Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The Fin de Siècle Cocktail

The Fin de Siècle Cocktail

Smooth, perky flavor enlivens this bittersweet Martini variant

Ready for some retro? The Fin de Siècle will whisk you back to the golden age of cocktails.

But no need to reset your taste buds to 1920. This drink’s complex, bitter-tinged flavor would be right at home on today’s craft cocktail menus.

And you won’t need to use bootleg gin.

 

The Fin de Siècle Cocktail

Recipe: The Fin de Siècle Cocktail

Fin de Siècle means “end of century” in French (the century in question was the 19th). We don’t know how this drink got its name or who invented it. As is the case with many cocktails, its origins are a mystery. But a recipe for it first appeared in print in the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book.

The Fin de Siècle is a variation on the original Martini cocktail (which was made with sweet, not dry, vermouth). The Fin de Siècle adds bitter Picon liqueur to the mix (Picon is often called Amer Picon – “amer” means bitter in French).

Back when the Fin de Siècle became popular, Amer Picon was a fairly common ingredient in cocktails. But it later went off the market – which is probably why the Fin de Siècle fell out of favor (it was difficult to find a Picon substitute for many years). Fortunately, you can now find several excellent Picons (as we discussed in our post on the Brooklyn Cocktail). We like Bigallet China-China Amer, but see our Brooklyn Cocktail post for other choices.

This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare and serves 1.

Ingredients

  • 1½ ounces dry gin
  • ¾ ounce sweet (red) vermouth
  • ¼ ounce Amer Picon or substitute (see Headnote; we like Bigallet China-China Amer)
  • 1 dash orange bitters (plus another dash or two, if you wish)
  • lemon twist for garnish (optional)  
Procedure
  1. Place all ingredients (except garnish) in a mixing glass half filled with ice. Stir briskly until the contents are well chilled (30 seconds or so).
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass, preferably one that’s been chilled. Garnish, if you wish, and serve.

The Fin de Siècle Cocktail

 Notes

  • Why stir this cocktail rather than shake? Because all the ingredients are clear. Shaking introduces oxygen bubbles, which can cloud the drink. But shake anyway if you prefer.
  • It’s traditional to serve this drink “up” in a cocktail glass. But we also like to drink it over ice in a rocks glass.
  • The Fin de Siècle has a touch of sweetness, but not too much. So it makes a great apéritif.
  • We like to make this drink with a 2:1 ratio of gin to sweet vermouth. We’ve tested other ratios, and this one suits our taste. But experiment if you like.
  • Any good brand of dry gin will work in this drink.
  • We generally use Martini and Rossi sweet vermouth for cocktails. But other brands of sweet vermouth are worth investigating (there are some very good ones available).
  • A lemon twist is the traditional garnish for this drink. An orange twist might make a nice change. But we frequently just skip the garnish altogether.
  • Although the term fin de siècle literally means “end of century,” it also connotes the closing of one era and the beginning of another. So Fin de Siècle is a fitting name for this drink, which reflects the changing tastes in cocktails from sweet (as cocktails were in the 19th century) to dry (as they became in the 20th century, particularly during and after Prohibition).  

The Fin de Siècle Cocktail

Century of Sozzle

“So that was a long election season,” said Mrs Kitchen Riffs. “Looks like it’s going to be Warren G. Harding in 1920.”

“So it does, my little bearcat,” I said. “It was fun to hear the returns from West Egg on our new wireless.”

“Yup, that’s the bee’s knees,” said Mrs K R. “Glad we had plenty of giggle water on hand.”

Should be another interesting decade. Don’t take any wooden nickels. 

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64 comments:

  1. This “end of century” cocktail looks so gorgeous! I really love the shots and the drink of course! Thanks for sharing, John.

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    1. Hi Angie, it's a great drink -- well worth trying. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  2. John, I'm up early this morning waiting for the election results. If the results go the 'wrong way,' I'll definitely be needing your drink!

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    1. Hi Fran, you might even need two of these. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Dry gin and sweet vermouth, have them both and must try this. It's a new to me, sounds good! And that lemon twist in the last photo is awesome! Thanks for the recipe!

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    1. Hi Pam, lemon twists are fun. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  4. It's a handsome drink and definitely belongs in that fancy glass

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    1. Hi Pat and Dahn, isn't that glass cool? It's a "Nick and Nora" glass. Thanks for the comment.

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  5. It looks and sounds a sophisticated cocktail. Cheers!

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    1. Hi Denise, it's really an excellent tipple. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  6. What a sexy looking drink! We're always looking for more gin cocktails to try.

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    1. Hi Laura, we may have a festive gin cocktail next month -- haven't quite decided what to feature yet. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  7. I wish I could have one of these cocktails right now. I have not had a cocktail in ages. I used to make a Bourbon Old Fashioned when my husband was still alive, but a cocktail for one? Sometimes I drink a spot of Sherry or even a Pernod, but that’s it. Find du siècle sounds great now – I’d love to find myself in 1899 or even 1999, depending on the siècle…

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    1. Hi Vagabonde, an Old Fashioned is actually a pretty good cocktail for one -- you can just mix it all the the same glass you drink it from! And a bottle of bourbon won't go bad. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  8. Don't like cocktails. Rather like your accompanying commentary tho' . Methinks even wee Down Under may need or already have reached for a glass of coloured waters . . . best to all of you . .

