The Story of The Three Emmas Cocktail

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Cheers Blog

Here’s a cocktail tale for the upcoming International Women’s Day. The Three Emmas at San Antonio’s Hotel Emma represents a scandalous story of love, betrayal and murder.

The Hotel Emma is located at the Historic Pearl and housed in a former brewhouse; the Pearl Brewery was founded by Otto Koehler in 1883. Otto’s wife, Emma Koheler, was injured in a car accident in 1910, so he hired a live-in nurse to help—a young, attractive nurse also named Emma. She was nicknamed Emmi, but let’s call her Emma II. Otto and Emma II soon began an affair.

Emma II had a friend, a tall blonde who was also a nurse and also named Emma (Emma III). Otto set the two Emmas up in a little house and soon was having affairs with both of them.

One fall afternoon in 1914, Otto went to visit the nurses. An argument ensued, and Emma III shot and killed Otto with a .32 revolver. Charged with murder, Emma III fled to Europe to nurse WWI casualties. She did, surprisingly, return to San Antonio in 1918 to stand trial; the all-male jury found her not guilty.

Emma II reportedly married and dropped out of sight. As for Emma I, after Otto’s death, she took helm of the brewery and ran it successfully—even through Prohibition. The hotel is named Emma in her honor and opened three years ago on Nov. 12, the anniversary of Otto’s death.

About the Three Emmas cocktail: According to the hotel, the Pearl beer and rose cordial represents Emma I, the strong wife who ran the brewery after her husband died. The Amontillado sherry represents sweet Emma II, who wasn’t willing to marry Otto and ran off; and The Botanist Gin represents Emma III, who shot Otto.

I have a few questions about this part. For one, why does the presumably low-proof beer/rose cordial represent the strong Emma I?

And why would “sweet” Emma II want to marry Otto when he was 1) already married, and 2) having an affair with her friend? Also, why does a nice botanical gin represent the murderous Emma III (even if Otto probably did get what was coming to him)?

Anyway, if you’re in San Antonio, the Three Emmas is available in the hotel’s Sternewirth tavern and club room. Here’s the full recipe.

The Three Emmas
1 oz. Pearl beer and rose cordial
1 oz. Amontillado sherry
¾ oz. The Botanist gin
½ oz. Lemon juice
½ oz. Grapefruit juice

Shake all ingredients together and strain into glass over fresh cracked ice. Garnish with a basil leaf.

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