Scofflaw Cocktail

The word “Scofflaw” has come to mean “A person who flouts the law, especially an unsustainable one.” But such was not always the case. It was in 1923, when Delcevare King, a member of the Anti-Saloon League, posed a contest to create a new word in order to combat the continued drinking which was going on during American Prohibition. The new word was to be one “which best expresses the idea of a lawless drinker, menace, scoffer, bad citizen, or whatnot, with the biting power of ‘scab’ or ‘slacker.’” The $200 prize elicited a huge response. On January 16th, 1924, the Boston Herald announced the winning word as “scofflaw”, with the winnings shared by the two Boston area residents, Henry Irving Dale and Kate L. Butler, who both submitted it.
This was not the end of the story however, in just a little over a week, a salvo was launched from Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, where they created a new drink and christened it the “Scofflaw”.


1 oz canadian whisky

1 oz dry vermouth

dash grenadine

1/4 oz lemon juice

dash Angostura Orange Bitters


Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass.

Garnish with an orange twist.


George R. Welch 30 Nov 2009
5:35 am

Stirred not shaken?  This seems to violate the famous Robert Hess rule for shaken-vs-stirred.  Maybe you were just having fun?

blair frodelius 30 Nov 2009
6:06 am

You know, I’m thinking that this needs more than a dash of grenadine.  How about equal parts grenadine and lemon juice?

Vince Brytus 30 Nov 2009
6:07 am

I thought the same thing. See, you have us trained.

I figured you shot this right after the Fancy Free and didn’t bother with the shaker. A drink can always be stirred, but not always shaken.

Robert Hess 30 Nov 2009
9:26 am

I tend to favor stirred cocktails, even when the ingredients would “allow” them to be shaken, and the small amount of lemon juice in this makes it a drink that actually does benefit visually from being stirred. And as Vince says, a drink can always be stirred, but not always shaken (the Ramos Gin Fizz and such being the exception to that) :->

Justin Victor 30 Nov 2009
9:29 am

Great episode Robert.  I have only ever used Crown Royal when using Canadian whiskey in a cocktail.  I noticed you used canadian Club.  I have had this spirit recommended to me elsewhere as well and am looking foreword to trying it in a scofflaw.

Aaron 5 Dec 2009
11:04 pm

I made these as part of my Repeal Day celebration… Delicious. This cocktail more than any other illustrated to me the importance of the garnish. I got lazy and forgot the orange twist on one of mine, completely different drink.

Michael 20 Jan 2010
2:30 pm

Question #1
Dry Vermouth: French vs. Italian?
I realize that this is a drink that was invented in Paris, and any self-respecting purist would definitely reach for the French dry vermouth. I however am on a budget, and quite frankly do not have the shelf-space for 30 bottles. In fact, I really need to scale back.
So, can anyone break it down if there is an appreciable difference in Martini & Rossi “Extra-Dry” and Noilly Prat “Dry Vermouth”?

Question #2
Vermouth and freshness…
I keep my vermouth in the fridge, as it is only 18% ABV. With normal wine, be it red or white, it deteriorates over time, even in the fridge. Now, I know Robert, said in a previous episode that vermouth will last longer than regular white wine, and keeping it in the fridge will extend that. He went into how one could buy a new bottle and taste it along side an older bottle, and really see the difference. Well, at what point should a Dry Vermouth just be thrown away?
Because I have had a bottle of Dry vermouth for maybe 6 months. But I can’t say that I’ve ever tasted dry vermouth by itself (I like my martini’s with Rosso sweet vermouth). So I have a practically full bottle of M&R Extra Dry vermouth, and I don’t know if it is bad or not. It certainly didn’t taste very good when I took a pull to taste it when making this Scofflaw recipe. Basically, I made the Scofflaw tonight, and I don’t think I like it very much, but I want to make sure that it isn’t just bad vermouth.

Question #3
I haven’t bought a bottle of Canadian whiskey since I was in the 9th grade drinking Crown and Cokes at parties, thinking I was cool. I made my Scofflaw with Bullet’s Bourbon. I know and appreciate the huge difference between a Bourbon. I would never use Laphroaig to make an Old Fashioned. But what’s the deal with Canadian whiskey? For the Scofflaw, I understand the narrative reasoning behind using Canadian… prohibition and all. But do I really need to have Bourbon, Rye, a blended Scotch, several single malts, AND Canadian whiskey too?

