The London Cocktail

Have you ever been to a deli or restaurant that is really old, and keeps copies of old menus on the wall? I’m thinking about Musso and Frank’s in LA; they have a huge menu from the 1920s (or so) hanging up near the rear entrance, and it’s got all kinds of horrible things on it like liver and onions and tongue sandwiches, and chicken livers with your eggs for breakfast. Because, yeah, people used to eat stuff like that.

Now, some of these vintage cocktails feel perfectly modern; they translate just fine to a contemporary audience. This isn’t necessarily to say that they’re on the weaker side, or the sweeter side, although sure, sometimes they are. Something like the Paradise Cocktail – it’s light, it’s easy, it doesn’t make any undue demands on the palate.

But other drinks feel, well, kind of like you just had a tongue sandwich. Not that they’re disgusting, as I must assume a tongue sandwich is (and I’m never going to find out one way or the other), but they just feel kind of like, “Damn, that’s an old-timey kind of a thing right there!” It’s perhaps a bit nebulous to try to describe, but, like pornography, you know it when you see it (no, it doesn’t link to anything more unsavory than the Wikipedia entry for an Eisenhower-appointed Supreme Court Justice). Or, more accurately, taste it. I wonder which tastes worse, pornography or a tongue sandwich?

The Recipe:

2 dashes orange bitters

2 dashes simple syrup

2 dashes absinthe

1/3 gin

Shake with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Wait, what? 1/3 gin? 1/3 of what? Sometimes, the Savoy leaves the niceties of detail well out. A little research suggests that an unaccompanied 1/3 in the world of old-timey mixology is equal to 3/4 of an ounce. Anyway, that was the best I could come up with to go on. And since 3/4 of an ounce is, well, just not enough, I doubled everything.

The Recipe As Made

1/2 tsp. orange bitters

1/2 tsp. simple syrup

1/2 tsp. absinthe

1 1/2 oz. gin

Shake, etc.

London Cocktail

With the touch of absinthe, it winds up looking a lot like a gimlet – if you make a gimlet with that terrible swill from Rose’s. Anyway, the London Cocktail is pretty solid. There’s nothing surprising about it – it tastes like sightly sweetened gin with a bit of absinthe and orange bitters in it. Orange bitters, by the way, are really very bitter – much more bitter than your standard aromatic bitters. I might suggest cutting them down to 1/4 tsp. or even cutting out the simple syrup and orange bitters entirely and using Cointreau or another sweetish orange liqueur. In any case, four livers. If you want something that, at least in the inexplicable vagaries of my mind, is going to approximate what the kind of person who would have eaten a tongue sandwich in the 1920s might have drunk, you could do worse.


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