Drink of the Week: The Betsy Ross Cocktail

the Betsy Ross Cocktail.It’s almost Independence Day weekend and, as our nation veers towards either electing its first woman president or it’s last male president, maybe it makes sense to honor one of the few founding mothers kids my age were ever taught about in school.

Yes, I admit, the actual role Mrs. Ross played in creating the Stars and Stripes is up for grabs. It seems that the story about her making that first flag for General Washington apparently emerged in 1876, about a century after our nation was born. Still, when the legend becomes fact, we do like John Ford and print the legend here at DOTW.

Here’s a cocktail reportedly from the 1950s named for the most famous seamstress in early American history. Rescued in our century by Gary Regan in The Joy of Mixology, it’s a very pretty cocktail that would definitely look good next to Old Glory.

The Betsy Ross Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces brandy…better make it Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy
1 1/2 ounces ruby port
1/2 ounce curacao
1-2 dashes Angostura/aromatic bitters

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass or cocktail shaker and stir. Shaking won’t ruin the taste, but it won’t improve it that much, and it will make the drink ugly. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and toast Betsy Ross. Even if she didn’t actually make that first flag, she’s probably as good a stand-in as any for all the women we’ve never heard of who had just as much to do with making this country great as those guys we keep hearing about all the time.


The original version of this cocktail doesn’t specify any particular type of brandy, and my assumption is that it would be the usual grape-derived stuff in 99% of cases. However, I found the Betsy Ross tremendously improved when I switched out my usual Reynal French brandy for the more patriotic Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy. Aside from bumping up the proof from 80 to 100, it really seemed to give my bottle of Sandeman Ruby Porto something to struggle against in a more balanced and nicely fruity manner.

Indeed, being perhaps mildly allergic to red wine, I really didn’t care to even finish my first try at a Betsy Ross, though the in-house cocktail guinea pig thought it decent enough. We both agreed, however, that the apple brandy version was a significant improvement over my first try. Needless to say, I polished that one off gladly.

Moreover, as I’ve mentioned here on many occasions, apple brandy is the original American hard liquor. In fact, no less than gentleman farmer George Washington actually made the stuff himself. Of course, there’s no record of whether or not he ever shared any with Betsy Ross, who was of Quaker stock and who therefore might have been raised to be a teetotaler. Still, I’d like to think that maybe they shared a little nip.

In fact, being someone who lives in a fantasyland on most days, I insist that Betsy Ross really did make the first flag. In fact, I’m also pretty sure that the late Stan Freberg’s 1961 version of events below is the correct one. Have more than two or three Betsy Ross Cocktails, and you might actually agree.