The Savoy Variations: White Lily Cocktail

I’m bored, so I’m taking random cocktail recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), giving them a try, and modifying/improving them if I think it’s necessary, and reporting my findings here.

White Lily Cocktail

[p. 176]

I opened the Savoy Cocktail Book randomly and there was the White Lily Cocktail. Wow, I thought, there is no way that this is going to be palatable. Rum + gin? And a dash of absinthe?

So I mixed up a small one, only 1/2 oz of each, so as not to waste the booze before tossing it into the sink.

In anticipation of having to do some radical revision of the recipe, I taste-tested the mixture even before adding ice (and stirring, not shaking — sorry, Savoy, we’re more civilized now).


It was delicious.

I was shocked. I chilled it, poured it, added a lemon twist to it. It was still delicious, bright and clear and tasty.

I offered it to my Lovely First Wife, who despises gin and boozy cocktails in general. She liked it.

How could this be? It should have been a boozy slug, yet here was this stupid recipe knocking it out of the ballpark.

I attempted a variation with a darker rum and Empress 1908 gin, but it was not better. (I shall continue exploring gin/rum combos, though.)

Next time I will try using the absinthe as a rinse so as to lower its bully quotient, but otherwise this one goes in my bar book.

Point to Savoy!


  • Savoy: 3
  • Dale: 2
  • Sink: 3

GUVCH: Salers

Last spring, as I played with the Savoy Cocktail variations, I used the Savoy’s Fernet Branca Cocktail as the starting point. It’s simple recipe: 1.5 oz gin, .75 oz each of Fernet Branca and sweet vermouth.

It was, as I expected, not at all to my taste, but it spawned a whole new zone of experimentation, which I am calling the Grand Unified Vecchio Cocktail Theory, in which you use the proportions of the recipe for the Fernet Branca cocktail and substitute another amaro.

Here’s where it got interesting:

Gin— Even if we ignore the subtle differences in different brands of gin, differences that I am too lazy to learn to distinguish with any refinement, we still have the different types of gin that we can play with:

  • London dry gin
  • old tom gin
  • Genever
  • botanical gin
  • barrel-aged gin

These different types involve dryness/sweetness, more or less juniper, added flavorings. Within those categories, of course, are scads of different brands of gin, of which I have about 30.

Sweet vermouth— Lots of these available, but I decided on three:

  • Carpano Antica
  • Cocchi di Torino
  • Punt e Mes

Again, the differences are in the herbals used.

Amari— Where do we begin? Whole books have been written about this category of herbal distillations. Suffice it to say that I have more than two dozen amari and have barely scratched the surface.

If we do the math, we have 5 [kinds] of gin x 3 vermouths x ≈24 amari, which gives us 360 possible combinations. The gin-loving soul thrills to the very idea.

I’ve had a blast testing out my Grand Unified Vecchio Cocktail Hypothesis [GUVCH], and the results are very promising. Here’s my most recent one.

Salers Cocktail

Salers is an aperitif, gentian-based, bitter and vegetal, with some citrus notes. I bought it recently because it was mentioned in a couple of recipes, and I decided to plug it into the GUVCH. The results were quite pleasing.

a cocktail coupe with a drink in it, backed by the bottles of the ingredients used: Salers Aperitif, Cocchi di Torino vermouth, and Hayman's Old Tom ginSalers is unusual for the GUVCH since it is a clear aperitif, while most amari that I have are darker.

  • 1.5 oz gin, in this case an Old Tom gin
  • .75 oz Cocchi di Torino vermouth
  • .75 oz Salers Aperitif

Stir with ice, strain into a coupe. Garnish with lemon zest.

It is light and refreshing. You’ll want more than one.

The Savoy Variations: Honeymoon Cocktail

I’m bored, so I’m taking random cocktail recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), giving them a try, and modifying/improving them if I think it’s necessary, and reporting my findings here.

Honeymoon Cocktail

[p. 82]

This one turned out to be a winner, but it took some figuring. The original recipe confirms my suspicion that most of these 700+ recipes were just quick slugs for the Bright Young Things who splashed into the Savoy before heading out to the jazz clubs — no self-respecting bartender these days would publish a recipe with no actual measurements.

  • The Juice of ½ Lemon
  • 3 Dashes Curaçao
  • ½ Bénédictine
  • ½ Apple Brandy

There’s a note: “Some sensitive bartenders think it is more tactful to substitute orange juice.”

What? What kind of arch dig is this, and toward whom is it directed?

Never mind, we have to figure out what the heck to pour here.

Half a lemon? How big a lemon? How much juice do you want me to pour, Harry Craddock?

Pretty sure the curaçao called for here is the sweet stuff that I have eschewed in favor of the Dry Curaçao you see in the photo, but again, how much is three dashes? I actually have a set of measuring spoons for tiny amounts, and a dash is 1/8 tsp, so… 3/8 tsp?  That doesn’t seem enough.


