Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Leap Year Cocktail

Leap Year Cocktail

A smooth charmer from a legendary mixologist

We love to toast special occasions. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Fridays. We’ll drink to them all.

Including leap year. And since that comes around just once every four years, it calls for a special cocktail, don’t you think?

Lucky for us, bartender extraordinaire Harry Craddock felt the same way. So in 1928, he invented the Leap Year Cocktail (at London’s Savoy Hotel, where he was working at the time). His creation is a slightly sweet—but totally delectable—Martini-like drink. 

Once you taste it, you probably won’t wait 4 years to have another.


Leap Year Cocktail

Recipe: The Leap Year Cocktail

This drink features a tongue-tingling mixture of gin, sweet vermouth, and Grand Marnier, with just a hint of fresh lemon juice. It’s slightly sweet, but the lemon balances that nicely.

Despite the touch of sweetness, this makes a superb before-dinner drink. It’s refreshing and excites the palate for the food to come.

We adapted our recipe from the version that Harry Craddock published in his Savoy Cocktail Book.

This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and serves one.

Ingredients
  • 2 ounces dry gin
  • ½ ounce sweet vermouth (Italian vermouth—the red stuff)
  • ½ ounce Grand Marnier liqueur 
  • ~2 dashes lemon juice (about ¼ teaspoon; but see the Notes—you may want a bit more)
  • lemon twist for garnish (optional; may also substitute lemon slice)
Procedure
  1. Combine all ingredients (except garnish) in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Shake vigorously until well chilled (10 to 20 seconds).
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass, preferably one that has been chilled. Garnish (if desired) and serve.
Leap Year Cocktail

Notes
  • Our recipe suggests shaking this drink (which is the traditional way to make it). But you could stir it if you prefer.
  • The mixologist “rule of thumb” says to stir a drink when all the ingredients are clear. That’s because shaking introduces small bubbles, which can make a drink cloudy. If some ingredients are opaque, however (think citrus juice), it’s easier to mix cocktails by shaking (and you won’t notice the bubbles).
  • This drink does include one opaque ingredient (lemon juice)—but not that much of it. And all the other ingredients are clear. So you may elect to stir it.
  • In any case, remember that cocktail rules are made to be broken.
  • Speaking of lemon juice, how much to use in this drink? The original recipe called for a dash (about an eighth of a teaspoon). We like to use at least 2 dashes (¼ teaspoon). And sometimes we even double that (to half a teaspoon or more). So feel free to experiment.
  • Most brands of gin you’ll see at liquor stores are the dry variety—which is what you want for this drink. Any name brand works. We’re partial to Beefeater, but the highly aromatic Hendrick’s would be a fun choice for this cocktail. Plymouth gin would also be tasty.
  • For sweet vermouth, we generally use Martini and Rossi. But there are lots of interesting vermouths on the market these days, so it’s worth experimenting with brands.
  • Our usual disclaimer here: Kitchen Riffs is totally noncommercial, and we’re not compensated for mentioning brands. We recommend only what we like and buy with our own money.
  • Although the Leap Year Cocktail is slightly sweet, it’s not as sweet as the original Martini. Seriously. In the 19th century, Martinis were made with sweet (not dry) vermouth and Old Tom gin (which is sweetened). So they were much sweeter than the “classic” Martini we know today. 
  • Leap year, as we all know, has 366 days instead of the usual 365. The extra day (February 29) is known as leap day.
  • We add a day to the calendar every 4 years because our solar year (the period of time it takes for the sun to return to exactly the same position, as viewed from Earth) is actually about 365 days and 6 hours long. So adding an extra day every 4 years allows the calendar to line up (more or less) with the solar year.
  • For those of us in the US, it’s always easy to remember when leap year will arrive—it coincides with presidential election year. This election season, we suspect many people will be in particular need of a cocktail. Or three.
  • Harry Craddock, the inventor of the Leap Year Cocktail, was a legendary barman. Originally from the United Kingdom, he moved to the US and became an American citizen. But he returned to Britain during the Prohibition era and worked at the famed Savoy Hotel. Craddock helped introduce American-style cocktails to the UK. He also created several famous drinks, including The Corpse Reviver #2
  • Craddock published The Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930. It remains in print today, and is an excellent source of classic cocktail recipes. 
  • Craddock created the Leap Year Cocktail on February 29, 1928. It was an instant hit—particularly among the romantically inclined. According to The Savoy Cocktail Book, the Leap Year “is said to have been responsible for more proposals than any other cocktail that has ever been mixed.”
Leap Year Cocktail

Leaps and Bounds

“Leapin’ lizards,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “This is one tasty drink.”

“Smooth too,” I said. “My heart leaps up when I behold it.”

