Maud Loty inspired what might be the most Parisian crime spree of all time.
A Bordeaux-born vaudeville comedienne, thespian Maud Loty (nicknamed “La Maud”) starred in dozens of hit plays throughout the 1920s and ’30s. In her most famous act, Loty’s impish heroine trained a perfumed terrier to wander into the arms of rich men, who’d chivalrously return the “lost” pet to its comely owner—then promptly get fleeced of their cash. The con caught on.
“The underworld saw an opportunity here, and the courts soon had to deal with many similar cases in real life,” wrote The San Francisco Examiner in 1929. One bachelor who’d seen the show called out a woman who tried the trick on him during his stay at a luxury hotel. The grifter admitted “that she got the idea from Maud Loty,” the bachelor told the newspaper. “‘She says the girls are all doing it.’”
Loty’s infamy also bled into the bar world. Compiled by playwright Georges Gabriel Thenon under the nom de plume Rip, the 1929 manual Cocktails de Paris features a drink created by Loty: Et Moi Je Te Dis … Maud, three parts Armagnac to one part each maraschino liqueur and Izarra Jaune, an obscure Basque spirit.
An unabashed Francophile, the Brooklyn-based spirits educator and consultant Franky Marshall first came across the drink while researching old Armagnac cocktails. Unlike Cognac, there aren’t many canon recipes celebrating the other French brandy, which is typically more robust than its refined cousin thanks to the use of different grapes, a single distillation method (Cognac goes through two rounds) and unique Gascon terroir. “The fact that it was a three-ingredient cocktail added to the appeal,” says Marshall.
Maraschino will be familiar to many Americans, but Izarra, the third piece of the puzzle, might not be. A specialty of the Basque city of Bayonne, the 80-proof liqueur is imbued with a secret blend of indigenous herbs, spices and botanicals, available in both Vert (green) and Jaune (yellow) expressions. That last quality will be immediately familiar to fans of Chartreuse, which is also available in those two shades. To Marshall, the yellow version of the Gallic liqueur turned out to be a natural replacement for Izarra, which is not available in the U.S. “One thing that both yellow Izarra and [yellow] Chartreuse seem to have in common is pronounced honey notes,” she says.
Together, Loty’s trio of ingredients yields a rich, enveloping result, with “pronounced baking spice, almond, cacao and wet-grass-on-a-summer’s-day notes,” observes Marshall. This has inspired a personal flourish: a healthy dash of cinnamon-fig bitters, adding after-dinner appeal that will speak to “the brown-and-stirred contingent.”
The original drink, which earned Loty first place in a 1929 celebrity cocktail competition, took its name from a revue staged the same year, penned for her by Cocktails de Paris author Rip. It translates to, “And me, I’d tell you … Maud,” but conversationally, it can be understood as “That’s Maud for ya.” Think shrugging, mischievous resignation in response to outlandish but on-brand behavior, the “It’s Britney, bitch” of its era.
Celebrated for her peculiar persona and especially her flashy fashion sense, “Almost everything Loty did in the old days set a fad,” according to a 1946 profile in the Examiner. “When it became known, for example, that she slept without a nightgown, the lingerie business found itself with a major crisis on its hands.”
Though she invented cocktails and endorsed brands like Campari at her peak, alcohol, sadly, was responsible for the collapse of Loty’s once-stratospheric acting career. But while the actress drank away the roles, her sartorial presence never wavered. Later in life, she often was spotted in the streets of Montmartre, draped in her signature panther coat, still rocking expensive handbags, heels and a full face of makeup.
“Her story is not an unfamiliar one to any of us who have an artistic background,” says Marshall. “I’m happy to know that even when past her prime, she was still shopping for groceries dressed to impress.”