A History Lesson With Booze

A Moose-Sized Broadway Flop

This week back in 1983 a legendary play opened on Broadway… not legendary in a good way. Hear why theaterfolk still talk about “Moose Murders,” then throw tomatoes after sampling the distasteful cocktail it inspired.

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Neilson Barnard/Getty
Neilson Barnard/Getty

Way before “Spiderman: The Musical,” there was “The Moose Murders.” The show was a mystery/farce written by a guy named Arthur McNeill. Today, theater-goers remember it fondly as the biggest flop in Broadway history.

The signs were there, even before opening night. Originally, the play was supposed to feature movie star Eve Arden. Her first Broadway appearance in forty years. After the first preview, she quit. Arden was replaced, but to judge by the reviews, the script should have been, too.

According to The New Yorker, the show would, “Insult the intelligence of an audience consisting entirely of amoebas.” The New York Times imagined audience members would hold “Periodic reunions in the noble tradition of survivors of the Titanic.”

“The Moose Murders” lasted one day. Its opening night was also its closing night. But the show has achieved showbiz immortality. It’s still invoked as the standard by which all flops are judged. As for McNeill, he has made peace with the play. A couple of years ago, he told The Times he was writing a book about it. In his own words: “If you can’t redeem, exploit.”

“The Murdered Moose”

Created to be an intentional flop of a drink by Jason Woodruff, bar manager at Joe Allen restaurant in NYC’s theater district, the home of The Flop Wall.

  • 2 oz. black Sambuca
  • 1 oz. Rose’s Lime juice
  • 1 oz. olive juice

Shake everything over ice to chill. Pour into martini glass with salted rim. Garnish with cocktail onion and a cherry. Sip, then regret having done so.

Bonus Cocktail: “The Chocolate Moose”

Jason also gave us a far more palatable “Moose Murders”-inspired drink that’s better than the subject matter merits. Consider it a major rewrite.

  • 1.5 oz. Stoli Vanilla
  • 1 oz. Godiva Chocolate liqueur
  • 1/2 oz. Van Gogh double espresso vodka
  • touch cream
  • touch Chambord

Shake over ice. Drink until “Murdered Moose” taste has been entirely erased from your mouth.