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    1. Hi Eha, I'll bet most people aren't that fond of cocktails. We really didn't much like them for the longest time. It was their history that finally got us hooked -- so many have fascinating history. We've obviously come to like the way they taste, too, but kind of acquired that along the way. :-) And this does seem a rather appropriate time for a cocktail, alas. We do live in interesting times. Darn it. :-( Thanks for the comment.

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  9. oh yes i think the whole world is looking at a very interesting and possibly scary decade. I see that Denmark is going to kill 17 million minks due to a covid mutation. crumbs! Your drink looks fabulous, and sounds very ... boozy. here's looking at you, kid!

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    1. Hi Sherry, this is a tad on the boozy side. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  10. I don’t have one of the ingredients , otherwise I would make it right now. Prost!

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    1. Hi Gerlinde, it's a good drink -- you'll have to get that ingredient. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  11. It looks so pretty, I love your photos as always!

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    1. Hi Natalia, we do love photographing cocktails! Difficult, but fun to do. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  12. I didn't know that "amer" means bitter. That explains so much about the American presidential election. But enough about that! I could use a cocktail, and this one looks quite delicious.

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    1. Hi Jeff, LOL! Very good. :-) And yeah, we could all use a cocktail, I think. Thanks for the comment.

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  13. Yes, bring on the retro! love your retro cocktail posts, John! I have never heard of Amer-Picon, one the the ingredients. I will have to look this up! Your photos are perfection, gorgeous drink!

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    1. Hi Marcelle, Amer Picon isn't that well known, but it's good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  14. Wow John! Those photos are stunning! Have never had one of these but that deep amber color looks warming and delightful. Toast to you and Mr.s Riff.

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    1. Hi Bobbi, this really isn't that popular of a drink -- probably because Amer Picon just wasn't available in the US for several decades, and you do need that to make this drink (it adds terrific flavor). But it's a good one -- neat flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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    2. Will have to keep our eyes out for Amer Picon as we can't wait to try it. Stay well and take care, John!

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    3. Hi Bobbi, you will! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  15. Such a gorgeous cocktail! I need an escape this week and one of these beauties would do the trick. Have a great weekend!

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    1. Hi Liz, it's been an eventful week, so I think we all need an escape! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  16. What a beautiful glass. I love reading your cocktail posts, so many variations.
    Eva http://kitcheninspirations.wordpress.com/

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    1. Hi Eva, isn't that glass nice? And seems so appropriate for this drink. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  17. John another classic cocktail I've not had. After your Brooklynn cocktail post I continued to search for pichon and did find a wine merchant in Copenhagen that carries Pichon Black Label. But, just now, traveling to Denmark is not allowed. So, I'll save this one to enjoy once things are CV19 safe again...

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    1. Hi Ron, it'll be worth waiting to try this drink -- it's really good. We have several more that use amer picon that we'll be talking about over the next few months or a year, so that bottle won't go to waste! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  18. I love a good cocktail but I am pretty sure I haven't tried this one yet, John. It makes sense if you say some of the ingredients might be hard to find. I love cocktails with gin as the base spirit so would love to give this one a go. It looks beautiful!

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    1. Hi Katerina, this really is one of those drinks that most people haven't had. But wait until you try it! It's wonderful. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  19. Now, isn't that an elegant looking sip. Picon is a new one to me. But I find the older I get, the more I lean toward cocktails with that invigorating bitter edge. I'll have to look for it on my next outing to the spirits store.

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    1. Hi Carolyn, picon is good stuff. Bitter is really growing on us, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  20. It looks 1900 century indeed. It's a bit strong for my tastebuds since I'm quite sensitive but I bet it tastes nice! :)

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    1. Hi FT, it definitely is on the strong side. Good, though. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  21. What a great cocktail, John! And I love the name. And stunning photos, as ever.

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    1. Hi David, it's a wonderful drink! Well worth trying. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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    1. Hi Balvinder, tastes good, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  23. What a gorgeous cocktail John! You really take good shot of all your drinks

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    1. Hi Rahul, it's a great drink! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  24. Love the color of this drink. I love all of you cocktails!!

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    1. Hi Dawn, nice color, even better flavor! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  25. Another sophisticated looking cocktail! Nice one

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    1. Hi Raymund, this is really good. Really. Good. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  26. Lovely presentation, look of it is tempting!! Love the fancy name, and the dash of orange bitters in the cocktail.

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    1. Hi Aarthi, orange bitters add such a nice touch of flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  27. Is that a Gatsby allusion? A very sippable cocktail, indeed, old chap!

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    1. Hi Debra, it is indeed. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  28. Now this is my kind of cocktail! I love bitters of all kinds, although I have to admit I've yet to try Amer Picon. Now it's on my to try list.

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    1. Hi Frank, you HAVE to try Amer Picon (or better yet, one of the really good substitutes that are out there -- our understanding is they actually have better flavor these days). It's such a great bitter, and is marvelous in cocktails. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  29. Great cocktail John! I am loving all these old recipes - one I also like is befittingly called - "Just For Mary" - check it out as I think you would like it as long as you also like rye as it is more Manhattan-ish.

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    1. Hi Mary, I've heard of that drink but haven't tried it. But I will. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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