“I thought the mix of ingredients sounded odd at first,” said Mrs K R. “But Harry Craddock knew his stuff. So I took a leap of faith.”

“Well, we always leap at the chance to try a new drink,” I said.

“And rarely bother to look before we leap,” said Mrs K R. “Because what would be the fun in that?”

You may also enjoy reading about:
Corpse Reviver Cocktail
Martini Cocktail
Brainstorm Cocktail
Aviation Cocktail
Income Tax Cocktail
Twentieth Century Cocktail
Airmail Cocktail
Last Word Cocktail
Cocktail Basics
Or check out the index for more

104 comments:

  1. I can see this being the perfect cocktail for a cold evening by the fire! Sounds great.

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    1. Hi Caroline, the flavor of this is wonderful! Truly a great drink. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  2. I feel like the last leap year was like yesterday, hard to believe it's been 4 years! What a great unique name for a cocktail - certainly makes it memorable :) It looks delicious!

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    1. Hi Melanie, I know, time moves so quickly, doesn't it? Thanks for the comment.

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  3. I will pass this cocktail along to my cousin who was a leap year baby. I'm sure she would enjoy celebrating her birthday with this drink.

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    1. Hi Karen, leap year babies have an interesting choice regarding birthdays, don't they? Of course they don't age nearly as quickly as the rest of us! Thanks for the comment.

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  4. This looks great John, I may have to recruit your skills for when I have dinner parties! Happy New Year :)

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    1. Hi Mary, Happy New Year! Isn't this a wonderful looking drink? Tastes even better than it looks! Thanks for the comment.

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  5. Since this cocktail won't come around again for another 4 years, I'd better go ahead and make this one! BTW, John, you earned AGAIN the prize for giving me the most comments on my blog for 2015 (as stated in my Wordpress Annual Report). You never missed any of my posts- what dedication. Thanks so much (however, no pressure to continue at this rate, of course).

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    1. Hi Fran, wow, never missed a post? Obviously I like what you do. :-) And you'll like this cocktail -- it's a good one. Thaks for the comment.

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  6. HAPPY NEW YEAR TO BOTH OF YOU!!! Wishing you nothing but the best in 2016!
    Oh yes, a cocktail like that is definitely a perfect way to celebrate a Leap Year. I am sure anyone would love to celebrate with this gorgeous drink.
    Cheers to a lovely year.
    xx

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    1. Hi Asha, thanks, and Happy New Year to you and yours! This really is a wonderful drink for a leap year. Or any year. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  7. I have a feeling Sadie Hawkins Day may have contributed to the popularity of this drink, John. I can imagine the young ladies sipping a few and then proposing to their man, lol...

    This drink sounds right up my alley John and a keeper too. It's funny I never realized Leap Year and Election Year coincided.

    Thanks for sharing, John...

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    1. Hi Louise, totally agree re Sadie Hawkins Day! Great drink -- I think you'd love it. Thanks for the comment.

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  8. Woah, I have all these things, right here in my kitchen. (My bar is in the kitchen, because, isn't that where every party winds up happening anyway?) It's a little early in the afternoon ... but I could at least squeeze that lemon I've been meaning to use up, and get a jump on things right now.

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    1. Hi Jeff, we keep all our booze in the kitchen too -- that's where the ice is! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  9. I had not even realized it was a Leap Year until the day off so I would really would have missed out on this cocktail had to wait 4 years. It looks really wonderful and a great cocktail for the first post of the year. Happy New Year John and to the Mrs!

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    1. Hi Evelyne, I've been waiting for a leap year so we could write about this drink! It's a goodie. Happy New Year, and thanks for the comment.

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  10. Hi John, Happy New Year and this Leap Year bring some peace . I have to try this cocktail on my man , I am also adding it to my collection ... I was the cocktail Queen over the holidays ...all the thanks go to you John. So Happy New Year to you , Mrs . K R and all the little Kitty Riffs . Nee :)

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    1. Hi Nee, this is a wonderful drink -- you'll be a star when you serve this. :D Happy New Year, and thanks for the comment.

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  11. This lovely cocktail will have to last 4 years until the next leap year? Hmmm...It does look beautiful, Happy New Year and Happy Leap Year!

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    1. Hi Pat, I have a feeling leap year will become a regular occurrence around here -- just so we have an excuse to have one of these. :-) Happy New Year, Leap Year, and thanks for the comment.

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  12. I always learn some new tidbit reading your posts, this drink looks potent and quite delicious!

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    1. Hi Cheri, this is a super tasting drink -- really a good one. Thanks for the comment.

