Orange curaçao enlivens this 19th century classic
We love summer! Here at Kitchen Riffs, it signals the start of our annual Summer Sippin’ and Snarfin’ Series (more about that in the Notes).
We’re kicking off this season with the Improved Holland Gin Cocktail (sometimes called the Improved Gin Cocktail). What’s improved about it? The inclusion of orange curaçao, which adds just a hint of sweetness.
So kick back and get ready to sip your way through summer. Proost!
Recipe: The Improved Holland Gin Cocktail
Back in the early days of American mixology, most bartenders made pretty simple drinks. Their most common method was to muddle a sugar cube with a bit of water, add a shot of booze, then a couple dashes of bitters. Mix it all together, add a lump of ice, and there’s your drink.
The booze of choice was usually whiskey, brandy, rum, or gin. The gin they used then tended to be Holland gin, not the London-style dry gin that we know today. Holland (genever) gin usually is flavored with juniper (like London gin) but has a malty quality (a bit like Scotch whisky, although the flavor profile is quite different). We discussed Holland Gin last month is our post on the Turf Cocktail.
Toward the end of the 19th century, the cocktail world began to change. The variety of drinks expanded rapidly. Their ingredients also became more varied and complex, so they began to resemble the cocktails we enjoy today.
The Improved Holland Gin Cocktail was part of this “newer” wave of drinks. We can date it back to 1876, when Jerry Thomas published an updated recipe for it in his Bartenders Guide (with an appendix that featured “improved” versions of several popular cocktails). Thomas started a craze for creative cocktails that continues to this day.
Most bartenders serve the Improved Holland Gin Cocktail “up” in a cocktail glass. But we prefer it on the rocks, so that’s how we’re presenting it.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare and serves one.
- 2 ounces Holland gin
- 1 teaspoon Grand Marnier (see Notes for substitutions)
- ½ to 1 teaspoon simple syrup (to taste)
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters (orange bitters make a dandy substitute)
- lemon twist for garnish (traditional, but we find it very optional)
- Place all ingredients (except optional garnish) in a mixing glass half filled with ice. Stir with a long-handled spoon until well chilled (30 seconds or so).
- Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass or a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist, if desired, and serve.
- We suggest stirring this drink because all the ingredients are clear. The cocktail “rule” says to stir clear ingredients because shaking introduces air bubbles (which can cloud a drink). But we’re rule breakers, so we often shake anyway.
- Grand Marnier is premium orange curaçao (with a price to match). You could substitute a less expensive, generic variety of orange curaçao (but aim to buy something that costs at least $15 to $20 a bottle; anything cheaper won’t be very good).
- Some bartenders use Maraschino liqueur instead of orange curaçao in this cocktail. Others like to substitute absinthe. If using either of those, we suggest adding only a couple of dashes instead of a full teaspoon.
- Some drinkers prefer to use triple sec in place of orange curaçao (you could use a premium brand, like Cointreau, or a generic variety). Triple sec works, but we vote for Grand Marnier.
- In theory, you could use a dry gin (like London gin) in this drink. But we’re not really enthusiastic about the taste of that substitution. So we make this drink only with Holland gin.
- Over time, the earliest form of cocktail (sugar, booze, bitters) became known as “old-fashioned style” (as opposed to the newfangled ways that were becoming more popular). Today the whiskey-based Old-Fashioned Cocktail is still a popular drink. (Yup, the Old-Fashioned is an example of one of the earliest cocktails.)
- So, what’s the Summer Sippin’ and Snarfin’ Series? Well, every year during the summer months – from Memorial Day through Labor Day – all the posts on our blog are summer themed. Throughout most of the year, we post only one cocktail recipe a month (usually the first Wednesday). But in the summer, we do a cocktail post at least every other week (because summer is a thirsty time). And of course all our food recipes during this time are seasonally appropriate. So drink (and eat!) up.
Mix It Again, Sam
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, you have to walk into mine,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, admiring her drink. “Not that I’m complaining.”
“This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” I said.
“I’m shocked that there is drinking in this establishment,” said Mrs K R. “Shall we have another?”
“I’ll round up the usual suspect ingredients,” I said. “Have to get this sippin’ series off to a sizzling start.”
“Summer is too short,” said Mrs K R. “But after one of these, our little problems don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”
True. And besides, we’ll always have Holland.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Pisco Sour Cocktail
Rum Daisy Cocktail
Rum Shrub Cocktail
Sherry Cobbler Cocktail
Or check out the index for more