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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Savoy Cocktail Book

Last week I followed a link in a tweet to the Underhill-Lounge blog, where Ellestad was describing an obsessive (but noble) quest to make all 888 cocktails in the The Savoy Cocktail Book.  Ellestad’s rather long post describing enthusiastic cocktail shaking and stirring activity inspired me to go out to to order my own copy of the much esteemed work.  It just came today and it’s definitely a fun book.  The first edition was written by Harry Craddock at the Savoy Hotel in London in 1930, and contains miscellanea of bartending wit and wisdom in addition to the cocktail recipes.  While I don’t have the time, the money, or the dedication to make all of the cocktails, I thought I owed it to myself (and posterity) to give some of them a try.

Many of the cocktail recipes in the book specify exotic ingredients like Capertif, Fernet Branca, or Groseille that I not only do not have in my bar, but have never even heard of.  Plus I’m pretty sure that the Utah State Liquor Store has probably never heard of them either (assuming that they’re alcoholic).  Several recipes specified “for bottling” are for making mass quantities of a cocktail; one of them lists ingredients in such proportions that it calls for a quart of bitters.  I was still, however, inspired to set off on my own Savoy Cocktail quest…  Sad to say it’s kind of a poor man’s depression-era quest.  I decided that rather than emulate Ellestad’s example of making all of the cocktails in the Savoy book in order, I would just make random recipes that sounded interesting as I browsed through the book; cocktails for which I already had all (or most) of the required ingredients.  Next I would translate the proportions of the ingredients into modern equivalents.  As I mentioned earlier, some recipes labeled “for bottling” deal in quarts and gallons: two gallons of this and one quart of that.  Others are in “tenths”, but even if you take a tenth to be ½ ounce, you would still end up with a five ounce cocktail, which is a little excessive.  Some recipes make six servings and specify “glasses” of ingredients that allegedly fit into a single shaker (must be bigger than mine).  So I’ll also be adjusting quantities to get a single serving.  Still, I hope to be faithful to the spirit of the book, but if you want 100% accuracy, you’ll have to buy your own copy.

The first recipe I came across that met my exacting criteria was the Special Rough, found on page 153.  Unfortunately, the Savoy Cocktail Book doesn’t give background information on the cocktails or tell how they were named, so I’m at a loss as to exactly what this means.  There is no Special Smooth cocktail to evaluate for contrast.  The Special Rough is a simple cocktail; its major ingredients are brandy (I used cognac) and applejack, set off by a little absinthe to add some background complexity.  If it sounds good to you, give it a try.  I added the garnish; none was specified in the original.


Special Rough (Savoy Cocktail Book)

1 ½ oz. brandy or cognac

1 ½ oz. applejack or calvados

1 dash absinthe

Combine ingredients in a shaker and shake especially roughly (or, since this is a clear cocktail, you can stir it roughly if you prefer).  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Drop in a Luxardo Marasche® Marasca Cherry and enjoy while contemplating better days at the Savoy.


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