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  13. This sounds intriguing. I'll pass it on to my husband, he's a vermouth drinker, too. :)

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    1. Hi Lydia, I'll bet your husband will love this! And we have a very vermouth-heavy drink planned for next month. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  14. John: this is beautiful as always. I am always stunned by your drink photos. I hope your holiday break was wonderful. May your 2016 be filled with blessings.

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    1. Hi Denise, we had a terrific break! Thanks for that very kind comment. :-)

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  15. Happy new year John, I hope you've had a wonderful break.

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    1. Hi Amira, Happy New Year to you! We enjoyed taking off a bit of time. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  16. This does sound like the perfect cocktail to celebrate a leap year or a Friday or a Monday for that matter (the day I'm generally in need of a drink). What a beautiful and delicious concoction and what an inviting photo with that absolutely perfect lemon twist. Happy 2016! :)

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    1. Hi Nicole, Happy 2016 to you. And happy Mondays. :D Thanks for the comment.

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  17. Leap year cocktail sounds great! Looks delicious with lovely clicks. Bookmarked!

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    1. Hi Kushi, this is so worth trying -- really an excellent tasting drink. Thanks for the comment.

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  18. It sounds absolutely lovely and is certainly enticing! I could leap into this one! Welcome back :) Hope your holidays were wonderful!

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    1. Hi Tricia, we had a good time off. :-) And this really is an enticing drink -- so tasty. Thanks for the comment.

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  19. Such a terrific leap year cocktail! I didn't even think about this year having an extra day---a good reason to celebrate :)

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    1. Hi Liz, I'll take any reason to celebrate! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  20. "Leapin lizards" Funny! :) Totally forgot this was leap year so I guess this cocktail needs to be introduced to my family and friends during January and February. Looks like a lovely and tasty cocktail that they'd all enjoy. I know I would. Thanks John!

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    1. Hi MJ, you definitely need to introduce this to your family and friends -- and yourself, of course! -- this month and next. It's a good one. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  21. I had no idea this year was a leap year! One of your amazing cocktails is a good way to celebrate!

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    1. Hi Kristi, yup, it's leap year. I've had this cocktail on my posting schedule for a couple of years now. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  22. Another lovely cocktail and another fun post. Happy New Year and welcome back--I hope your holidays have been filled with peace and love. --Rocquie

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    1. Hi Rocquie, Happy New Year too you! Hope your camera is fixed, or will be soon. Thanks for the comment.

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  23. I always enjoy the learning about history behind the cocktail recipes you post! This looks and sounds really tasty. So pretty too!

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    1. Hi Marcelle, the history behind this drink is interesting, isn't it? And it tastes good too! This drink has it all. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  24. This is a great way to celebrate leap year! I just bought a bottle of Grand Marnier so this must be divine intervention. I can't wait to try it.

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    1. Hi Karen, definitely sounds like divine intervention. :-) You'll love this! Thanks for the comment.

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  25. Mmmm. It looks and sounds tasty!

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    1. Hi Pam, it is, it is! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  26. OMG this entry makes me so happy, you can't even imagine. I'm done with breastfeeding and it's time to have a nice, delicious coctail from time to time, tra la la <3

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    1. Hi Marta, this is really a good cocktail! A great one to cut your teeth on now that you can enjoy a drink again. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  27. All the citrus in this cocktail sounds wonderful. I didn't know it was a leap year this year until I read this. Great tip about the presidential election. Yes, we will be in need of more great cocktail recipes from you :)

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    1. Hi Laura, sounds like it's going to be a long election season this year. :-( But one of these will make things better! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  28. So, does it mean we have to drink daily for the next four years or once every four years? Hmm, I think like the former, John. Hahaha! Have a Happy New Year to you and yours. John. :)

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    1. Hi Ray, I like the former, too! :-) Happy New Year, and thanks for the comment.

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  29. Oooh, I had no idea it is a leap year! Here's cheers to you and your lovely wife... happy 2016 x

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    1. Hi Lizzy, Happy New Year! And thanks for the comment.

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  30. I feel like I remember seeing this before and loved the sound of it. The color is so pretty, it reminds me of fall.The ingredients sound wonderful and I'm sure blended together tastes sensational!

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    1. Hi Vicki, this does have a nice color, doesn't it? But then, so many cocktails do! Thanks for the comment.

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  31. This one sounds perfect. I love Grand Marnier and any excuse to have it is all right by me.

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    1. Hi Pamela, Grand Mariner is good stuff, isn't it? Love its flavor! Thanks for the comment.

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  32. Leapin’ lizards indeedy! :) I didn't know it was a leap year this year, koooool! :)
    I'll be forwarding this onto our bar dood, totes a winner I reckon.
    Happy 2016 to you.

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    1. Hi Anna, your bard dood will love this! Really good drink. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  33. I'll take any excuse to celebrate--and leap year is as good as any excuse! Thanks for sharing this!

