It was my birthday a couple of days ago, and I got a copy of The Savoy Cocktail Book. It’s been in publication since 1930, with over 700 recipes inside.
To be honest, a lot of the recipes are very similar. Most are based on whiskey, rum, or dry gin. Then, you add varying amounts of sweet and dry vermouths (called Italian and French vermouths, respectively) – plus dashes of bitters or other liqueurs.
The presentation is top-notch, though, with gorgeous art deco illustrations every few pages. Check out the page where the Savoy Cocktail is presented.
You’ll notice the page doesn’t quite go to the edge. The edition I got is a scanned version of the original, and it looks a little… unprofessional. Our local bar has a much nicer copy, with feathered edges.
I decided to start a journey of sorts, inspired by a game Jeff, the owner of Third Rail, plays with other bartenders. The game is as follows: you flip to any page in the book, put your finger on a cocktail, and then make something drinkable from it.
It’s a tricky challenge if only because the recipes tend to be geared towards old liquors, which were less drinkable than they are now. For example, the gimlet recipe in the book states it should be ½ lime juice and ½ gin, which would be too citrus-forward even for me.
The other challenge for me is that some of the recipes have rather niche ingredients (Swedish punsch, anyone?) that I don’t have. Although I suppose that’s part of the fun – figuring out what you can replace certain ingredients with and still maintain the desired flavour.
My first cocktail ended up being the R.A.C. Special Cocktail. Their recipe: ½ dry gin, ¼ sweet vermouth, ¼ dry vermouth, and two dashes of orange bitters. Shake well, serve , and garnish with an orange peel. Here’s the outcome.
I lowered the vermouth slightly, to 1/8 of each. I think that makes a nicer cocktail. It tasted pretty much how you would expect – kind of a mix between a martini and a martinez/manhattan type thing. Certainly not that adventurous for a first cocktail, but pretty good nonetheless.
I’m sure I’ll be using some of these recipes for inspiration for WHAM drinks, too. Cheers!