19. Casino cocktail

19 Aug

The woman sighed. “I wish I had it! A little black and white house, lawns and a pool with a purple flower growing by; one could rest here.” “Oh, no, you wouldn’t,” said the young man, brutally. “You want bridge and theatres and a casino and cocktails.”

— Marion Cran, Gardens of Character (New York: Macmillan, 1940), p. 139.

The Hotel des Etrangers is not far from the Casino Muncipale. In fact, it is so close that a sprinter can lose his money at the tables, rush over and get some more at the desk, and dash back and lose that all in a few minutes.  St Rocque is proud of the Hotel des Etrangers, and justly. It has all the latest improvements, including a garden for the convenience of guests wishing to commit suicide, a first-class orchestra and cuisine, telephones in the bedrooms, and on the ground floor an up-to-date cocktail bar presided over by Gustave, late of Chez Jimmy, Paris.

— PG Wodehouse, Hot Water (London: Arrow, 2008 [1932]).

Other activities of TRH [Their Royal Highnesses Edward Prince of Wales and Prince George] in South America last week:  […] Dancing the tango at Vina del Mar’s Casino, HRH [Edward] belied advance press notices from London that he can tango. According to Chilean experts, what HRH did was something between a tango and a waltz. “This made his steps,” wrote one courteous Chilean, “quite the most unusual and newest on the floor”. Entertaining a delegation of more than 100 Cuban business leaders, Britain’s “Empire Salesman” used the American technique, served a typically hard “salesman’s cocktail”.

— “Ich Deal”, Time, 9 March 1931.

Casinos were once glamorous and rather louche places, housed in elegant villas in equally elegant resorts—Baden-Baden, Monte Carlo, Estoril—and frequented by demimondaines and SPECTRE kingpins. Nowadays they are windowless prisons with all the mystique of Birmingham airport. The high rollers may still come, but a modern casino makes most of its money from the glassy-eyed mopes in Walmart jeans feeding slot machines from the comfort of their mobility scooters.

Anyway, this drink, which evokes the long-lost glitz of the casino, showcases the sweeter, citrus notes of Old Tom gin. The earliest recipe, at least that I am aware of, is in Hugo Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks, where it reads as follows:

2 dash maraschino

2 dash orange bitters

2 dash lemon juice

1 dram Old Tom Gin

Stir well in a mixing glass with cracked ice, strain and serve with a cherry.

— Hugo R. Ensslin, Recipes for Mixed Drinks (New York: Fox, 1916), p. 11.

I’m presuming “dram” is meant in the informal rather than exact sense of 1/8 fluid oz., as that would clearly be nonsense. So I went with 2 oz., which is roughly what the Savoy Cocktail Book stipulates (where the measurement is “1 glass”). Now, even rounding up slightly, since it’s rather impractical to administer dashes of some of these ingredients, we’re still left with a drink that, while perfectly pleasant, is basically a gussied-up gin and bitters. Following a more recent recipe, I upped the dose of the lemon juice and maraschino to 1/4 oz., a small adjustment, but one that brings a big improvement to the balance of flavours. (I’ve seen alternative recipes calling for as much as 1 oz. of lemon juice, but that seems deluded, irresponsible and vandalous.)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: