The Scofflaw: Perfect name. Good drink

The Scofflaw is a magnificent word, a great backstory, and a pretty good drink

The story of the Scofflaw cocktail starts in 1924, with a contest unloosed by a prominent Prohibitionist. He invited the public to coin a word intended to “stab awake the conscience” of people who dared consume alcoholic beverages during America’s Ignoble Experiment. “Scofflaw” was the winner.

Among the 25,000 rejected entries: “sluch-licker”and “alcoloom.”

Scofflaw Cocktail Craig Stoltz cocktail blog
Word up: The Scofflaw Cocktail

You were about to guess: The plan backfired spectacularly. “Scofflaw” was quickly appropriated with pride by the very people it was intended to castigate. It remains a great word today, used to describe anybody who willingly, even cheerfully, violates disagreeable laws or rules.

Within days of the announcement that “scofflaw” would become the approved word to shame drinkers, an enterprising drinksman at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris created The Scofflaw cocktail to tweak the noses of Americans wallowing in their feckless idiocy of Prohibition.

There are several recipes for the Scofflaw, of course. I prefer the following spirits-forward version, made with rye.

The Scofflaw cocktail

  • 2 oz rye
    • I used Rittenhouse
  • 1 oz dry vermouth
    • Dolin
  • .5 oz grenadine
    • Stirrings. If you all you have is Rose’s drop me a note and as a humanitarian gesture I will personally buy you a bottle of Stirrings. You must never use Rose’s again.
  • .25 lemon juice
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Shake, no garnish.

Variations of the Scofflaw

A common Scofflaw variation calls for 1.5 of the whiskey and .75 oz each of grenadine and lemon juice. That’s a different drink, fruity and weak by my tastes.

But the Scofflaw variation that may come closest to the original uses an ounce each of rye and vermouth, and .5 oz each of lemon and grenadine. I like it plenty but it too is a different drink, dry and less boozy.

So is this the drink that was served at Harry’s in Paris in 1924?

Harry Craddock, legendary barman and author of the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), includes The Scofflaw in his volume of recipes offered at his famed Savoy Hotel bar in London. The book was published 6 years after Harry’s original version of the drink debuted. Did Craddock publish Harry’s recipe exactly?

I like to think that Harry was himself a scofflaw, flouted the rules and tweaked the recipe himself.

Author: Craig Stoltz

Cocktail enthusiast with no professional standing, former Time.com Top 25 blogger, and ex-Washington Post editor. I live in Bethesda, Maryland.

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