1.4 Imperial cocktail

21 Aug

He accepted with indifference the “Imperial” cocktail urged upon him by a hospitable acquaintance at the club. “What’s in it?” he inquired, when the contents of a tall glass had touched his flesh with fire. “Brandy and champagne,” said the sponsor carelessly. “Nothing better for a peckish feeling. Better have another. You looked rotten when you came in.

— Sidney Williams, A Reluctant Adam (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1915), pp. 280-1.

Brandy and champagne? Yeesh. Don’t worry, that’s not the cocktail we’re making here. There do seem to be several versions of the “Imperial” kicking around, though—or rather, several different cocktails glorying in that name. George Jean Nathan makes reference to an Imperial requiring brandy and Cointreau shaken up with mint leaves (American Mercury, vol. 12 [1927], p. 371). Trader Vic (1948) has a variation made from cognac, port wine and curaçao. Harry Schraemli’s Universalgetränkebuch (1935) is nearer the mark with a compound of anisette, orange bitters, maraschino and dry vermouth, topped with a lemon twist. But what we have in mind is a senior member of the extended martini family. Tim Daly’s Bartender’s Encyclopedia (1903) includes this recipe, which can also be found in the Savoy Cocktail Book and other contemporary sources:

1 or 2 dashes of aromatic bitters

1 dash of maraschino

½ wineglass of French vermuth

½ wineglass of Plymouth gin

Spoon well, strain into a cocktail glass, put in an olive, and serve.

He adds: “The above is very popular with Europeans of the better class, particularly the French, who are extremely fond of cordials of all descriptions.”  (Worcester, MA: Tim Daly, 1903, p. 64). The end result, then, is a classic martini accented with one such “cordial”, namely the Italo-Croatian maraschino liqueur (a dash of which was also added to the original Manhattans). I can see why it might appeal to the European palate, if there be such a thing: the taste, as well as the colour, reminded me faintly of sherry.

The 1:1 ratio of gin and vermouth is essential to this cocktail. But because I ended up using 1.5 oz. of those ingredients, a slightly greater quantity than that recommended by Daly, I upped the maraschino to 1/2 teaspoon. A single dash of bitters is all you need, though: two overwhelmed the flavour of my first attempt.


One Response to “1.4 Imperial cocktail”


  1. The Imperial | Tartines to Tikis - October 8, 2013

    […] This cocktail may not have been included on the menu that night, but it’s one that Erik mentioned as being amongst his favorite Savoy cocktails. The Imperial Cocktail is a recipe that actually predates Harry Craddock. I found it in Hugo Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks (1917) and also in Tim Daly’s Bartender’s Encyclopedia (1903) (as pointed out by cocktail101). […]

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