Flipping through the copy of 1941’s Here’s How I recently picked up, I saw this one, and was reminded that it also appears in Ted Haigh‘s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails – albeit with a warning. That warning is to not use the recipe that appears in Here’s How. Haigh doesn’t cite that book specifically, but the recipe therein is the one he says will make for a “sickeningly sweet drink.” That recipe calls for equal parts of the three main ingredients – rum, sloe gin, and apricot brandy. Plus grenadine, for extra sweetness.
Anyway, this drink was my excuse to finally get myself a bottle of sloe gin – which isn’t really gin. Well, it sort of is. Sloes are a berry-like plum (or maybe a plum-like berry), generally considered too tart for eating. To make sloe gin, these fruits are soaked in gin (if you get a good brand like Plymouth – otherwise they’re probably soaked in neutral grain spirits) and sugar, resulting in a relatively low-proof (26% ABV in the case of Plymouth) liqueur. This stuff has been on my radar for over a decade – why I’ve never bought a bottle before now I can’t say. Inertia, perhaps.
Anyway, Haigh’s reformulated recipe for the Millionaire goes thusly:
The juice of one lime
1 1/2 ounces Meyer’s dark rum
3/4 ounce sloe gin
3/4 apricot brandy
Shake ingredients with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Perhaps fittingly, the end result looks not unlike prune juice. And it’s got a little bit of a prune-y flavor, although not in a bad way. With the rum and the lime juice, plus some sweet stuff (the sloe gin and the apricot brandy), this is another of those pre-Tiki cocktails that could easily pass, if served in a Tiki mug with some gaudy garnish, as a legitimate tropical libation. Even with Haigh’s altered recipe, this is still a sweet drink, but the lime sits underneath everything and seems to provide a whole separate channel of tartness. It’s hard to explain without comparing it to stereo sound, but there really do seem to be two completely separate and competing flavors here between the sweet and the tart, making the Millionaire rather unlike anything else I’ve ever had. On top of that, it’s pretty darn good. Four livers.