Today’s drink of the day is the Scoff-Law Cocktail. I won’t bother with making too much of the namesake — ah, those merry, rebellious folks who scoffed at the Volstead Act and kept drinking liquor, anyway. I know that some of us love to build up the liquored past into something that we think will project advantageously onto ourselves as we sit and sip. I, for one, find that boring. Besides, we as a people in 2015 have been scoffing at morality laws over more substances, and for many more years, than anyone sitting in a speakeasy would ever have imagined. So, on to the drink, itself!
In both historical sources for this drink, Harry McElhone’s 1922, Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails, and Harry Craddock’s 1930, Savoy Cocktail Book, there are two parts each for the whiskey and the vermouth wine, and one part each for the syrup and the juice. Aside from the dashes of bitters, both sources seem to make the whole of the alcoholic and non-alcoholic ingredients into a jigger [2 fl-oz.|60 ml.]. That was common in prohibition era drink-making, when just about every new drink was called a cocktail and was crammed into the poor, little cocktail goblet. That would mean 1/3 jigger [2/3 fl-oz.|20 ml.] for each of the liquors and 1/6 jigger [1/3 fl-oz.|10 ml.] for each the syrup and the juice. Both sources do actually state 1/3 and 1/6 for the ingredients as I have just explained.
That amount for the sour juice (plus the sweetness level) puts this drink on the fence between being most satisfactory as a cocktail or as a sour.
That the drink was called a cocktail was virtually as meaningless in 1922 or 1930 as it is now. That cannot be the deciding factor in favor of a traditional cocktail. Neither should the shaking of this drink in 1922 or 1930 be the deciding factor in favor of a sour. The shaking of true cocktails was everywhere in those bad years.
I have let the presence of the bitters be the deciding factor and the drink is adapted here into a cocktail by reducing the juice to a cocktail-appropriate amount. It is also appropriately jiggered – and is, of course, stirred.
Can we make some drinks better than they were at the hands of a couple of prohibition-era bartenders? I should certainly hope so! Here it is: