A 19th century classic with smooth (but complex) flavor
As summer fades into fall, we’re looking for weightier cocktails – but ones that still remind us of sunny summer days.
Enter the East India Cocktail. Its name reflects the glory days of the British Empire, when India was the jewel in the crown.
And the drink’s flavor? Well, that’s the real jewel.
Recipe: The East India Cocktail
There are several versions of this cocktail, but all contain some ratio of brandy, orange curaçao, and maraschino liqueur. The wild card seems to be which sweetener to use. Most versions call for pineapple syrup. But we favor Ted Haigh’s recipe from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, which substitutes raspberry syrup. We think it has a brighter, cleaner flavor.
Haigh’s recipe calls for a hefty 3 ounces of brandy. That’s a lot, so we usually split one drink between the two of us. Your mileage may vary.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare and serves one (or two).
- 3 ounces brandy or cognac (see Notes)
- ½ ounce raspberry syrup (see Notes)
- 1 teaspoon Grand Marnier (or another orange curaçao; see Notes)
- 1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur
- 1 to 2 dashes Angostura bitters (to taste)
- garnish of a maraschino cherry or lemon twist (optional)
- Place all ingredients (except garnish) into a cocktail shaker half filled with ice. Shake vigorously until the contents are very cold (about 20 seconds).
- Strain into a cocktail glass (or two, if dividing the drink), preferably one that’s been chilled. Garnish, if desired, and serve.
- It’s traditional to shake this drink – even though the cocktail “rule” says to stir when all the ingredients are clear (as is the case with this drink). But that just proves once again that rules are made to be broken.
- A recipe for this drink first appeared in print (as far as we know) in Harry Johnson’s New and Improved Bartender’s Manual, published in 1882.
- The “east India” in the cocktail’s name didn’t mean eastern India. Rather, it meant all the British colonies and territories in what the British called the “East India” region – including India, of course, but also Burma, Malaya, Singapore, and so forth.
- The British referred to their Indian subcontinent holdings as “Hither India,” while those in southeast Asia were “Further India.”
- As noted above, most versions of this drink call for pineapple syrup. You could probably substitute pineapple juice. But if you want to make pineapple syrup, here’s how: Bring a cup of water to a boil. Stir in 1 cup of sugar (you’ve just made simple syrup). Pour the mixture into a bowl, then add a cup of finely cubed pineapple. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Then strain the mixture into a glass container (pressing down on the pineapple to extract as much juice as possible).
- Prefer to use raspberry syrup, as we do? We have instructions for making homemade raspberry syrup in our post about the Clover Club Cocktail. You can also purchase commercial raspberry syrup.
- Orange curaçao is an orange-flavored liqueur that originated in the island nation of Curaçao (hence its name). You can buy generic curaçao, but we generally use Grand Marnier (a premium brand). It has very good flavor – and we always have it on hand.
- Which brandy to use when making this drink? A higher quality brandy will make a better-tasting drink, of course. But we generally opt for moderately priced bottles when using brandy as a cocktail ingredient (something that costs $20 or a bit less). Ask the friendly folks at your local liquor store for recommendations.
“Can’t resist this drink,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “It’s like a bright, shiny object.”
“A gem of a drink,” I said. “Pure sparkle.”
“Cocktails are a girl’s best friend,” said Mrs K R.
“Is that a request for another round?” I asked.
“Why not?” said Mrs K R. “We’d both treasure that.”
My Mrs K R – she leaves no stone unturned.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Singapore Sling Cocktail
Straits Sling Cocktail
Bombay Presidency Punch
Pegu Club Cocktail
Improved Holland Gin Cocktail
Doctor Funk Cocktail
Blood and Sand Cocktail
Or check out the index for more
I had never heard of this cocktail! Looks beautiful and sounds delicious, John. And thanks for the history lesson—a fair amount of baggage there.
Hi Terry, a LOT of baggage there! Really interesting stuff, though. And this is a fun drink. Thanks for the comment.
So sad to see what's become of the Great British Empire these days! Drinking commemorative cocktails is a good response.
best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
Another interesting cocktail, John , you should write a cocktail book. Prost!
Yum! It looks and sounds delicious.
Hi Mae, we're always in favor of commemorative cocktails. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Gerlinde, Prost! And thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, it's delish! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Smooth and complex..that sounds wonderful. As always, gorgeous shots, John.
Learnt something new today! I am from east India and I never heard of this cocktail. The color is so pretty, must try!
