Amber rum, lime juice, and sweetener (in the form of raspberry syrup)? Sounds a lot like a raspberry daiquiri to us. Add a dash of orange curaçao, and you’ve got the Knickerbocker.
It’s one of the older cocktails on record, dating back at least to the 1860s.
And still good after all these years.
We love the combo of rum and lime juice. Which is why the Classic Daiquiri – with a crisp flavor that’s on the dry side – is one of our favorite cocktails.
But the classic daiquiri uses white rum, while this drink requires amber rum (along with berry and orange flavoring). So the Knickerbocker’s flavor is more complex (and also a bit sweeter). It’s a drink that invites lingering over. That’s why we think it’s better served over ice rather than straight up.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare and serves 1.
- 2 ounces aged amber rum (see Notes)
- 1 teaspoon Grand Marnier (or other orange curaçao; see Notes)
- 2 teaspoons raspberry simple syrup (see Notes; may substitute Chambord)
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- garnish of raspberries (or other berries of choice; see Notes)
- Place all ingredients (except garnish) in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice. Shake briskly until the contents are well chilled (20 seconds or more).
- Pour unstrained (but see Notes) into a rocks (old fashioned) glass. Garnish, if you wish, and serve.
- It’s traditional to serve this drink unstrained. But we often strain it over fresh ice. Your choice.
- Raspberries are the obvious garnish for this drink, but any fresh berry in season will work. An orange twist would also be good. Or just skip the garnish entirely – we often do.
- BTW, the original garnish for this drink was the hull of a squeezed-out lime half, dropped into the glass. This is a garnish we now sometimes see in Tiki drinks. Cocktail historian extraordinaire David Wondrich notes that a recipe for the Knickerbocker provided the first written record of a drink using this garnish.
- The original Knickerbocker probably used an aged amber rum, most likely from St. Croix. So Cruzan amber rum would be a good (and not too expensive) choice for this drink. But almost any decent amber rum will work.
- We would suggest using an amber rum with light to medium body (we like funkier rums, but don’t think they’d work well in this drink).
- Grand Marnier is a premium orange curaçao – and we use it in this drink simply because it’s the only orange curaçao we keep on hand. But any good-quality orange curaçao will work. (We don’t recommend using a triple sec like Cointreau – it’s a bit drier than orange curaçao, and has a slightly different flavor profile.)
- If you don’t have raspberry simple syrup on hand, you can substitute a raspberry liqueur like Chambord.
- But it’s easy to make your own raspberry syrup: Use 2 parts sugar to 1 part water to 1 part raspberries (fresh or frozen). Place 1 cup of sugar in a saucepan and add ½ cup water. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add ½ cup raspberries (rinse them first if you’re using fresh). Stir with a wooden spoon until the raspberries form a pulp. Simmer for several minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and let it cool. Then pour the mixture through a strainer, pressing lightly to extract the juice (don’t press too hard, or the mixture could turn cloudy). Pour the syrup into a glass container or a plastic squeeze bottle, then refrigerate. The syrup will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks at least.
- Our usual disclaimer: We’re noncommercial, and don’t receive compensation when we mention brands. We suggest only what we like and buy with our own money.
- So when and where did this drink originate? We don’t know, alas. But “knickerbocker” was a 19th century nickname for someone from New York City (particularly the borough of Manhattan). This handle probably derived from Washington Irving’s 1809 book A History of New York, written under the pen name “Diedrich Knickerbocker.”
- So it seems likely that the drink was invented in NYC sometime during the 19th century. A recipe for the Knickerbocker Cocktail first appeared in Jerry Thomas’s Bar-Tender’s Guide, published in 1862 (this was the first cocktail guide published in the US). Thomas worked in many parts of the United States, but most of his career was spent in New York.
“Love this drink,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Looks great, tastes better.”
“That’s pretty much the Rule of Rum when it comes to drinks,” I said.
“That almost made sense,” said Mrs K R. “Rum thing.”
“Hey, are you giving me the raspberry?” I said.
“Never, my dear boy,” said Mrs K R. “Would I knick your bock?”
Think she’s ready to rumble.
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