Imagine that it is December 31st, 1900. You are having a lobster dinner at Café Martin on Madison Square, New York City. It is 9:30 PM and your waiter approaches your table to announce that for the balance of the evening it is “Champagne Only”. Lobster and champagne until the early hours of the morning!
As the Industrial Revolution had created a middle class, a middle class that had just completed an underground subway and painted the New York landscape with skyscrapers, it has been reported that the sale of champagne soared from 6 million bottles in 1850 to 28 million bottles by 1900. Café Martin, which had opened its doors in 1899 by the two Martin brothers, soon became a place where the eager youth of the day and the wealthy elite could mingle.
The Martin Brothers appreciated the bubbly drink, keeping between 70 to 200 Champagnes on hand at any one time and Café Martin soon became an ideal spot for men to entertain their mistresses. At a time when single women were refused admittance at most dining establishments, all women – single or coupled – were welcomed at Café Martin. One of the Brothers, James, even went so far as to challenge New York City’s ban on public smoking by women and on one New Year’s Eve instituted a “holiday gift”, declaring that women would be allowed to smoke inside Café Martin.
Coinciding with the popularity of “champagne menus”, the 1st Times Square New Years Eve celebration was held in 1904, with the 1st “ball drop” in 1907, adding to champagne’s popularity. But it was not merely in NYC that New Years Eve champagne toasting became prevalent. Roaming from house to house on New Year’s Eve was a European tradition and became commonplace in many cities throughout the United States, with the full expectation that you would be invited in for a drink! What better way to celebrate the New Year than to pop a cork!
Café Martin, as well as most of the other “lively” Madison Square establishments, were forced to close their doors because of prohibition. But the French wine was here to stay and today an estimated 50 million bottles of champagne are popped each year on New Year’s Eve. So if your neighbor stops by this New Year’s Eve, pop a cork and continue the tradition.
We at Dixie Mechanical wish you and your families a prosperous and safe new year.