This 1904 creation features an unusual combo: Scotch and sloe gin
It’s rare to find a cocktail that uses Scotch. But one that adds sloe gin to the mix? And absinthe? Sounds bizarre, we admit. So of course we had to try it.
And are we glad we did! The flavor is outstanding – much more enticing than the sum of its parts.
Love these new-fangled modern inventions.
Recipe: The Modern Cocktail
We found this drink by way of cocktail historian extraordinaire David Wondrich. He’s written about this drink over the years, and each time he’s presented slightly different recipes. That’s typical for cocktails – the way they’re made often evolves over time as tastes change.
The recipe we discuss here is our favorite. But you may want to tinker with it by adding a bit more (or less) Scotch and/or sloe gin.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare and serves 1.
- 1¼ ounce blended Scotch whisky (may increase to 1½ ounce; see Notes)
- 1¼ ounce sloe gin (may increase to 1½ ounce; see Notes)
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon simple syrup (or to taste)
- 1 dash absinthe (may substitute an absinthe alternative, such as Pernod)
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- maraschino cherry for garnish (very optional)
- Place all the ingredients (except garnish) in a cocktail shaker that’s half filled with ice. Shake vigorously until the contents are well chilled (20 seconds or so).
- Strain into a cocktail glass (preferably one that has been chilled). Garnish, if you wish, and serve.
- This drink traditionally is served “up” in a cocktail glass. But we think it’s just as good served on the rocks in an Old-Fashioned glass.
- A maraschino cherry adds a festive touch to this cocktail. But we usually serve it without garnish.
- There’s a version of this drink that drops the lemon juice and simple syrup, substituting grenadine instead. It’s not bad, but it’s less interesting than the lemon-juice version.
- How to measure a “dash” of absinthe? The best way is to pour the absinthe into a bitters bottle, which will dispense the correct amount. Alternatively, you can just pour out about a scant eighth of a teaspoon. Or follow your taste. Cocktail measurements are somewhat flexible.
- Speaking of which: The measurements we suggest will yield a nicely balanced cocktail. But you may want to adjust the amount of Scotch and sloe gin to your taste. We think anything from 1 ounce to 1½ ounce of each works well in this drink. So feel free to experiment.
- Any good blended Scotch whisky will work in this drink. Just use your favorite.
- But be careful about which sloe gin you select. Most inexpensive sloe gins are sweet – too sweet for this drink. If you find a bottle of sloe gin that costs in the range of $10 to $15, you’ve probably found one of the too-sweet ones (we’re looking at you, Hiram Walker).
- For this drink, it’s better to use a sloe gin that is (much) more dry. Our current favorites are Plymouth Sloe Gin and Bitter Truth Sloeberry Gin. We’ve heard good things about Hayman’s, although we haven’t tried it. If in doubt, ask your friendly liquor store clerk for a recommendation.
- BTW, sloe gin is much more popular in Britain than in the US. So if you find an English brand (like Plymouth), it’s likely to be good.
- Our usual disclaimer: We’re noncommercial and do not get compensated for mentioning brands. We recommend only what we use and like (and buy with our own money).
- So where did The Modern Cocktail originate? Its invention is often credited to bartender Charley Mahoney, who wrote about it in his 1905 Hoffman House Bartender’s Guide. But a recipe for the drink first appeared in the December 17, 1904 edition of the National Police Gazette, which credited it to John E. Haas, a bartender at the Bradford Club in northwest Pennsylvania. We don’t know much about Mr Haas, unfortunately. But since 1904 is the earliest written record of the Modern Cocktail, we date it back to then.
- Why the name “Modern”? No one knows. Maybe because, in the early 20th century, Scotch was a fairly new spirit in cocktails. As was sloe gin.
Life in the Sloe Lane
“Scotch and sloe gin?” said Mrs Kitchen Riffs. “Who knew?”
“That combo gins up one heck of a drink,” I said.
“And absinthe makes the heart grow fonder,” said Mrs K R.
“Thought you were trying to scotch the puns,” I said.
“This drink has lifted my spirits,” said Mrs K R. “I’m feeling generous.”
“Good,” I said. “Wouldn’t want you to get sloe witted.”
“Not that generous,” said Mrs K R.
Guess I better sloe down.
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