This is the site of the once famous Hustler's tavern (no longer standing) where legend says the cocktail was invented. This popular establishment was one of Lewiston's original buildings and was the social hub of the community. The owners, Thomas and Catherine Hustler, led colorful lives and enjoyed hosting famous celebrities. What became of the tavern has been lost to history.
As it looked 20 years ago. Sketch by Rich DeCorse.
The Place Where the Cocktail was invented.
Catherine Hustler said, "it warms both body and soul and is fit to be put in a vessel of diamonds." Lewiston was burned to the ground in 1813 when the British attacked. But strong evidence indicates the Hustler's tavern was left standing. Why? Some speculate that British officers remembered too many good times they had at the Tavern while sipping a "cocktail" — a drink that the owner, Catherine Hustler is credited with inventing. Many years earlier when she stirred a "gin mixture" with the tail feather of a stuffed cockerel (a young male of the domestic fowl.)
The story goes that the American soldiers had raided a British commissary and brought Catherine some fowl which she roasted. for the feast, she decorated all the bottles and jars in the tavern with tail feathers. One guest called for a glass of the cocktail, and hence, the name was born.
The Hustler's Pioneer Legacy.
Thomas and Catherines Hustler were among Lewiston's earliest settlers. Thomas died in 1821, and Catherine continued to operate the Tavern until she died in 1832. They are buried side by side in the Village Cemetery next to the First Presbyterian Church. The epitaph on Catherine's stone reads:
Traveler, as you are passing by
As you are now, so once was I
As I am now, so you must be;
Prepare for death and follow me.
Famous Author Pens America's First Widely Circulated Novel Here at Hustler's Tavern.
James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) was a prolific and popular American writer of the early 19th century. His first book in 1820, the Precaution, was a flop and he was criticized because of its unpatriotic slant. Cooper, who had been a midshipman in the U.S. Navy, was stung by the criticism and he was determined his next book would breathe the very spirit of patriotism. He came to Lewiston for an extended stay in 1821 to write The Spy and was a frequent visitor at Hustler's Tavern. He befriended the owners. Thomas and Catherine Hustler, and was so amused by their personalities he included the couple as the characters Sergeant Hollister and Elizabeth "Betty" Flanagan, in his new novel.
The Spy became the first American novel to achieve a wide circulation. he referred to Hustler's Tavern as "Hotel Flanagan," and described Catherine's character Betty by saying, "Her faults were, a trifling love of liquor, excessive filthiness, and a total disregard of all the decencies of language; her virtues, an unbounded love for her adopted country, perfect honesty, and a great good nature.
"Betty had the merit of being the inventor of that beverage which is so well known, at the present hour, to all the Patriots who make a winter's march between the commercial and political capitals of this great state, and which is distinguished by the name of 'cocktail.'"