In which I blunder through the side door of a bastard classic
For the inaugural meeting of the Meaured Spirit Book Club(c), I turn to Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book [1930 version, via cheapo 2015 reprint].
It’s an exhaustive alphabetical compendium of that period’s drinks, including those that have stood the test of time and others that have disappeared into the icebin of history.
I once came across a blog by a guy who undertook the task of making every Savoy drink, from the Abbey to the Zombie. It took years. I assume he is now in custodial care. I hope his family visits him regularly.
Random acts of drink selection
For this meeting of the book club, I grabbed my Savoy and did the pick-a-random-page-and-point-with-your-eyes-closed thing. I failed 3 times to find a drink I could make, the inventory of the Measured Spirit Lounge having thinned during These Trying Times.
I finally scored with the Loudspeaker Cocktail. Happily, it includes one of Craddock’s drink notes, dripping with his characteristic British drollery and convoluted syntax:
“This it is that gives to Radio Announcers their peculiar enunciation. Three of them will produce oscillation, and after about five it is possible to reach the osculation stage.”
“Osculation” means “the act of kissing.”
Harry, you dog!
Dry and hard to drink
Anyhow, the Loudspeaker calls for 3 parts brandy, 3 parts gin, and one part each Cointreau and lemon juice.
It’s really dry and hard to drink. Mixing two base spirits is always challenging, and the proportions here didn’t help. It’s like the gin and brandy were having a loud argument, and the Cointreau and lemon were hiding under the covers waiting for the yelling to stop. [Maybe that’s why it was called the “loud speaker.” Har!]
I don’t know if that was a style of the day or just another drink that disappeared because it wasn’t very good.
From classic sour to equal parts
Today’s palate, by which I mean mine, is accustomed to what’s now called a “classic sour”: 1.5 oz base spirit to .75 each of a juice and sweetener. It’s more or less the formula for a daiquiri, a margarita, a whiskey sour, etc. You can use just about any base, sweetener, and juice and you’ll usually wind up with something drinkable.
So to update the Loudspeaker, I split the 1.5 base between the gin and brandy, then did .75 each of Cointreau and lemon juice. A basic sour.
But having split the base between gin and brandy, it had become an equal-parts cocktail.
It resembled a Corpse Reviver Number 2 — equal parts gin, lemon juice, Cointreau and Kina Lillet. Here brandy, a distilled wine, stands in for the Kina, an aperitif wine. Huh.
Without knowing it, I’d wandered through the side door of the home of a bastard classic.
I don’t know if it was the lower expectations from the first cocktail, or the fact that the drink was in my tank. But it’s really pretty good, well-balanced and bright. The gin and brandy are now sitting on the couch, exchanging mutually respectful thoughts.
Will I make it again? Not with so many pages of the Savoy yet to explore!
Don’t worry, I’m only drinking through the letter A.
.75 brandy [I used VS cognac. Like I said, I’m running out of stuff]
.75 lemon juice
Shake, strain, no garnish. Because Harry Craddock said so.