This Ivy Leaguer is top of its class
We’re back from vacation. We had a swell time, and did loads of fun stuff. Including a visit to Boston and Cape Cod (more on that later).
Boston is chock-full of colleges and universities. One of the best known is Harvard, an institution of diverse accomplishments—including having a cocktail named after it.
The Harvard Cocktail contains brandy, which we find rather warming. So it’s perfect for the cool autumn weather we’re beginning to enjoy in our part of the US.
To celebrate our trip to Boston, we’re featuring Harvard’s namesake drink in today’s post. Travel is so educational.
Recipe: The Harvard Cocktail
This drink dates back to 1895. It’s similar to a Manhattan Cocktail, but it uses brandy (or cognac) instead of the whiskey that’s traditional in a Manhattan. And it eliminates the maraschino cherry garnish. More notably, the Harvard Cocktail is topped with about an ounce of fizzy water—something you’d never use in a Manhattan. It all adds up to a great-tasting drink that works particularly well before dinner.
The original version of this drink was probably made with equal measures of brandy and Italian (red) vermouth. We prefer a bit more brandy in ours, and so we use a recipe perfected by cocktail historian extraordinaire David Wondrich. (We discuss other interesting variations in the Notes.)
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and serves 1.
- 1½ ounces brandy or cognac (see Notes)
- 1 ounce Italian (sweet, red) vermouth
- 2 or 3 dashes of bitters (Angostura or orange bitters, or a mix of the two)
- ~1 ounce fizzy water (club soda or seltzer)
- garnish of lemon or orange twist, or orange slice (optional)
- Place the brandy, vermouth, and bitters in a mixing glass half-filled with ice. Stir briskly until well chilled (20 to 30 seconds).
- Strain into a cocktail glass, preferably one that has been chilled. Add about an ounce of fizzy water. Garnish (if desired) and serve.
- Why stir rather than shake this drink? Because the ingredients are clear. Shaking can introduce small bubbles, which make a drink cloudy. This isn’t a problem when some ingredients are opaque (think citrus juice), but it can be unattractive when the ingredients are clear.
- With that said, there’s a version of this drink that adds ¼ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1 teaspoon grenadine (or simple syrup) to the recipe given above. If you make that iteration of the Harvard Cocktail, then shake away. (That variation is good, though we often omit the grenadine sweetener).
- We’ve also come across a version of the Harvard Cocktail (called the Harvard Fizz) that’s served on the rocks. Robert Hess likes to build this version of the drink in an ice-filled highball glass (use one with a capacity of about 10 ounces). His recipe calls for 1½ ounces brandy, ¾ ounce Italian vermouth, 1 dash orange bitters, and 2 ounces fizzy water. Serve with a straw.
- We’ve also seen recipes that call for a few dashes of maraschino liqueur. (The liqueur tastes nothing like the sweet, fluorescent-red cherries; in fact, its flavor is rather dry, and its color is clear.) We’re fans of maraschino liqueur—though not so much in this drink. But feel free to experiment.
- You can use either brandy or cognac when you mix this drink. Brandy is what happens when you distill wine; cognac is brandy that is produced in the Cognac region of France. Either works well in this drink.
- BTW, some brandies and cognacs are quite pricey. But for this drink, there’s no need to buy anything that costs more than $15 or so a bottle. If in doubt about what to buy, ask your liquor store for a recommendation.
- Harvard isn’t the only college that’s inspired a cocktail. There are also drinks named after Yale, Dartmouth, Penn, Columbia, and Brown, among others. Clearly, we need to research all of these.
- Harvard University is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just across the Charles River from Boston. It was founded in 1636, making it the oldest institution of higher education in the US. The university is named after John Harvard, a Puritan pastor whose bequest of money (and his private library) set the school on its way.
- Harvard’s initial mission was to train ministers. It wasn’t affiliated with a particular denomination, though many of its graduates became Congregationalist or Unitarian clergymen.
- Early on, Harvard modeled itself after English universities, which then emphasized religious subjects and classical languages (Greek and Latin). Over time, as new fields of study were developed, the college broadened its curriculum and became more secular. Today Harvard ranks as one of the best universities in the world. And we can attest that its namesake cocktail is world class.
“Terrific drink,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Really old school. And what a nice reminder of our trip to Boston.”
“It belongs on the honor roll,” I agreed. “It was great to visit Boston again. I’d forgotten what a wonderful walking city it is. And so many good restaurants!”
“Definitely a city that makes the grade,” said Mrs K R. “And Cape Cod was so much fun!”
“Staying in Provincetown was definitely an A+ move,” I said. “Loads of good meals and drinks there, too. Though oddly enough, we never had a Cape Codder Cocktail while we were visiting.”
“That’s because we were playing hooky from the blog,” said Mrs K R. “But now it’s time to buckle down and brainstorm some ideas for new posts.”
“No problem,” I said. “We don’t even need to crack a book. We had loads of great Italian meals in Boston, so maybe we should do a few Italian dishes this month.”
“Hands-on research is always the best, isn’t it?” said Mrs K R.
Yup. No ivory tower for us.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Cape Codder Cocktail
Ward Eight Cocktail
The Golden Dawn Cocktail
Or check out the index for more