured by the standards of her time who becomes a saint, a champion and an astonishing success, made her way by working in unspeakable conditions, pulling herself above it by manipulating the men, often married, who played her and paid her, living life on her own terms and eventually becoming a star on the New York stage while her latest, final conquest finds only financial ruin and suicide, Fluffy teaches children and wonders about a new hat. Even so, the men in Fluffy's world are no different, just adorned with poetic innuendo.
Stories of social injustice, especially those either directly or indirectly possessed of sexual tension are always hits and hits often become movies, or, in 1908, stage plays. Fluffy had made it to the biggest stage of them all, just as Carrie had, but there's a drink named for Fluffy because her work, or what we know of it, is much more suited to a mainstream narrative. The Gibson Girl has a cocktail, too, much for the same reasons, but it's doubtful we'll be drinking a Sister Carrie anytime soon.
In the end, the Fluffy Ruffles cocktail was the Cosmopolitan of it's time, only where a much similar character (maybe not so ironically named Carrie) from the 1990s drank Cosmos, Fluffy never enjoyed an eponymous cocktail. Instead, it got named after her, and that does sort of fill in the blanks about where the drink came from. The drink, like the character, is very much of its time. A stirred drink of equal parts rum and vermouth, a variation of a Manhattan, it's as pre Prohibition as it gets. There's nothing special going on here, it fits the profile of an early 20th century drink, and it still works. It's not an elegant thing, it's an urban thing, and like the character for which it's named, proves that you can be both working class and fabulous.
Stir with ice and serve up. Garnish with a lime twist or piece of lemon.
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