It’s October – and what’s not to like? Pleasingly cool evenings cry out for heartier food. Not to mention drinks with a bit of zip.
For the latter, consider the Lions’ Tail, a bourbon cocktail that features spicy allspice dram and zesty lime juice. Its lively flavor will chase away the chill.
Perfect for sharing with your sweetie while gazing into the fireplace.
Recipe: The Lion’s Tail Cocktail
The Lion’s Tail contains an unusual combination of ingredients. For one, it requires allspice dram (aka pimento dram). It also contains lime juice, which typically pairs with rum (lemon is more common for bourbon). Somehow, though, lime works in this drink.
The Lion’s Tail probably was created during the Prohibition era, or shortly after. More history later.
We learned about this drink from Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. Our recipe is slightly adapted from his.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare and serves 1.
- 2 ounces bourbon
- ¼ to ½ ounce allspice (pimento) dram (start with the smaller amount; see Notes)
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 teaspoon simple syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- garnish of an orange or lemon twist (very optional; we usually skip this)
- Combine all ingredients (except garnish) in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice. Shake vigorously until the contents are well chilled (20 seconds or so).
- Strain into a cocktail glass or coupe, preferably one that has been chilled. Add garnish, if you wish, and serve.
- This drink traditionally is served “up” in a cocktail glass or coupe. We also like it on the rocks.
- “Allspice” and “pimento” dram are just different names for the same ingredient. It’s a liqueur that has spicy, zesty flavor. You can make your own, but we just buy it. Most good liquor stores will stock at least one brand. We like the St. Elizabeth brand, which is probably the one you’ll see most often.
- The alcohol content of some brands of allspice dram is low. So once you open it, store it in the refrigerator to slow down oxidization.
- How much allspice dram to use in this drink? Many recipes call for ½ ounce, but we find that a bit overpowering. So start with ¼ ounce, then add more if the drink seems to need more spice. BTW, Haigh’s recipe is an outlier – it calls for ¾ ounce of allspice dram. Way too much, we think.
- The amount of simple syrup is also flexible in this drink. We think 1 teaspoon is about right, although sometimes we use a touch less. Others like more. Haigh, for example, suggests a tablespoon.
- Which bourbon to use? Whatever you like! We suggest using a name brand that has a bit of heft (so the flavor will hold up to the allspice dram). We often use Wild Turkey 101, which we like in mixed drinks (not so much as a sippin’ bourbon). Old Grand-Dad would be an excellent choice, too (and good value – it’s relatively inexpensive, but it doesn’t drink that way).
- Our usual disclaimer: We’re noncommercial and don’t get compensated in any way for mentioning brands. We recommend what we like and buy with our own money.
- A recipe for the Lion’s Tail first appeared in print in The Café Royal Cocktail Book by W. J. Tarling, published in 1937. But the drink probably existed for years before that. The Café Royal Cocktail Book was published to celebrate the coronation of King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II. The book credits L. A. Clarke as the creator of the Lion’s Tail. Who was Clarke? We don’t know, alas.
- The Café Royal started life in 1865 as a café-restaurant, and soon became popular with the luminaries of London. In 2012, the building was converted to a luxury hotel – known, appropriately, as the Hotel Café Royal.
“Yum, this drink is fit for a lion king!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “And our cat, Kitty Riffs, would approve of the name.”
“Yup, this cat’s got my tongue!” I said.
“I’d be li-on if I said I was roaring with laughter at that comment,” said Mrs K R.
She doesn’t pussyfoot around with her opinions. Maybe it’s time for a cat nap.
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