Drink of the Week: The Modern Cocktail (No. 2)

The Modern Cocktail (No.2).Today, we have part three of our latest series of related cocktails with The Modern Cocktail (No. 2.) If you go back and look at the prior two (The Modern Cocktail and The Modern Cocktail (No. 1)), you’ll see that what they all have in common, aside from the name, is Scotch and number of similar ingredients measured out in dashes. The latter two appear in Harry Craddock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” but the first is a more complete obscurity recently resurrected by cocktail historian David Wondrich. Upon reflection, I think it’s pretty clearly the best of the three.

Nevertheless, today’s selection is not a bad runner-up because, like Wondrich’s discovery, it mellows out the Scotch with a healthy amount of sloe gin. This drink, however, tamps down the whiskey somewhat and gooses up the gin-based cherry liqueur. You could say it’s on the sweet side.

The Modern Cocktail (No. 2)

1 ounce blended Scotch whisky
2 ounces sloe gin
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash absinthe
1 dash grenadine

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Stir or shake — Harry Craddock and I  say you should shake this, but most cocktail snobs will prefer to stir — and strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Congratulate yourself if you’ve ever actually eaten a sloe berry. (I haven’t.)


Aside from increasing the amount of sloe gin and decreasing the Scotch, this recipe differs from the original Modern Cocktail in that doesn’t include any lemon juice and substitutes a dash of grenadine for a teaspoon of sugar. The result is a drink that’s a bit sweeter but also less refreshing. Still, I like the Modern Cocktail (No. 2) a fair amount.

The most important ingredient here is the sloe gin, so you’ll want to find a good one. However, as I alluded to in past weeks, that might be easier said than done. Indeed, I was surprised to lean that my local Bev-Mos were only carrying the cheapest of sloe gins and had dropped Plymouth’s outstanding product, while another area store that had previously stocked it couldn’t even explain to me why it was no longer on the shelves. I was, however, relieved to find that not only Plymouth but Spirit Works sloe gin, a well-reviewed artisanal brand, was available at Wine and Liquor Depot in nearby Van Nuys along with a other decent brands. Of the two brands I used, both are good, but I lean towards Plymouth.

As for the Scotch, I used Glenfiddich, Grant’s and Dewar’s. I think the dryer and more complex Glenfiddich might have held up a bit better against the sweet onslaught of the other ingredients, but honestly, I’m not sure it matters much. The sloe gin is always going to dominate this one.