Drink of the Week: The Presto Cocktail

The Presto Cocktail. I have to admit that, for a cocktail blog, we haven’t been super-festive here at DOTW Central lately. Last week, I failed to make any mention of the then-upcoming Superbowl Sunday. This week, I’m ignoring both Valentine’s Day and President’s Day. It’s not because I have anything against drinks that celebrate either romantic love or our nation’s commanders in chief, it’s just that I’ve feeling a bit more workaday in my beverage choices of late.

This week we’re doing a drink that’s a more or less complete obscurity from Harry Craddock’s oh-so-canonical “The Savoy Cocktail Book.” It’s not a bad booze twist on a sweeter Manhattan variation, especially for those who like their drinks heavy on the citrus and who don’t mind a little bit of an anis-spiked absinthe kicker. Indeed, just a few people seem to have tried this drink online, most-notably blogger at his now-suspended Savoy Stomp blog back in 2009. So, anyone who tries this is among a proud and lonely few.

Beyond that, I don’t have any stories to go with this week’s drink and no heavy duty cultural references to make, so let’s get right into the recipe.

The Presto Cocktail

2 ounces brandy
1/2 ounce fresh orange juice
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/8-1/4 teaspoon (1 dash) absinthe

We’ve got a simple one here. Just combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice, shake, and strain into yet another one of those chilled cocktail glasses you always need to have laying around.


I tried this with two brandies and two vermouths, and I’m tempted to say your choice of a vermouth may be at least as important as your brandy selection this time out. Indeed, I was downright disappointed with my first attempt, which used Maison Rouge Cognac — the best brandy you’re likely to find at my place — and Martini sweet vermouth, which should be good enough for most drinks but really wasn’t here. Substituting Cocchi Vermout di Torino worked wonders, however, even when I was using Pierre Duchene Napoleon Brandy which, the outdated yet highfalutin name notwitstanding, is kind of a cheap ass product. I think the Presto Cocktail requires a more complex, bottom-heavy vermouth to keep it balanced.

Other than that, clearly the biggest difference came down to how I defined the term “dash” when it came to the absinthe. Admittedly, I used the appropriately named Absinthe Ordinaire — the only stuff I could find for under $50.00, but it’s actually been doing the trick for me since I bought my bottle some years ago now. Nevertheless, reducing my “dash” down to 1/8 of a tablespoon still provided enough anise flavor to give the drink an edge, but without getting in the way of the ingredients that I actually like enough to consume on their own.