The Story of Cincinnati's Most Famous "Mixicologist"
A portrait of Christopher F. Lawlor from his 1895 book, The Mixicologist
Imagine the colossal, gleaming Eiffel Tower in the midst of the prominent, bustling city center of Cincinnati. Okay, maybe that’s a bit ambitious, but in the late 1800s, Cincinnati was nicknamed the “Paris of America” primarily due to its grand architectural projects including Music Hall, Cincinnatian Hotel, and Shillito’s Department Store. In the 1890s, there were over 1,800 saloons in downtown Cincinnati. With so many drinking establishments in the city, it’s impressive and practically unheard of to be the most famous bartender in Cincinnati at that time, but Christopher F. Lawlor was exactly that! He worked at The Grand Hotel on Fourth and Central and the historic Burnet House on Third and Vine.
Images of the Burnet House from the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library
Designed by architect Isaiah Rogers, The Burnet House opened on May 30, 1950. The hotel boasted 340 rooms, a grandiose ballroom, and a tall rotunda. It was considered one of the finest hotels in the world.
When the hotel was first built, it was situated away from the commercial and mercantile center of the city. Instead, it was in the midst of an up-and-coming, respectable residential neighborhood. As a result of rapid urban development, the Burnet House during its prime stood within the business and retail heart of the city. This was during a time when Cincinnati grew into a “walkable city” with the addition of inner-city transportation.
Abraham Lincoln stayed at the historic Burnet House (twice!) while campaigning for the Republican Party on September 17-18, 1859, and during his inaugural journey to Washington, D.C. to be sworn in as the sixteenth president of the United States of America on February 12, 1861. He stood on the hotel balcony facing the river and delivered an address to assembled Cincinnatians about his desire to abide by the Constitution on the issue of slavery. On March 20, 1864, Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman met in Parlor A to coordinate their campaigns against Richmond, Virginia, and Atlanta, Georgia, leading to a Union victory in the Civil War. Jenny Lind, Sara Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde, James Buchanan, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and other notable figures also stayed at the Burnet House.
During the 1880s and 1890s, Christopher F. Lawlor was the chief bartender at this fine establishment. Lawlor was well-known among the businessmen of Cincinnati. He edited a weekly newsletter about wine and spirits titled “Hotel Echoes” and earned the nickname “The Prince of Mixicologists” during his time at the Burnet House. His great experience in the bar and restaurant business led to the first cocktail book published in Cincinnati, titled The Mixicologist or How to Mix All Kinds of Fancy Drinks. The book was published in 1895 and revised yearly afterward.
An except from The Mixicologist
In his book, Lawlor shared wise words of wisdom for the hospitality industry. And at Japp’s, his philosophy is the center of our beliefs!
“If to ‘tend bar’ consisted of only filling up glasses thoughtlessly and pushing them out to customers carelessly, it would not be proper to speak of it as a polite vocation and a fine art… But I place it among the more elegant employments of life, and to be a successful bartender requires the exercise of those finer faculties that distinguish the cultured artist from the inexperienced,” he wrote.
The Burnet House was permanently closed on July 15, 1926, and demolished later that year.
In his personal life, Christopher was married to Agnes E. Lawlor. The couple had two children, Mary and Hoey. At the turn of the twentieth century, Lawlor left the bartending business to pursue publishing and moved to Cleveland. He died suddenly of apoplexy (an old term for a stroke) on June 11, 1901. His wife, Agnes, died in 1923. Today, C.F. Lawlor is buried in the Saint Joseph New Cemetery on Cincinnati’s West Side.
His legacy lives on in Cincinnati… you can find many of his historic cocktail recipes at Japp’s in OTR! Japp’s specializes in cocktails that originated in the 1700s to 1950s. Just ask our bartenders to whip you up a special concoction!