Prohibition Cocktail

By Robert Hess

This drink clearly comes from the era of American Prohibition. I found it in the Savoy Cocktail Book, which was published in 1933, so even if this wasn’t its first in-print appearance, it had to be pretty close. This recipe specifically called for Plymouth gin, as well as Kina Lillet. Plymouth is of course still around, but there is some debate as to if the currently available Lillet is the same as was once marketed as “Kina Lillet”. Some evidence appears to indicate that the product was reformulated sometime in the past, and it’s bitterness from the quinine might have been softened at that time.

Recipe

Ingredients

1 oz gin

1 oz Lillet Blanc

2 dashes Bitter Truth Apricot Liqueur

2 dashes fresh squeezed orange juice

Instructions

Stir ingredients with ice.

Strain into a cocktail glass.

Comments
Ghoulie 9 Aug 2012
10:28 am

As far as adding “dashes” of ingredients, I bought a few dasher tops from cocktailkingdom.com,  I got them because I was making my own bitters,  but anytime a recipe calls for a dash or two of something, I just use a dasher cap.

Adam G 9 Aug 2012
2:34 pm

As far as alternatives to Lillet, there’s an aperitif called Cocchi Americano that has a very similar flavor profile to Lillet, but with a slightly more pronounced bitterness. I’ve heard some people say it’s closer to the taste of Lillet Quina, or if there never was a change in bitterness, it’s just a slightly more bitter ingredient.

Either way it can be an interesting substitute in cocktails that call for Lillet. I personally prefer it, since it has a bit more of a fullness to it, while Lillet is lighter and can disappear in a cocktail more easily.

Dave Stolte 10 Aug 2012
1:18 pm

Robert, have you tried the Tempus Fugit Spirits Kina L’Avion d’Or? Of the three (Lillet Blanc, Cocchi Americano, Kina L’Avion D’Or), it’s the most quinine-forward. And possibly, the closest we’ll get to Kina Lillet….

Michael Hennesy 11 Aug 2012
3:25 pm

Robert, thanks for another interesting cocktail. The pre-prohibition and prohibition cocktails were much more tasteful than the mass produced artificial ingredient ladened bottled stuff we get today. We just have to search for the natural ingredient bitters and flavors and do our own juicing.

Robert Hess 12 Aug 2012
1:48 pm

Dave, I haven’t had a chance to try the Tempus Fugit product yet, but Cocchi is very good, albiet different from Lillet. I’m still trying to track down details on the “switch” from “Kina Lillet” to “Lillet”. There is some ongoing debate as to how much of a change there was, some reports indicate that the overall recipe process was changed to allow them to have better consistency with higher volume, but with every attempt to keep the flavor profile the same… although there are other reports where people speculate that Kina had noticeably more quinine in it.

Michael, I’m not sure it is safe to say that prohibition or even pre-prohibition products were better or more “natural”. During prohibition a lot of the bootlegging and such going on was with stuff that was hastily produced with dubious ingredients. And even in the pre-prohibition bartender books you will find “recipes” for how to make Scotch, Gin, Rum, etc… behind the bar with equally dubious ingredients that nobody in their right mind would consider using today.

Sure, there wasn’t any mass produced “sour mix”, so you’d almost always get real lemon juice… but maybe it wasn’t always “fresh” or even stored properly. People back then didn’t have the same level of understanding of food safety as we do today. Remember, it wasn’t until the early 1800’s that we even figured out what yeast was all about. :->

-Robert

steve7500 16 Aug 2012
1:33 pm

Robert,I notice you use Lillet blanc often in your cocktails. I love Lillet but I nevrer see anyone using the Lillet Rouge for anything. Why is this ? Is the red a stand alone type drink or what ?  Could you educate me and give me a few ideas as to the use.

Robert Hess 16 Aug 2012
1:42 pm

Steve, I find that Lillet Rouge is too tannic to use as a cocktail ingredient. I think it is in this episode that I mention that while both red and white vermouth use white wine, but just use different herbs to change the color/flavor, with Lillet Blanc and Rouge they use the same herbs/botonicals, and just use a white wine for blanc, and a red wine for rouge.

steve7500 17 Aug 2012
8:51 am

Thanks Robt. So you just recom. that this is a drink alone on the rocks or maybe soda ? Your answer is interesting and informative.

blair frodelius 5 Dec 2012
4:03 pm

Robert,

This is a great use of orange juice in a cocktail.  Usually, it overwhelms the drink to the point where the other ingredients are lost. 

Also, this cocktail is unusually small.  Even my period cocktail glasses overwhelm the drink.  But, that makes it an exceptional “opener” for an evening of imbibing!

Having one tonight in honor of the 79th Repeal Day celebration!

Cheers,

Blair

Good Spirits News
http://goodspiritsnews.com

steve7500 5 Dec 2012
5:00 pm

I don’t have the apricot liquor yet. I can’t wait to taste this.

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