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    1. Hi Ala, yup -- celebrations 'r us . ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  34. Hi John,
    Fabulous post..being it is Friday let's toast to the weekend. Love the name of this drink. So much info, always info to learn when I read your posts. Thanks again.. For sharing...Happy New Year too! Enjoy your weekend..
    Dottie

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    1. Hi Dottie, definitely appropriate to drink this today. Or any other day ending in "y." :-) Happy New Year, and thanks for the comment.

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  35. Looks like a perfect cocktail to celebrate a leap year. Way to go for the party!

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    1. Hi Holly, this really is a great party drink. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  36. I love that there's a leap year cocktail! Thank you for sharing. I always learn something new from you. Happy New Year to you and Mrs K R!

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    1. Hi Hannah, Happy New Year to you! This is a really swell cocktail -- definitely worth a try. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  37. I've never heard of a leap year cocktail! Great to know there's a cocktail for just about every occasion. It's a very pretty colour. I'm not keen on sweet cocktails but I guess you could add a little more lemon juice if you wanted a slightly more tart drink xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, we're not fond of sweet cocktails either, but like this one fine. Although we often do add a bit more lemon juice just to balance it more the way we prefer! Thanks for the comment.

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  38. I did a double-take on the ingredients list because it was so unusual but also because it had me licking my lips. What a great combination! I love some Grand Marnier on the rocks for dessert when we go out. Everyone is eating pie and I'm drinking, lol. Can't wait to try it. Happy New Year....and Leap Year :)

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    1. Hi Robyn, Happy New Year. And Leap Year. :-) This is an unusual ingredient list, but it really works. Quite a good drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  39. That is one elegant looking sip. I am enjoying gin's new renaissance, too. We've got a few bars in our area that specialize in gins. It's been interesting to taste the different flavor profiles that make up this botanical-forward liquor.

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    1. Hi Carolyn, isn't this nice looking? Gin is a real favorite of ours. It's fun experimenting with it -- so many different flavor profiles. Thanks for the comment.

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  40. Happy New Years John! This is one beauty of a drink. Loving those perfect lemon curls and that must add such a nice freshness to the drink. Photos stunning of course and sharing of course.

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    1. Hi Bam, Happy New Year! Isn't this a nice drink? So tasty! Thanks for sharing this, and also thanks for the comment.

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  41. I had to laugh when I read your comments about the U.S. presidential year. It's certainly shaping up to be interesting, isn't it?

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    1. Hi Beth, yup, "interesting" is definitely one way of describing it. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  42. It's a leap year? Well then I have no choice but to mix one of these up and toast its rarity. GREG

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    1. Hi Greg, cheers! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  43. Hey I love any excuse to celebrate a special occasion!! This is great!

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    1. Hi Ashley, we do too! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  44. Oh snap!? This year is a leap year? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm What on earth will I do with my extra day!

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    1. Hi Gigi, party, I'd suggest. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  45. I never realized that it was leap year this year until I saw this wonderful cocktail of yours.

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    1. Hi Raymund, leap year sneaks up on one, doesn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  46. I love sweet vermouth, on the rocks or any way, reminds me of "Groundhog Day!" So I know I would like this drink, it's a perfect cocktail for that extra day that I have to try!

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    1. Hi Pam, you'll definitely have to have one of these on Leap Day! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  47. What a great recipe for a drink. I like its name too, the leap year drink, great!

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    1. Hi Cecilia, it's a good one! Thanks for the comment.

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  48. YES! More alcohol !:D Love this cocktail!

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    1. Hi Marcela, :D You'll love this! Thanks for the comment.

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  49. Sounds like another great cocktail. I like the name of it.

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    1. Hi Dawn, it's really good. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  50. What an excellent cocktail idea! Leap years definitely must be included in the "reasons to celebrate" bucket :)

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    1. Hi Krisit, don't get many chances to celebrate Leap Year! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  51. Ah! As they say on the cooking shows, a great concept, John, but I've a problem with the execution. It's the gin. Oh, well. I've still got about 6 weeks to come up with a vodka cocktail for Leap Day.
    I will say, though, that your cocktail photos rank among the best on WP. :)

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    1. Hi John, you're in good company -- a lot of people just don't like gin. Too bad -- this is a good one. I suppose you could substitute vodka, although you'll miss a little something. Thanks for that very kind comment.

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  52. Gin and sweet vermouth and Grand Manier - never would have thought but am thinking now! And if I like - well it's already been a long election year!

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    1. Hi Claudia, I thought the combo of ingredients was strange, too, but of course gave it a try. Glad I did! It's a wonderful drink. :-) And this election year is endless, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.

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