Cocktails for Two

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
"Cocktails for Two"
Song by Carl Brisson
Songwriter(s)Arthur Johnston, Sam Coslow

"Cocktails for Two" is a song from the Big Band era, written by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow. The song debuted in the movie Murder at the Vanities (1934), where it was introduced by singer and actor Carl Brisson. Duke Ellington's version of the song was recorded in 1934 and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007.

The song seems to refer to the ending of Prohibition in the United States. Mentioned discreetly in the song's introduction is that people could be "carefree and gay once again". The song was written in 1934, and the 21st Amendment, which ended Prohibition, was ratified in December of the previous year.


Early recordings in 1934 were also by Johnny Green and Will Osborne[1] but "Cocktails for Two" is best remembered today due to the comic, sound effects-laden version by Spike Jones and His City Slickers. The Slickers first recorded it in 1944 with Carl Grayson supplying the vocal. It was their biggest all-time hit, reaching number 4 on the charts, according to Joel Whitburn. Sam Coslow hated Jones' irreverent treatment.[2] Even so, the recording's success earned him large royalties.[citation needed]

Jonathan and Darlene Edwards (a comedy act by Paul Weston and Jo Stafford) also lampooned the song on their first LP, The Piano Artistry of Jonathan Edwards, released in 1957.

Bing Crosby recorded the song in 1955[3] for use on his radio show and it was subsequently included in the box set The Bing Crosby CBS Radio Recordings (1954-56) issued by Mosaic Records (catalog MD7-245) in 2009.[4]

Other covers include Zarah Leander's Swedish version for Odeon in 1934, Tommy Dorsey's swing version for Victor (#26145) on October 31, 1938, Keely Smith's version on her album Politely! (1958),[5] and Ray Charles and Betty Carter for their album Ray Charles and Betty Carter (1961).

In popular culture[edit]

Stan Freberg used the verse of the song in an episode of his 1957 radio show, without going on to perform the chorus of the song. Freberg asked Billy May, the orchestra leader, why he stopped after the introduction, and May said it was because "everyone already knows the chorus of this turkey."[6]

From mid-2006, Spike Jones' version was featured in a British advertising campaign for Schweppes.

Alan Alda's character Hawkeye Pierce also hums a few bars of the song during the opening of Season 1, Episode 9 ("Henry, Please Come Home") of M*A*S*H.

In the 1961 World War II mistaken identity film farce, "On the Double," directed by Melville Shavelson, Danny Kaye stars in the dual role of an American Army private tasked with impersonating a British High Commander, also portrayed by Kaye, who, in the film, is the fictional chief architect of the plans for "Operation Overlord" (D-Day); the unsuspecting private is to be used as the unwitting decoy for the general, whom the Nazis have targeted for assassination, and as bait, to lure the German assassins into revealing themselves. In the course of his impersonation, Kaye's character is kidnapped by a pair of German spies, who were planted in the British Army in order to masquerade as the general's subordinates. As the British general, he is taken to the headquarters of German High Command in Berlin, for interrogation. Seizing the opportunity to escape, he keeps changing disguises to elude his dogged pursuers, while, literally, on the proverbial run: these disguises include his performing onstage, in costume, in a cabaret act as "Fräulein Lilli" (in the style of the performance by Marlene Dietrich as Lola-Lola in The Blue Angel) in a Berlin nightclub, singing a mash-up of the various running gag catchphrases that have been in use throughout the film, in a Germanized English word salad, all to the tune of the 1934 song "Cocktails for Two."

An episode of The Odd Couple (Season 5, Episode 6, "Strike Up the Band or Else") depicts Felix's amateur group "The Sophisticatos" performing the song with Tony Randall singing the lead, followed later in the episode by Pernell Roberts singing the lead with the same group.

Jimmy Fallon performed a lip sync of a portion of the Spike Jones version of the song on a segment on The Tonight Show.

A snippet of the song is heard in The Brave Little Toaster To the Rescue, when Radio (Roger Kabler) attempts to lull the animals to sleep only to have objects thrown at him.

In a BBC interview, Robbie Robertson cited the humor of the Spike Jones version as an inspiration for The Band's song "Up on Cripple Creek," in which the lyrics mention Jones.


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954. Wisconsin, USA: Record Research Inc. p. 456. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
  2. ^ Coslow, Sam (1977). Cocktails for Two: The Many Lives of Giant Songwriter Sam Coslow. Arlington House. p. 145. ISBN 0870003925. Retrieved 2013-05-10. ... the question I am most frequently asked is how I felt about Spike Jones's famous recording of 'Cocktails for Two' ... I hated it, and thought it was in the worst possible taste, desecrating what I felt was one of my most beautiful songs.
  3. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved December 1, 2017.
  4. ^ "". Retrieved December 1, 2017.
  5. ^ "". Retrieved December 1, 2017.
  6. ^ "The Best of the Stan Freberg Shows": Capitol Records WBO 1035 (1959); "Madison Avenue Werewolf": Capitol Records T 1816 (1963); "The Stan Freberg Show: Direct From The Famous CBS Broadcasts": Radio Spirits SFRD 1-4 (1997)

Further reading[edit]

  • Coslow, Sam (1977). Cocktails for Two. New York: Arlington House. ISBN 0-87000-392-5.
  • Young, Jordan R. (2005). Spike Jones Off the Record: The Man Who Murdered Music. (3rd edition) Albany: BearManor Media ISBN 1-59393-012-7.