The Modern Cocktail

Try googling modern cocktail, and you come up with everything from coffee tables to party dresses to bar menus. Basically everything except for a recipe for the Modern Cocktail. There are two versions out there for this famous drink. They all use the same ingredients with one minor addition, but they use the ingredients in different quantities.

The Trader Vic Version of the Modern Cocktail–1945
The first version I tried came from my 1945 edition of Trader Vic. It used scotch, so it was listed under whiskey recipes, but scotch is not the primary ingredient. To make one, combine

  • 1 oz sloe gin
  • 1/2 oz scotch
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 1 dash Pernod
  • 1 dash grenadine

Like all Trader Vic drinks, this one is small, and it’s about all I can take of this crazy-sweet drink. The scotch hardly shows up at all. Sloe gin and grenadine are way too powerful a combination, and the two of them make it seem like a Snapple with a hint of licorice smell from the Pernod. This drink may be completely different perhaps if I had a real sloe gin I made myself along with a homemade grenadine. Then, it may taste amazing. As it is, it tastes completely artificial. Nothing interesting there.

Hugo Ensslin’s Modern Cocktail–1917
The second version of the drink I got from the Cocktail Chronicles. The author there took it from Hugo Ensslin’s 1917 guide. It’s similar, but it eliminates all of the cloying sweetness. To make one, combine

  • 1 1/2 oz scotch
  • 2 dashes rum
  • 1 dash Pernod
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 2 dashes lemon juice

I used a more expensive scotch blend to make the first one, and it tasted like garbage, so I had to make a second version with my Tullibardine single malt. Wow, is the taste so very different. This one is smooth, without much actual flavor. The lemon mellows the alcohol, and the addition of the orange bitters adds to the complexity. But all of that complexity is very subtle, almost as if none of it exists except in the back of the throat.

If you’re looking for a modern cocktail, go back to 1917. Those moderns knew what they were doing.

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