This looks spectacular and fruity! My kind of drink!
Hi Angie, we like smooth and complex. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kankana, you'll have to try this! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Laura, our kind, too! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Interesting little drink, John! The color is magnificent and I definitely want to try this, thanks!
Wow! Sounds delicious! I know its fancy because a couple of the ingredients are things I've never even heard of!
The fruity flavors in this sound so appealing! And it is beautiful too!
Hi Pam, isn't it nice? Really good flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Wayne, you should get acquainted with them. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Laura, it is rather pretty, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.
I can't resist it either... GREG
Hi Greg, gems like this really ARE impossible to resist! :-) Thanks for the comment.
this is a new cocktail to me too. I'd never heard of this one. Sounds very sweet and very alcoholic - what could be better?:) I have only ever heard the British terms Far East and Near East for their colonies. always something new to learn... cheers Sherry
Hi Sherry, this definitely has some sweetness to it, but isn't too sweet. If that makes sense. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Oh I like the raspberry in here! That sounds really delightful!
Hi Amy, raspberry syrup is a wonderful cocktail ingredient! Thanks for the comment.
Walking on Sherry's path but further . . . Cocktails are not part of my lexicon but, as a child, I proudly belonged to the British Empire on which the sun never set! Now am as proud a member of the British Commonwealth !! Knowing my history rather well methinks I also have never heard of the terms you use . . . perchance something used by those living in the States . . .
Hi Eha, those terms are pretty archaic. But fun. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This drink should brighten up the cooler, cloudier days we are having. Sounds wonderful
What a deep and autumn hue to this beverage. Fall needs these vibrant and deep flavors to warm you up. The evenings have been chilly already so this would be.a beverage for the sunsets on the balcony.
Hi Dahn, it IS wonderful. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Bobbi, not too chilly here, yet, although definitely cooling. Should be nice this weekend -- we'll need to sample this beauty again. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love gems and it doesn’t matter what shape they come in. Now just waiting for the sunset to partake. Or not!
Hi Abbe, :-) Thanks for the comment.
Very sophisticated, I always admire your photos, have a lovely day☺
Love the name nd it is a gem for ure, intereting orange, cherry and raspberry flavors. Cheers...but not to autumn.
I love this cocktail, and the history on the British Empire. I had never heard of India referred to as “Hither India.“ I will definitely remember this cocktail next time I’m serving East Indian food. (This happens fairly often in our household…)
Hi Natalia, thanks for that kind comment! :-)
Hi Evelyne, it's a neat combo of flavors! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Daivd, "hither" and "further" were very much 19th century usage. Not used at all today, of course, at least I don't think so. And alas, this drink is drunk all that much today -- but should be. :-) Thanks for the comment.
John, that's a beauty! Will definitely stir instead of shake. Love the history and humor you work into your posts.
I've never heard of this one! But it sounds fabulous--thanks for sharing!
Hi Jean, you'll like this -- lotta flavor. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kelsie, this isn't that common of a drink, these days. Should be, though. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Jeff, it is. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is such a nice cocktail with a lot of depth...would love to try...thanks for the recipe John.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Hi Juliana, it's a good one. :-) Thanks for the comment.
John, I've got all the ingredients on hand for this cocktail (except the raspberry syrup). I'd surely like to try this one!
Hi Fran, it's totally worth trying. Totally. :-) Thanks for the comment.
John, your beverage photography is just stunning! That is amazing talent!
Hi Kelly, gosh, thanks so much for that very kind comment! :-)
What an elegant cocktail! A beautiful color and sounds delicious. Totally agree with the choice of sweetener btw.
Hi Frank, raspberry syrup is really nice -- we're looking for cocktails that use it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Loving the fruity liquors in this one. And like all of your cocktails, it's so very pretty!
Hi Valentina, this one has quite nice flavor. Looks great, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
That definitely sounds potent -- but irresistible with the raspberry. Cheers to that!
Hi Carolyn, raspberry makes anything irresistible. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This cocktail sounds wonderful. Love the photos.
Hi Dawn, the flavor of this is excellent. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Never heard of this cocktail but it sounds really good
Hi Taruna, this isn't very popular these days, but it should be -- really good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love the cherry flavours you've got going on in here, brilliant colour too!
I love to be transported across the globe with your cocktails! And this is certainly a beauty!!
Hi Caroline, isn't that color neat? Flavor is, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Liz, the world of cocktails is so interesting. Always something new to learn. :-) Thanks for the comment.
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