This drink was almost certainly named after Paul Hardcastle’s 1985 hit single of the same name, the title of which referenced the average age of the American combat soldier in Vietnam. Oh no, wait. This drink came much earlier, first appearing in (as best I can tell) The Savoy Cocktail Book. A slightly different version (substituting Boker’s Bitters for absinthe and adding a cherry garnish) appeared four years later in Patrick Gavin Duffy’s Official Mixer’s Manual, and then it seems to more or less disappear from the record. A drink called the Nineteen-Twenty Cocktail hews fairly closely to the Nineteen’s recipe, so maybe this was originally called the Nineteen-nineteen Cocktail? One can only speculate without doing further research.
1 dash absinthe
1 oz. French vermouth (Contratto)
1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. Kirschwasser (a very dry eau-de-vie cherry liqueur not dissimilar from maraschino)
4 dashes (1/2 tsp.) simple syrup
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
I made this partially because the clock was ticking on my open bottle of vermouth, but also because, frankly, it sounded pretty good. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. While for once the absinthe doesn’t take over, the drink just doesn’t really come together. I kept picking up strong vanilla notes, which I don’t think were coming from any one ingredient but were rather the result of the mixture. But they were vanilla notes similar to what you might expect from a vanilla extract that had been made from rotten vanilla beans. There was just something off about the whole thing, an odd amalgam of sweet and bitter notes without much of an alcohol bite. Two rather disappointing livers.