The Ideal Cocktail

This drink seems to have a long and rather varied history. It first appears in Hugo Ensslin’s 1917 tome, Recipes for Mixed Drinks. Therein, it is a simple 2:1 gin/sweet vermouth drink, with 3 dashes of maraschino liqueur and the “juice of a small piece of grapefruit,” which is great if you’re into vagueness. Harry Craddock gets more specific with 1930’s The Savoy Cocktail Book, where he calls for a tablespoon (or half an ounce) of grapefruit juice (fresh-squeezed, of course). By 1935, the drink was appearing in rather different form in a souvenir booklet from the famous Havana bar, Bar La Florida. Now it was 2:1 the other way, with vermouth being the dominant partner, but using equal amounts of sweet and dry vermouth. The grapefruit juice was up to 3/4 of an ounce, and the maraschino up to a teaspoon. Apparently, whenever Hemingway didn’t have a daiquiri at La Florida, he had one of these instead (although I think I’ve read the same thing about various other drinks, so take that with a grain of salt.)

I went with the Savoy version, although if I had had any dry vermouth in the house I would’ve used the La Florida recipe. Anyhoo.

The Recipe:

1.5 ounces gin

.75 ounces sweet vermouth

.5 ounces fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice

3 dashes (3/8 tsp.) maraschino liqueur

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a nut. (I didn’t, because that’s nuts.)

Ideal Cocktail

Given the ingredients, I was pretty excited about this one. Frankly, it sounded delicious. Also, I’d finally found some yellow grapefruits, instead of the pink/ruby red ones that have become so ubiquitous. But alas, everything seemed to be at odds. The drink pulled out a number of bitter notes from the vermouth, grapefruit, and maraschino – but these ingredients also all have sweet notes. They got pulled out too, and put over here in a sort of perfume swirl, while the bitter notes stayed over there somewhere. In other words, it didn’t gel. Instead of everything coming together, it came apart. So “ideal” really isn’t the best name for this drink. But I think I will revisit it and try the La Florida version at some point. With the Savoy recipe, three livers – barely.


2 thoughts on “The Ideal Cocktail

  1. I made this drink over the weekend with a few tweaks and I thought it turned out to be very delicious. I used 1 1/2 oz. of Ransom old tom gin, 3/4 oz. Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and 1/2 tsp Luxardo maraschino liqueur (no grapefruit juice). Stir and strain over one large ice cube in a dbl rocks glass. Express the oils from a grapefruit peel and drop it in for garnish.

    I thought the old tom gin and sweet vermouth played well together. I didn’t want any juice, but I still wanted the essence of grapefruit, so just expressing the peel was perfect. It seemed like a one large ice cube kind of drink, so I went that direction and it pulled it all together.

    Great posts. If you try my version, please let me know your thoughts. -Mike

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