Tag: cocktail

20th Century Cocktail

c. 1934
Creator: C.A. Tuck, London

Though created in England, it’s likely that this drink was named after the Twentieth Century Limited, a train that ran from New York’s Grand Central Station to Chicago’s LaSalle Street Station from 1902 until 1967, though perhaps it was merely named after the then relatively-new century. If it was named after the train, it was probably Howard Hawks’ 1934 film Twentieth Century, starring John Barrymore and Carole Lombard, and which featured Barrymore riding the aforementioned train, that brought it to the attention of the British bartender. The recipe for the 20th Century first surfaces in 1937, in the Café Royal Cocktail Book by William J. Tarling, president of the U.K. Bartenders’ Guild and head bartender at London’s Café Royal.

This is almost certainly the finest of the cocktails created in London during Prohibition, and in my opinion one of the greatest of all cocktails, period. It’s been long overlooked primarily because until recently half its ingredients were unavailable, but you can at last find them all and tasting this drink in its true form can be revelatory in understanding just how massive a difference using the correct ingredients can make in crafting a cocktail. Make this drink with Lillet Blanc and any créme de cacao other than the brand recommended below and the result will be an undrinkable swill; make it correctly and the result is sublime.

The unusual mixture of lemon and chocolate makes for a perfect foil for the botanical nuances of the gin, and the quinine bite of the Kina perfectly rounds out the flavors. Note that the brand suggestions given below are requirements and not suggestions in this case. Tempus Fugit’s is the only palatable créme de cacao currently in existence, and their Kina L’Aero d’Or is likewise the closest to the long-unavailable Kina Lillet. As is often the case with recipes that historically called for Kina Lillet, modern recipes will often incorrectly call for Lillet Blanc in its place. Don’t be fooled. Replacing Kina Lillet in a drink with Lillet Blanc is the equivalent of making a gin and tonic with club soda in lieu of tonic water. While it may be difficult to track down the Tempus Fugit spirits, the search is well worth it for this drink alone, although you can make dozens of other drinks using cacao and kina.

1.5 oz. London Dry Gin
.75 oz. Tempus Fugit Kina L’Aero d’Or
.75 oz. Tempus Fugit Créme de Cacao
.75 oz. Lemon Juice

Directions: Shake vigorously with ice and strain

Glass: Cocktail Coupe

Garnish: Express a lemon peel over the drink, rub it around the rim of the glass, and drop  it into the center of the drink.

Tasting Notes: This is a full-bodied, and almost savory cocktail, with a medium finish. The cocoa flavors round out the drink, and mask much of the lemon’s acidity, while the quinine’s bitter snap appears mostly at the finish. The gin’s botanicals are present, but so well mixed by the interplay of flavors that one can be forgiven for not realizing this is a gin cocktail.

Cocktail à La Louisiane

c. 1890
Restaurant de la Louisiane, New Orleans

This is a lesser known but equally wonderful New Orleans cocktail. It’s a sort of meeting point between the venerable Sazerac and the Vieux Carré. Stanley Clisby Arthur, in his 1937 recipe book Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em, this was the house cocktail at the Restaurant de la Louisiane, “one of the famous French restaurants in New Orleans, long the rendezvous of those who appreciate the best in Creole cuisine.”

1 oz. Rittenhouse 100-Proof Rye
1 oz. Bénédictine
1 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1/8 tsp. Herbsaint
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

Directions: Stir in an ice-filled mixing glass and strain

Glass: Cocktail Coupe

Garnish: Maraschino Cherry

Tasting Notes: The rye of course stands out, but the Bénédictine offers some sweetness, which itself is mitigated by the presence of the vermouth. The resultant cocktail is complex and crisp, with a slow finish.

Emerald Cocktail

Pre-1914
Origin Unknown

This is the Green Chartreuse version of the Alaska Cocktail, and much of what is written there applies to the Emerald as well. Note that the warning regarding the high potency of the Alaska is even more relevant here, as the gin in this drink is actually watering down the drink, as Green Chartreuse is a robust 110-proof spirit.

3 oz. London Dry Gin
1 oz. Green Chartreuse
3 dashes Fee Bros. Orange Bitters

Directions: Stir in an ice-filled mixing glass and strain

Glass: Cocktail Coupe

Garnish: Express a lime peel over the drink, rub it around the rim of the glass, and drop it into the center of the drink.

Tasting Notes: All the crispness and juniper notes of a classic martini, with a deep herbal punch, and a silkier mouthfeel. The high-proof is masked a bit by the blend of complex flavors, but you definitely know you’re drinking an alcohol-only cocktail as you knock back this one.

Alaska Cocktail

Pre-1914
Origin Unknown

Next to nothing is known of the origins of the Alaska Cocktail. I first discovered it in the famous Savoy Cocktail Book of 1930, in which the author jokingly writes that the Alaska name suggests the cocktail originated in South Carolina. While Alaska was not yet a U.S. state, it’s possible the territory was well-known enough to have a drink named for it. As this cocktail is best served as icily cold as possible, it does deserve the name of a frigid region, but we don’t know for sure.

My own opinion, based entirely on guesswork, is that it was the inevitable result of bartenders experimenting with the substitution of liqueurs for vermouth in a Martini. The recipe is identical to that of a Martini, save for Yellow Chartreuse replacing dry vermouth. As you delve into the more obscure cocktail recipes, you’ll find that there are a number of cocktails that fit this formula. The Emerald comes to mind– that’s the Alaska’s sister cocktail, which swaps higher-proof, and less sweet, Green Chartreuse for the Yellow.

Be forewarned: the Alaska can be something of an addicting cocktail. Upon my discovering it, it quickly became my go-to drink for the next few months. It offers all the gin-forward notes and flavors of your favorite gin, but with the appealing sweet herbal goodness of Chartreuse. Also note that this drink is more potent than a Martini. As strong as it is, a Martini is at least cut in strength by the presence of the lower-proof vermouth. Yellow Chartreuse is an 80-proof spirit, just like gin, so this is 3 ounces of high-proof booze. Imbibe with caution!

3 oz. London Dry Gin
1 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
3 dashes Fee Bros. Orange Bitters

Directions: Stir in an ice-filled mixing glass and strain

Glass: Cocktail Coupe

Garnish: Express a lemon peel over the drink, rub it around the rim of the glass, and drop it into the center of the drink.

Tasting Notes: All the crispness and juniper notes of a classic martini, with an added herbal sweetness around the edges, and a silkier mouthfeel.