Drink of the Week: The Modern Cocktail (No. 1)

The Modern Cocktail (No. 1).This might be a little confusing, but just bear with me. You see, although it wasn’t my intention, it turns out that I’ve began another of my occasional trilogies of cocktails, and these are all called “The Modern Cocktail,” though it’s hard to say what was particularly modern about them back in the earlier part of the 20th century. However, they’re unusual in that they include Scotch, rarely a go-to base spirit, though one I’m quite fond of in mixed drinks, at times.

My original plan was to simply follow-up last week’s drink, the Modern Cocktail, which was based on a surprisingly harmonious combination of sloe gin and Scotch, with the Modern Cocktail (No. 2) from 1930’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” which actually does not include the original 1905 Modern Cocktail recipe I went through last week. Got that? In any case, I was sidetracked by some difficulties with locating decent brands of sloe gin at my local stores.

More about that next week, but in the meantime, we’re going to go with the first drink bearing the name “Modern Cocktail” included in Harry Craddock’s epochal cocktail book. This one is sloe gin-free and a drastically different taste experience. However, the recipe is similar enough to the first Modern Cocktail that it’s tempting to wonder if the whole thing isn’t some kind of a typographical mutation. It’s close to being the same drink, minus the sloe gin or, really, any kind of sweetening.

Yes, this is a drink for a select few who really want their booze to be boozy and relatively unadorned and unsoftened. See what you think.

The Modern Cocktail (No. 1)

2 ounces of Scotch whiskey
2 dashes Jamaican rum
2 dashes fresh lemon juice
1 dash absinthe
1 dash orange bitters

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass with a great deal of ice. Shake or stir as is your preference and strain into a well-chilled cocktail glass. As you sip, think on whether or not you agree with the belief that there’s something about Scotch which makes it less suitable for cocktails than other whiskies.


With this drink, you’d better like your Scotch. But is that even enough? The only bit of online writing I could find about it, from the blog Proper Cocktails, was not exactly appreciative. It basically argued that plain old Scotch with some ice or water is actually better.

I’m a bit more charitable. I do think the addition of the other ingredients makes for a nice variation on a theme; you might not necessarily love what you’re tasting, but you know there’s plenty to taste. I also think it works reasonably well with a decent, relatively inexpensive blended Scotch like Dewar’s or Grant’s, which were my choices along with Glenfiddich.

Among the ingredients you only need a dash or two of, the one that’s new here is Jamaican rum. I’m not enough of an expert to tell you how the Jamaican variety is specifically different from rums made in other locales, but this was a decent excuse for me to buy Appleton Estate rum, the only Jamaican rum I could find easily. It’s good stuff, but I imagine another amber or dark rum would be reasonably identical here. So, if you’re desperate to try this but don’t want to shell out for a specifically Jamaican rum, I’m not convinced it’s a deal breaker.

This is a drink that I personally enjoyed, and the boozer who wants to taste everything might want to give it a try as well. But honestly, it’s going to be a tough sell for most, and that applies to both the shaken and stirred version. I lean slightly towards the stirred version of this one, though Craddock said to shake it.

Still, I have to say that last week’s Modern Cocktail, and next week’s Modern Cocktail, will be a lot more pleasurable for almost everyone.┬áIn other words, all this drink is really missing is a little sloe gin love. Stay tuned.


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