The Harvard Cocktail: Brandy, Sweet Vermouth, and Angostura

In a previous post, I discussed the Yale Cocktail, so today, we travel northeast along the coast to Cambridge for the Harvard Cocktail. There are several versions of the Harvard cocktail, but my version is the one from Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide, which is the same as the version from the Savoy Cocktail Book as you can find on Savoy Stomp and Esquire.

The only difference is that Trader Vic calls it a highball and mixes everything in a glass with ice, while some other versions call for it up. After trying it both ways, I like it over ice because the sweet vermouth is a bit overpowering at first, and the extra ice mellows it as it begins to melt.

So mix in a highball glass with ice:

    Brandy, sweet vermouth, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters

  • 1 oz brandy
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 dash simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Since it is only a week after Thanksgiving, I have to admit that this drink reminds me of apple pie. It’s the cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice from the sweet vermouth that do it for me. And then the bitters hit at the back of the tongue and make it tingle all over. Don’t get me wrong: it doesn’t taste anything like apples, but the spices shine thorugh nicely and make this drink appropriate for cold nights (served up) or warm ones (over ice).

It’s also fun to imagine oneself as a professor at the Harvard faculty club wearing a smoking jacket and enjoying a cigar and a Harvard Cocktail while waxing philosophic about life and literature. It reminds me of the old English major joke:

A Harvard student wanders across the lawn to the President of the University and asks, “Excuse me, where’s the bathroom at?”

The President replies, “Young man, this is Harvard. We do not end our sentences with prepositions.”

“Oh, sorry,” the guy says.”Let me try again. Where’s the bathroom at, asshole?”

Drink a Harvard highball and pretend you’re an asshole. Or maybe this way: be an asshole and drink a Harvard cocktail.

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