Seelbach Cocktail

The Seelbach Hotel has been a grand fixture in Louisville Kentucky since it was built in 1905. The Seelbach cocktail was specifically created as a house specialty around 1917, but sometime during prohibition it was forgotten, and all but lost. It wouldn’t be until 1995, when the recipe was uncovered by their hotel manager, that this wonderful drink would once again see the light of day. Gary Regan convinced the manager to “publish” the recipe so it wouldn’t risk being forgotten again, and included it in his book “New Classic Cocktails”.


1 oz bourbon

1/2 oz Cointreau

7 dashes Angostura Aromatic Bitters

7 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

top with Champagne


Build in a Champagne flute.

Garnish with a lemon twist.


blair frodelius 14 Sep 2009
8:41 am


I thought something seemed odd about the ratios of your recipe, so I looked up the Seelbach recipe that was given to Gary & Mardee by Adam Seger from The Seelbach Hotel, and noticed a major difference.

His recipe calls for:

1 oz bourbon
.5 oz triple sec
7 dashes each of Angostura & Peychaud’s bitters
5 oz Brut champagne
1 orange twist rubbed around the rim and dropped into the finished drink

This will make a much lighter drink overall.

Supposedly, the origin of the goes back to just pre-prohibition when some champagne bubbled into a Manhattan.  Somehow, that doesn’t seem exactly right as this doesn’t contain any vermouth.  But who knows…?

Anyway, another great drink, Robert!



Robert Hess 14 Sep 2009
8:59 am


The recipe I am “making” here comes straight from the book “New Classic Cocktails”. You’ll note that I clearly say/measure “1 oz” of bourbon. For the triple sec, while I accidently “say” 1/4 ounce, I actually pour out “1/2 oz” which, thanks to the transparency of the OXO jigger, you can see (but only if you are familiar with the jigger, since the measures aren’t pointing so you can see them).

So the “2 oz” listed in the printed recipe is a typo, and the “1/4 oz” said/printed, is just a flub. But the drink itself as made, is as it was intended :->

Lawrence Spies 16 Sep 2009
5:53 pm

I am still trying to get pass the 120+ proof bourbon and champagne! Wow! Sounds like one of those really strong cocktails that goes down too easy, but by the time you realize it, its too late! It sounds great, Another “must try”...

Mason Embry 17 Sep 2009
5:16 am

Hey Robert,

I’ve learned a lot from your videos and book. Great stuff! I’m really proud to see a cocktail from my home town of Louisville, KY. I now live in Nashville, TN, but I used to go hear Jazz at the Seelbach when I was in college. As soon as I get some Peychaud’s and some Bookers I have to make this drink.

One small note: There is a lot of controversy surrounding the proper pronunciation of “Louisville,” and as a local I can say definitively that it is pronounced “LOO-eh-ville,” or “LOO-eh-vuhl,” but never pronounce the “s.” Sorry to nitpick, but my fellow Kentuckians will be proud.

Last night I had your Mai Tai recipe. It was phenomenal. Keep up the good work!


Vygantas 18 Sep 2009
10:31 pm

Almost all of your cocktails looks the same: dark alcohol, bitters, etc.

You should do the ones with juices, etc.

Robert Hess 22 Sep 2009
4:37 am


As a self-described “Cocktail Evangelist” I feel the need to help folks see the culinary value of all types of cocktails, and so I try to provide as varied of a mix as possible of drinks that help to illustrate this.

I think it would be safe to say that a good percentage, if not a majority, of the drinks I make are gin based (which is clearly not a dark alcohol). A spirit which I feel is the most exciting one for making really great cocktails with. It has a wonderful ability to snuggle in with a wide variety of flavors and turn into something special.

I also have done many cocktails with juices, we even did a short run of “Tiki” episodes, which featured a variety of different juices in a great array of fun drinks. If something like the Seelbach doesn’t quite suite your palate, I suspect there should be something in the large array of drinks I’ve featured here that will.


Nick Rose 27 Sep 2009
5:16 am


Brilliant again! I have been following this series almost fanatically from my home in Melbourne, Australia, for a few months now and this was quite a shock to the palate of my friends and myself, in a good way of course. I even had to fight off one of my bartender mates when he saw how much bitters I was using!

I’m about to open my own cocktail and whisky bar next year and will be over in the States from December getting as much inspiration and knowledge as I can in three weeks. Any must-see bars that I should look into? If you have the time a cocktail geek in training I’d love to come by and see a real pro in action.

Email me if it’s on the profile!

Cheers mate,


Robert Hess 27 Sep 2009
6:49 am

Glad you’ve been enjoying the shows, and glad you’ll be getting a chance to come over to the States to check out our offerings. You’ll find a wide variety of bars depending on what cities you plan to visit. The big cocktail cities are New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, with Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington DC coming on strong, and New Orleans providing a very exciting glimpse of the wide evolutionary path of the cocktail.

Daniel Hennessy 19 Nov 2009
5:29 am

I don’t own any “deep, rich” high-proof bourbons. My selection runs toward the softer, smoother labels like Maker’s Mark. I’d like to try my hand at the Seelbach this weekend but was thinking of using 1oz of some 101 proof rye whiskey - in your judgment would that throw everything off?

oliver 6 Sep 2010
4:33 am

is the original recipe (or the one from new classic cocktails) with a lemon or orange twist?

Robert Hess 6 Sep 2010
9:21 pm

In Gary’s “New Classic Cocktails” it lists it with an orange twist, so that was probably the original garnish, I personally think a lemon twist works better in it just as a citrus counterpoint.

AaronWalls 22 Nov 2010
12:03 pm

Robert, a couple of things:

First, do you have a preference of the type of sparkling wine to use? Brut? Something sweeter?

Also, I love the camera work on the lemon twist process. The fine mist off the lemon as you channel your twist really makes clear the different qualities that a twist can bring to a drink. Beautiful.

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