The Silk Hat, Palm Springs 1930s
Once located on iconic Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs, The Silk Hat bar was a drinking establishment with a sense of humor.
This menu comes from the 1930s and warns that drinks not listed on the menu, which was in the shape of a red top hat, would be mixed at your own risk. It listed the proprietor as a character called ‘Greasy Lee and Creditors,’ implying that the bar’s finances weren’t in great shape.
Further, in adverts we found published in The Desert Sun in the 1930s, they used the term ‘mixologist’ to describe barman Andy Davis and mentioned someone called Mike Healy as the ‘barfly.’ Was barfly a term for the number two helper or was it referring to the bar’s most faithful customer?
Cocktails cost between 25c to 45c and included a Mamie Taylor, a combination of whisky and ginger beer that was popular in the first half of the 20th century. Named for an actress and singer of the era, it was likely the predecessor to the Moscow Mule, according to experts. There was also the intriguingly named Beauty and The Beast cocktail, the house special for 25c. Wine cost 15c a glass and beer was 10c.
Another Silk Hat opened 90 miles away in the desert resort of Lake Arrowhead which had a cocktail lounge and a dining room overlooking the lake.
We believe proprietor Greasy Lee was Lee Humber, who gained notoriety by driving a gasoline-propelled puddle-jumper or motorised scooter in Palm Springs, against the local statues, and ended up being charged with reckless driving and driving without a license. Adverts for the Silk Hat in 1936 announced ‘no more Greasy Lee to haunt you while you eat … but still the same insane atmosphere tho.’
The Silk Hat was demolished to make way for the Desert Fashion Plaza shopping center that was popular in Palm Springs from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Courtesy Private Collection.
Each order includes a print of the interior menu.