Drink of the Day — The Swan Cocktail


Swan Cocktail ingredients

Today’s drink of the day is the Swan Cocktail. This little under-appreciated gem is another true cocktail (an indication of which part of the Elemental Mixology book I have been over-hauling).

I think that the oldest recipe is found in the pre-prohibition bar book of Waldorf bar-man, Joseph Taylor, as published by Albert Crockett in his 1931 book Old Waldorf Bar Days. (which I refer to instead of the 1935 book Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book because it is apparent to me that Crockett messed with Taylor’s recipes a little more in the later book to fit post-prohibition ideas). A slightly different version of the drink is found in Jacques Straub’s 1914 book, Drinks, that seems not as old. Straub uses dry gin and no sugar syrup where Taylor uses genever and gum syrup — both tending to indicate an older recipe. Neither indicated more than an accent of the juice – Taylor uses “the juice of one lime,” but before 1920 that would be the bartender’s, or Key, lime — with a juice yield anywhere from a few drops to about a quarter fluid-ounce. Taylor is thought to have begun writing his book just after he started working at the Waldorf in 1894, so there is a very real possibility that it was written down there before Straub ever began composing his book.

Taylor’s recipe calls for both sugar syrup and dry vermouth wine. I omit the sugar syrup and use bianco or blanc vermouth wine, since that form is essentially dry vermouth wine plus white sugar.

‘PubDumb’ has a lot of people fooled about amounts and methods when it comes to citrus juice. Don’t use too much and make this drink into a sour – it’s a juice-accented cocktail. Neither should you shake this drink and bruise the velvet of the liquor through aeration just because of that wee bit of lime juice. Do finely strain it for the pulp, though.

You really should make this drink. Here is the recipe with various possible proportions (they made it @ 1:1 in the old Waldorf bar — I like it @ 2:1). Click on the recipe if you want to see it larger.

Swan Cocktail recipe

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