The White Lion cocktail could be described as a rum daisy, with powdered sugar, bitters, curacao, raspberry syrup and decorated with fruit of the season. I noticed that it kept coming up in the old books, but I'd never heard of it outside of historical references. I did not know it was such an old recipe, and was surprised to find it "on the list" in this interesting account from 1855, of life in the then still-young city of San Francisco, California.
Published in 1855 in Hinton Rowan Helper’s “The Land of Gold: Reality versus fiction”
"The grog-shops or tippling-houses constitute the last but not the least prominent feature of Montgomery street that we will notice at the present time. The devil has certainly met with more than usual success in establishing so many of these, his recruiting officers, in this region; for we cannot visit any part of the state or city without finding them always at our elbow. San Francisco might allot one to every street corner in the city, or in other words, four to every intersection of the streets, and still her number would not be exhausted. It is astonishing what an amount of time, labor and money is misspent in this nefarious traffic. Out of the two hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants in California, from twelve to fifteen thousand are exclusively engaged in this diabolical, but lucrative business ; and, what is worse than all, nearly one-fourth of the bars are attended by young females, of the most dissolute and abandoned character, who use every device to entice and mislead the youthful and unsuspecting, "Women being somewhat of a novelty here, their saloons are always thronged with customers, many being induced to patronize them merely for the sake of looking at them. What a base prostitution of their destiny and mission ! Woman has come here, not only to pander to man's vitiated appetites, but also to create and foster in him unholier desires, and, if possible, to lead him further astray than he would have gone without her.
Lest we should fall in love with one of these sirens, we will not go near them, but will enter one of the saloons kept by a biped of our own sex.
Across the street is a large and fashionable one, called the Blue Wing,
" Where politicians most do congregate,
To let their tongues tang arguments of State."
Adding ourselves to the number of its inmates, we find the governor of the State seated by a table, surrounded by judges of the supreme and superior courts, sipping sherry cobblers, smoking segars, and reveling in all the delights of an anticipated debauch. Another group of less distinction in public affairs, but better known , to the proprietor because of their more frequent and protracted visits, occupy a second table in the back part of the room, where they are playing cards and carousing over a general assortment of distilled, fermented and malt liquors. The proprietor himself is a red-nosed, jolly fellow, of burgomaster proportions, generally in a good humor, who treats his victim-patrons with the utmost courtesy and politeness. He is every man's man, and always has a smile and a smart saying prepared for the entertainment of the bystanders. His two clerks, for he is unable to wait upon all his customers himself, are equally urbane in their deportment, and may be found at their posts from six o'clock in the morning till twelve o'clock at night, ready to flavor and tincture mixed drinks, to prepare hot punches, and to deal out low anecdote to vulgar idlers. On the shelves and counters are dozens of labeled decanters and bottles, filled with the choicest liquors and artificial beverages that the world produces; other articles of similar use and value are also kept for sale, and stored away in their appropriate places. As a minute survey of the bill of fare may not be uninteresting, I herewith present it:—
BILL OF FARE OF A CALIFORNIA GROGGERY.
Bowie Knives and Pistols.
The annual consumption of beer, wines and liquors in this State exceeds five millions of gallons, a vast deal of which is retailed at extraordinarily remunerative rates. All of the first class establishments, I mean those that deal in good qualities, charge twenty-five cents for every drink or dram they sell; but an adulterated article, of which there is always an abundant supply in market, can be procured at about one half that price. In some of the most popular and respectable saloons, genuine articles are always kept on hand for the benefit and accommodation of those who are willing to pay for a delicious (?) draught. I may not be a competent judge, but this much I will say, that I have seen purer liquors, better segars, finer tobacco, truer guns and pistols, larger dirks and bowie knives, and prettier courtezans here, than in any other place I have ever visited; and it is my unbiased opinion that California can and does furnish the best bad things that are obtainable in America."
The drink was known well enough in 1862 to make Jerry Thomas's first edition.