Ah, the 1920s. Flappers. Sheiks. Jazz. Prohibition. Bootleggers. A roaring stock market.
Despite Prohibition – or maybe because of it – during the 1920s drinking gained a social acceptance it never had before. And the stock market was creating more millionaires (at least on paper) than history had ever known.
So The Millionaire Cocktail was born. Enjoy it before The Crash comes.
Recipe: The Millionaire Cocktail
There are several versions of The Millionaire. Among the most popular is the one we’re featuring today (made with rum, sloe gin, apricot brandy, and lime juice). There’s also a bourbon-based cocktail of the same name – more about that in the Notes.
We think the bourbon-based drink is better suited to cool weather (which we are NOT experiencing in our part of the world right now). So we’re going with the rum version, which makes a better summer drink. Besides, if you bought sloe gin to make The Eclipse Cocktail, you’re probably looking for another drink to use it in.
The 1920s recipe for The Millionaire – as first recorded in Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book – called for essentially equal parts of rum, sloe gin, apricot brandy, and lime juice, with a dash of grenadine added. The resulting drink is unbalanced (and very sweet). Ted Haigh refined the recipe in his Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. We’ve adapted his recipe slightly.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to make, and serves one.
- ¾ ounce dark rum (but see Notes)
- ¾ ounce amber rum
- ¾ ounce sloe gin
- ¾ ounce apricot brandy
- ¾ to 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice (start with ¾ ounce)
- garnish of lime wheel or wedge (optional)
- Place all the ingredients (except garnish) in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Shake until the shaker is frosty and the contents are well-chilled (20 seconds or so).
- Strain into a cocktail glass, preferably one that’s been chilled. Add garnish, if you wish, and serve.
- Haigh’s recipe calls for 1½ ounces of dark rum (and no amber rum). We think that’s a bit too heavy, so we use ¾ ounce each of dark and amber rum.
- BTW, Haigh recommends using Myers’s dark rum in this drink – and that’s an excellent suggestion.
- We think ¾ ounce of lime juice is right for this drink. But if you prefer a tarter drink, increase it to a full ounce.
- Which sloe gin to use? Not one that costs $10 to $15 a bottle – the flavor is dire. We would recommend two brands of sloe gin: The Bitter Truth and Plymouth. We haven’t tried the Hayman’s brand, but it has a good reputation.
- The best apricot brandy we’ve found is Marie Brizard’s Apry. It’s not cheap, nor is it easy to find. Much less expensive (and easier to find in the US) is Hiram Walker apricot-flavored brandy. It’s not nearly as good as Apry, but it’ll work in this drink.
- Our usual disclaimer: We’re noncommercial, and don’t get compensated for naming brands. We recommend what we like and buy with our own money.
- As mentioned above, there’s also a bourbon version of The Millionaire Cocktail. To make it: Add 2 ounces of bourbon (or rye), ½ ounce Grand Marnier, 1 dash grenadine, and 1 egg white to a cocktail shaker. Shake hard for 45 seconds (until the egg white is frothy). Strain into a cocktail glass. Some recipes call for adding ¼ ounce absinthe and ¼ ounce lemon juice (you might want to increase the grenadine a bit if you use the lemon juice).
- The 1920s were prosperous times not only in the US, but also in much of Europe. In the US, the era was called the Roaring Twenties or the Jazz Age. In Europe, it was often referred to as the Golden Age Twenties.
- Although Prohibition banned booze in the US, everyone seemed to know a friendly bootlegger who could supply the thirsty, no questions asked. In fact, the 20s became a golden age of cocktails – numerous new drinks were invented during this time. Chalk up another win for the Law of Unintended Consequences.
So We Drink On
“I can imagine Daisy Buchanan sipping one of these,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “She whose voice was full of money.”
“This drink does put one in a Gatsby frame of mind,” I said. “Old sport.”
“Prohibition created so many business opportunities,” said Mrs K R. “Can’t make a fortune bootlegging these days.”
“Fortunately, the best things in life are free,” I said. “Or at least can be had at a reasonable price in the liquor aisle.”
“Of course, Picasso said it best: ‘I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money,’” said Mrs K R.
You may also enjoy reading about:
The Eclipse Cocktail
Sloe Gin Fizz
Harvest Moon Cocktail
Blue Moon Cocktail
Golden Dawn Cocktail
Rum Shrub Cocktail
Or check out the index for more