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.
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.
- 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)
- 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).
- Strain into a cocktail glass, preferably one that’s been chilled. Garnish, if you wish, and serve.
- 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).
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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