Digging In – Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails

My first cocktail book was The Craft of the Cocktail, by Dale DeGroff. Its tattered, multi-colored sticky pages continually bring me back for old favorites and new finds. When I got the book, I knew next to nothing about making cocktails; I had my assumptions, but that’s about it. Loving to cook, I figured that fresh, quality ingredients would be key. Well, at least I got one thing right.

I had no idea how vast and diverse the world of cocktails is and how horribly lacking my bar was when I first cracked open Dale’s book, but I soon found out. I knew a grand total of five drinks (which will not be mentioned), but Dale is a good teacher, and so I soon was making more cocktails than I could remember. The selection of recipes in his book was and still is phenomenal, but as with any hobby, I soon started searching for more knowledge. I wanted to know the drinks were made by no one anymore – the good, secret stuff, that only the most sage of cocktail enthusiasts knew about. My quest led me to Dr. Cocktail’s book.

Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, by Ted Haigh (Dr. Cocktail), is, with maybe one exception, the book that contains the most odd and “never-before-seen” cocktails that I have in my library. To this day, I still don’t think I have made more than half of the recipes in his book. But this is not out of want; the sheer number of ingredients that I had never heard of was astounding, and I can easily see how one could page through time and again only to find one or two recipes that they had the ingredients for.

So we come to the point of this article: to give you a plan for experiencing the drinks in Vintage Spirits with the fewest and most appropriate purchases. I will assume that you have the basics like gin, whiskey, pernod, triple sec, fresh fruit juices, etc. I will also only list drinks that I have made and enjoyed immensely.

Buy Applejack ($10), and make:

  • Jack Rose
  • Golden Dawn

Make grenadine ($4), and enjoy

  • Jack Rose
  • Monkey Gland
  • Scoff Law Cocktail

Buy Lillet ($15), and make

  • Corpse Reviver #2
  • Twentieth Century Cocktail
  • Vesper

Buy apricot brandy (recommended: Marie Brizard Apry $21), and make

Buy Campari ($25), and cherish

These five ingredients will really help you begin to expand your liquor selection, and as you browse through your various tomes of libations, you will soon see how many more cocktails you can make. Of those listed above, I probably use the Apry and grenadine the most, though I may enjoy the Campari more than all of them. The joys of Campari, however, are for another post. I hope I have been somewhat helpful for those looking to dig in to Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. Just wait until you try making potatations from The Gentleman’s Companion.

9 Responses to “Digging In – Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails”

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9 Comments to “ Digging In – Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails”
  1. CraigerNo Gravatar says:

    Between the recipes in Ted Haigh’s book and the ones you’ve posted from The Grog Log, I’ve resolved to find somewhere local I can get various flavored syrups. All the coffee shops & ice cream places seem to use the Torani brand exclusively, so I’m guessing there’s got to be somewhere around here to get ’em. The search is on!

  2. RickNo Gravatar says:

    You could also try:

    The customer service at Fee Brothers is outstanding, and their shipping is good too. I haven’t yet order from Trader Vics, as their shipping is outrageous, and they have yet to get back to me about it.

    I would, without question, recommend making your own grenadine. I actually just finishing making new batch. It took me all of 10 minutes and $4. I’ll be crafting a post about it soon, but as a quick guide, here you go.

    Combine 2c 100% pomegranate juice (POM works well) with 2c sugar. Warm in a saucepan until sugar dissolves. Cool if it’s very warm, then add 1oz of vodka as a preservative. Bottle, put in your refrigerator, and enjoy for several months. Homemade is far better than any commercial products I’ve tasted.

    I got lucky and found some passion fruit syrup at my local Asian shop, but I know Trader Vics sells it (that’s what Jeff Berry recommends in Grog Log).

    I hope this has been helpful.

  3. MariaNo Gravatar says:

    I love Dr. Cocktail’s book, too– among my several favorites are the Twentieth Century (gin, Lillet, creme de cacao and lemon) and the Jupiter (gin, lemon and a wee bit of Parfait d’Amour), and I like his version of the Pegu Club best of any I’ve tried.

