A pre-Prohibition charmer for the #MeToo era
Fluffy Ruffles? Is that a thing?
Indeed it is. A person, actually – albeit in comic-strip form. And her namesake drink has sensational flavor.
The name evokes fancy dress, so it’s perfect for weddings, graduation parties, and other June events.
But it also recalls an earlier era of women’s activism (more about that later). So feel free to drink it in jeans or yoga pants.
Recipe: The Fluffy Ruffles Cocktail
We found this cocktail while browsing Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book. Craddock was a legendary barman who invented many drinks—though not this one. Hugo R. Ensslin probably was the first to write about this cocktail (in the second edition of his 1917 gem, Recipes for Mixed Drinks).
But did Ensslin originate the Fluffy Ruffles? No one knows. It may have been invented to promote a 1908 Broadway musical of the same name. The musical was based on the then-popular Fluffy Ruffles comic strip that ran in the New York Herald (see Notes).
The original recipe calls for this drink to be shaken along with the hollowed-out hull (rind) of a lime. Instead of the lime hull, we substitute a small amount of fresh lime juice, which we think makes for a better drink (see Notes).
This recipes takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and serves one.
- 1½ ounces amber or light rum (see Notes)
- 1½ ounces Italian (red) vermouth
- ½ to 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice (optional and not traditional; see Notes)
- lime twist or wedge for garnish (optional)
- Add all the ingredients (except garnish) to a cocktail shaker half filled with ice. Shake vigorously until well chilled (about 20 seconds).
- Strain into a cocktail glass or coupe, preferably one that has been chilled. Garnish, if you wish, and serve.
- How much lime juice to use? We generally go with ½ teaspoon, but feel free to experiment. Anything up to 1 teaspoon tastes fine. If you use more than that, the flavor of the lime becomes too prominent, in our opinion.
- Why did the original recipe call for shaking the drink with a lime hull? The idea was that the ice would abrade the skin of the lime, releasing its volatile oils into the drink (these oils are found only in the peel, not the juice). We get the same effect by holding the lime over the drink while cutting a twist garnish. As we cut, some of the volatile oils spritz the surface of the drink.
- Should you use light or amber rum? We prefer a mild-flavored amber, although light (white) rum works too (and is probably more traditional). Our “house” amber rum is Appleton Estate Reserve Blend, from Jamaica. It has good flavor and is not too expensive.
- Any sweet red vermouth should work in this drink. We’ve used both Dolin and Martini and Rossi, and both are quite pleasant.
- Our usual disclaimer: We’re noncommercial and don’t receive compensation for naming brands. We suggest only what we like and purchase with our own money.
- If you’re still in doubt about what to use, we suggest visiting your friendly local liquor store and requesting guidance from the salespeople. We’ve received invaluable advice over the years just by asking.
- BTW, although June is the traditional “wedding month” in the US, October has replaced it as the most popular. So it’s a good thing the Fluffy Ruffles Cocktail can be enjoyed year round.
- OK, so who was Fluffy Ruffles? She was the heroine of a comic strip that began publishing in 1907. The premise was that Ms. Ruffles had lost her inheritance and needed to look for work. Dressed in her Gibson Girl attire, she went out each week to seek employment in a new field (sales clerk, dance instructor, window dresser). But her alluring appearance would always cause a commotion as men gathered to gawk and flirt with her—so she’d end up losing her job.
- The comic strip created a sensation and inspired products ranging from paper dolls to cigars. The Fluffy Ruffles phenomenon is recounted in more detail here.
- The setbacks that Fluffy endured were all played for laughs, of course. But, as so often, the humor tapped into deeper social anxieties. At the time the strip began to run, women were entering the workplace in larger numbers and were actively seeking legal rights. Many women clearly understood the subtext: The Fluffy Ruffles musical featured a speech about women’s suffrage (women in the US finally won the right to vote in 1920).
- Programming Note: Summer is here, which means it’s time to start our annual Summer Sippin’ and Snarfin’ Series. We generally do only one drink recipe a month (usually the first Wednesday). But in the summer we up the number of drinks (because summer heat means summer thirst). And we’ll make sure all our food recipes through Labor Day are summer-appropriate.
“Sensational drink,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “As befits Fluffy Ruffles herself.”
“Yup,” I said, peering at an old comic strip I’d found online. “She was quite the star in her day.”
“Interesting how Fluffy never really got ruffled,” said Mrs K R, peering over my shoulder. “Even when she was surrounded by a gang of Harvey Weinsteins in boater hats.”
“She was always cool and dignified,” I said. “It was the men around her who caused the trouble.”
“But it was always Fluffy who lost her job,” said Mrs K R. “Funny how that works.”
“And those were the guys who brought us Prohibition,” I said.
“Figures,” said Mrs K R. “This Gibson Girl needs another drink.”
Make that two.
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