Seelbach Cocktail

“Gonna buy five copies for my mother” … Well, I’m not actually on the cover (thank Gawd), but I wrote an article on cocktails for New Year’s Eve that appears on pages 52-54 of the current (Winter ’08/’09) issue of Edible Los Angeles magazine, just out on newsstands. (Yay, a paid writing gig! I should have it stuffed and mounted.)

It shouldn’t be terribly new to cocktail geeks and/or longtime readers of this site, but I review the classic Champagne Cocktail, because I’m astonished as to how few people seem to have heard of this drink anymore. It’s a part of our drinking heritage going back over 150 years, and most people have no idea. It’s an indication of how badly our cocktail culture has gotten away from us, and how the public needs to be educated about drinks the same way they became educated about food from the ’80s until now.

We also do a punch, the superb 1893 Columbian Punch that I learned about from Dr. Cocktail, my original Réveillon Cocktail and to cap off the evening, the beautiful Widow’s Kiss. Oddly enough, they included the picture of the Seelbach Cocktail we did even though I had to cut the paragraphs and recipe for that drink due to lack of space. (Grr, print publications and their stoopid word limits! To which my editor would reply, “You internet people who think you can just write and write and write … learn to edit!”)

I initially included it because I wanted to offer a more sophisticated Champagne-based cocktail, and although I suspect you may well be familiar with the recipe, here it is, with the excised copy, just in case you aren’t:

For a more highly seasoned variation on the Champagne Cocktail, let’s hop in the Wayback Machine and jump back to the luxurious Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s 1917, and you’re sipping this beautiful hotel’s signature cocktail, which soon would be lost for decades thanks to the failed experiment of Prohibition, only to be unearthed in the mid-1990s when a bar manager at the Seelbach found the secret recipe. The elegance of the hotel is reflected in this lovely cocktail, with the kick of the Bourbon and the spicy bite of the bitters tempered and balanced with the sweet orange of the liqueur and the dry fruitiness of the wine. If you make this one for a turn-of-the-year celebration, don’t be surprised if you end up making it year-round.


1 ounce Bourbon whiskey.
1/2 ounce Cointreau orange liqueur.
7 dashes Angostura Bitters.
7 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters.
5 ounces chilled dry Champagne.
Curly orange twist for garnish.

Add the first four ingredients, in the order given, to a Champagne flute.
Stir gently, then add the chilled Champagne. Garnish with the orange twist, and enjoy.

This is a great drink. We have Gaz Regan to thank too, as he’s the one who convinced the Seelbach’s manager to give up the secret recipe, and it was published for the first time in his book New Classic Cocktails.

I hope you enjoy Edible Los Angeles — it’s one of many locally-focused Edible publications that are launching all around the country. My good friend Carol edited this issue, and will be editing the next one too.