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 VARIATIONS SCORECARD:

  • 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?

Nope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 VARIATIONS SCORECARD

  • 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 VARIATIONS SCORECARD

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!