So you've been doing the cocktails-at-home thing for a while, and now it's time to stretch your legs a bit and try some new drinks. This week, I've gotcha covered with a collection of ten delicious historical cocktails that go beyond the basics—the Martinis, Daiquiris, Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, and other old standards. Most (if not all) of these drinks are considered classics in their own right, but they're nevertheless largely overlooked. I recommend that you try them all and see how many you love.
The Bijou is a classic pre-Prohibition tipple The cocktail first appeared in Harry Johnson's 1900 book Bartenders' Manual, which means people were probably drinking these back in the late 1800s. The cocktail has a big, rich flavor and an herbaceous style that some drinkers find overwhelming but that others dearly love. I myself am in the latter camp.
Death in the Gulf Stream
An Ernest Hemingway original, consisting of malty genever, lime juice, Angostura bitters, and ... well, nothing. Okay, sugar if you must, but not too much. The world traveler, bon vivant, and raconteur Charles Baker encountered this drink while researching his Gentleman's Companion, and he writes of it: "Its tartness and its bitterness are its chief charm. It is reviving and refreshing; cools the blood and inspires renewed interest in food, companions and life."
I'll take two.
One thing I love about some of the older cocktail recipes: they have great names. The Hanky Panky has a great story, as well: it was invented by one of the few women known to have tended bar, pre-Prohibition, Ada Coleman, then at the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London. Be careful with this one, but not too careful. It calls for Fernet Branca, which of course isn't to everyone's taste. Here, though, it's used in such small quantities that its sharper elements are tamed.
We moved back to Brooklyn in 2012 after spending four years in Rhode Island. I took care of our son while my wife commuted to her job in Boston. So when it came time to file our taxes for the year 2012, we filed with the IRS, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York State. Oy. Let me tell you, I needed a cocktail or twelve. I filed in early February, and I still have a headache.
No one quite knows where and when the Income Tax cocktail originated; it's nothing more than a Bronx with bitters, but the added depth that the bitters brings to the drink really elevates the drink. Next time you have an irksome financial obligation—tax time or not—give this one a try.
I don't know why, but there aren't many cocktails named for athletes. Perhaps cocktails are thought to be too louche to be associated with athletics, but nevertheless, when you hear of one named for an athlete, it makes you take notice. Lucien Gaudin was a French fencer who competed at the 1924 Olympics in Paris and the 1928 games in Amsterdam, winning the gold both times. How or why he came to inspire a cocktail is unknown. The cocktail named after him is a cousin to the Negroni, with gin, Campari, Cointreau, and dry vermouth. If you enjoy a Negroni, you really should check this out.
I picked the Monkey Gland because it's a great drink, but I also chose it for its back story. Consider serving this one up at your next party, just so you can entertain your guests with a funny anecdote. The Monkey Gland is a Prohibition classic, devised at Harry's New York Bar in Paris in the 1920s. The name is a reference to a surgical procedure by a Dr. Serge Voronoff. For men with performance issues, Dr. Voronoff offered to implant in them the testicle of a monkey, for "rejuvenation," as he called it. That would make your George very curious indeed.
Don't let anyone convince you that this is a weak drink. It is certainly a pink drink, so if you feel your personality is somehow defined by the color of your beverages, perhaps this isn't for you. But the Pink Lady is not weaksauce in any way. With gin and applejack both, it's a boozy cocktail, and if you enjoy one, you'll feel it almost immediately. I wouldn't serve this at a party; the egg white, which is integral to the texture of the drink, would be a pain to deal with in bulk. But for those evenings when you're having a couple of adventurous friends over, this one's a great conversation piece.
Twelve Mile Limit
Yet another Prohibition-era drink. And here you thought you knew all the Prohibition drinks! The Twelve Mile Limit was one of a group of cocktails with names that poked fun at the Eighteenth Amendment, the Volstead Act, and the cluster of ancillary legislation that arose around them. Other cocktails in this series include the Scofflaw and the Three Mile Limit.
The Three and the Twelve grew out of two laws that were passed during Prohibition. You see, booze wasn't illegal only on American turf; it was prohibited at sea, as well, within a certain distance from the coast. At first, that distance was three miles. That is, if you were, say, transporting a shipment of rum from Cuba up north to Canada, you could do so legally as long as you were at least three miles from the shoreline.
So what's a sensible person to do? Take a boat out three miles and throw a party. The Three Mile Limit cocktail was born, a mix of rum, cognac, grenadine, and lemon juice. (The name was later shortened to the Three-Miler, and then tweaked somehow, to become the Three Miller.)
But it was too easy for bootleggers to row a boat out three miles to a waiting ship, offload illegal hooch into the rowboat, and return to shore under the cover of darkness. So the legal offshore distance became twelve miles, and a new cocktail was born.
The major difference between the Three and the Twelve? The Twelve adds rye whiskey to the mix. With rum, rye, and brandy, this cocktail is boozy as all get-out. Take too many of 'em, and you'll think you were floating twelve miles offshore.
Canadia represent! The Vancouver, named after the British Columbian megalopolis, riffs on the Martinez, calling for gin, sweet vermouth, and Benedictine. As Paul Clarke noted here in 2011, you can play with the flavor notes for this drink by trying various vermouths. He suggests Carpano Antica and Punt e Mes, both of which I support. I suspect that if you have access to an Old Tom gin, that might taste good here, too, thought you might have to dial back on the vermouth just a little; if anyone tries it, report in.
Just like with the Pink Lady, don't let this one's name fool you. This is a gin Sidecar, and as such, it's a spiritous drink. Try using a softer gin, such as Plymouth or Martin Miller's here, and like Marleigh Riggins Miller says in the recipe link, be sure to use actual Cointreau, rather than a cheaper triple sec. If you're a Sidecar drinker but think you don't like gin, this might change your mind.
How many of these drinks have you already tried? Any other forgotten classics you'd add to the must-drink list?