The good news is that my first all-over-the-place interpretation was a winner. Here you go:

Honeymoon Cocktail (adapted)

  • ¾ oz lemon juice
  • ⅛ oz Dry Curaçao
  • 1 oz Bénédictine
  • 1 oz Apple Brandy (Calvados)

Shake with ice, strain into coupe. I’d probably garnish with a lemon twist.

Let’s give this point to Savoy (with an asterisk, since I had to interpret it and it’s probably not the same cocktail served by Savoy).


  • Savoy: 2
  • Dale: 2
  • Sink: 3

The Savoy Variations: Fernet-Branca Cocktail

I’m bored, so I’m taking random cocktail recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), giving them a try, and modifying/improving them if I think it’s necessary, and reporting my findings here.

Fernet-Branca Cocktail

p. 70

I figured I was going to hate this one before I even started: Fernet Branca, while a darling of professional bartenders[1], tastes gross to me. And indeed, the cocktail was just nasty.[2]

  • ¼ Fernet-Branca
  • ¼ Italian (sweet vermouth)
  • ½ dry gin

There is a note beneath the recipe: “One of the best ‘morning-after’ cocktails ever invented. Fernet-Branca, an Italian vegetable extract, is a marvellous [sic] headache cure.”


But what if you used one of the other amaros/bitters?

I randomly chose Vecchio Amaro Del Capo, which I think I bought because it appeared in some recipe I wanted to try, but with which I am not overly familiar — and it worked. It’s slightly sweet, not overly bitter, and way better than the mentholated cough syrup known as Fernet-Branca.

Vecchio Amaro Cocktail

  • ¾ oz Vecchio Amaro Del Capo
  • ¾ oz Italian (sweet vermouth)
  • 1 ½ oz dry gin

Much better, and worth repeating. I may make further adjustments to its balance, play with the gin involved, etc. If so, I’ll report back.


  • Savoy: 1
  • Dale: 2
  • Sink: 3


[1] Personally, I think it’s one of those in-group things; they all take a shot of Fernet-Branca as a gesture of solidarity, and then they grimace as they clink shot glasses.

[2] You may very well like Fernet-Branca. If so, I will say that the original recipe will probably delight you. Plus, what is wrong with you?

New Cocktail: Margarita Rosa

This one was by accident.

See, I get multiple emails with cocktail recipes, and I transfer any that I think I’d like to try to a word processing document which, when it’s full, I print out and take downstairs to my cocktail lab in the kitchen.

Tonight I tried the Quill, a combo of gin , Campari, and sweet vermouth. It was good. But then my eye fell on a bottle of key lime juice in the refrigerator, and I bethought me of margaritas, specifically one I invented several years ago which involved an arból chile tincture.

Alas, the chile was too much — I think I used too much — so my brain decided to remix the thing with Campari instead.

Oh my.

Margarita Rosa

  • 1.5 oz reposada tequila
  • 1.5 key lime juice
  • .25 oz agave syrup
  • .25 Campari
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • splash of blood orange bitters
  • lime, salt

Rim a highball glass with a lime wedge and salt. (I used a lime salt.)

Splash the blood orange bitters into the glass.

Pour the other ingredients into a mixing glass and stir (to dissolve/mix the agave). Add ice and stir to chill. Pour into the glass.


This was quite tasty. Nice balance of sweet, tart, and bitter. I’ve had three.

The Savoy Variations: Fair & Warmer

I’m bored, so I’m taking random cocktail recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), giving them a try, and modifying/improving them if  I think it’s necessary, and reporting my findings here.

Fair & Warmer

p. 68

I’m sure the whole “proportions-not-amounts” thing makes sense if that’s what you’re used to, but the bottom line is that a recipe that calls for 1/3 sweet vermouth and 2/3 rum still requires you to figure out how much to measure out.

Even so, that’s a 2:1 ratio, so let’s go with

  • 1.5 oz rum (originally Bacardi)
  • .75 oz Italian (sweet) vermouth
  • 2 dashes curaçao

I had to look up exactly how much a dash is — it’s 1/8 tsp, so 2 dashes is 1/4 tsp. I chose the Cruzan aged rum instead of Bacardi because I thought it might be more interesting. Also, I dug out the deKuyper orange curaçao because, hey, this recipe looked as if it might have been designed for something more sickly sweet than my now-preferred dry curaçao.

It was not good, just sort of a sledgehammer of booze (which, again, I maintain is the intended effect of most of these).

I tried again, switching back to Bacardi and the dry curaçao, and modifying the proportions.

Fair & Warmer (2)

  • 1.5 oz white rum
  • .5 oz sweet vermouth
  • .5 oz dry curaçao

It really wasn’t better. Perhaps a lemon twist might have perked it up, but on the whole it was a failed experiment. There wasn’t even enough to like to interest me in trying to fix it with further trials. Into the sink.


