Drink of the Week: The Stinger

The Stinger.During my pre-cocktailian days, I’d often get tired of my usual scewdrivers, Bloody Marys, and dirty martinis and ask the barkeep if he or she could think of anything good. The answer was, nearly always, a blank stare. The fact that not a single one ever suggested a Stinger to me is something of a minor crime.

Here is a drink that is about as easy to make as any decent cocktail I’ve ever had and not lacking in some sweet mass appeal. It’s also got some sophistication to it, but it can be delightfully good with the cheap stuff. It is definitely one of the great  mass appeal drinks perfect for the truly lazy or over-stressed bartender, which means you can try ordering this at your local dive or TGIF-type bar and it might even taste good.

The Stinger

2 1/4 ounces brandy
3/4 ounce white creme de menthe

Combine in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass and consider what you’ll do with the all the time you’ve saved on this drink.


Unless you make your own, it seems like there’s not a whole lot of alternatives when it comes to creme de menthe, and the seriously inexpensive DeKuyper product I was using is pretty much the standard. So, with this drink it’s the choice of brandy that can make a big difference, though I have to say I never had a bad Stinger.

Even so, the best brandy seems to yield the best results. So, my best Stinger was made with a reasonably priced bottle of Maison Rouge Cognac. A surprisingly close second was a downright cheap bottle of Pierre Duchene Napolean Brandy from Trader Joe’s, which is actually cheaper than my usual TJ default, Reynal, and most would say less good. I still thought it worked very nicely. A not at all poor third place was E&J VSOP, which I would never consider drinking on its own, but was still fine in a Stinger.

I also had a very nice Stinger (pictured above) when I found myself near my Orange County digs at the pricey but lovable Antonello’s in Santa Ana. I went all Ian Fleming on our waiter, demanding a drink that was 2 parts brandy and a half part creme de menthe. I have no idea whether or not Antonello’s followed my instructions, or what brands they used, but it definitely came out as as a sweetly sophisticated treat, all sweet and winey but with a backbone.

Before I go, I have to add that today’s recipe is pretty much a direct steal from David Wondrich but, in any case, the Stinger is a drink that allows for adjustment to personal taste. For starters, if you find measuring out 2 1/4 ounces too precise and annoying, feel free to just go with 2 ounces of brandy and 1/2 ounce creme de menthe and, if that doesn’t float your boat, feel free to mess around with the proportions. I will say, however, that you should be reasonably sparing of the creme de menthe, whatever you do.

Also, if you’ve only got the green kind of creme de menthe, it’s probably okay to use that. Robert Hess, however, says you should only do that to a Stinger during the holidays. What’s the next holiday?


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Drink of the Week: The Pall Mall Cocktail

The Pall Mall Cocktail. Since I generally write pretty favorably about these Drinks of the Week, you might be forgiven if you assume that I am like the proud daddy who loves all his boozy children equally. That, my tippling brothers and sisters, is simply not the case.

Among newer drinks — especially drinks that have been pitched to me by the alcoholic industrial complex — I try never to steer you towards anything that I wouldn’t gladly make for myself. However, I am more inclusive when it comes to older drinks. Heck, someday I might even try out recipes for some very well known drinks I personally dislike, such as the highly-effective but (usually) mildly disgusting Long Island Ice Team or the incredibly over-sweet Harvey Wallbanger.

Those drinks hail from the 1970s — a golden era for most film lovers but the very nadir of the dark ages for cocktailians. Today’s drink, however, comes to us from the 1930s or earlier and is yet another of the thousands of recipes featured in “The Savoy Cocktail Book.” It might be named after the cigarette brand, it might not.

It does, however, introduce me to a cocktail ingredient that, as far as I can remember, I have never previously tasted. I speak of creme de menthe, a liqueur  that is basically just mint and/or mint flavoring, alcohol, and sugar. As you might guess, it tastes like a liquid candy cane. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, I’ll be figuring that one out over the coming weeks.

In the meantime, let’s get started on this week’s drink.

The Pall Mall Cocktail

1 ounce Plymouth Gin (standard London dry might not be a sin)
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 teaspoon white creme de menthe
1 dash orange bitters

Combine all the ingredient in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Prepare for a surprisingly minty experience and drink up!


I have to admit that my first go-round with the Pall Mall Cocktail was more than a little alarming. The only creme de menthe I had on hand, from an airplane bottle bought at a bargain price, was of the bright green variety, which you are not supposed to use in Pall Mall Cocktail and for good reason. The result was in a drink that looked only slightly better than what happened a day or two later when my sink backed up. It tasted slightly better than it looked, but that was obviously no great praise. The bittersweet notes in Carpano Antica also seemed to be a big problem. My housemate/guinea pig liked it even less than me.

Subsequent tries with a more standard Martini sweet vermouth and DeKuyper’s white creme de menthe, proved a lot better, or least more inoffensive. Make no mistake, however, that little teaspoon of creme de menthe dominates the flavor of this drink, and it doesn’t always play well with the herbal flavor in the gin and dry vermouth, especially.

Finally, a note on gin. This is one of a bunch of recipes found in The Savoy Cocktail book that call specifically for Plymouth Gin. These days, that refers to both a style of gin and a brand, as the only brand of Plymouth style gin these days is, in fact, Plymouth Gin. (It’s herbal flavors are probably every so slightly fruitier than what you’ll find in the kind of gins you’re likely used to.) So, I mostly used Plymouth when making these drinks. However, using Bombay Dry Gin didn’t ruin the drink, at least assuming it wasn’t ruined to begin with.