Thanks for your help guys. I realize this is a lot.

blair frodelius 6 Mar 2010
6:32 am


I was making a Scofflaw cocktail last night and grabbed your book instead of Ted Haigh’s to check the recipe.  They are both wildly different from one another.  Which one is the recipe that Harry’s Bar created?  I’m assuming the one in Ted’s book, but if so, where did you get your recipe from?



Robert Hess 7 Mar 2010
6:04 am

I seem to recall a while back running across an original of the article which reported the Scofflaw cocktail and included a recipe, but I can’t find it now.

I think my recipe originally came from Paul Harrington’s website/book “Cocktail: The drinks bible for the 21st century”.

I have a copy of Harry McElhone’s “ABC of Mixing Cocktails”, who owned “Harry’s New York Bar” in Paris at the time (and added “Harry’s” to the name when he did), so I would suspect this would have something pretty close to the original? There, it lists the recipe as:

Scoff-law Cocktail
One dash of Orange Bitters, 1/2 Canadian Club, 1/2 French Vermouth, 1/6 Lemon Juice, 1/6 Grenadine.

And then follows this with:

Chicago Tribune, January 17th 1924 : Hardly has Boston added to the Gaiety of the Nations by adding to Webster’s Dictionary the opprobrious term of “scoff-law” to indicate the chap who indicts the bootlegger, when Paris comes back with a “wet answer” - Jock, the genial Bartender of Harry’s New York Bar, yesterday invented the Scoff-law Cocktail, and it has already become exceedingly popular among American prohibition dodgers.

So my recipe is out of whack mostly because it isn’t using the same amount of Grenadine as it is Lemon Juice.

Ted’s recipe however is leaving out the orange bitters (but basically correct otherwise), and he also is claiming this would have been made with rye instead of Canadian Whiskey… I think he is wrong there, we are already many years into Prohibition and I would think American Rye whiskey would have been almost impossible to access over in France, but Canadian Whiskey would have been easy. We were seeing many recipe volumes from those days listing Canadian Whiskey for drinks which would have otherwise used American, even the Manhattan, but the Scoff-law was invented during those times, so I feel they would have reached for the Canadian.

Paul Skavland 15 Jul 2010
8:20 am

1) I’ve made this with Rye and it is great.  I’m no expert, but I have been told Canadian whiskies tend to be more Rye-based.  Any truth to this?

2) If anyone happens to be in West Seattle, the Feedback Lounge makes a very tasty version of this drink.

Robert Hess 15 Jul 2010
8:38 am

Canadian Whiskies are often referred to as “Rye”, but rarely do they have the necessary 51% (or more) rye in their mash bill to qualify as a rye under US guidelines, nor is their flavor character what one typically expects from a traditional American Rye. In general, Canadian Whiskies are smoother/gentler then American Rye or American Bourbon, which I find tends to cause their character to fade a bit to the background when mixed in a cocktail. My preference with Canadian is to use it as a sipping whisky instead. An American Rye is going to have a slightly aggressive, and spicey flavor to it.

As for the Feedback Lounge in West Seattle… absolutely! It’s been a while since I’ve been in, but I was very impressed with them, and recommend them regularly to folks.

Ginty 13 Nov 2011
5:36 pm

My palette agrees with Blair on this one. I bump my grenadine up to match the lemon juice.

Just made this drink tonight and replaced the grenadine with pineapple syrup. ALSO very tasty. This version MIGHT need a new name,...

blair frodelius 5 Dec 2012
3:46 pm


Revisiting this one on 12/5/12, Repeal Day.

My favorite recipe calls for 1.5oz rye whiskey (not Canadian), 1oz dry vermouth, 0.5oz Torani Pomegranate syrup, and 0.5oz lemon juice. It’s still pretty tart, but I think the rye boosts the complexity and by using real pomegranate syrup, it gives a “real” flavor that also adds a beauteous color.



Good Spirits News

Post a Comment

You must be registered and logged in to post comments.

Login to Comment register new account

remember me