Cocktail of the day: Oriental Cocktail

Two cocktails, actually. The first is something I probably should have noticed before; the second is a terrific variation. They’re both great.

In a recent issue of Ardent Spirits, Gary Regan brought up a nearly-forgotten classic that appeared in Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book, from the Savoy Hotel in the early 1930s. Wes tried it a couple of weeks ago and it’s his current favorite. I like it a lot myself, and I particularly like the variation. “We need more rye cocktails in the world!” he says, and I agree … and I’ll add that we need more Irish whiskey cocktails too.

The original recipe for this one called for proportions and then “the juice of half a lime”; given how the juice content of limes tends to vary, Gary modified the recipe to specific measurements, and it seems to work much better that way. As for the cocktail’s name … well, there’s a story. “In August, 1924, an American engineer nearly died of fever in the Philippines, and only the extraordinary devotion of Dr. B_____ saved his life. As an act of gratitude, the engineer gave Dr. B_____ the recipe of this cocktail.”

I think people should be rewarded with cocktail recipes more often.

The Oriental Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces rye whiskey
3/4 ounce Cointreau
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

Combine in a shaker with cracked ice; shake and strain
into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry.

Wes likes to drizzle a teaspoon or so of the cherry juice (or even better, some brandied cherry juice) down the inside of the glass so that it makes a little layer on the bottom. Very pretty, and you get a little burst of sweetness at the end.

One of Gary’s students at “Cocktails in the Country” came up with an ingenious variation. Make the exact same drink, except substitute Irish whiskey for the rye. The difference it makes is amazing, and in my opinion it’s an even more complex drink. When making this variation, the drink is called a James Joyce.