  • Savoy: 1
  • Dale: 1
  • Sink: 3

The Savoy Variations: Ping-Pong Special

I’m bored, so I’m taking random cocktail recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), giving them a try, and modifying/improving them if  I think it’s necessary, and reporting my findings here.

Ping-Pong Special

p. 124

(6 people)

Carefully shake together 3 glasses of Sloe Gin and 3 glasses of Italian Vermouth with half a dessertspoonful of Angostura Bitters and a dessertspoonful of sugar syrup or Curaçao. Serve with a cherry and a piece of lemon rind.

I interpreted this as

  • 1.5 oz sloe gin
  • 1.5 oz sweet vermouth
  • .25 oz orange curaçao
  • 2–3 dashes Angostura

It was okay. It was a bit cloying, so I tossed it and remade it, reducing the amount of vermouth. Still cloying.



Ping-Pong Special (2)

  • 1.5 oz sloe gin
  • .75 oz sweet vermouth
  • .25 oz orange curaçao
  • .25–.5 oz Gran Classico amaro

I added the Gran Classico for some bitterness. It was not satisfactory.

Then I thought, if Angostura was the bittering agent in the original, why not Angostura Amaro?








Ping-Pong Special(3)

  • 1.5 oz sloe gin
  • .75 oz sweet vermouth
  • .5 oz Amaro di Angostura
  • .25 oz orange curaçao
  • Angostura bitters

It was okay. It was not a revelation.

I gave up — which I’m beginning to suspect is going the be the outcome of most of these experiments.

However, the Amaro di Angostura reminded me of a very good cocktail indeed: The Smoky Quartz, invented for me by the head bartender of AnonymouS Bar in Prague. Go read about it.

And finally, the evening began.


  • Savoy: 1
  • Dale: 1
  • Sink: 2

The Savoy Variations: Empire Cocktail

The Savoy Variations: Empire Cocktail

I’m bored, so I’m taking random cocktail recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), giving them a try, and modifying/improving them if  I think it’s necessary, and reporting my findings here.

I had intended to tackle the Nineteen Twenty Cocktail today, but when I set about doing so I realized that I had forgotten to look up “groseille syrup.” As it turns out, it doesn’t exist any more, but you can make your own. Oy. (Fun fact: red currants are also unobtainable.)

So randomly flipping through the book, I settled on

Empire Cocktail

  • 1/4 apricot brandy
  • 1/4 Calvados
  • 1/2 gin

Again, Craddock’s instructions are to shake, but I stirred. Hold that thought.

Perhaps the day will come when I will be bold enough to declare a drink SINK right off the bat, but today is not that day.

However, this drink is an assault on the mouth. The dry gin hits you just like gin does to people who hate gin, and the overall taste is so brassy that it was tough to taste it more than twice.

So how to tackle it? I began by switching the gin and the Calvados, hoping that might round it out a bit. [That’s 1/2 Calvados, 1/4 each of gin and apricot.] Alas, it was not much better. (I began to suspect that shaking not stirring is required to dilute the hell out of these concoctions.)

Empire, take 2

Perhaps the gin was the issue. A more floral gin might take the edge off.

It did not.

(At this point I decided to make half-recipes — otherwise I was pouring perfectly good liquor down the sink, and I needed to minimize that.)





Empire, take 3

How about an Old Tom gin? And what if we switched to an apricot liqueur, which would be sweeter?








Empire, take 4

What if we tried the pomegranate gin that my fabulous neighbor made and gave me?

A little more interesting, but still no .







Empire, take 5

Last ditch effort: stick with the pomegranate gin, but go back to the apricot brandy.

Alas, none of these were interesting enough to finish. (Thank goodness, because I was supposed to be cooking dinner, and following a Blue Apron recipe is not easy when one is squiffed, and even a sip or two out of five cocktails in rapid succession is a bit much.) If I had to serve one to guests, it would probably be #3, but I really would rather not.

So, how to score this? It’s obviously a SINK, but is it one or five? I thought about having a separate SINK score for both Craddock and me, but I realized I would always come out on the short end of that stick so I think what we’ll do is just declare the whole thing one big SINK.


  • Savoy: 1
  • Dale: 1
  • Sink: 1

The Savoy Variations: Yellow Daisy

I’m bored, so I’m taking random cocktail recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), giving them a try, and modifying/improving them if  I think it’s necessary, and reporting my findings here.

Today’s cocktail is the Yellow Daisy. (To be clear, I experiment with these cocktails the afternoon before. I am not day drinking. Yet.)