    I’ve since picked up a couple of wonderful old cocktail books– from the 1930’s, Cocktails How to Mix Them by “Robert” (yes, that’s exactly the punctuation on the cover!), and The U.K.B.G. Guide to Drinks from the early 50’s (UK Bartenders’ Guild). Lots of intriguing info in each of them.

    From the UKBG:

    Bacardi Zoom, Brandy Zoom, Gin Zoom, Whisky Zoom

    Dissolve in a small cup a teaspoonful of Honey in a very little boiling water. Pour into a shaker, add a teaspoonful of fresh cream and 2 oz of desired spirit. Shake well and drain into glass.

    I’d never heard of a Zoom, and here it is as a whole category, like a Collins. Haven’t tried this yet, but I think it sounds interesting, especially with a really good honey.

  4. RickNo Gravatar says:

    If I absolutely had to pick my favorite two cocktails from Dr. Cocktail’s book, I’d go with the Pendennis and the Lucien Gaudin. When I first had these, I was amazed at how unique and unfamiliar the flavors were – kind of like when I first tried Chartreuse. I am always welcomed back with a barrage of interesting flavors and aromas when I remember to make one of these vintage cocktails.

    The Zooms do sound interesting. I checked over at Ted Haigh’s Cocktail Database, and they were listed! We have some tasty farmer’s market clover honey from last summer in our pantry, so I may just have to try this. I’m not really sure which one I want to try… I’m leaning toward the brandy or whiskey. Let me know if you do give one of them a try.

  5. AdamNo Gravatar says:

    The five drinks Rick knew how to make:
    – Captain and Coke
    – Whiskey Sour
    – Screwdriver
    – White Russian
    – Crown Royal (this doesn’t even count as a cocktail)

    I think that list has to be pretty accurate. Yes, I fondly recall the days when the only liquor in Rick’s apartment was a bottle of the Captain. A LARGE bottle. And there was nothing wrong with that!

    As far as Applejack goes, the only brand you can find in Pennsylvania is Laird’s, which I like, but I’d love to hear about others.

  6. AdamNo Gravatar says:

    And I forgot to say…

    Now get back to tiki drinks! For behold, the power of tiki knows no equal!

  7. RickNo Gravatar says:

    I am pained by this horrid recollection you have wrought upon us all.

    Though it is a bit nostalgic, you have slightly messed up the list… it went more like this:

    • Captain and Coke
    • White Russian (except I omitted the vodka and added chocolate syrup)
    • Long Island Iced Tea
    • Crown Royal
    • Some random, way too expensive bottle of scotch… or 15 of them

    It truly does pain me.

  8. paulNo Gravatar says:

    To Adam’s question, the only type of applejack commercially available is Laird’s, New Jersey’s native spirit for around 300 years. While I like Laird’s, unfortunately it’s a blend of aged apple brandy with neutral grain spirits (they only started doing this in the 1970s or so). Better, I’ve heard, is Laird’s bonded Apple Brandy–nothing added to that, and only a couple of bucks more. Living in a state with a government-controlled liquor monopoly, I’ve of course never had the chance to try the bonded stuff. Since you’re on the opposite side of the country from me (and in another state-liquor locale), you’re likely never to see this, but Clear Creek Distillery in Portland, Oregon, puts out a 4-year-old apple brandy (as opposed to their more Calvados-like 8-yr-old) that can be substituted for applejack, with interesting results.

    Captain and Coke … I been there.

  9. RickNo Gravatar says:

    I’m not sure where I read or heard this, and it might have been in a personal email from the LCB in Pennsylvania… but, I believe that you can request products that they don’t normally list. I’m guessing that the number of bottles you’d have to buy would be on a company-by-company basis. I typed “case-by-case” and then realized how true to form that most likely would be.

    I have also heard of the bonded stuff being good, but I don’t think it’s easily available here. Though… this weekend, in fact, I will just maybe be in New Jersey…

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Kaiser Penguin is a cocktail blog featuring original recipes, homemade ingredients, classic cocktails, and tiki drinks.

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