During the first few years of prohibition, seafaring bootleggers attempting to import contraband booze into the U.S. could rely on a three-mile limit…the point beyond which American legal jurisdiction ended and alcohol became legal. In an effort to make the logistics of illegal import more challenging, a 1924 law extended the limit to a full 12 miles. Presumably, the new law made things harder both on rum-runners and legitimate cruise lines and their thirsty passengers.
As recounted in the 21st century by Ted Haigh in his uber-influential “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails,” globetrotting journalist Tommy Millard therefore took it upon himself to up the ante on a previously existing Three Mile Limit cocktail (aka the Three Miler). Milard was apparently quite the gadabout and man about whatever town he happened to be in who, as one fellow journo put it, moved about like “a leaf on the wind.”
Today, I celebrate the fact that, after losing my first copy of Ted Haigh’s book to a water-filled sink, another copy has arrived at my doorstop with this potent, but actually quite tasty beverage. Even today, it’s probably best consumed when the authorities are well out of reach.
The Twelve-Mile Limit
1 ounce white rum
1/2 ounce rye whiskey
1/2 ounce brandy
1/2 ounce grenadine
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1 lemon twist (garnish)
Combine all of the non-garnish ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. (I like to start to with the grenadine, to make sure all of the thick syrup finds it’s way from the measuring jigger to the drink.) Shake vigorously, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the lemon twist and salute your freedom to be the highly responsible boozer you are.
When it comes to brands, different writers seem to have strong preferences for what works best in a Twelve-Mile limit. Mr. Haigh suggests that Appleton White Rum and Hennessy VS brandy are his favorites for this drink. Writing in 2010, rum blogger Matt Robold thought a bolder rum was in order and offered El Dorado 3 Year Old or Montanya Platino. The following year, blogger Doug Ford used Mount Gay Eclipse Silver rum, Sazerac rye, and Courvoisier VSOP brandy.
I used what I had in the house. My first version included Bacardi Maestro de Ron, 100 proof Rittenhouse Rye, and my default Reynal Brandy. That come out a bit tart for my taste. I had more fun with the next, version where I went with the slightly less potent Bulleit Rye and Meyer’s Light Rum, producing a much more pleasantly mellow libation. A less high end version featuring plain old regular light Bacardi and Old Overholt rye was simple, but nicely balanced between sweet, tart, and boozy flavors.
One more note. Despite what you might read on some blogs, making your own grenadine is a great thing to do if you’re itching to go all DIY, but it’s in no way a necessity. I just try to make sure I’m using something with at least some real pomegranate juice in. Right now, I’m using Sonoma Syrup, but my usual default, Master of Mixes, would very likely have been about as good. For some reason, the online prices I’m seeing for the latter are MUCH higher that what I remember paying for it at my local BevMo! Nevertheless, avoid the all-artificial super cheapy stuff, if you can.
And now a moment of silence on behalf of long deceased journalists and other leaves on the wind.