I should mention here that Harry Craddock’s recipes are idiosyncratic, mostly proportions. (The recipe for The Classic, our cocktail yesterday, has proportions of 1/6, 1/6, 1/6, and 1/2.) I’ll be converting to ounces as we go along.

Here’s the original:

Yellow Daisy

(6 people)

  • 2 glasses Gin
  • 2 glasses French Vermouth
  • 1 glass Grand Marnier
  • Before shaking, add a dash of Absinthe.

There follows an actual paragraph: Not only the favourite drink, but also the one made famous, if not invented, by Richard William (“Deadwood Dick”) Clark, recently deceased…

Okay then.

The Yellow Daisy is still a thing, though perhaps not as famous as it once must have been. As is becoming evident, many recipes in the book are variations on the Martini, and this one is no exception. (I will note that if I saw this recipe without the instructions, I would have stirred it, not shaken it. Apparently this Martini is an exception to the rule of shaking v. stirring.)

I made it straight, and despite the fact that dry vermouth and absinthe are not my favorites, this one was not bad from the start. I would advise going light on the “dash” of absinthe, like 4–5 drops max.

Nevertheless, I tried my hand at modification. Instead of absinthe, what if I used one of the many amaros at my disposal? Here is where my amateur status as a mixologist is an impediment: I don’t have each amaro’s “notes” in my head, especially the ones I rarely use. I gave a mini-taste-test to a couple and decided to try Amaro Montenegro.

Yellow Daisy variation

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz dry vermouth
  • 1/2 oz Grand Marnier
  • dash–1/4 oz Amaro Montenegro

I started with a dash then bumped it up. Honestly, it was OK, but not the improvement that I got with The Classic. I’d stick with the original if I needed this drink for some reason.

Perhaps some other amaro might work, but I don’t know that it’s worth the trouble. (Let us note, too, that if I were to find that Amaro Ciociaro or Meletti worked, the drink would no longer be a Yellow Daisy. That’s a subthread that we’ll pay attention to as we go along.)

Shall we keep score? I feel as if we should keep score.


Savoy: 1

Dale: 1

Sink: 0 <— when neither Craddock nor I create a palatable drink

I’m bored, so MOAR COCKTAILS!

Here’s my new game: take a recipe from the venerable Savoy Cocktail Book, try it. If it’s good, great. If it’s not, try to modify it so that it is. If that doesn’t work… well, failure is always an option, as we Lichtenbergians say.

The Savoy is the work of the immortal Harry Craddock, famed mixologist of the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London. With the U.S. suffering under Prohibition, Craddock returned to his mother country and cranked it up to 11. He published the book in 1930, and it’s still in print. (The fact that he’s buried in a pauper’s grave is even more disturbing when you see that a first edition of his book is going for $2,763.31 on Etsy. (You can get free PDFs on various sites with free “memberships,” or an online version at the EUVS Vintage Cocktail Books website.))

There are 750 cocktail recipes. Some are still famous, some are headscratchers: what is “Hercules” in the Wow Cocktail? Most are probably negligible, just quick swigs for the Bright Young Things inhabiting the bar of an evening the last time we did the Roaring Twenties.

Still, it should be fun to play with.

Here’s one I discovered by randomly opening it one day:

Rolls Royce Cocktail

  • 1 ½ oz gin
  • ¾ oz sweet vermouth
  • ¾ oz dry vermouth
  • ¼ oz Bénédictine
  • lemon peel

It’s a riff on the Perfect Martini (most cocktails called “perfect” have both sweet/Italian and dry/French vermouth in them), and the Bénédictine takes some of the edge off that. Lemon peel is essential.

Anway, my game will be to open the book at random, look over the page, pick a cocktail, try it, modify it, toss it, whatever — and then blog about it.

Here we go!

Classic Cocktail

First of all, it takes a bit of chutzpah to label a cocktail The Classic. Here’s the original recipe:

  • 1 ½ oz brandy
  • ½ oz orange curaçao
  • ½ oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • ½ oz lemon juice
  • sugar rim
  • lemon peel

Rim a coupe with sugar. Shake ingredients with ice, strain into the coupe. Express the lemon peel over the drink and toss it in.

Verdict: Not bad at all. I tried one small improvement and it was better: add ¼ oz orgeat. So…

Classic Cocktail (adapted)

  • 1 ½ oz brandy
  • ½ oz orange curaçao
  • ½ oz Luxardo
  • ½ oz lemon juice
  • ¼ oz orgeat
  • sugar rim
  • lemon peel

The orgeat rounds out the sweetness, although to be sure, I used a dry curaçao; the deKuyper stuff would probably be a lot sweeter.

Fun fact: I have about a pint of purple sugar that I got for a signature cocktail I created for my son’s wedding reception. The bar ran out of the drink fairly soon — I didn’t even get one — and seven years later I still have purple sugar. It made a great rim, iridescent and complementary to the gold of the cocktail.

Till next time!