The Trilby cocktail, which possibly takes its name from the same source as the fedora-like hat, George du Maurier’s 1894 novel of the same name (by way of a London stage adaptation)…man, this sentence has become too complex. Anyway. There are a lot of recipes for this thing, going back to about 1900 (further evidence to support the source of the name), and they can be very different. Harry Craddock (1930) includes two versions (this being the second), while Patrick Gavin Duffy’s The Official Mixer’s Manual (1934), which does to Craddock what Craddock did to so many earlier cocktail manuals, namely, rip it off, includes just this version (which he still calls No. 2). Mr. Boston’s 1935 manual, meanwhile, shows a Trilby as basically a Manhattan but with orange bitters. But this version caught my eye for a couple of reasons – first, it’s another of the fairly rare Scotch-based drinks, and second, it calls for Parfait Amour, and I’ve got a bottle of the stuff I need to use up before it oxidizes too much.
2 dashes orange bitters
2 dashes absinthe
1/3 Parfait Amour
1/3 Italian (sweet) vermouth
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
We’ve talked about Parfait Amour before; it’s basically Creme de Violette mixed with curaçao. And it’s really dark purple. Combine that with the golden hue of the Scotch and the dark red, almost black, of the Carpano Antica vermouth, and you wind up with this:
er…swamp water? Seriously, this is one of the ugliest, and therefore most interesting-looking, cocktails I have ever seen. Fortunately, it tastes a lot better than it looks. It’s pretty easy to pick out the individual flavors of the three main ingredients, with the bitters and absinthe just barely noticeable, and while I can’t say everything blends together, it does all get along pretty well. The bite of the scotch tempered by the sweetness of the Parfait Amour and the vermouth, which also lends enough bitterness to keep the drink from becoming too sweet. It’s borderline, but I’ll give it four livers.